A large body of Greek soldiers made their way cautiously up to the outskirts of the village. They were primed, ready and remarkably well equipped; some of them had shoes. Captain Constantine Apatosoros stared at the village with a grim, fixed expression.
"Today," he muttered, more to himself than to his soldiers who had long ago learnt not to listen, "today Pynda will be avenged. Today we humble the swine from Rome."
A corporal too close to earshot to plead deafness nodded encouragingly.
"Absolutely sir, we'll avenge the crap out of Pynda but first there is the little matter of the foxhole directly in front of us."
"A foxhole? I spit on foxholes! Send some troops to clear it out."
"Yes sir," replied the corporal mentally reviewing which of the men in the command he disliked the most.
From somewhere a whistle blew and a crackle of firing broke out all along the line. The corporal grabbed the most convenient soldiers and jerked a thumb.
"Oi you lot, foxhole."
The nearest soldier rolled his eyes,
"Look, who the hell is Pynda anyway?"
"His sister, she had her camera pinched on a Contiki tour of Rome. He's never really got over it."
Mike Sexton wanted to play WO29 - Pynda Avenged and since it meant I got to command the Italians I happily agreed. Having made an absolute pigs breakfast of the relatively simple task of invading Greece the Italians are now reaping the whirlwind as the Greeks come storming back to retrieve the approximately six square feet of Greek soil currently under the yoke of Rome. I command a bunch of Italians from the Ferrara infantry division who aren't so much defending as simply unable to get out of the way in time. The Italians are sitting in a small village and the Greeks want it back. To win Mike needs to control more buildings within four hexes of what appears to be an arbitrarily defined point in the middle of the village.
To temporarily stave off the inevitable I have a distinctly seedy bunch of Italian troops lurking in buildings, woods and the two foxholes which is all they could apparently be bothered digging. I have thirteen first line squads, a pair of half squads all "guided" by three officers the best of which is an 8-1. Support weapons consist of a single medium machine gun, a single light machine gun and a 45mm mortar. The 45mm mortar is the infantry equivalent of the L3 tank. It's small, its useless and it turns up everywhere.
Steaming forward to seize the village Mike has fourteen squads of first line Greeks (ie much better than their Italian equivalents) led by a trio of officers headed by a 9-1. In support are four light machine guns and one medium.
The first problem that the Italians have (apart from crap troops, lousy leaders, unreliable support weapons and an idiotic high command) is that there are a lot of places for the Greeks to set up and the Italians don't really have the troops to cover them all. Naturally I popped the 8-1 leader, the mmg and a half squad into the church steeple so I had some view of the approaches. I set up the bulk of my forces to cover an approach from the east while popping a couple of disposal units (and I just described the entire Italian OB) to the north in case Mike brought troops on in that direction. The plan, insofar as there was one was that if Mike attacked from the east stern resistance was the order of the day. If he attacked from the north I would reposition my troops to hopefully slow him down.
Mike attacked from the north and northeast which promptly put a lot of my force out of position. Fortunately a single squad lurking in a foxhole would cover itself in glory.
|End of Greek turn 1|
Mike came on hard from the north edge (bottom) with two battlegroups each one charging for one of the two squads desperately showing the Italian flag (white). In the northeast he deployed a couple of squads and sent the resulting halfsquads forward on a concealment busting mission while a squad and mmg sat under opportunity fire waiting for his chance. Mike's results were mixed. At pointblank range in the open its difficult for even the Italians to miss and a couple of halfsquads broke and one actually died under a withering hail of 6.5mm rounds. To show his displeasure Mike's sniper put a bullet in the shoulder of an 8-0 hiding in the trees to rally the inevitable broken units. The result was that the broken units were better off trying to rally themselves. On the far right of the board a single Italian squad proved unable to stand up to Greek advancing fire but closer to the centre it was a different story. Here lay Mike's nemesis, a single 346 squad in a foxhole. No, I don't quite believe it either.
Mike sent a pair of (admittedly CXed) squads up against these heroes and my boys survived the ensuing CC. A melee would rage which I would win without fighting (inspired by Sun Tzu or possibly Sabaton). Two other melees marked the limits of Mike's advance.
