Wednesday 20 May 2020

The Battle for San Pietro, Italy 1943 - Game 2: Crossing the Rubicon

For the second game in my mini-campaign, the Italians had retreated to some hastily prepared defensive positions, defending an important crossing over the Rubicon river. Re-inforcements were somewhat limited as they hadn't had time to move up in support, due to the rather short battle of the day before. However a Semovente 47/32 SPG and a L3/35 armed with a Solothurn AT rifle had made it to the front line. Some air support was promised in the form of a CR-42 dive bomber, but wasn't gauranteed.

The British too were struggling to get support forward, only managing a Company of infantry and lone Sherman troop. However a battery of 25 pdr's was on call to provide potentially much needed close support.

Scenario Details
  • The river can only be crossed by AFV's and soft skins at the bridge or the ford to the left of it. 
  • Infantry can cross the river as per the BKC rules.
  • The Roman ruins count as dug-in from direct fire, hitting on 6's, but hitting on 5+ from indirect fire. 
  • The L3/35's and Semovente 47/32 have the Low Profile rule as per BKCIV.
  • The Ground Attack Aircraft uses the template as per BKCIV. 
  • The British artillery uses the optional reduced template size to reflect the smaller nature of the area covered.
  • The Italians start on table anywhere on their side of the river.
  • The British start off table using Mobile Deployment. 
  • The Italian 47mm ATG carried one hit over from the last game to represent the fact that they were nearly destroyed and so were not at full fighting potential.

Table Layout
The river ran roughly across the middle of the table, with hills to the edges, to give the idea of a valley. The terrain was once again covered by stone walled areas, but with more farmed land this time. By the bridge was an old Roman ruin and a small farmhouse.

An overview of the table, with the Italians to the North of the river.  

The lone approach road, with a rogue camera strap in shot!

The main Italian defensive position, with bomb craters from a failed German attack to destroy the bridge.

The mighty Solothurn armed L3/35 waits in the orchard to ambush an AFVs that cross the ford.

'Super' Mario and his CR-42 dive bomber.

The Semovente 47/32 awaits the British attack (I don't have one so a 'counts as' had to used. Oh the shame of it!)

Turn 1
The British made a considered advance, knowing that in all likelyhood the bridge would be fiercely contested. The Recce units supported by the Carrier borne infantry pushed forward on the right flank, whilst the Sherman with supporting infantry moved out on the left. The CO failed to appear but the FAO moved onto the hill, ready to call in his artillery if required.

The Italians, with no real targets and in a good position, held fast and only moved the Semovente 47/32 into the maize, ready to attack the British Recce units.

The end of Turn 1.

The Honeys and armoured cars with the carriers in support.

The Sherman leads the infantry towards the ford.

The Semovente 47/32 ready to attack the British.

Turn 2
The British Recce units spot the Italian SPG and open fire on it in the Initiative phase, brewing it up straight away!  The infantry in the carriers dismounted and moved forward to the edge of the vineyard, covering the bridge. The FAO spotted the Italian AA truck and called in an artillery strike which unsurprisingly destroyed it. The left flank failed to move and the CO arrived, ordering forward the Crusader AA tank, which took hits as it hove into view, but was not knocked out. The towed 6pdr ATG moved up and deployed covering the bridge as an MG unit moved to support the infantry in the vineyard. A good Turn for the Brits.

The loss of the Semovente 47/32 was a blow to the Italian cause, but they were not about to give up just yet. Again with limited targets and wanting to remain out of sight, the only action was the infantry calling in the mortar on the Crusader AA tank, knocking it out with rather accurate and effective fire.

The end of Turn 2.

The FAO on the hill takes in the view as the action begins to unfold.

The British right flank in a good position by the bridge, but have open terrain in front of them.

Both sides AA units have been brewed up.

The Semovente 47/32 an early casualty.

Turn 3
The British Recce armour planned to move onto the bridge to help foce a crossing, but failed their command roll and the carrier infantry maintained their watch on the bridge. The Sherman and supporting infantry moved forward and immediately came under fire from the dug-in Italian ATG. The Sherman made its saves and returned fire on the ATG and was joined by the FAO who once again called in his artillery, with the Italian ATG only just surviving the barrage of fire. Once again the CO failed his command roll.

