Thursday, 2 May 2019

Hold Until Relieved - Part 1 of an Operation Husky Campaign

Some years ago at Colours, I picked up a second hand copy of 'Sicily 1943: the debut of Allied joint operations' by Steven Zaloga. As with all of his books for Osprey, it is an excellent read and with enough information for the wargamer to get a handle on the campaign, without being swamped by too much information. Since the purchase, I've played the odd game based upon Operation Husky, but have always wanted to do a linked campaign with Blitzkreig Commander, my go to ruleset for WWII.

As mentioned last week, Dave was happy to give this a go and so it was simply a case of digging out my notes and coming up with a scenario to kick things off. I decided to base the campaign on the British attempts to break out into the Catania plain, mainly because I have most of the units required already painted. It also provides an easily linked set of scenarios, based upon the historical actions, which is obviously a big bonus.

For the first scenario, I based this upon the attempts by Gruppo Mobile D to link up with Gruppo Tattico Rondo in Solarino on July 11th,  where they then planned to launch an attack on Floridia against the British left flank. 

Scenario Details
Gruppo Mobile D is advancing with all possible speed towards Solarino. Intelligence reports suggest that there are US Airborne troops possibly along their planned route. These have been dropped way off course due to the problems encountered en route by all Airborne units. Managing to make communications with the British, they have been ordered to take up a blocking position astride the road to Solarino, the help secure the British flank.

Due to the dispersed nature of the drop, the Americans are without any of their artillery or anti-tanks guns, only having some M1A1 bazookas to hand. The British however have sent some Recce units to help support the Americans, who are unaware that these are on their way.

Turns: 8

US Airborne deploy using Static Deployment. Their orders are to 'hold until relieved'.

The Italians deploy using Mobile Deployment. Their orders are to exit the opposite table edge and, if they encounter any enemy units, to neutralise them if at all possible.

British Recce units arrive at the start of Turn 3, rolling a D6 to see which area of the board they arrive in.

US Airborne OOB
1 x C) (CV10)
1 x HQ (CV9)
6 x Infantry (2 with M1A1 Bazooka upgrade)
2 x MGs
1 x Mortar

British Recce OOB
1 x HQ (CV8)
3 x Scout Carrier 
2 x Humber ACs

Italian Gruppo Mobile OOB
1 x CO (CV8)
2 x HQ (CV8)
6 x Infantry (3 with cavalry mounts)
2 x MGs (with MCs)
1 x Mortar (with MC)
2 x 45mm ATGs (with truck tow)
3 x L3/35 Tankettes
2 x R-35s (captured French tanks)
2 x 20mm AA Guns (one with truck tow, one truck mounted)

Dave pondered as to the best place to deploy and in the end wisely chose a central location astride the road. The Italians deployed their left flank on the road, with the aim of advancing swiftly towards the farm and vineyards, whilst the rest of the troops were to their right, hoping to quickly by pass the area and exit off the board.

An overview of the table, with the US Airborne in the top left hand corner.

The US Airborne troops closely grouped to help with command and control.

The Italians also closely grouped for the same reason.

Turn 1
With the Italians going first, I was a tad worried as my command rolls of late haven't been up to scratch. I needn't have worried as all units move smartly forward, with the centre and right flank almost at the vineyards. 

The US Airborne likewise advanced forward, carefully selecting the initial positions to give them the best chance to respond to any movement by the enemy.

The end of Turn 1, with both sides having made significant movement onto the table.

The Italian centre and right flank.

The US Airborne right flank in the foreground, with their left by the farmhouse.

Turn 2
As the Italian left flank advanced up the road, the centre and right moved towards the right flank, to try and skirt the vineyeards, but at the same time ready for any attacks from the farm.

The US Airborne continued to maintain a defensive posture, but their mortar unit had line-of-sight to the Italian ATG unit, which they managed to suppress as it was still limbered to its tow.

The end of Turn 2.

