Saturday, 18 May 2019

Siesta in Sortino - Game 3 of an Operation Husky Campaign

With the Italians having managed to cause enough problems for the British in last weeks game, this had bought them time to set up a defensive line in advance of the town of Sortino. The terrain is much more rocky and barren than down on the plain, so the Italians were hoping to take advantage of the high ground.

1 x CO (CV9)
2 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV6)
9 x Infantry Units (3 with ATR upgrade)
2 x MG Units
1 x Mortar (gun pit)
2 x ATG (gun pits)
1 x IG (gun pit)
1 x 20mm AA Unit 
1 x Semovente 75/18
3 x 75mm Artillery Units
1 x Marked Minefield 

1 x CO (CV9)
3 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV8)
1 x FAC (CV8)
1 x Daimler Recce Unit
12 x Infantry Units
2 x MG Units
1 x Mortar 
1 x 6pdr aTG + tow
2 x Honey Tank Units
4 x Sherman Tank Units
1 x 25pdr Battery
1 x Hurricane Ground Support 

Scenario Details
The Italians deploy first in their 1/3 of the table.
The British deploy using Mobile Deployment.
The Italians can deploy their marked minefield anywhere on the table.
8 Turns 
British Objective to defeat the Italians and breakthrough towards Sortino. The Italians to simply hold on.
The streams are impassable to vehicles. Infantry cound them as Linear Terrain for movement. 
The rocky outcrop is impassable to vehicles

The Italians deployed in and around the small farm in their deployment zone. they put the bulk of the AT support in the centre and on the left wing, in anticipation that this would be the area the British armour would be forced to come through, given that the bridge had been mined.

The British deployed mainly towards their right flank, to allow the armour as much free movement as possible, given the limits of the terrain.

An overview of the table, with the Italian delpoyment zone on the right.

Dave had brought along his pineapple rings in anticipation of having a Hawaiian pizza topping to celebrate his victory. Quelle horreur!

The view from the Italian side.

It was obvious from this where the main threat would come from.

Turn 1
Frankly a rather poor Turn by both sides, with only the British right flank getting up to much. The Italians failed to call in their mortar when they had a clear view to the British infantry in the open! Not a great start.

The end of Turn 1.

The British arrive at a somewhat leisurely pace onto the table.

The Italians despite great views, fail to call in artillery or mortar strikes onto the British.

Turn 2
Another poor Turn, with the British left flank failing completely and their right flank still a tad sluggish. For the Italians it was a catalogue of failed rolls right across the board. Another chance gone to attack infantry in the open. Bugger!

The end of Turn 2.

The strung out British advance.

Turn 3
The British get off to a better start this Turn, with their right flank advancing nicely, but a Sherman is suppressed by Opportunity fire. This does however reveal their position which leads to an airstrike by the Hurricane. The British CO has had to move over to the left flank to goad them into action, which he succeeds in doing. Yet again the Italians fail to take any advantage of the infantry in the open, so have to be content with moving their infantry slightly to meet the expected attacks.

The Hurricane arrives and doges the flak thrown at it ...

... but only supresses one unit.

The end of Turn 3.

The British armour in a good position.

The British left flank finally arrives.

Turn 4
The British start the Turn with some Initiative fire on the dug-in ATG on the hill, but fail to suppress it. Then they and the rest of their flank fail their command rolls. However on the left flank the CO plays an absoulte blinder, moving his units 5 times, including a Command Bonus. This really alters the complexion of things as suddenly the Italians are under threat from both flanks. The British CO moves onto the rocky out crop, which the Italians have stupidly left unprotected, to get a better view.

In response the Italian ATG manages to knock out one Sherman, but is then destroyed by Opportunity fire back, which is a big blow. Under pressure the infantry on the left flank retreat and just when they needed to move, the right flank failed its command roll. Things are not looking good for the Italians.

The Hurricane pilot refuelling before his next mission.

The end of Turn 4.

Despite coming under early fire, the British are in a great position to flank the Italians and also gain the high ground.

The Italians try and pull back to better defensive positions.

The British left flank advances to the stream junction and to the woods.

Turn 5
The British FAC fails again but the FAO succeeds, leading to two Italian units being suppressed. However the right flank and armour fail, with the left flank only moving once. The Italians again fail to do much, largely due to lack of targets. Both sides exchange some fire and cause suppression.