With infantry in view on the wheatfield, the Italian infantry with mortar support opened fire, suppressing some and forcing them back. The L3/35's joined in but failed to hit anything. Not a bad Turn for the Italians but their lack of AT capability was becoming a cuase for concern.

The end of Turn 3.

The British left flank has come under fire.

The Italian 47mm ATG only just survives, but is suppressed. It is the only unit with any realistic chance of halting the Sherman and other British armour.

The stalled British right flank.

Turn 4
The British FAO was once again on the ball and his artillery finished off the Italian 47mm ATG by the ford and suppressed the supporting infantry unit. The way was rather open for a British advance, but a Blunder saw the Sherman and supporting infantry make a full move forward. This led to the Sherman assaulting the Italian infantry in the roman ruins who, despite being suppressed, managed to win the fight , sending the Sherman back suppressed. Who would have thought!

On the British right flank, not fancying the advance over open ground, they started to move towards the ford, but came under fire, nearly losing an infantry unit. In the ensuing firefight they barely managed to inflict any hits on the Italians behind the well built stone walls.

With things getting rather desperate for the Italians, the CO managed to get through to his air support and 'Super' Mario appeared from over the hills and made his attack run. Dodging the AA fire that came his way, he managed to cause hits and suppression on the British infantry before flying off for a well earned Cappucino! Inspired by this the other Italian units opened fire, forcing suppressed units back with one being destroyed by the Fall Back rule. Not to be outdone, the L3/35's joined in the fun, suppressing infantry and even managing to brew the Sherman up!!!  Who would have thought it possible?


'Super' Mario makes his attack run...

...with lots of infantry in view...

...his attack is very effective!

The end of Turn 4.

The British right flank comes under sustained and effective fire.

The Sherman brews up as its supporting infantry have been forced back.

The way over the bridge and ford is seemingly too difficult.

A view of the British front line from an Italian point of view.

End of Game
At this point, with the British having received a very bloody nose, I called the game, with the British retreating and awaiting more artillery and armoured support before attempting to take the crossing again. They just didn't have enough troops or luck to bounce the Rubicon. The Italians aware of what was likely to come their way, quietly withdrew and made their way back to San Pietro, where preparations were well under way to make a good defensive position.
Post Game Thoughts
Well that was fun and what a turn around for the Italians! I thought this was going to be another tough game for them, especially with the early loss of the Semovente 47/32. It just shows you how wrong you can be. So as always some post-game thoughts in no particular order:
  • The game lasted for nigh on two hours but provided plenty of action once again on a 2' x 2' table.
  • The Italian air support really helped turn things around for their side. It might have been different if the Crusader AA tank was still operational, but it's always nice when small units like this make a big difference.
  • The stone walls and Roman ruins reallt helped the Italian cause, making it hard for the Brits, but this felt right given the accounts I've read of the fighting in Italy.
  • The L3/35 taking out the Sherman was definitely the highlight of the game for me. I have a soft spot for these tankettes and try to include them where possible. Generally they don't do much but when they do, it great to see.
  • The BKCIV rules of Low Profile and the Ground Attack template are great additions to the game and feel right and not contrived.
  • The small optional artillery template also felt right given the limited artillery support and the size of the table.
  • Halting the action when I did felt right in terms of the campaign setting. I could have carried on and probably won a Pyrrhic for the Brits as a one off game, but as mentioned before, playing a campaign makes you think in dare I say it a more realistic way.
So now the Italians have stalled the British advance, they have more time to prepare their defensive positions as well as bring up more support in and around San Pietro. The British have been disabused of any notion that this will be an easy campaign and so are having to prepare for a full on attack with as much support as they can muster to take San Pietro. I have some ideas for the final game, but will take a few days off to think them through. So until next time and stay safe and healthy...

