J130 The art of dying
Wrong front (Albania) wrong year but a nice photo of Alpini
It's 1942 and we have the rare ASL sight of decent(ish) Italians launching at attack against Soviet defenders. With tanks… With radios…
Bit of a shock really. This scenario places its expected modes of operation very clearly in play. We have a small group of not so good Russian defenders (who at least have plenty of shiny anti tank weaponry and two decent guns). These are being forced to defend a limited deploy zone in a village. The Italians start close with surprisingly motivated troops from the elite Alpini Vestone Regiment who actually have some demolition charges and a flamethrower and no less than 5 L6/40 light tanks. They have to take the village with the threat of a larger, more skilled, Russian reinforcement group who have two crap tanks of their own (T60 M40s) but have to cover a huge swathe of open ground to help the village defenders. The Russians also are packing no less than two Commissars.
The Russians have both Guns HIP so I will have to guess though there aren't many viable choices so that's not a problem. My plan for my valiant Italians ignores the magnificent Russian anti tank weapons anyway. I plan on sending my best troops (along with the demolition charges) along with four of the tanks to take up flanking positions on the open ground on board 19. Meanwhile one tank (over watching), one of the decent officers , the7-0 with the flamethrower and the mass of troops will be tasked with taking the village. If I can keep the reinforcements away then I hope the masses of infantry will be enough to take the village. I suspect problems will arise in the battle of the crap tanks. Both sides have one man turrets, the Russians are radio less but have better armour and guns.
My Italians pushed valiantly forward into a sea of sub 5 defensive rolls from the Russians. If the flamethrower hadn't erased a defensive squad and a couple of timely pins allowed my to get into combat I would have been disheartened. As it was I got into combat then essentially had one attack resulting in 'carry on no one dead' and on the other I was casualty reduced by a single pinned defender attacking a squad at 1 to 2 odds. Lovely. As far as my cunning plan to sweep the approaches with fire that, at least, seemed to be working well until I realised just as the Russians setup their reinforcements that I had fallen into the trap of deciding what my opponent would do and not what he could do if he responded to me instead. Naturally my oppo, not being an idiot, decided moving across a vast prairie of open ground defended by many machine guns would be stupid and instead why not attack the Italian flankers from their own flank. After all there is plenty of cover and all their guns are all pointing the wrong way. Plus we can wipe an officer with medium machine gun relatively easily as he has nowhere to rout to if he breaks. Bugger.
guessing incorrectly as to your opponents options is a bad idea
The Russians swept into the Italians rear and I kicked two of the tanks into motion with one remaining to 'fight', this tank promptly broke its main armament which made me sad. It got a bit weird then as the Russians failed to destroy it in return. I swept my two moving tanks behind the Russians (who swung to face ignoring the MA less other tank) and then both sides merrily peppered each other with shots that hit but failed to destroy. This seemed to go on for ever (much like the two melees above) but in the second half of turn three the Russians destroyed one of the L6's before the broken MA tank repaired and in two consecutive shots brewed up both Russian vehicles from behind before being destroyed itself in close combat the same turn by a brave solitary Russian 1st line squad!.
Eek. The same time I tried in the village itself to overrun the commissar with an ATR only to be suddenly hit by both Russian big guns appearing. There are much more powerful than the Soviet tanks but both missed. I took one out in infantry close combat and the other destroyed one of my tanks with the last losing its MA just when it needed it most.
The village is now almost clear (a helpful sniper clearing the church tower really helped) with just that big gun being the fly in the ointment.
It's a strange set up now with most vehicles gone and a strongish force of Russian reinforcements needing to fight through an approximately equal force of Italians in the woods to even get to the village.
Things are starting to swing back and forth like some horrible see-saw. In the centre The Italians tried to overrun the last gun with their Main Armament less tank and it was unsurprisingly destroyed - that though allowed a squad with a demolition charge next door which managed to break the crew with advance fire and then advance into combat with the commissar (naturally neither side could kill the other).
A Russian squads with leader managed to approach the graveyard and wipe out my best remaining Italian officer in combat along with a squad which freed a full squad of prisoners (bog it). But to do this they moved into long range of the flamethrower which broke one and pinned the other. I don't have a lot to prevent them moving forward so I am praying that the Flamethrower get's another good shot as otherwise I just have two 3-4-6 squads with prisoners to protect the village..
In the middle at the key wood splitting the Soviet reinforcements from the target village my mainly infantry defenders managed to wipe out most of the attackers only to get broken in return by a single elite remaining Soviet infantry counter in a mass three stack breaking. But it's not all bad as down at the bottom the Russian squad who had successfully destroyed a tank tried to repeat the feat with my last remaining vehicle only to fail the TC allowing it to start up and chug over to help my now empty defences in the centre.
The Russians now have three decent squads (and two crapper broken ones) and are facing a very lack lustre defence but time pressures are also increasing..
Lack lustre defence maybe but I managed to wipe a squad with the FT another for failure to rout along with the 7-0 officer in combat basically clearing the left section of the wood. Soviet attempts to rush the tank killing squad at the bottom of the map failed due to the amount of open ground with another KIA. This left the Russians with a single unbroken Elite squad with a light machine gun. This forced its way into the bottom of the village on the right but I could bow concentrate. My last tank rolled around and VBM'd it (surviving the Street Fighting attack). I then tried to drop a DC in the hex (failed) then used the Flamethrower at point blank (did nothing and ran out of fuel!).
Beyond the enormous fissure in the ground that fanatic Russian squad was the very definition of fanatical...Engagement was lost at that point though.
So here was the situation. All I needed to do was to stop that squad running round (though any success would be unlikely if I had left it alone). I prefer to proactive so instead moved two full squads and an officer into combat. There would be no ambush as there was a tank in the hex and it would be sequential close combat but to help his scenario aims the squad needed to destroy all my attackers, otherwise he would be in melee until his last half turn and even if he won could not then take enough buildings to prevent victory. His 1-4 attack needing 3 failed and my 2-1 needing 7 did as well (…) but this didn't matter as there was nothing else to be done.
Just for completeness sake we rolled the last combat and this time he failed but I succeeded and my Italians had won.
I liked the scenario, it is well worth a play. The Italians are brittle even when given gear and a more reasonable officer total but that is also part of their charm to play. If the Russians had rolled better when the Artillery arrived or with their own tanks (who had plenty of opportunities to kill mine) then this scenario could have gone very differently though.