With all the new glorious new Italian miniatures that have been coming out lately (not to mention the forthcoming Campaign Italy: Tough Gut and new plastic Alpini), it’s getting harder and harder to resist the pull of collecting an Italian force for Bolt Action. Naturally, as my other role at Warlord involves tournaments, I’d like any such force to be as competitive as possible – stop laughing at the back! With my copies of Armies of Italy and the Axis, The Western Desert, Soft Underbelly, and Tough Gut in hand, I’m on a mission to make Italy a force to be respected on the tournament circuit! I said pipe down back there, naysayers!

Jokes aside, let’s be very clear – the Avanti Savoia national special rule makes Italy a challenging army to play. If you go down by three or more Order Dice destroyed, your entire army losing 2 from their base Morale can be an absolute backbreaker, especially when Pins start flying around, and while the reverse is also true (if you’re up by three or more Order dice, they gain 2 to Morale), it’s not going to win a game on its own. Italian armies also lack some of the bigger late-war toys available to many other nations, and their armoured units are… a little bit underwhelming at times.

So they’re rubbish, right? Why even bother pursuing them as a competitive force? I should just scrap the whole project and lay in some machine gun Stuarts and Maori Gurkha Paratroopers or Japanese Bamboo Spearmen. Nonsense! I love a challenge, and while on the face of it a really competitive Italian army might seem like an insurmountable one, there’s actually some real hidden gems of units out there, and if I can get just one solid win in a competitive setting, the look on my opponent’s face will make it all worthwhile – plus, an Italian army looks great on the tabletop!

The Italian Army & Blackshirts Starter Army boxed set is a fine place to begin a collection, but let’s see what we can add to spice it up!

Let’s look at the Italian Army’s more positive traits. Defensive Strategy is a very useful special rule, although it does require you to be playing an Attacker-Defender mission – these aren’t usually the mainstay of tournaments, while a round of Point Defence may well pop up, we won’t build our whole strategy around it, but it’s in the toolbox! Soft Underbelly gives us the excellent Guastatori Destruction Group, which will come in very handy later, while the Decima MAS Naval Infantry Section from Tough Gut provides a very versatile infantry unit with the Tank Hunters rule courtesy of their Panzerfausts. From Armies of Italy itself, I really like the L3/35 tankette and the Autoblinda Lince armoured car. With these (and other goodies) in hand, let’s start to thrash the list out. This is honestly one of my favourite parts of competitive wargaming!

To establish a baseline, I’m going to build this list to a fairly basic standard – a 1,000 points, single Generic Reinforced Platoon, using only those campaign/theatre book units explicitly declared as being eligible for inclusion in such. This will give me an army that can go to the vast majority of tournaments as-is, and will likely only require a little modification for some of the more unusual events. For a very rough theme (while I really like heavily-themed armies, we’re going for tabletop performance above all here, so theme takes a backseat), I’ll go with the Battle of Anzio – all five-odd months of it!

Italy – Generic Reinforced Platoon:  

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)Regular 2nd LieutenantExtra Man; SMGs60
Infantry (Squad)Regular Guastatori Destruction GroupExtra Man; 2 flamethrowers141
Infantry (Squad)Regular Guastatori Destruction GroupExtra Man; 2 flamethrowers141
Infantry (Squad)Regular Guastatori Destruction GroupExtra Man; 2 flamethrowers141
Infantry (Squad)Regular Decima MAS Naval Infantry Section5 Extra Men; 2 Panzerfausts120
Infantry (Team)Regular Medium Mortar TeamSpotter-60
Infantry (Team)Regular Flamethrower Team50
Infantry (Team)Regular Solothurn Anti-Tank Rifle Team30
Field ArtilleryRegular Light HowitzerSpotter60
Vehicle (Tankette)Regular L3/352 MMGs70
Vehicle (Armoured Car)Regular Autoblinda Lince65
Vehicle (Transport)Regular Fiat 508 CM23
Vehicle (Transport)Regular Truck39

1,000pts, 13 Order Dice

It’s hard to argue with seven flamethrowers…

Thirteen order dice and seven flamethrowers at 1,000 points? Yeah, I’ll take that. There aren’t too many armies that can pull that off, and it’s all thanks to those wonderful Guastatori. The ability to take two flamethrowers per squad, and take them as Regulars (thus keeping their points relatively low) is a huge boon, as it allows me to really stack my infantry with the capability to simply delete enemy units once they get close. When building this list, I had to bear in mind that while I wanted as many Order Dice as possible in the bag, I couldn’t just pack in loads of small, cheap Inexperienced units – these are very easy to kill (often known as ‘cheap dice’), which would risk my opponent being able to jump out to an early three-dice lead and trigger Avanti Savoia. Conversely, big Veteran units are tough to kill, but very expensive, meaning a low Order Dice count. Once again, Regulars come to the rescue, slotting nicely in the middle. I’ll have to be a little bit careful with the seven-man Guastatori squads, as they’re really optimised for short-ranged combat with the flamethrowers and a good round of enemy shooting can really hurt them if they’re caught in the open, but that’s on me as the player!