Monday 11 May 2020

The Battle for San Pietro, Italy 1943 - Game 1: A Sharp Little Action

Now nearly two months into the lockdown (I know it's hard to believe) and I'm struggling to find the motivation for many things that I normally enjoy. Even gardening has become a bit of a chore because that's all I've really been doing of late. This feeling has been prefectly summed up in Bob Cordery's latest Blog post. Nice in a way to know that I'm not alone though.

I have had some ideas for a mini-campaign using Blitzkreig Commander floating around for some time but just haven't been able to summon up the enthusiasm to start it. However last night with the weather due to be rather cold today (it is!) I set up the first game. This campaign is inspired by Operation Baytown, part of the Allied invasion of mainland Italy in September 1943 which I have used for the broad setting of the actions involved. 

British OOB
2 x Honey Light Tanks
1 x Humber Armoured Car
1 x Crusader AA Tank
4 x Bren Gun Carriers
1 x 6pdr ATG & Tow

Italian OOB
3 x L3/35 Tankettes
2 x Ft-17 Light Tanks
3 x Infantry
1 x MG Unit
1 x Mortar Unit
1 x ATG & Tow
1 x AA Gun on Truck

The British have orders to 'Advance North with all speed' to try and secure the town of San Pietro. They have sent a small reconnaissance force in advance to 'make contact' with the enemy. The Italians, aware of the importance of San Pietro to their defences, have sent a battlegroup forward to take up defensive positions astride the road to try and slow the Allied advance and to give them time to prepare.
Both sides start the game off table and use Mobile Deployment. The Italians are on the Northern edge, the British the Southern. The terrain is hilly and criss-crossed by stone walls and small fields, ideal for a defensive battle.

An overview of the table.

A view down the road that the British will advance along.

The British force.

The Italian force.

Turn 1
Both sides rolled to see who would go first and the Italians won. The infantry made good progress, occupying the farmhouse and the walls alongside it as their ATG moved onto the hill and deployed, with a good view of the roads. The tankettes failed to show but the CO moved the Ft-17's into good positions supporting the infantry and covering the road the British would have to advance along.

As the British AFV's moved along the road, they come under fire from the Italians, who singularly failed to hit a thing! This forced them off the road and they managed to hit and suppress the Ft-17 on the road. As the Carriers arrived, they moved behind the orchard but failed to de-bus and move to support the Honeys. The CO ordered the 6pdr ATG forward with the Crusader AA tank on the left flank, with the latter being suppressed by the Italian AA unit.

The end of Turn 1.

As the British come under fire, they deploy left and right off the road.

The Honey engages the Ft-17, suppressing it.

The Italians only manage to suppress the Crusader AA tank.

Turn 2
Italian intiative fire manages to hit one of the Honeys but fails to suppress it. The Italian infantry HQ blundered, leading to a -2CV for the next Turn. Not good given the British armour were able to be engaged by the ATG on the hill. The Tankettes arrived on the right flank and moved smartly forward but stayed below the crest of the hill. In the centre the Ft-17 by the bomb craters managed to hit and suppress the towed 6pdr ATG, but takes a hit in return from Opportunity Fire.

Initiative fire sees another hit on an Ft-17 but then the Recce HQ failed its command roll. The infantry de-bussed from their Carriers but once again failed to move forward. The CO then managed to get through to the Recce AFVs and with some combined shooting, finished of the two Ft-17s as well as forcing the ATG on the hill back suppressed. The Crusader AA Tank and the Italian AA Unit continued to shoot at each other, with both sides taking hits.

The end of Turn 2.

The view along the road towards the burning Ft-17s.

The Honeys at the junction have taken control of the situation with the Italians left with little with which they can oppose them.

The British left flank has taken hits but not lost any units.

The Tankettes on the flank but below the crest of the hill are in a position to threaten the British flank.

The Italian ATG withdraws down the hill suppressed and nearly destroyed.

The view from the Italian left flank.

End of the Game
With the sudden loss of their Ft-17's and the ATG suppressed and withdrawing, the Italian postion had become untenable. With the British infantry still deploying to support their armour, they wisely decided to withdraw back towards the bridge and San Pietro. The British would take time to get their units ready to advance again and so were unable to keep up with the retreating Italians.

