Having enjoyed our last tank-on-tank game, Neil and I decided to play another. This time it would be Mechili and a chance to legitimately use my newly-painted Zvezda A13s.

The scenario is a simple one. Generale di Divisione Valentino Babini's Brigata Corazzata Speciale (Special Armoured Brigade) is positioned at Mechili, in the heart of the 'bulge' of Cyrenaica in Libya. The British 4th Armoured Brigade has arrived nearby and spotted the Italians, and has just spent a day reorganising after a rather taxing night march. As morning arrives on Friday 24th January 1941, both the Italians and the British move towards each other, each with orders to attack and destroy the enemy in front of them.

The British arrived on the battlefield first. It was, as history, very open, with the terrain sloping gently upwards away from the Brits, meaning that any tanks arriving in front of them would be silhouetted against the morning sky. The initial British force consisted of a squadron of twelve MkVI light tanks. Somewhere behind them were the Cruisers, waiting to be told where the Italians were so that they could move to attack them.

[Note that as I don't have twelve MkVI light tanks in my collection (I know, I know!), I was using six BEF MkVIs and six BEF Bren Gun Carriers as proxies.]

Such was the tardiness of the Italians (well, there was breakfast to be had, then the tanks needed washing so as to look their best etc.) that the British light tanks managed to get almost half way towards the enemy start line before the first Italian Blind even made it onto the table.

Once the Italians did arrive, however, things began to happen extremely quickly. Not sure what they were facing, the British tanks were initially unphased by the appearance of a few M13/40 medium tanks. As more and more Italian medium tanks began arriving, however, they quickly changed their minds and started calling for help from the Cruisers. Unfortunately, as in history again, the Cruisers refused to believe the Italians were attacking ("they're Italians, they don't attack") and so refused to move from their start positions just off table. 

The Italians, played by me, were beside themselves with glee: this was going to be a duck shoot! What's more, the dice were with me, with the M13/40s rolling fives and sixes as if they were going out of fashion. Two MkVIs were knocked out almost immediately, with several more having lots of bits blown off them. After a couple more turns, the Italians were positioned in a semi-circle about a quarter of the way up the table, with the British in front of them desperately weaving backwards and really, really trying to persuade the Cruisers that there really, really was a substantial Italians attack underway.

There was a brief British attempt at actually attacking the Italian tanks (see the troop of "Mk VIs" just to the right of the hill in the picture above and to the right) but, as I said, the dice were with the M13/40s, and all that happened were that the British tanks were driven off, losing at least one of them, bailed out, in the process.

Things looked bad for the Brits!

Then the British Cruisers arrived...in the shape of three troops of three A13s each, with a Squadron HQ of three A10s.

Concentrating on the right flank, the Cruisers didn't mess about, immediately de-cloaking from Blinds and opening fire on the Italian tanks in front of them. It should have been very messy: the Cruisers were operating by the troop, each headed by a Big Man, and each having three Actions per tank rather than the Italian two. Not only that, but the Italians, operating tank by tank, now found themselves silhouetted against the sky, so were at +1 to hit all the time.

It should have been, but it wasn't...at least not for the next couple of turns.

The luck of the Italians held and, as you can see in the picture above-right, two Cruisers bit the dust fairly quickly. Even more satisfying, it was the Italian Big Man who destroyed both of them: it seemed that Maggiore Cioppino's gunner just couldn't miss!

Well, as you can imagine, the Dice Gods appreciate being appreciated, but my excessive gloating proved too much even for them and, in an instant, all the luck that the Italians had enjoyed disappeared faster than a bowl of cioppino (it's an Italian-American fish stew) in front of a hungry wargamer!

With the Italian magic gone, the battle came down to a straight and decidedly uneven fight. The Italians were losing one or two tanks each turn as the British three-tank troops concentrated their fire. Yes, the M13/40s were firing back, but single tank by single tank and with only two Actions. Within minutes, only Maggiore Cioppino and two other Italian tanks were left operational, and the good Major disappeared in a ball of flame soon after. 

It had, however, been a great, fun battle to game. The initial Italian duck shoot accounted for four MkVIs (two less than historically, but we brought on the Cruisers a bit early to make the game flow a bit better) and the fact that I managed to account for two Cruisers made losing all but two of my tanks somehow less annoying than it could have been! The game played out exactly as the battle did in 1941, leaving Mechili in British possession and setting up the race to Beda Fomm that followed soon afterwards.

Robert Avery

Here are a few more pictures of the game: 

Just before the cruisers arrive: two "Mk VIs" in flames

soon after the cruisers arrive: lots of M13/40s in flames!

Maggiore Cioppino (closest tank)

The Italian left flank

The British A10s

The Cruisers arrive