The effect of the British artillery.

The end of Turn 5.

The view from the Italian right flank.

The view from the Italian left flank.

Turn 6
The pineapple rings did their work as the FAC calls in the Hurricane again, leading to 3 units being suppressed on the Italian right flank. This leaves the way open for the British, who in a mix of fire and manouevre, move into the woods on the Italian right flank. Not to be outdone, the Shermans and Honeys move round the Italian left flank, leaving things looking pretty grim for the Italian defenders.

The Italians try to respond, with their FAO finally getting through, only to see the strike deviate and fall on open ground. Again some rearranging takes place where possible, but a Blunder by the CO puts pay to planned movement and shooting.

Biggles is back and this time he means business ...

... with his strafing run being spot on.

The end of Turn 6.

The British armour lined up ready to move or shoot.

The Italian flank obviously turned.

The British hav cleared the Italians from the woods and the flank is under severe threat.

The Italians feel as if they are in a replay of Rorke's Drift, as the Buffalo Horns of the British attack engulf them.

Turn 7
Luckily for the Italians both the FAO and FAC co-ordinated attacks fail to achieve anything, which is a welcome reprieve. However the pressure is maintained from the British armour and the troops on the left flank. 

The Italians respond where possible, with their FAO calling in his artillery which leads to 3 units and the British FAO suppressed. Again the CO fails his command roll, when he could have done with the Semovente having more shots at the British.

The Hurricane fails to achieve anything this Turn.

The end of Turn 7.

The British armour shoot up the Italians in and around the farm.

Small comfort as the British left flank is suppressed.

Turn 8
A glimmer of hope appears when the Hurricane arrives and deviates onto his own tanks, only for the Italian AA fire to drive him off! Oh the irony of it all. The end is nigh as the British armour destroys the Semovente and an infantry unit, taking the Italians to their breakpoint. This they pass but it is a clear vicotry to the British.

Almost a case of Blue-on-Blue as the Hurricane deviates onto his own armour.

The end of Turn 8 and the game.

The British armour in complete control.

The open Italian right flank.

Rorke's Drift.

The British left flank.

The End of the Game
In the end a clear and decisive victory for the British. It didn't seem that that would be likely early on and even at the half-way point, given both sides poor command rolls. Also once again we finished a full 8 Turn game!

Post Game Thoughts
As always some thoughts on the game, the rules and the scenario: 
  • It had been a busy week on the work and home front and I ran out of time to have a proper think about my deployment. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I should have deployed my ATGs either all on the hill on the right, or kept them close to the farm where they could have had good support from the infantry. In the end they fell between both stools. Also on the right flank I simply did not secure the rocky outcrop, which allowed the British FAO to gain a great viewpoint from which to call in attacks.
  • There has been some debate on the Pendraken forum about whether to use the hits stay on or come off rules. It is interesting to note that if we had used the hits come off as written, then the Italians would have comfortably held on to their positions and would have not felt too threatened. This is why I personally prefer the hits stay on option as well as it feeling right.
  • I should have taken more ATGs, which I have, but simply have not found the time to paint. Lesson learnt.
  • Both sides command rolls were really, really poor early on. For the Bitish they could not get moving, with their right flank infantry only making it to the stream over the entire game. For the Italians their failure early on not to be able to call in attacks on the British infantry whilst in the open probably cost them the game. Such is the fickle nature of the Die Gods. 
  • I thought the scenario worked well, but I wasn't too happy with the layout of the terrain. Frankly it was a bit more rushed than normal due to the circumstances already mentioned. It is hard to give both sides a fair chance and terrain can make or break things on this front. Normally I will set the game up a day or so in advance, to give me time to look at things afresh, and then tweak things as I see fit.
  • The Recce rules continue to be an issue, but they always were in BKCII. We like the random movement, but that's about it. More thought required on this, but whether we will be albe to come up with a workeable solution remains to be seen. 
So there we have it. We have another game planned for next week, which I have already started to think about. This may lead to a natural end to our campaign, largely due to having to pick our daughter up from Uni followed by a family holiday, which means I will be hors de combat for 3 weeks or so. So until next time ...