The Italian left flank have pushed their L3/35 tankettes forward, whilst their supporting infantry follow on foot. The ATG unit is suppressed, but the AA unit has managed to deploy in the cover of the wall.

The US Airborne right flank maintains its position, but the left has pushed forward by the vineyards at the farm.

Turn 3
Once again the Italians managed to make some good moves forward, although the CO blundered, but had no visible enemy units in view to advance towards, so simply sat there. They had no targets so had no opportunity to fire.

For the US Airborne, there was the welcome sight of the British surprise re-inforcements, who arrived on their right flank. Not wishing to miss the party, the rolled a double 1 for their first move, advancing briskly onto the table.

Spurred on by this piece of good news, the US Airborne opened fire once again with their mortar, destroying an ATG and the truck borne AA unit. First blood to the Allies.

The end of Turn 3, with the British visible towards the middle of the left hand table edge.

Huzzah for the Brits!

The Italian infantry have been sucked into the vineyards to try and counter the threat from the US Airborne in and around the farm.

The truck mounted AA unit left a smoking wreck.

Turn 4
The Italian left flanks responds to the sound of gunfire, with their L3/35 tankettes advancing forward, but fail a command roll at the critical time in the middle of the road, resulting in them coming under fire. On the right, the Italians manage to destroy one infantry unit and the CO orders the R-35s forward to support the attacks.

The British  continued to move, with their armoured cars taking up position either side of the road, whilst the carrier de-bussed their troops, who took position alongside the wall.

Once again the US Airborne right flank moved to maintain pressure on the Italians, whilst their left used combined fire to destroy an Italian mg unit.

The end of Turn 4 with the action happening towards the top of the table.

The US Airborne right flank a constant threat to the Italians.

The Italians are engaged in a fierce firefight with the US Airborne infantry, with the R-35 tanks trying to provide support (note, the tanks are in fact FT-17s as I didn't have time to paint the R-35s!).

The L3/35 tankettes stranded in the middle of the road, with the British armoured cars ready to open fire.

Turn 5
The Italians have to move the weight of the advance towards their right flank, due to the amount of fire that the US Airborne are able to put down. This results in them being able to suppress an infantry unit and forcing it back.

As the US Airborne right flank moves towards the road in response to the Italian re-deployment, the British ACs open fire on the L3/35 tankettes, destroying two of them. At the same time, combined fire sees the loss of another Italian infantry unit.

The end of Turn 5

The Italian left flank under severe pressure and taking losses it can ill afford.

The view from the US Airborne right flank.

Turn 6
The Italians continue the re-dployment to the right, but they fail a crucial command roll, leaving them unable to take the fight to the US Airborne. The CO manages to get his R-35 tanks firing and moving, leading to the loss of another US Airborne infantry unit.

In response the Allies manage through combined arms to destroy another two Italian infantry units and suppress the remaining L3/35 tankette. This leaves the Italians one point away from their breakpoint.

The end of Turn 6.

The Italian L3/35 tankettes merrily burn as their infantry carry on moving twards their right flank.

The severely mauled Italian right flank, with the farm firmly in Allied hands.

The view from the Allied right flank.