Tactically, this list can be played a few ways, which is important when going to events where I won’t necessarily know what the missions or tables are like. If I find myself in an Attacker-Defender scenario I can utilise Defensive Strategy to force my opponent to come to me, before launching aggressive counter-punches with the flamethrowers. If I need to get aggressive, I can make use of cover to advance with the Guastatori, or stick some of them in the truck and Outflank them to get my opponent guessing where they’ll turn up! The Decima MAS squad are in the list to provide a bit of a firebase while the short-ranged stuff moves up, supported by the trio of MMGs mounted on the L3/35 and Lince. While the list is short on long-range anti-tank firepower, the Solothurn can pop Pins on (or snipe at annoying Veterans!), while the flamethrowers of course are a tanker’s worst nightmare! Indirect fire is covered by the Medium Mortar and Light Howitzer, giving me good board coverage with their Spotters, while the Officer can either advance on foot to support the Guastatori or jump in the little Fiat with the separate Flamethrower team to buzz around the board or come on from Outflank – there’s plenty of ways this list can play, all based around the solid core of those terrifying flamethrowers (which are also an important psychological component, as a less-experienced opponent may well get a bit target-fixated on them and forget to play to the objectives)!

A the core of the force, three Guastatori Destruction Groups, each armed with two deadly flamethrowers, are a threat to almost anything else on the table.

To actually build this list is relatively simple, as we make miniatures for basically all of it! To represent the Decima MAS, I’m going to use the Italian Army & Blackshirts plastics, while the flamethrower team found in the Paracadutisti Weapons Teams boxed set will (with a simple head-swap) make a great standalone Flamethrower unit. The Polish Polski Fiat is actually a license-built copy of the 508 CM, so with a head-swapped driver and the addition of one of the Italian Tank Crew as a passenger, it’ll fit right in! The 100/17 Modello 14 medium artillery piece will stand in for the light howitzer (and could also represent a medium one if you want to mix things up!). Everything else is straight out of the box – couldn’t be simpler!

The next time someone says you can’t play Italians competitively – show them this! Avanti Savoia indeed!

Marcus’ Competitive Italians Shopping List

  1. Hi, really nice list. I‘m really trying to figure out a competitive Italian list.. just I saw that actually in Germany the most tournament are restricted to only 1 FT…I though that maybe are Italians good for there amount of MMG on vehicles..

    1. Just don’t play Italians if you want to go competitive. This list is garbage and most tournaments also here in Italy have limit of 1/2 flames.

      1. Yes thanks but no thank you.. everyone can win with Gurkhas and Dakka Stuart 😅 if only wouldn’t be that stupid special rules for lost units and moral.. I think the Italian have potential.

  2. Everyone can pile onto me if they like, but this list is one of the reasons I don’t generally play in tournaments. This might as well be a 40K list! Seven flamethrowers in a reinforced platoon forsooth.

    Having said that, I am sure it’s a really fun list to play…but it can only be countered through cheese escalation – which is admittedly why the list was created in the first place.

    1. Oh I’m in the same boat as you. Sure it looks fun, but this is why I don’t like tourny play and simply won’t do it. Give me historical loadouts, historical scenarios, and campaigns over this any day. I’m building Italian specifically because I’m doing a massive campaign with some friends for North Africa, and we’ve house ruled a LOT of stuff to just make it more authentic, from allowing 2 L3/33 per Italian platoon (full cost ofc) to allowing capture of opponent equipment ingame if a crew served weapon is left on the board after one side retreats!

    2. 100% agree Sir, the constant Win at all Costs cheese factor of 40k these days not only caused me to develop lactose intolerance but made me migrate over to Bolt Action in the first place.
      I would much rather push some models around and have a laugh in a balanced environment and not try and out cheese the other guy.

      Also, I’m going to take flak here for this but I’ll take it. If you’re trying to play Bolt Action competitive, you’re doing it wrong, go to 40k for that, 40k is designed for the tourney try hard environment now.

  3. I understood that you can only field 2 Guastatori squads per platoon. I find that having different army special rules, depending on which campaign book you are using, is quite confusing. I think that a set of rules that applies to all Italian forces should be published. Has a Decima squad been produced or does it have to be kit-bashed?

    1. The Guastatori count as Infantry Squads for the purpose of a Generic Reinforced Platoon, making them an 0-6 option. In several theatre selectors they are indeed restricted to 0-2!

      For the Decima MAS I’ll be simply using the Italian Army/Blackshirts plastics – if I want to get really extra I might add a bit of green stuff around their shirt collars to make the navy-style turtlenecks they’re seen with in several photos!

  4. Is this a f* joke?? 1 rule is awful because is won more or loose more the 2nd rule needs you to play one specific game mode (attack and defense). The list is another joke, competitive? Lmao not even close. the lince armored car is almost useless, there are waaaay better options, ab40/41 L6/40 normal and flame, as the tank M15/42 is better even if it has a completely fictional second coaxial mg or just take the l3/33 flame. Neither the carabinieri are in the list where they remove the -1 for vehicle to enter the table (that might comes in hand if you have flankers). There aren’t regulars to hold the ground or distract the enemy, the new book adds almost nothing that wasn’t already present in the previous. X mas with Faust? Wow
    Guastatori are expensive and every other nation can do the same amount of flamethrower.

  5. X MAS can’t be realistically represented by troops wearing collared jackets and puttees as they almost invariably wore collarless paratrooper jackets and long ski pants

  6. hi, title of this article looks weird to me… I don’t get any meaning for “finest Parmigiano”… anyway I’m going to play italian army only if it changes a bit, otherwise it’s a waste of time for both players even in a no competitive game

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