Monday, August 3, 2015

First Alamein Bolt Action games

As anticipated we had a great time at the Bolt Action 'Escape from El Alamein' (Gaming the Breakout, October 1942) games event at Jolt Games. Having only played one or two BA games about a year ago I was in some trepidation going up against really experienced BA 'veterans' but fortunately my mate Andrew nursed me through the intricacies of the latest version of BA by acting as a sort of umpire for our game. He appeared to be on call in the same role for several other tables as well - in addition to his own game and being one of the chief organisers. Busy lad but he is the undisputed Bolt Action rules guru! I should also thank Jolt Games for hosting and providing the venue - which was really excellent with nice big tables and plenty of room - and even great coffee and snacks. If you're looking for a gaming venue in Canberra I can highly recommend Jolt out in Mitchell. 

Amongst the sights were several superbly painted WWII armies: 8th Army, DAK, Italians (no, not mine - Bersaglieri - which I now have ordered from Warlord) but the pick of them were the Free French. These were some of the best painted figures I've seen for some time - absolutely superb.

French Foreign Legion unit - perfect for an encounter with the Aussies in Syria!
Fearsome looking Legionnaires - with eyeballs and cross of Lorraine sleeve patches - amazing detail
A superbly based and weathered 75
The only drawback from a gaming perspective - brilliantly painted Packard armored cars. - but no tank!

Jason's awesome Sahariana mounted with a 37mm auto-cannon - gotta get me one of them!
The first game involved a dawn assault on an Italian fortified position with town, trenches and bunkers. The three objective markers were placed in the open directly in front of the Italian position, my Australians had to seize these in order to clear paths through the mine fields and open the way for the armour.

Table set-up for Game 1 - note three objective markers in the open ground  just in front of the Italian position.
As dawn starts to break the Aussies make a run for the objectives
A daunting task given all my forces would be out in the open without protection. To give  them a reasonable chance the first two turns were done before daylight and there was a preliminary bombardment of the entire Italian position. Frankly all I thought it'd achieve is to keep the Italian's heads down for a turn but I rolled direct hits on three or four positions getting pins and for one Italian officer behind a bunker...
The haze from the predawn bombardment cloaks the Italian position. The explosion behind the bunker marks the last known resting place of the Italian para's tenente.
By Turn 3 it was deemed light enough to see but my opponent wasn't leaving that to chance, illuminating my main assault with a perfectly placed start shell which lit up everything within 18" in Turn 1! Mercifully he didn't have enough MGs and it was long range for rifles so his SMG armed paras couldn't do much until I moved into range.
The red flame thingy behind the centre of my line is the Italian star shell lighting up most of my sections.  The lack of Italian MGs saved me from getting significant casualties until I actually got to the objectives by Turn 3.

The paras closest the objective (and the Aussies) sold themselves dearly.  Entrenched Italian veterans are VERY hard to kill.
The Italian firing when it did start to hit quickly whittled down my ten-man sections.  As it turned out my opponent did have MGs - mobile ones with his tankettes which carried two MMGs each (the firepower equivalent of an entire infantry section) but knowing how vulnerable they are my opponent was very reluctant to risk them until late in the game, which was lucky for me for when he finally did one tankette wiped out the remainding half of one of my sections. MGs hitting my men in the open would have made for a very short game in my opinion.

