A smallish test game of "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!" by Too Fat Lardies, a company-level WWII game which features a card-driven activation system and has gotten quite favourable reviews over the years. It also helps that it contains a source book for the early war in Africa. This time Italian forces were starting their invasion of the British Somaliland.
In reality the British force had no armoured vehicles, but we wanted to test them. And the invasion was mainly handled by colonial troops, even if Italian East African Empire did have bersaglieri available. To this end, there will be a fourth attack column, its' mission so secret that no mention remains in history books. So there. British Indian troops (Sikhs of the Punjab regiment) were considered elite and bersaglieri as good. Terrain is almost non-existent, as we just wanted a quick test game (and game boards were in wrong place): thus very few pics.
British defender had an infantry company depleted down to two undersized platoons, two Vickers MMGs, and two 2pdr AT guns in support. In addition, his force was joined by a small mobile task force consisting of a section of Indian-pattern carriers, two sections of armoured cars (Marmont-Herrington and Rolls Royce), and one Matilda II. Finally, a battery of 25pdrs were on call, as the area was assumed to be the target of the enemy's main force. His orders were to delay enemy as long as possible and then withdraw in good order. British Big Men: the company commander (level IV), two platoon leaders (level III), and a tank leader (level III).
The Italians on the other hand had two full bersaglieri infantry platoons and a weapons platoon; a platoon of M13/40 medium tanks; and a section of Autosahariana scouts. A battery of 81mm mortars, pregame barrage (stonk) of 105mm artillery and Fiat CR.42 fighter providing air cover and ad hoc ground support. Their task was to capture some nameless village along the main axis of attack, so the main force could pass through.
British troops were covering the road and village, while Italians threw the bulk of their troops on the right flank, with tanks in the centre and saharianas handing the open left.
Italian infantry had the orders to wait until the artillery barrage had landed at 07:00 sharp and then claim what was left of the mud and brick houses on the right. This was to be the jump off point. At 07:08:30 105mm finally opened fire with barrage going wide, catching only one squad. Italian lead platoon immediately opened fire on the defenders while 2nd platoon waited for the order to advance. Unfortunately the brave defenders were able to return fire and a lopsided firefight developed. This would take a few minutes, but brought the Brits enough time to bring the armoured cars into the game.
In the middle, the lead Italian tank received light damage from hidden 2pdr, but was able to silence it. For several minutes tanks were pondering what to do, as any avenue of attack would present flank to at least one enemy AT weapon. Finally they decided to silence them all and advance only then. This decision saved steel, but would cost them lots of blood on the flank, where infantry was getting cut down by massed machinegun fire.
Autosahariana and Marmont Herringtons were playing cat and mouse on the other flank, nothing to report. And above everything circled a lone bi-winged plane, desperately trying to identify targets - not an easy task, when dust is covering everything.
After few minutes, the Sikhs and their supporting Vickers were either dead or pinned on the Italian right flank and squads started leap frogging forwards. Not a moment too soon, as the Brens and machine guns from carriers and Rolls Royces were starting to take their toll. A lone Solothurn ATR tried to keep them at bay, but was forced to seek cover. Unfortunately this assault stalled, as the FO has ordered the regimental 81s to bombard houses between the hill and village proper, but nothing was happening - no one dared to charge through the gap, as risk of getting hit by own artillery was not a nice prospect.
In the middle, the lone 2" mortar had smoked the Italian tank platoon, making sure they could not fire at armoured cars chasing saharianas, but simultaneously making sure that company commander could not start shelling them with 25pdrs that were just waiting for orders. After the smoke cleared, Italian tanks quickly destroyed the other 2pdr and then scattered. The lead tank with Big Man headed to help the infantry against carriers, the damaged one engaged in a mutually futile long range firefight against the Matilda II. The Matilda has almost invulnerable armour, but is also armed with a veritable pea shooter. And the remaining two tanks tried to achieve a break though in the middle, hoping to catch the Matilda on the flank.
The end of game saw Saharianas catching the armoured cars and quickly shocking them out of action, while the remaining Sikh squad on the Italian right gunned down one squad of bersaglieri before being silenced. And despite all the Italian tricks of flanking Breda MGs and using terrain to cut LOS, the carriers extracted a toll, severely mauling many squads. Tanks and ACs waltzed here and there along the British baseline, hence the title.
At this point it was nearing silly o'clock, so we called it a day. Italian infantry was hurting, but probably had enough oomph to force an entrance to the village, while the British had lost quite a few men, but could still make an orderly withdrawal, so a draw was called.
Overall it was nice little game. IABSM was very easy to learn and the hyperlinked book should be an example to all game designers - most of them don't have even a good index, whereas this on provides hyperlink to everything you'll need. It will take a good few games more to actually learn the rules, but thus far IABSM looks like a keeper. FoF with WWII modifications is nice for a small infantry engagement, whereas this one seems to shine in somewhat bigger engagement. Blinds system seem to be very interesting too. For this game we just agreed that small teams (AT guns) could deploy hidden and cherry picking targets like FOs or single Big Men was not allowed, unless they moved or fired.
Compared to Piquet, Fog of War, command and friction work differently, but are there. Particularly artillery was a pleasure to use, it is reasonably efficient and area is ok'ish, but takes time to arrive and is not too accurate. Much more realistic than say the surgical scalpel of FoF. Main complaint seemed to be that this system takes quite a lot book keeping by our standards - actions left when Big Men activate one section of platoon, pinned/supressed, shock and damage. But that is probably just a matter of learning or making enough of suitable markers. Looks like I need more casualty bases for shock markers!