Monday, 13 May 2019

Assault on Floridia - Part 2 of an Operation Husky campaign

Following on from last week's game, the situation is as follows:

Despite being unable to meet up with Gruppo Mobile D, Gruppo Tattico Ronco has been ordered to carry on with the planned attack on Floridia. Rather than an operation to breakthrough towards Syracuse, this has now become one of slowing down the British advance by putting in a spoiling attack.

With the successful action against Gruppo Mobile D, the British 13th Brigade is still pushing to the West to protect the British left flank. Expecting an attack around Floridia, it has deployed the 2nd Wiltshires with support from 4th Armoured Brigade.

Gruppo Tattico Ronco
1 x CO (CV8)
2 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV6)
1 x Recce
9 x Infantry Regulars (3 with ATR upgrades)
2 x MG
1 x Mortar
1 x 47mm ATG + tow
1 x Infantry Gun + tow
3 x 75mm Artillery (off-board)
1 x Bomber + Asset (the Italian player decides which Turn the support will arrive)

2nd Wiltshires
1 x CO (CV9)
2 x HQ (CV8)
9 x Infantry Regulars
2 x MG
3 x Shermans
1 x 25pdr Battery (off-board)

Scenario Details
The scenario last 8 Turns with the British deploying first using static deployment, the Italians using mobile deployment. The British can start the game dug-in, which counts as 5+ to hit from direct fire, but 4+ from indirect fire. This represents hastily prepared slit trenches as well as the difficulty of digging in the the rocky terrain.

The British lack their organic mortar and ATG support units due to problems getting them off the beaches (more details can be found on Bob Mackenzie's excellent Test of Battle site). Due to the failure to link up with Gruppo Mobile D, the Italian's have been allocated some bomber support, which has been diverted from attacking the ships and beaches.

The British deploy in the NW corner, the Italians the SE. The railway track offers no cover nor blocks line-of-sight. The terrain is largely made up of partially walled orchards and open fields. There is a dry river bed (indicated by the curving 'hedges') that is impassable to vehicles and tanks, except via the road. Infantry treat it as a linear obstacle.

An overview of the table, with the British deployed in the top left hand corner. Some of the Italians command units can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.

The British deployed along the walls and fences outside of Floridia. The attached Shermans can be seen by the sign for 'Dubya's Diner'.

Turn 1
The Italian right flank advanced on smartly, whilst the left moved and then Blundered, resulting in the CO being at -2CV for this Turn and the next. Unsurprisingly he failed to arrive, but the FAO and Recce moved onto the table. 

For the British there was little immediate threat, so they only advanced their left flank to meet Italians advancing parallel to the road.

The end of Turn 1.

The Italians arrive, except for their CO.

The British left flank has advanced into the vineyards.

Turn 2
This Turn was similar to the last, with both Italian flanks advancing, as did the Recce and FAO. Once again the CO failed to show up.

The British pushed their left flank to the edge of the stream and moved other units only slightly.

The end of Turn 2 and the Italians are making good speed with their advance.

The Italian left flank advances out of sight of the British.

The British have deployed to cover as much open ground as possible, of which there is little.

Turn 3
At the start of the Turn, the Italian Air Support arrived, hitting and suppressing an awful lot of British units. After they had left, both flanks advanced, but the CO stubbornly remained off table.

Despite having line-of-sight to the Italians, the British FAO failed his command roll, much to their relief. With many units suppressed or already in good positions, the British CO moved his Shermans towards his right flank.

The Italian air force arrives and ...

... delivers a 12" pizza ...

... with what looks like a pepperoni topping. That'll show the Allies for setting up 'Dubya's Diner' in Sicily.

The end of Turn 3.

The Italian left flank has deployed its ATG in a position to try and protest it from the British armoured support. An infantry unit has been suppressed by fire from the British left flank.

The British left flank unscathed from the aerial onslaught.

Turn 4
This time it was the Turn of the Italian FAO to fail his command roll. At least the CO finally arrived as both flanks advanced forward.

With no targets available, the British dressed ranks.

The End of Turn 4.

The Italian left flank advancing through the orchards.

The British can't quite see the Italians in the orchard.

Turn 5
A poor Turn for the Italians, with the right flank Blundering, the left failing its command roll and the FAO also failing. At least the CO managed to call up his reserve infantry units and posted them on the right flank.

Again the British simply held their positions until they could acquire targets.

The end of a quiet Turn 5.

