Saturday, January 14, 2023

Silly After Action Report - Italian Behemoth

 Tenente Silvio Castanetti looked around trying to get his bearings in the predawn gloom.

"Where the hell are we?" he asked.

"El Sod," replied the Maggiore briefly.

"And the same to you," snapped Castanetti.

"We're near El Sod," said the Maggiore with more patience than the Tenente deserved.  He pointed, "the enemy are in that direction."

Castanetti nodded his understanding and began moving imperceptibly in the opposite direction.  Before he got too far the voice of the Maggiore stopped him.

"When our tanks arrive you'll attack the left flank with your troops.  I'll lead the main attack."

"Left flank right," muttered Castanetti measuring the distance between himself and the trucks that had dropped them off.

"Not right, left."

"Right, left."

The Maggiore stared at him with disfavour, "For the avoidance of any doubt, you and your men will attack on the left.  Do you understand?"

Castanetti opened his mouth to speak,

"And if you say right one more time I'll shoot you here and now."

"Understood," muttered Castanetti sullenly.

"One more thing, our colonial troops expect to see their Italian officers leading them into battle, not hiding behind the trucks until the fighting is over."

Castanetti gave a final despairing glance at the trucks and joined his men who seemed almost obscenely enthusiastic for the upcoming battle.

"Our metal beasts will overwhelm the enemy," announced a Muntaz pointing enthusiastically at a pair of L3 tanks that had clattered up to the front.

"I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed myself," replied Castanetti.

Scenario FT230 - Italian Behemoth seems to be getting a bit of love of late.  Richard Weilly responded to my childish pleas and agreed to take command of the British (actually South African) in this clash of the lightweights in southern Ethiopia.  Here my force of Italian colonial infantry (supported by "tanks") are attacking the company headquarters of a South African infantry brigade.  To win I either have to exit 16 VP off the south edge (unlikely) or take and hold hex 61H3 currently located in the middle of aforementioned company headquarters.

To achieve this I have twelve squads of first line troops (eight 346 squad and four marginally better 347s) these are led by three not very good officers (an 8-1 is the best) and are equipped with two light machine guns and one medium.  Adding slap (punch would be an overstatement) to the attack are no fewer than four L3 tankettes in two platoons of two.  On the defence Richard has a forward post of two squads and an 8-0 with an lmg and an atr plus a pair of foxholes.  In the rear with the gear are another four squads with a medium machine gun, a light machine gun and what must count as one of the clumsiest and most useless mortars of all time.  On turn five (of six and a half) a single Marmon Herrington armoured car rolls on in belated support.  There is a +1 LV hindrance for the first two turns to simulate dawn and give the Italians some hope of crossing open ground with automatic weapons and a mortar pointed at them.

Below is our set up.  The first obstacle for the Italians is a valley that must be crossed before they can even start getting shot at.

Set up

I planned to attack in two forces.  The bulk of my troops with the best leaders and all my machine guns would set up opposite his outpost force along with a pair of L3s.  I hoped to charge forward and break through them early using the tanks to lock up his troops if need be.  Over on the other side a handful of troops guided by a lowly 7-0 (Tenente Castanetti) would accompany the other pair of L3s.  Their job was to race straight for the hill and overrun the mortar position and then start working their way towards the victory location.  Part of the thinking around this was the minimum range of the mortar - six hexes.  Hopefully I wouldn't spend very much time in his firing zone.

My plan was successful beyond my worst nightmares.  In front of his forward post my troops and tanks did indeed roll forward and looked set to swamp him in bodies.  I pushed a forward L3 into a foxhole hex thus preventing his troops from firing out.  Still in motion Richard would need to roll a three to get any sort of result in close combat.  Unfortunately he rolled snake eyes.  One tank was already down and Richard had another officer into the bargain.  The mortar had pinned my best officer pretty much at the starting point.  A squad or two of Italians broke under South African fire and began the long journey towards cover.  On the other hand my hill assault force powered forward undisturbed.

End of Italian turn 1, I suppose things could be worse.

The South African's first turn was an absolute disaster for me.  His mmg up on the hill went on a maniacal rate tear and tore the Italian infantry to shreds.  Of my hill force a single squad and 7-0 were left to me.  In front of his outpost the situation was a little better but not much.  I was almost tempted to concede on the spot but I held my nerve.  Wisely as it turned out, I would have much better reasons to concede later.  The one tiny bright spot was that Richard's troops turned out to be absolutely useless at digging foxholes.

End of South African turn 1, things are worse

At the end of the first turn there were precisely four unbroken Italian infantry squads left in the game.  My attempt to rush his outpost had ended in tears and the bulk of my flankers were gone too.  A number of the squads had ELR'ed into the bargain so a good number of them were unlikely to return.

With my attack in ruins I decided to carry on with my original plan, since I had neglected to come up with a plan that involved most of my force being broken.  Tenente Castanetti abandoned his broken troops and let his one remaining squad up the hill.  The accompanying L3s rolled up and onto the mortar position thus guaranteeing that their sole remaining infantry support would get a free run.  At the outpost what little remained of my force hid in recently abandoned foxholes and shot futilely at Richard's troops.  He began to pull these back as he started to realise his hill dwellers might need assistance.

