31 January 2018

FoG (N) of War

Yeah, I know, I know. We rag on Napoleonics quite a lot on Behind Enemy Lines. The set-up times, the labourious nature of the games, forming squares and all that...

In all honesty though, I think the Napoleonic period in terms of historical tabletop wargames looks is possibly only rivalled by an Ancients game for sheer beauty. In WWII gaming, you're really limited (mostly) to greens and browns and greys and dunkelgelbs. Other periods aren't much better, Moderns, Vietnam, all the rest of them are just variations on the same.

The pageantry and vividness of colour on display in a well-painted Napoleonic force is outstanding....

I managed to get my first game of FoG (N) under my belt on the weekend just gone. I played a Russian force pitted against Andy's British in a learning game to understand the rules and come to grips with how it all works before I decide if I'm going to dip my oar into another period.

FoG (N) is a great rule set, which really challenges you on a grand strategy basis. You really need to formulate your plan of attack and then execute, not knowing quite exactly where the terrain is going to be, or what kind of stature (defensive or attacking) your opponent is going to bring. In that way, it really is a unique wargaming experience.

FoG (N) really relies upon the quality and training of your troops, be they Drilled, Conscript, Reformed, Unreformed, and each has their own way of operation on the battlefield. Coming to grips with that is part of the learning. It is pretty unwise to send a bunch of Conscript Hanoverian into the fray against Guard Cavalry...they tend to come off second best.

I think I lost the battle this time, but I really am looking forward to some more games here.

Massive thanks to Andy for walking me through this and also to his lovely wife Maria for feeding me on the night. Wargaming and dinner, what could be better?!

And now, the beauty....

Russian lines formed to advance...

Russian cavalry prepares to reinforce the infantry.

The British are disordered from the Russian artillery fire...

The British cavalry are repulsed...

The British lines now advance toward the Russian batteries...

While the Russian centre begins to falter...

I missed taking more photos after this but because my centre had failed, I lost the day. I did have some infantry moving toward the British town at the rear, routing the British line in the process. Had they made it to town and routed the troops there, I reckon I could have won.

So there you have it, we don't just play 40k...and Flames of War...and Bolt Action...

14 January 2018

List Building from Avanti - Damo's Carri Compagnia

-with Damo 

 *Disclaimer: My phone takes really shitty photos...

 When I started using the Italians as my very first Flames of War force (beta testing v.1!) they were always one thing to me; Hilarious. 

 Under-gunned, outmatched by most opponents and no-one else in their right mind fielded them. Good enough for me. (I won Natcon 2003 with them. Heh.) I wanted a "Ferrari tank rush" army. Full speed ahead and die for the glory of Il Duce!

With Flames of War v.4 coming out last year, I decided to bide my time until the glorious Italians got their own book. It's (almost) here now and we at Behind Enemy Lines are grateful Battlefront NZ allowed us early access. Chur Pete!

 All my Italian armies through the ages have had one common theme. Tanks. Lots of (little) tanks. It's my jam and so my V.4 list carries on my obsession. I've started by building a single formation to 85 points. It simply gives me room to move, either to 100 pts or less.

 HQ- no brainer here. 1 M14/41. (Are you surprised?)

Next, I take 3 combat platoons of five M14/41's. One can never have enough MG's to get the job done on the PBI. With six MG shots per tank, that's a lot of hurt on anything caught unprepared. Hard luck for them. The main gun is only AT6 but has HEAT rounds. Cool. I can live with that. Armour is a relatively low 3-1-1 so they might survive a round or two of shooting. However, no matter what rating they get on the new 8 Million Bayonet table they will always remount on a 2+. (This is good.)

So that's my compulsory choices sorted along with the optional 3rd platoon of M14/41's because ...well... MG's.  I desperately wanted a platoon of Semovente 75's as well and for about a minute I was panicking that I'd have to ditch a platoon of m14/41's until Dan pointed out that I could take those bad boys as an optional support option. Wahey!