Post Game Thoughts
A sharp little action that reminded my of some of the accounts I have been reading in Delaforce's book on the 11th Armoured Division, albeit it in NWE. It was over much more quickly than I expected, largely due to some good command rolls and shooting on the British side. Still I enjoyed it a few thoughts as always:
  • It was one of the games where when the Italians could have caused some damage on the British, their command rolls failed and their shooting was poor. It could easily ahve been different and they could have given the British a bloody nose. Alas 'twas not to be in this game.
  • The lack of range of the Ft-17's guns was a hinderance, but then I knew that, yet they were in a good position. The lack of hits was their undoing, but equally this could have been true of the Honeys and Humber Armoured Car.
  • Both sides had some good and poor command rolls, with the British just gaining the edge when it mattered.
  • The L3/35 tankettes got in a good position, but just having machine guns were not really in a position to inflict any meaningful damage on the British. If they had arrived on the first Turn things might have been different.
  • So even though it was a very quick game, it has set things up nicely for the next action and narrative, which is the fun part of a campaign. Being part of a campaign the Italians had to take the 'long view' and not fight to the last man, needing to preserve the troops. The same is of course true of the British.
Things are broadly ready for the next game, which I hope to play in the next day or so. Let's hope the Italians have a bit more luck and you never know, they might get some air support or other nice things, but we'll have to wait and see. So until next time...

Saturday 2 May 2020

Battle for Casa Colonna

After my trial game earlier in the week, I decided to give the A&MW rules are more considered run out. Again I used the Classical rules for the game and kept things pretty simple, with units basically being Heavy, Medium or light for ease of play. I know some gamers think this approach too vanilla, but I've found that it works as well, if not better, than adding lots of chrome.

The game was played on a 2' x 2' table and with 8 units per side. An Average Die was used to see how many unit could move each Turn. The scenario was a pretty standard line up and defeat the enemy as I didn't want to run before I could walk as it were.

1 x Heavy Infantry - Elite
2 x Auxiliary Infantry - Average
2 x Auxiliary Infantry - Levy
1 x Light Infantry - Average
2 x Heavy Cavalry - Average

1 x Heavy Infantry - Elite
3 x Auxiliary Infantry - Average
2 x Auxiliary Infantry - Levy
2 x Light Infantry (Archers & Javelins) - Average

I didn't want the table too cluttered but needed some terrain to try out the rules and to improve the visual look of the game. The centre was kept fairly open apart from the farmhouse and a hedge. As with other 'new' rules or periods, it can be a bit of a steep learning curve getting the terrain 'right' for a game. More of this later.

Turn 1
Germanic - 4 Units to move.
Romanesque - 3 Units to move. 

Both sides pushed out their Light Infantry with support where possible, whilst the Romanesque army moved their Heavy Cavalry onto the hill.

The end of Turn 1, with the Germanic army at the bottom of the table.

Turn 2
Germanic & Romanesque - 4 Units to move.

The Germanic army managed to maintain a broadly cohesive line, whereas the Romanesque one was rather untidy.

The end of Turn 2.

Turn 3
Germanic - 5 Units to move.
Romanesque - 4 Units to move.

The Germanic army split its force, sending the left flank towards the cavalry on the hill with the aim of forming a holding position, whilst their right flank delivered the main attack. The Romanesque army seemed intent on a Frederickian (or should that be Alexandrian?)oblique attack towards the farmhouse. Crucially they managed to get a unit to the hedgeline which would probably make for a good defensive position.

The end of Turn 3.

The Germanic left flank.

The Germanic right flank with their archers by the hedge.

Turn 4
Germanic - 2 Units to move.
Romanesque - 3 Units to move.

The lack of movement hampered the Germanic army's plan somewhat, but the Romanesque one continued to push forward and their archers caused hits on their opposite number.

The end of Turn 4.

The lack of movement slows down the left flank.

The right flank having advanced comes under attack from the enemy archers.

Turn 5
Germanic - 4 units to move.
Romanesque - 2 Units to move.