Bravisimo! An Italian L3/35 tankette makes an appearance - the Aussie squad directly in front were toast in the first round of shooting from it.
Situation mid game - the three objectives seized, the armour races on through the cleared paths through the minefields to try and crack the Italian defences.
The Italian Elefantino 47mm ATs were effective enough - the Cruiser soon took multiple hits which saw it stall and catch fire - fortunately not quite enough to brew it up but took it out of the fight nonetheless.
The appearance of the M13/40 put paid to the Aussie assault on the town, taking out most of the section  with its three MGs (twin in the hull, co-ax in the turret)
The pesky sniper team on the roof eliminated, the Camicia nera (Blackshirts) run from building to building to get inside before the Aussies can (and they succeeded) BUT my 2 pdr popgun (AT) finally got a decent side shot on the M13/40 which stopped it.  The Portee 2 pdr also got one in which still didn't stop the damn thing. I'm amazed at the damage these things can take!
Veteran Italian parachustisti entrenched and in bunkers etc, are extraordinarily hard to kill. Their characteristics mean they actually do fight to the last man and bullet and so the 1st game went right down to literally the last roll of the dice. We had lost three or four units each and in order to get the win I had to roll a six which after some spectacularly lousy rolling to hit, I plucked one out of my derriere on the very last roll of the game.

Italians turn for a dawn assault in the 2nd game - the section in the closest building has been wiped out and the building occupied by the Bersaglieri veterans. To represent the element of surprise, they only got one chance to inflict shooting hits on them before the were close enough to assault, after which it was all over Red Rover.
The second game was a much different affair with my Italian opponent's veteran Bersaglieri bundling me out of the town (the objective) in no time. I found two annoying things - you have to shoot them down before  they get close enough to assault as the attackers get an extra point in melee to defenders in a building - the exact opposite of most other rules I've used. I must say I don't quite get the logic behind that or the big oversight (in my opinion) of not allowing for grenades at close quarters before an assault (as in Chain of Command) but while annoying, didn't spoil the game or affect the result in the end.

The Italians have taken two of three buildings and I'm about to loose the HMG sacrilegiously on the roof of the mosque. The Italians wiped out the second section again by assault, coming straight over the hill before I could get a decent shot of them - the Vickers should have stopped them in their tracks but never really got into action as the Italians poured fire at them, wiping out half the crew iu the first round.  My Honey drove straight up to the house and repeatedly sprayed three MGs into it, putting innumerable pins on them but, as I discovered, Italian veterans in a house or bunker are very hard to kill. Eventually retook the house with a direct assault by a ten-man squad against three Bersaglieri survivors. 
Height of the battle: just before the M13/40s begin to come on (to the RH side of the Cruiser!)
The Italian tank was hit with everything including both 2 pdr ATs and eventually with 9 pins was taken out .  Turned into a colander but no 'kill' hit after four rounds of shooting. Amazing. Crew probably set it on fire before bailing out.
The Cruiser threatened to cut right through the Italians when the Bersaglieri in the house swarmed out in a suicidal attack, stuffing AT grenades (normally useless when fired at a tank) wherever they could they quite miraculously destroyed it!
Despite these shortcomings my genial opponent Luke played it very well - keeping me guessing where his armour was coming on - right behind one of my flanks of course. Unfortunately Luke could only get two of his three M13/40s on - which was very lucky for me as I was completely committed to trying to retake the town with my reinforcements and all my armour.  Right at the end I had used the Dingo armour command car to spray the house next to the now flaming Cruiser. But as I had discovered its very hard to kill veterans in an Arab mud-brick and their return fire saw a very rapid use of the reverse gear! At the same time the Solothurn AT put many hits into the side of my Stuart Honey - amazingly the crew managed to prevent the tank from brewing. That, wiping out the Italian AT gun and saving my command Dingo AC plus managing to retake one house/objective (one was still held by the Bersaglieri at the other end of the town) saw the game called and me get an arsey five-four win.
The situation end of Game 2: the smoldering Honey ain't goin' anywhere! The Dingo cmd car gamely engages the fearsome Bersaglieri  with reverse gear fully engaged and the lumbering Matilda puts the final hole in the Italian M13/40. 
Again another battle 'down to the wire' - don't believe the Italians are easy-beats by any stretch. Good troops well-handled could have beaten me both times as I actually lost more men with two entire sections wiped out in each game.  A great day's gaming in congenial company with fun had by all.  Thank God - my first since last year! Looking forward to the next one.