One platoon of 6 Semovente 75's in the mix and I'm almost a combined arms force! These can fire as artillery and the 75mm main gun is AT8. They also have a self-defence AAMG. That's pretty good firepower and with their 4-1-1 armour, they're almost a real tank! Can't wait to get some side shots off on some Shermans or T-34's....

With a tread count of 22 "tanks" so far I think it's time for something different...

AA is still a thing in V.4 so I better include some of that I guess...

One platoon of 4 truck mounted 20mm Breda dual purpose AA guns fills another support platoon. I only ever owned 2 of these trucks but luckily I found two Sahariana jeeps with the same gun. Proxy in those fantastic looking vehicles and away we go. I still have points left over to get to the 85pt limit I set for myself so let's head over to the coolest thing in the Italian arsenal.

One platoon of two Lancia 90's- the truck mounted 90mm beast of a gun. Just like an 88 but Italian made. Bene! Just awesome!

4+ save, a move or shoot built in, the gigantic rule. Who cares? Not me. They have AT14, shoot at planes, shoot at tanks, head shot some infantry teams, just take them! Trust me!

The last thing I need is some airpower because, let's face it, I need it to pretend I have some form of artillery (ignoring the fact my Semoventes can fire as arty too.)

One flight of two Falco bi-planes- I only have one biplane but that's no problem as I still have an Italian Stuka to sub in as a proxy biplane. What a nutter.

Well, that's my list. I have a few things to paint up but 90% of my Italians are good to go. (Thanks Monkey, your paint job is still brilliant.) Of course, as I've already said I can go up or down points-wise and perhaps use some of the card options available now or when the Italians get their own ones. 

I do have the quick option of adding 2 platoons of 5 L6/40's as well which will take me to 95 point, leaving 5 left over for card shenanigans as well, pretty quick and simple as it is!

See you on the battlefield...

12 January 2018

Here Comes Il Duce! BEL reviews Avanti!

Well, maybe not Benito himself, but his forces are definitely on their way to defend their interests in Africa with the latest release from Battlefront for V4 Mid War; Avanti!

As you've come to expect from Battlefront, Avanti is a beautifully presented volume with a heap of colour pictures, great historical coverage of the major aspects of the Regio Esercito Italiano (Italian Royal Army) and their place in the battlefields of North Africa.

Continuing on with the desire to keep initial selections easier for newer players, Avanti allows you to choose from three different formations for your Italian forces. These include a Tank Company choosing from either the M14/41 Medium tank or the Semovente SP gun.

You'll need to take a Tank Company HQ comprised of a single M14/41 tank. From there, you must select 2 tank platoons with the option for a third if you'd like it. You can choose from either the M14/41 platoon, which gives you access to between 3 and 5 M14/41's, or you can choose a Semovente SP Battery containing between 2 and 6 Semovente's. 

You'll note that there are two sets of stats for Motivation and Skill on these and we'll discuss this a little more later on.

Your second formation option is the Bersaglieri Weapons Company. After the massive losses taken at the siege of Tobruk, the Italian's reorganised their forces in a 'fewer men, more weapons' scenario.

As always, you'll need to take the Weapons Company HQ consisting of 2 Carcano rifle teams. From there, you must take at least one Weapons platoon up to a max of three, and also take at least one 47mm Anti-tank platoon up to a maximum of two.

You have both full and short options in the Weapons platoon. The full option will give you a platoon with 3 Breda MG teams, a Breda HMG team and a 20mm Anti-tank rifle team. In the short option, you're reduced to 2 Breda MG teams. In both cases, you also have the option of adding a 47mm AT gun.

Your 47mm AT platoons are pretty much as they wrote. You can choose from between two to four 47mm AT guns. These are great for ambushes, a seriously cool little gun in MW!

And of course, your final option is the Bersaglieri Rifle Company, the well-regarded backbone of the Italian forces in North Africa.

The Rifle Company HQ is compulsory with it's 2 Carcano rifle teams. You'll then need to take at least 2 Rifle Platoons, with the option for an extra one. As part of the formation, you can also choose to take a Breda MG Platoon, an Assault Mortar platoon, an 81mm Mortar platoon and up to 2 47mm AT gun platoons.