End of Game
At the end of Turn 6, it was obvious that the Italians were a spent force. They had a few units close to their hit limit, as well as the Allies firmly in control of the farm and surrounding areas. So with no realistic prospect of success, they wisely decided to quit the field of battle.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was a fun and entertaining game, even though the Italians lost. A nice way to kck off our campaign. As always some post game thoughts in no particular order:
  • I'm still getting to grips with BKCIV to be honest, mainly due to lack of time on my part to have a good and detailed read through. There is a lot of good stuff in there, I just need make notes of what it is and where for future reference.
  • I was happy with the scenario and it worked out better than I hoped. It was a nice surprise for Dave to have some unexpected re-inforcements, which certainly helped the US Airborne at a critical point in the game. It's always tricky knowing how to balance things, so the game doesn't become too one-sided. I did toy with Dave rolling to see what turn they would arrive, but I thought the inherent C&C system of BKCIV would add enough uncertainty.
  • By God the US Airborne troops are good. With excellent command values and good stats, they are a force to be reckoned with. It also helped that they were working on internal lines compared to the Italians, allowing them to quickly react to any Italian moves.
  • The Italians performed really well, much better than I expected to be honest. However their AA units were useless as they were too easy to take out, as I found out to my cost. And they didn't get to fire a single shot!
  • It was nice to have a chance to get the British carrier units and armoured cars onto the table, as normally they don't get a look in. 
  • I was pleased with how the table looked, especially my new vineyards, which only took a couple of hours work as I converted some old terrain I'd had for years.
  • The result of the game will influence the next one, as the Gruppo Tacticco will have to make the attack on its own

As always after a game we have a chat and analyse how things went, what worked etc, which is one of the pleasures of this hobby. Naturally you don't get this with solo games! Whilst chatting away Dave mentioned that this year is the 75th anniversary of Operation Market-Garden. I, like many others, have long been fascinated by this operation, having read Cornelius Ryan's 'A Bridge Too Far' whilst a teenager. To cut a long story short, we decided to run a mini-campaign in September (when else!), but using quite a few historical 'what if's' to allow us to explore what might have been. I now have a project and a deadline to paint up my British Paras as well as German infantry and various supporting units. then there will be some more appropriate terrain required than I currently have. Plenty to keep my occupied buy forst of all I need to get next weeks scenario sorted. Until next time...


  1. Steve, enjoyed and liked your table, the vineyards look great. I have a bit more understanding now that I have the rules and I hope the learning curve is a bit easier as I don't have to unlearn anything that has gone before.

    Can recommend Beevor's Arnhem if you are looking for a book to run side-by-side with your campaign.

    1. Hi Norm
      once again glad you enjoyed the game. Having the book will hopefully make some things clearer going forward. Thanks for the 'heads up' on the Beevor book, which Dave was referring to post game chat.

      'It Never Snows in September' is simply superb, giving the German point of view of the campaign. Another excellent read is the Wolverhampton Military Studies book 20: Operation Market-Garden. Lots of really interesting and useful info in there that you don't normally find in other books.

  2. Steve, your game layout is marvelous and US Airborne are tough!

    A linked campaign game offers a lot of possibilities. While I am not familiar with BKCIV (or its earlier versions), it looks like the TOE is set at the platoon level. Is that correct? If you want a campaign game set in Sicily, there are a number of boardgames covering this theater that could be pressed into service as a battle generator. One of the games I have is an old SPI S&T game on Sicily set at the battalion or brigade level. While old, it might provide a suitable game engine for a campaign offering many opportunities to pick and choose to take action from the map down a level to resolve with miniatures.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Jonathan. Yep US Airborne can certainly kick ass. The base unit level is indeed the Platoon, so a good call on using board games. This is one option for our Market-Garden campaign.

  3. Enjoyed reading your battle report

    Take care


  4. Impressive! You certainly have a eye for scenario design Steve and I'm regularly surprised by the variety of your games. I have great memories of many BKCII games played with you and others - I hope BKCIV fulfils its promise.

    Hope to see you soon in Bristol or Northleach for more gaming.

    1. Thanks Keith and very kind of you. I think feeling very comfortable with a ruleset, as I do with BKCII, allows you to come up with scenarios that are not that standard (if there is such a thing). Using the existing scenarios as a guide does help a lot though.

      Been a bit busy on the Home Front but will be in touch soon to try and arrange a game.

  5. Looks like a cracking good game and good to see OP HUSKY getting some tabletop love.

    1. I'm glad you liked it and we've got part II scheduled in for tomorrow. It's a shame you don't see more games set in the Italian theatre. Maybe gamers think they are too set piece and attritional?