Much is made of the legendary exploits of the British SAS and Long Range Desert Group in the Western Desert, and rightly so – there’s something undeniably cool about a bunch of hard-bitten operators roaring around the wilderness in stripped-down trucks festooned with machine guns! What isn’t as well known is that the Italians had some very similar formations of their own, and with the new AS.42 models (in resin & metal) there’s never been a better time to take a look at the men and machines of these forgotten formations!

A Breda 2cm gun-armed Sahariana races across the harsh terrain of the Western Desert.

The SPA-Viberti AS.42 (more commonly known as the Sahariana) was an interesting vehicle. Unlike the LRDG’s modified jeeps and Chevrolet trucks, the AS.42 was designed specifically for desert operations – ‘AS’ stands for Africa Settentrionale; North Africa – using the chassis of the AB.41 armoured car, with an unarmoured body kit. A rear-mounted engine allowed for a large central troop bay, which could carry five fully-armed men and accommodate a wide variety of weaponry, making for a versatile and adaptable vehicle. Stowage was provided for a large number of jerry-cans to extend the vehicle’s range, with a fully-equipped AS.42 capable of a maximum range of 930 miles – perfect for the vast expanse of desert across which it would be deployed. Later, a version known as the Metropolitana was developed, optimised for service in Italy – handily, the new kits allow you to make either version! Generally a few machine guns would be mounted, alongside either a 20mm autocannon or anti-tank rifle, although versions with a 47mm anti-tank gun were also deployed for increased offensive punch. Naturally, we’ve gone with variants for all of these, so you can put together your troop exactly how you’d like!

The men who crewed these vehicles were known as Camionettisti, and were drawn from the elite Arditi X special forces unit. Trained and equipped in a very similar vein to the British Commandos, these hardy men would oppose the LRDG and SAS in limited operations during the desert campaign, although the British special forces were the more active and successful. Also utilising the vehicles were Compagnia Sahariana, reconnaissance specialists whose activities were sadly hampered by the fuel shortages experienced by Italian forces. In games of Bolt Action, the Camionettisti provide a fantastic counter to Allied SAS players and can make for some really fun and characterful forces. Given that there’s a bundle that nets you all four AS.42 variants, let’s see what sort of force we can put together using them! For this, our go-to is of course the excellent The Western Desert campaign book, and the Arditi X Patrol selector (pages 144-147).

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)2nd LieutenantThree Extra Men; Team Medic;132
VehicleAS.42 Sahariana85
VehicleAS.42 SaharianaSolothurn Anti-tank Rifle;105
VehicleAS.42 SaharianaLight Autocannon;115
VehicleAS.42 SaharianaLight Anti Tank Gun;135
Infantry (Squad)Camionettisti SectionFour Extra Men; LMG; 6x SMG; Team Medic;189
Infantry (Team)Camionettisti Flamethrower Team58
Vehicle (Transport)Captured Commonwealth TransportPintle-mounted MMG;88
Vehicle (Transport)Captured Commonwealth TransportPintle-mounted MMG;88

995 Points, 9 Order Dice

What we have here is actually a surprisingly tasty little force, as well as a fantastic painting and modelling opportunity.  Using the new Sahariana bundle and some of the fantastic metal Italian range (Italian Army troops will do nicely as extra Arditi too), we’ve got a very mobile force that specialising in outmanoeuvring opponents (particularly using the Outflank rules), and can actually bring a concerning amount of firepower to bear. One disadvantage of these kinds of elite, mobilised lists is that they often suffer from a significant lack of anti-tank firepower, frequently only bringing machine guns to the party. Not so with the Camionettisti! Packing an (admittedly light) anti-tank gun, an autocannon, and an AT rifle, this force can actually engage enemy armour with a reasonable expectation of success, particularly as it’s mobile enough to get in and hit weaker side and rear armour. There’s also the little matter of the flamethrower…

At nine Order Dice, this could be considered on the ‘high’ side of all-veteran armies, but it does suffer from being a little bit of a ‘glass cannon’ – there’s significant damage output potential, but not a great deal of survivability or staying power. It’s also very light on infantry to take and hold objectives, with the Officer and his assistants having to fill in as a second squad – in fairness, with SMGs and a medic, they should do pretty well at close-quarters fighting!

In defence of Sicily; a section of X Arditi advance cautiously, on the watch for Allied paratroopers.

Overall, this is an army that can achieve some good results, but requires a combination of well-timed aggression and careful handling, but this is something that can be incredibly rewarding for a player.

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