Your Rifle platoons come in full and short versions here, with the full platoon consisting of 9 Breda  MG/Carcano Rifle teams while the short option only has 5 teams. Selecting the Breda HMG platoon gives you a platoon of 3 Breda HMG teams.

On the infantry artillery side of things, the Assault Mortar platoon gives you some direct fire mortar action which can fire over any teams in front to either add some pins or possible lay down smoke. There are 3 teams in this platoon. For something a bit heavier, the 81mm Mortar platoon gives you either 2 or 3 mortar teams. The 81mm mortar has a better range than the British mortars meaning they have a little more survivability.

8 Million Bayonets

One of the coolest things about the Italian army in V3 (and something I know Damo was fond of) was not knowing just how good your troops would be until they actually got on the table. The issue was the large volume of combinations that there could have been. 

This has been simplified in V4 through the extra column on the Motivation and Skill stats we pointed out earlier. After you've deployed, but before the first turn, you roll your 8 Million Bayonets die and if you roll the Elite symbol (left) then you get to use the improved stats! If you don't have an 8 Million Bayonet die, you can just use a d6 and any roll of 5 or 6 means you have the Elite troops. Easy as that!

Italian Support

The Italian Army in Africa has quite an array of support available to them. We'll have a look at the options you have here and then discuss the potential for German allied platoons as well, a relatively new addition to V4.

The first support we'll have a look at is the Assault Engineer platoon. This is what you take to get into those pesky dug-in infantry positions. You can have a full or short option on this one. Taking the full option will give you Breda MG/Carcano rifle teams, 2 Brixia mortar teams and 2 Flame-thrower teams. The short option reduces you to 3 Breda/Carcano teams and a single Brixia and Flame-thrower. I think this platoon is a definite addition for me, so much firepower!

Next up, the AB41 Armoured Car platoon. You can have either 3 or 4 Armoured cars here to provide both a Scout option for your force or to provide some fast fire support for your infantry. 

As further infantry support, you could also choose an L6/40 Light Tank platoon. You'll have access to between 3 and 5 tanks. These things are super cute, but don't let their diminutive size fool you, they can pack a punch!

Moving on to some heavier support, we're going to take a look at the awesome 90mm Lancia Anti-tank Battery. Similar to the Afrika Korps, the Italian Army found that their heavy AA guns somehow made amazingly powerful anti-tank guns as well. Mounted on a Lancia Truck for added manoeuvrability, you can get between 1 and 4 of these bad boys.

Because the Italian factories couldn't keep up with the demand for the 90mm AA gun, the Italians also purchased a number of the German 88mm for added barrels in the field.

Moving on to the Italian artillery, you've only got a single choice here in the 100mm Howitzer. Your battery can contain either 2 or 4 guns to lay down support fire for your infantry. A well-placed shell also has the potential to take out the British armour in the desert.

Rock me Amadeus! Air support in the desert is provided the rugged CR.42 Falco biplane. Your flight consists of 2 planes and they can either drop their bombs or strafe with the 12.7mm MG's. 

And to make sure you don't get shot down on your way in, you can also buy some dedicated AA in the form of the Autocannone, the 20mm AA gun mounted on a truck. You can have either 2 or 4 AA trucks.

Afrika Korps

As well as using Italian support, you now have the option of taking German allies in support of your Italian troops (and vice versa as well!). You can choose to field two compulsory  German units as Allied units but could also field a whole German formation as a support formation. If you don't have a copy of Afrika Korps, Avanti also gives you the stats for the German compulsory units for you!

Finishing off Avanti, as always, you have painting guides for your Italian forces with details of how to get them on the table.

Coinciding with the release of Avanti, we'll also be seeing new plastic model releases from Battlefront, including the plastic kit with the M14/41 hull and parts to allow you build them as either the M14/41 or the Semovente!

Next up, we're going to take a look at building some sample lists from Avanti for you...so until then...