The main force is broken but the remnants surge forward

Not only did Richard pull back his troops on the left but I actually managed to break one of them as he did so.  Meanwhile up on the hill his squads continued to look at their entrenching tools as though they had come from another planet and, glory of glories, by little L3 wiped out his mortar crew (and killed the mortar into the bargain) in CC.  The world's most ridiculous tank attack was still going strong and the glaring absence of foxholes gave me encouragement.

In my third turn the two L3s rattled forward threatening tinny death to all who opposed them.  Challenging his mmg to do its worst they rolled over the top of another squad.  Richard's defence of the hilltop was starting to look a little thin.  Tenente Castanetti and his lone squad wisely kept out of the way until the scary guys with rifles had been dealt with.  Meanwhile far to the rear my 8-1 swore and slapped his troops as he attempted to interest them in continuing the battle.

All this was good news and good news was needed for at the outpost position things had gone from bad to worse.  I bust the machine gun on my remaining L3 and in the next turn a repair attempt would send it scuttling for the rear having contributed quite literally nothing to my cause.  The medium machine I had dragged all this way broke when I tried to fire it.  For some reason I hauled this useless chunk of iron around for the rest of the game.  Richard withdrew (and rallied) his troops in good order with the exception of a 7-0 (created in his CC) who obviously felt he had already done enough.

News is good on the hill.  Not so much elsewhere

For a brief period things only kept getting better up on the hill.  Fire from an L3 broke his mmg squad (and 9-1 leader) and the number of functional units Richard had up there was dwindling rapidly.  On the down side one squad had finally managed to dig itself a foxhole.  Meanwhile my 8-1 had managed to encourage a couple of previously terrified squads back into the fray.  Although it would take them a turn to reach the fray as it had moved backwards in the meantime.  Richard was withdrawing his troops through the light woods and my surviving forces were risking life and limb by pursuing.  It was hardly a vigorous pursuit and I didn't have the forces for any fancy manoeuvring.

Quite possibly the highpoint of my game

With the mmg squad broken Tenente Castanetti and his men suddenly became very brave and raced across the hill (while still keeping out of the way of the other defenders) to position themselves next to the brokies and persuade them on their way.  My L3s still proved themselves to be the worlds most improbable masters of the battlefield overrunning another squad and leaving Richard with only one surviving squad on the hilltop.  My 8-1 urged his recently rallied charges forward and now I actually had a decent force pushing through the light woods in pursuit of Richard's defenders.  Richard for his part rather than reinforce his hill troops now needed to prevent my guys from getting up there themselves.  His troops made their stand in the light woods near the base of the hill and did not disappoint him.

Ignore the broken squads littering the field.  The Italians are pressing

Then disaster struck.  A couple of disasters actually.  One of my hero L3s broke its MA and suddenly my force on the hill was reduced to a single L3 and a 346 squad.  My attempts to push forward against Richard's defenders in the light woods had produced nothing except a litter of broken squads.  Richard had only one unbroken squad there himself but I only had two (one turn ago I had four).  My 8-1 leader had followed his troops in fleeing for the rear, fortunately the rear was now a lot closer.  Then Richard's 9-1 rallied a squad up from DM and I knew my days were numbered.  My gallant 7-0 (ten. Castanetti) was pinned by their fire.  In desperation the squad advanced up to the open hilltop to possess themselves of the British mmg.  This move would be their downfall.

Richard still had one squad up on the hill, not coincidentally the only one that had managed to dig a foxhole.  My squad was blocked from it by an L3 (sitting on the victory location) and I dared hope that I could survive a 4+1 shot should one come my way.  I was very very wrong.  And now Richard's cavalry was coming.  Four L3s can laugh at a single Marmon Herrington AC but I now only had one with functioning MA.  Things started to look very bleak indeed.

Richard's foxhole dwellers broke my 346, his armoured car rolled on parked in front of my L3, rolled snakes in advancing fire and destroyed it.  I was done and tearfully gave my concession. 

In truth I had been operating on a shoestring since that first turn.  The only reason why I got as close as I did is because of a bunch of lucky rolls from my L3s which pretty much cleared his forces from the hilltop with no loss.  But I barely had any force myself.  A single squad and an L3 who's MA is bust do not a force make.  Once Richard rallied some troops and brought on his armoured car the essential weakness of my position became clear.

Defeat at the end.

 Despite the outcome I thoroughly enjoyed this game.  Particularly the part in the middle when it looked like I might pull off the most unlikely of victories.  Many thanks to Richard for the game and for setting an example of good behaviour when the dicebot goes against you.  It is not an example I intend to follow.

Tenente Castanetti crept from one inconveniently spaced tree to another doing his best to avoid the attention of the South Africans on the hill.  Glancing fearfully over his shoulder he almost tripped over a soldier in front of him.  His hands went up automatically but then he heard the Maggiore's voice.

"Keep quiet you fool."

The Maggiore was pale faced and trembling, around him his soldiers cringed and jumped at every sound.

"I got up onto the hill," said Castanetti.

"I know," muttered the Maggiore.

"Could have captured it if I'd had a little more support."

"All right all right.  Point taken, what do you want to shut up about this.  Decoration or a promotion?"

"I'm thinking both."

"Capitano Castanetti MAVM.  Happy now?"

"I look forward to serving under you in future Maggiore."

"And I look forward to writing your parents a letter."

No comments:

Post a Comment