Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Viznetti - northern Italy, late 1944

It is late 1944 in northern Italy. The German army and the advancing Italian winter have finally halted the allied advance. The German high command has mustered significant forces for a counter-stroke, not knowing that there is one last gasp left in the allied offensive, as the allied command commits the New Zealand Division to one last attack to secure the town of Viznetti, and the crossings over the Moltovo River, swollen with late autumn rains and early snows.

Nick and I played this 20mm Spearhead game, created using Keith McNelly's Scenario Generation System.  The German army was taken from the 1944 Panzer Division OOB, while Nick used parts of the New Zealand Division. The lists weren't quite correct, but a part of our aim is to use the available 20mm 'toys'. Consequently, for example, the two German tank battalions were a little too small had we complied strictly with the system. The game was a 'Mutual encounter' using both sides' "encounter/attack" lists.

The battlefield looking east, with the German forces arriving from the north (left) of the photo, and the New Zealanders arriving from the south (right). Snow topped heights can be seen scattered through the mountainous terrain.
The Kiwis were going in with three of their infantry battalions supported by one of their armoured regiments.

The German force consisted of two under strength Panzer battalions, a Gepanzert battalion and a Fusilier battalion. High command had also attached two companies of valuable Tiger 1s to support the attack, battalions of 105, 150 and 170mm guns, and was desperately trying to raise some life from the Luftwaffe.

The German commander planned an armoured thrust to capture Viznetti (the 2 sector town in the upper photo). He cross attached the Fusilier battalion and the panther battalion, with the tank heavy battalion taking the west (right) German flank (nearest the camera) to take the snow covered peak and wait in reserve. The Gepanzert Battalion was cross attached with the PzkwIV battalion, with the tank heavy battalion to take Viznetti while the  infantry heavy battalion advanced slightly east to wait in a well covered valley in reserve.

The Infantry heavy battalion of Fusiliers was to make a flank attack, supported by the company of Tiger 1s, entering on turn 5.

The Kiwis focused their attack on their left, against the German right. The armour was cross attached with an infantry battalion, with the tank heavy battalion pushing out on their left. The infantry heavy battalion was sent on a flank march hoping to take the German positions in the flank and rear. These troops found the going difficult and arrived late in the day.

The German Panther battalion advanced and took up position on the objective expecting to be held in reserve.

In the centre the other two Kiwi battalions pushed up the central bridge.

They faced a force of PzkwIVs and armoured infantry occupying Viznetti and its surrounds. The centre battalion had the support of a battalion of 150mm guns, and their observer soon found a position in the local church spire from which to call down fire. First blood saw him locate and eliminate the supporting AT 6pdrs from one of the Kiwi battalions.

The Kiwi armour advanced against the German right flank, the supporting M10s eliminating one of the two Panther platoons.

The supporting Pak40 soon took a toll on the attacking M4s.

Turn 5 and the remaining Fusiliers arrive supported by the Tiger company.

The Kiwi commander pushes one battalion across the bridge, intent on assaulting Viznetti.

The Gepanzert troops wait to receive the assault around Viznetti, and quickly became the target of a British UNCLE artillery strike, surviving through sheer good luck. At this stage a vicious counter battery war began. The German commander had a battalion of 170s dedicated to CB, while the Kiwi commander had been allocated  a battalion of 5.5" guns in the same roll. The German CB locates one of the two Kiwi 25pdr battalions, eliminates a battery of 25pdrs, and suppresses another. The Kiwis for their part locate the German 150s, and manage to suppress one battery.

At this stage the Kiwi commander calls in a Typhoon strike, and the German troops take the brunt of their feared 'Jabo' attack. One PzkwIV platoon is destroyed.

Pressure builds on the German right, with their supporting Pak40s destroyed.

A fierce gun duel continues between the remaining German Panther platoon and the mass of Kiwi armour.

Meanwhile in the centre a Kiwi battalion pushes across the bridge.

Finally the Kiwi flank attack arrives, and the pressure becomes unbearable on the German right.

The German battalion commander breaks off, intent on pulling back to the next ridge line. This does mean abandoning his objective. At the same time the German commander commits his reserve to swing across from his left to support his endangered right flank. The counter battery war continues, with much of the Kiwi artillery suppressed or destroyed. However casualties are mounting on the German artillery, losing first one, and then a second battery of the 150s.

