In Bolt Action the Italian forces get a lot of thematic rules which ultimately reflect its performance and tactics in WW2. Their national trait ‘AVANTI SAVOIA!’ (Italian for 'lets see how it goes') – which decreases/increases morale by 2 if the army goes 3 up or down on unit kills vs your opponent makes them seem like an army that quickly falls apart when things start to go a little bit wrong. You also get ‘defensive strategy’ but this is one of those wishy washy rules that only pops up in certain scenarios. Its certainly not as tasty as flat ‘free artillery’ or ‘free squad’ as with other factions.
So are the Italians a meme army? Yeah, a bit. But they have cool feathers in their hats and you’ll likely be the best Italian player there if you ever take them to a tournament. Ok so not much of a defence so far. So why do I like them?
Weird no? And after all those jokes about Italian tanks.
Q: How do you stop an Italian tank?
A: Shoot the soldier pushing it.
Anyway… Italy actually had some pretty alright tanks; by the mid-war the Semovente 75/18 is a really solid medium tank – in BA it benefits from 9+ armour and 5+ penetrating main gun, in this respect not unlike a value StuG III. It sits nicely against a 170pt barrier above which things start to get a bit bloaty.
The M41/14 “”””Medium Tank”””” is also pretty great at doing a little bit of everything when you want something to take on all-comers due to its chunky amount of MMG. For similar reasons I strongly recommend the Autoblinder 41. I am biased though, in my games my own ‘blinder just doesn’t roll poorly. This armoured car is punchier than a lot of faction’s comparative choice and is just very points efficient. Its also fast (being as it is a kind of very light tank on wheels) so you can zoom down a flank and start being a real annoyance quickly.
- Any War, Any Time
Wanna fight in the sand? Italy. Fight in the snow? Italy. Fight in Italy? Italy. Fight against the Japanese in the Far East? Yeah, it happened. Quick shout out to Mark Felton for this fascinating bit of history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39BhaqucJzg
So you can really build your force out however you want. There’s a bunch of different stuff and a thumb through the easy army builder is strongly recommended. You can have Dubats and have an army of irregular Somali ‘tough fighters’. There’s the usual list of armoured platoons and also some special ops choices (the AS42 Sahariana is one of the prettiest models in the range). This is definitely not a minor faction with a bunch of list limits.
I myself take Askari pony lads and absolutely love them. I don’t think they ever fail to deliver on their points and also more importantly bring a bit of early game fun as you try and ‘charge of the light brigade’ them into artillery before getting machine gunned.
This is a reflection rather than straight up benefit because while the Italians have a nice selection of Vets from Black Shirts to Bersaglieri (ie the black feather ones) none of them are stand out. Because of the ‘AVANTI SAVOIA!’ special rule many people opt for a veteran army with large squads to stop it from kicking in. Bersaglieri (and these are generally the most popular and what I take) are basic bread and butter but evenly costed vets with nothing that fancy about them (you can take them in squads of 11 and take 2 LMGs which can be situationally cool), but being forced down a vet hole (urgh?) means you can often play your games right to the end as they do not die too quickly leading to games where final assaults can create exciting conclusions. Not every time of course. My point is, US players, Japanese players, Soviet players – if you’ve played a horde prior to this maybe consider Italy as second or third army?
Anyway that’s my take. This faction is really under played, especially considering it’s not a true minor faction. As an ending comment I’d just like to mention Perry Minatures who do really nice Askari, artillery and cavalry. The Bolt Action bundles are also really good for the army and offer up a little of everything you might want.