Turn 6
Things got off to a good start for the Italians, with their FAO calling in his 75mm guns onto the British left flank. However the right flank Blundered once again (what are the chances?) but at least the left flank destroyed a British MG unit in an exchange of fire. Just when you needed him, the CO failed his command roll!

The British FAO not to be outdone, calls in his battery of 25pdrs to typically devastating effect. With the Italian FAO rather forward of his lines, the Shermans advance through the orchard and managed to drive him off. 

The Italian 8" pizza arrives ...

... and suppresses several units, including the HQ.

Not to be outdone, the British send back their own 8" pizza courtesy of 'Dubya's Diner' ...

... suppressing units including the CO.

The end of an eventful Turn.

The Italian FAO on the railway tracks having been driven off by the Shermans in the orchard.

Turn 7
Things started to Turn in favour of the British, as the Italians were unable to do much other than Initiative move some infantry. However the British got off to a flyer, with the FAO once again calling in his artillery right on top of the Italians with the usual mass of suppression. Fire from the left flank and the Shermans saw the loss of 4 infantry units, the Recce unit and an MG unit. This took the Italians close, but not quite to, their break point.

Another delivery from 'Dubya's Diner' ...

... with the usual results.

The end of the Turn and the British with a slight advantage.

The Italian left flank has taken quite a beating, with little to stop the Shermans.

The Italian right flank equally under pressure.

Turn 8
This was do or die time for the Italians if they were to rescue anything from the situation. Luckily it got off to a good start with the FAO calling in his artillery almost on top of himself leading to the loss of 2 British infantry units. With most other units suppressed, the CO manage to activate his reserves to lead to the loss of the remaining British MG unit. 

The British were over half way to their Break Point and had lots of units close to the hits total, so it was getting close. However the Italians were unable to capitalise on this, whilst the Shermans killed another infantry unit, taking the Italians to their Break Point.

The Italian FAO came good at a critical moment.

The British left flank has ceased to be an effective fighting force.

The end of the Turn and the game.

Little Italian resistance is left.

The British have defended Floridia but at a high cost.

End of Game
The game went right down to the wire and the result could have gone either way. The Italians were a spent force, but the British had suffered lots of hits, so could easily have reached their break Point too in another Turn. A game that got off to a cagey and quiet start, but really came to life in the last 3 Turns. We both enjoyed it immensely and I think that's the first time we have played right to the end.

Post Game Thoughts
As always, some thoughts on the game, the campaign and the rules in no particular order:

  • I always love the chance to get some Bomber Air Support going, but in recent games they have been somewhat effective, maybe too much so. Certainly in this game they caused most of the problems encountered by the British. In BKCIV not being able to use AA fire against them feels right, but it does mean they become a devastating weapon if not used carefully. Going forward I would advocate using them rarely and mainly for historical actions. 
  • Both sides artillery was very effective, given the close nature of the terrain and consequently limited deviation on the die rolls. The British 25pdrs are very effective and, rather like the bombers, can be game changers if used en masse. Again a level of common sense is required re: their usage so as not to overtly upset game balance.
  • The Italian Blunders came at the wrong time on several occasions, which really impacted on their ability to prosecute their attacks. C'est la guerre.
  • The Italian CO not turning up for 3 Turns or more was as above with the same French phrase! Still, given these handicaps they still made a fist of it right to the end, which surprised me to be honest.
  • I thought the scenario worked well in context of the campaign and a stand alone game. Running the game diagonally not only looked good but changed the dynamic of the game. We both certainly enjoyed it.
  • I'm slowly taking bits from BKCIV that I like, such as 'Reserves' and 'Dig-In', which I've used before from CWC and BKCI respectively. Other special abilities are in the offing, such as Low Profile, which will likely feature in the next game.
  • For the core game I'm still using BKCII as I'm so familiar with it and know where to look for rules etc. I'm sure I'll eventaully migrate to BKCIV, but no just yet.

In campaign terms, the Italians achieved there objective of a spoiling attack and certainly gave the British a bloody nose in the process. So much so that the British advance has been slowed down somewhat, allowing the Italians time to form a better defensive line than planned. The German Kampfgruppe Schmaltz may make an appearance, but I'm not sure yet as I'm still working on the next scenario. One thing for certain is that the British are now on the attack and the Italians the back foot. How much support the British can expect is, again, being worked out, but they will have Air Superiority now and can expect support as such. So until next time...