The Germanic javelin light infantry moved towards the Romanesque cavalry, throwing their javelins as they went. The archers returned the compliments (or tit for tat) causing hits on the Romanesque archers. Piqued by the javelins, the Romanesque cavalry charged and avoided the javelins that came their way as they closed. In combat both sides took hits but the Germanic javelin light infantry lost a base and failed a morale test, thus losing another. The archery tit for tat continued, but this time the Germanic archers lost a base but passed their morale test.

The end of Turn 5.

The cavalry charge into the Germanic Light and Auxilliary infantry and gain the upper hand.

The Germanic right flank and the archers have lost a base.

Turn 6
Germanic - 3 Units to move.
Romanesque - 2 Units to move.

Melee breaks out across the Germanic left flank and the archers trade shots.

The end of Germanic Turn 6.

The Germanic javelin light infantry retreat as the cavalry are attacked in the flank. Both side start losing bases but the fight across the hedge is inconclusive.

A rash charge by a Germanic Axulliary infantry?

The end of Romanesque Turn 6.

The melee becomes more confused as mini battles break out everywhere.

The Germanic unit is rather isolated as the Romanesque troops secure the area by the farmhouse.

Turn 7
Germanic - 4 Units to move.
Romanesque - 2 Units to move.

As the fighting continues, the Germanic army loses a base in the fight with the Romanesque cavalry.

The end of Germanic Turn 7.

The Germanic javelin light infantry move back in to engage the Romanesque cavalry's flank.

Germanic infantry try and support the isolated unit.

The end of Romanesque Turn 7.

A Germanic infantry unit breaks (4 hits on the red die).

The fighting intensifies by the farmhouse as the Romanesque left flank appears by the edge of the wood.

Turn 8
Germanic - 4 Units to move.
Romanesque - 5 Units to move. 

With fighting right across the board, the Germanic army loses two more units.

The end of Germanic Turn 8.

Many units are close to breaking.

Another Germanic unit breaks (4 hits on red die).

The end of Romanesque Turn 8.

The Germanic light infantry break having been charged by the cavalry.

Very confused fighting as the Heavy infantry joins the fray.

The protracted fight across the hedge.

The Germanic casualties.

End of Game
With the Germanic army already having lost 3 units and in a more precarious position than the Romanesque army, I called it a day, as it would be hard, but not impossible, for them to turn the situation around.
Post Game Thoughts
Well an enjoyable game and one that took less than an hour to play. I once again enjoyed the rules and nothing really jarred, which is nice. As always some post game thoughts and quite a few of them this time:
  • Placing the farmhouse in the middle broke the battle into two distinct fights. I chose not to allow any infantry into the BUA, unless they were Light Infantry. If they did enter I would have used the same rules as for fighting in woods. Next time I will try a more open battle field to see what happens.
  • Protect your flanks. An obvious statement but I was very aware of the threat that the cavalry posed. I need to paint some more up to see what effect these have on the game.
  • Light infantry charged by cavalry or infantry are unable to evade as far as I can see. A simple house rule can fix this if required and I will probably use this in future games. 
  • Once units started losing bases, the game becomes very attritional as it is more or less impossible to leave combat in these rules. Not a problem as far as I can see, but again a house rules could fix this should you so desire. 
  • Rather like Bloody Big Battles, it is easy to remember distances as they are 8cm, 12cm and 24cm with the units used, which is a big help.
  • The Average Die worked well again and I'm toying with the idea of adding a +1 whilst the army commanders bases is still on the table. 
  • The Heavy Infantry are the Tiger II's of the army, able to dish out and take punishment and as per this game I will limit them to only one unit per army.
  • This game did scratch that Ancients itch which is nice and the rules certainly give me game that I enjoy and feels right for me. 
  • The Classical rules worked well and at some point I will give the others a run out. Certainly the Medieval rules are of interest for some potential Italian Wars in the future.
  • In terms of scenarios, I will look at those in One Hour Wargames and give them a run out to see how they play. I want to keep things simple until i've got a better handle on the period and the rules.
  • The 2' x 2' table worked perfectly well again for my single base units and given my current limited gaming space, I'm very happy that it did.
So there we have it. I will have another game soon but am trying to sort out the bare bones of a mini BKC campaign. I'm getting there but have too many ideas! So until next time...