Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve all decided to play armies before simply because they look cool, and the Italian Bersaglieri (roughly pronounced ‘ber-SALLY-air-ee’) are some of the coolest-looking soldiers of all. In this article, we’ll take a look at their august history, their fabulous headwear, and of course how you can turn them into an effective army on the Bolt Action tabletop! Avanti Savoia!

Founded in the early 19th century as a force of elite light infantry, with the name literally meaning ‘sharpshooters’, the Bersaglieri earned lasting fame and renown during the First World War whilst serving in a mobile infantry role. The Bersaglieri regiments maintained traditionally intense training and fitness standards – of which they were fiercely proud – despite mounting pressure brought on by the Second World War to relax such standards in order to accept more recruits. Equipped much as the ‘common’ Italian infantry (albeit receiving preferential treatment for the issue of weapons and equipment), the Bersaglieri fought with distinction, most notably in the theatre known as the Western Desert. Highly respected by both allies and enemies alike, they gained a reputation for dogged defence against even overwhelming odds, fighting to the last man on several occasions. Rommel himself is credited with saying “The German soldier impressed the world; the Bersaglieri impressed the German soldier,” which is no small compliment! With regiments of these light infantrymen still serving in the modern-day Italian army, the Bersaglieri tradition is alive and well to this day!

A Bersaglieri Support Group; two officers, a medic, a bugler a medium mortar team & a medium machine gun team.

“But Marcus” I hear you cry, “What about the hats!” Fear not, friends – we shall talk about the hats! Sporting the famous (and enormous) black capercaillie-feather plumes not just on parade, but in combat as well, they are quite simply some of the most fantastically dashing units in all of Bolt Action. The brand-new plastic Bersaglieri sprue is of course amply festooned with plumage, with helmet options for both stylish desert sun helmets and the far more practical steel pots all sporting the famous feathers. This means that nobody can fail to recognise your Bersaglieri for what they are – the very best infantrymen that Italy has to offer! Let’s look at how you can get them on the table quickly and easily, using the new starter army boxed set!

This fantastic new box gives you 36 plastic multi-part Bersaglieri, with a wide array of weaponry, plus a multipurpose plastic M13/40 tank that can alternatively be assembled as a Semovente 75/18 assault gun. Backing them up is a 4-man metal command group, metal MMG and medium mortar teams, and last (but not least!) a 20mm anti-aircraft gun! All of this gives you the perfect base to build a force on, as I’ll now demonstrate.

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)Regular 2nd LieutenantExtra Man60
Infantry (Headquarters)Medic30
Infantry (Squad)Bersaglieri Infantry Section2 Extra Men, LMG x 2131
Infantry (Squad)Bersaglieri Infantry Section2 Extra Men, LMG x 2131
Infantry (Squad)Bersaglieri Infantry Section6 Extra Men, Anti-tank Grenades, SMG168
Infantry (Squad)Bersaglieri Infantry Section5 Extra Men, Anti-tank Grenades150
Infantry (Team)Regular Medium Mortar TeamSpotter60
Infantry (Team)Regular Medium Machine Gun Team50
Infantry (Team)Regular Breda 20mm Team50
Self-Propelled GunRegular Semovente 75/18170

1000pts, 10 Order Dice

Let’s get one thing out in the open – this is by no means a list optimised for hardcore competition, but rather a nice fun thousand-pointer made entirely out of the new starter set – one box is quite literally all you need! That’s not to say it’s a list that can’t hold its own though! On the defensive (as Italian armies like to be), the two smaller squads can act with the MMG as a ‘firebase’ to mow down enemy infantry, while the larger squads can either lay down plenty of rifle fire or get forward and launch a devastating assault. Don’t forget, all your infantrymen are Veterans, so those big units will really take some shifting, especially if you keep the Medic nearby.

Additional firepower is provided by the ever-popular Medium Mortar, perfect for dealing with lurking enemy artillery or infantry sitting on objectives, while the Breda 20mm AA gun is perfect for cutting down infantry and swatting irritating light vehicles alike – you’ll be amazed how much fear you can put into your opponent simply by having it sit on Ambush. Finally, the Semovente brings some legitimate armoured oomph to the force; its medium anti-tank gun and 9+ damage value more than capable of competing with most enemy vehicles. Possessing as it does an excellent 75mm gun, it also has the correspondingly larger HE template – perfect for blasting enemy infantry!

The best bit about this force for me (apart from the hats, of course!) is that, with a simple choice of paint scheme (we’ve got you covered with the convenient paint bundles shown below), it would serve equally well for the Western Desert as the defence of Italy itself or the Eastern Front giving you all sorts of cool painting and modelling options – it’s all in your hands! This is of course only one suggestion as to how you can employ the contents of the new starter army; there are myriad ways you could construct your new army, so no two Bersaglieri forces need be the same!

Now, put on your fanciest headgear and prepare to defend your positions!

Need Some Extra Armour?

Expand upon the Bersaglieri Starter Army with these vehicles, and look out for news of more Italian Army and Bersaglieri releases soon!

  1. My biggest issue with these has been the utter lack of facial hair on the models. While I’m very happy the Italians are getting a massive increase and fresh models for the game, I LIKE the prior metal models that include molded mustaches and goatees/beards- it is rather difficult to find photos of Italian troops, much less Bersaglieri, serving in Africa/the Balkans/Russia that do NOT have a large percentage, even a majority, of troops with various states of beards, goatees, and the ubiquitous mustaches. Having a clean shaven force for Italians just looks very off, and means I’d have to resort to just painting on beards, rather than having actual molded on shaping, when prior sets had said facial hair molded in. Just feels like a mistake. =/

  2. I agree with Derry, my 92nd need some proper army lists and scenarios based in Italy. I need the Invasion of Italy ruleset to finally field my Buffalo Soldiers properly!!!

    1. Exactly! I’m sitting on some US GI’s that I’d love to build up into a Platoon from the 92nd. It would also be great to see what new units and Theatre Selectors come out for the long slog up through Italy…lots of nice new Italian unit potentials from the new figures beyond Sicily

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