All of which gave me just enough time to scramble some out of place troops through the rear areas and over to the right where a bunch of Greek squads were gobbling up territory.
|End of Greek turn 2|
It has to be admitted that while my troops were only so-so when it came to rifle fire they definitely stood up in close combat. I'm not sure if I inflicted too many casualties on him but they tied down Greek troops for far longer than I had any right to expect. In the crucial foxhole my guys inflicted absolutely no casualties on the attackers, they settled for hiding at the bottom of the foxhole and praying while I swept the hilltop with mmg fire. It took a couple of turns but both Greek squads broke and by some miracle my guy didn't. This was major as it took out a pair of Greek squads and turned what should have been a wall of Greek attackers into two widely separated and disjointed attacks.
Which was good because Disjointed Attack A (on the left) was getting up to steam. A combination of firepower and close combat took out a pair of Italian squads and the wounded 8-0 died an unlamented death without contributing anything to the fighting apart from taking a sniper's bullet that could have hit somebody useful. Mike reinforced the remaining close combat and eventually won the day freeing up more troops to add to his push. I had managed to move unemployed squads over to the right to give a cheery welcome to his flankers as the pushed out of the woods and I reinforced the church as well. The church building was worth double points and I absolutely could not let it fall.
|End of Italian turn 2|
In a wooded hill on the left my halfsquad with the mortar sat in secluded impotence waiting to see if Mike would wander into a woods hex before he decided to take out the annoying question mark and to my delight he did. A halfsquad pushed forward from Mike's recently captured buildings and stepped boldly into the woods whereupon the much maligned 45mm had its moment of glory breaking the cocky interloper. Mike killed to halfsquad manning the mortar immediately afterwards but I had already gained more of a result from it than I expected. I surrendered a little territory (and a couple of victory buildings) on the right in return for maintaining a solid and largely concealed front while Mike got his troops lined up for his final push. To add insult to injury he captured my mortar and started peppering the church with mortar rounds which fortunately did as little harm to me as they would have to him if the situation was reversed.
|End of Italian turn 3. Mike is battered but pushing forward. I'm hiding behind stone.|
Mike charged a halfsquad towards the church, perhaps a turn too early as the remainder of his force wasn't in position but I wasn't able to kill it and a melee raged in one corner of the church. Meanwhile a rally attempt had battle hardened one of his squads to a 458 (because the Italians weren't outclassed enough). On the right my troops cowered under their concealment counters and disdained to return the fire Mike's flankers were throwing at them. This plus some judicious skulking allowed me to keep that flank intact as the final turns approached although he did manage to strip my concealment.
|Things are starting to get dicey|
Which was useful as Mike was throwing everything else he had trying to break into the village on the left. I traded a squad for a halfsquad in the church to maintain sole ownership but I was running out of troops and had little chance of reinforcement as pretty much everything else was trying to hold off Mike on the right. Mike broke his (formerly my) mortar which at least freed me from an irritation and I scuttled the steeple dwellers downstairs, being up there now was more of a liability than an advantage.
|End of Italian turn 5. Mike is about to launch his forlorn hope|
Mike readied his final charge while I rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic and hoped for the best. Mike charged his troops forward in the face of determined Italian fire which is to say we've determined that the Italians were firing. He managed to swing a couple of, apparently bullet proof, squads around the outsides of the village to target a couple of buildings in the rear but his main force was crushed in the streets and with no chance of seizing the necessary buildings Mike conceded partway through his turn six.
|The point at which Mike conceded|
It has to be admitted that I was lucky. My dice were good, not outrageously so but consistently just a little lower than average when I needed them to be, very important when commanding six morale troops. I passed more morale checks than I deserved, one squad even self rallied which surprised both of us. Many thanks to Mike for the game. One more turn would have seen the defence crushed but as it was the Italians live to surrender another day.
Captain Apatasoros stared at the suddenly unobtainable village with a face like thunder. Standing at what they hoped was a safe distance his men waited for the storm to break. One of them nudged the corporal,
"Do something," he whispered hoarsely, "he's going to blame us for this mess."
The corporal looked around wildly then a sudden smile spread over his face. Reaching into his uniform he produced a camera and approached the captain.
"Sir we recovered this from the body of one of the Italian soldiers."
Captain Apatosoros snatched the camera, tears of happiness rolling down his cheeks.
"Oh little Pynda, see what your big brother has found."
As the captain skipped away singing a happy song one of the soldiers stared at the corporal.
"Where did you get that camera?"
"Pinched it off some Italian chick while she was on a Contiki tour of Athens."