The German reserve streams across behind Viznetti to reach the right and re-establish a defensive line.

The German left flank force reaches its first objective, the second bridge across the river.

Pressure continues against Viznetti, with the Kiwi commander calling down smoke to screen his advancing infantry.

The Kiwi armour has taken significant casualties but continues to sweep around the old German right flank position, partially claiming the objective.

The Kiwi armoured attack arrives at the position previously occupied by the german right flank forces.

Kiwi infantry crossing to the front of Viznetti covered by the smoke screen.

A firefly and carrier on Nick's left flank (the German right). I included this photo just because I could, showing off Nick's great paint jobs.

The German reserve re-establishes the German right on the next ridge line.

The Kiwi armour floods across the objective previously held by the German on their right flank.

The German left flank attack positions itself on its objective, awaiting its next order to attack the Kiwi infantry in the flank.

The German armour has popped up onto a ridge line as it adopts its defensive position at the end of its attack arrow.

Finally some of the much promised Luftwaffe support arrives with a Stuka strike. The attack eliminates a Firefly platoon and an infantry platoon as the aircraft dive bomb their targets.

Casualties mount on the Kiwi armour. This M4 was destroyed by a German Sdkfz251/9 with its short 75mm gun - something of a lucky shot!!

The pressure builds in the centre around Viznetti.

It's tough for both attackers and defenders around Viznetti. The Germans have lost their vital 75 support and one platoon sits suppressed in the wood, while Kiwis are suppressed in the open.

The German forces that had broken off on the German right re-establish themselves on the next ridge line back.
At this stage the Kiwi commander realises that while he has made significant progress, he will be unable to take Viznetti without further support.

We called the game. The Germans held two objectives  The Kiwis held one objective, with another two contested, giving each side 4 victory points. An honourable draw and a fantastic game.

The game encompassed much of that is so cool about Spearhead. We had a real game of cat and mouse as we made our plans, each succeeding in applying pressure at the appropriate place. There was a vicious counter battery war, and both sides succeeded in gaining some air support. Nick's Typhoon attack managed to avoid the German AA (I'd taken one AA asset, probably too little for this time of the war), while he had no AA cover himself (not a bad risk to take at this stage of the war). We watched pressure build at critical times, each of us at differing times having to 'fight for our lives' to stay in the game.

This was Nick's first full blown SGS game with all of these dimensions included, and we both had a real ball. Great game, great opponent!!


  1. Thanks for the game Robin. I really enjoyed it.

    I think the highlight for me was seeing my Typhoon (must get my Thunderbolt finished!) arrive on the table and actually do something!

    I was impressed by the performance of my remaining 6 pounder too!

    Got to admit, your Stuka was pretty cool too. Although I would have much preferred it had it not taken out that Firefly!

    I think an honourable draw it indeed turned out to be.

    Thanks again Robin,


  2. Looks like an interesting game, certainly I enjoyed the report.

    I am very surprised that the massed NZ armour has held it's own against Panthers and Tigers. I tend to think Shermans should act as support stands, rtaher than cross-attach, and let the enemy tanks be attacked with massed allied air support. The M10 firing at a Panther even looked a bad match-up!

    If it was me I would have therefore taken three Jabo stands and tried to neutralise the German AA with artillery. However, the terrain may have prevented that as visibility may be limited. In an attacking formation I also would drop the 6pdrs. They are useless against PzIVs never mind any thing larger :)

  3. Keith

    I'd agree.. I think Nick will buy more air strikes with his points next time, with the AGC they are a good investment. I think he was also pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of allied CB with a CB observer. Unfortunately he had a series of bad die rolls that meant that I was able to hold my own in the CB battle, but I was cautious in my use of artillery until I felt I had the edge. My own CB assets (the 170s) were outranged against his 5.5s so were never going to be able to eliminate his CB threat, so just had to 'husband' the artillery resources and try to make them last as long as possible.

    I had also taken too little AA for this time of the war, and positioned the one AA asset I had poorly protecting the Panther battalion on my right flank, so it never interfered with his jabo strike on my centre.