Italian Army & Blackshirts Starter Army I

Box Contents

The Italian Army & Blackshirts Starter Army is a mix of plastic and metal models containing:

  • x6 Italian Army & Blackshirts sprues (36 Infantry) – Plastic
  • Army HQ (Officers, Medic, Spotter) – Metal
  • Army MMG Team – Metal
  • Army Medium Mortar Team – Metal
  • Army 47mm Anti-tank Gun (Light AT Gun) – Metal
  • Semovente 75/18 Assault Gun or M13/40 Medium Tank – Plastic

The We Used it All List

Generic Reinforced Platoon
1st Lt (Pistol) – Vet – 90
x1 Buddy (SMG) – Vet – 13
Medic – Vet – 3030pts
Forward Artillery Observer – Reg – 100100pts
Regular Infantry Section – Reg – 9 men – 90
LMG – 20
Regular Infantry Section – Reg – 9 men – 90
LMG – 20
Blackshirts Militia Infantry Section – Reg – 8 men – 80
Non Testati
Blackshirts Militia Infantry Section – Reg – 7 men – 70
Non Testati
Sniper Team – Vet – 6565pts
Medium Mortar Team – Reg – 50
Spotter – 10
MMG Team – Vet – 6565pts
Light Anti-Tank Gun – Vet – 5454pts
M13/40 Medium Tank – Reg – 125
Armor 8
Light AT Gun w/ coax MMG
x2 Hull MMG
Pintle MMG – 15
Total12 Order Dice999pts


  • Rifle – 27
  • SMG – 5
  • Pistol – 1
  • LMG – 2
  • Sniper – 1
  • Medium Mortar – 1
  • MMG – 1 (5)
  • Light AT Gun – 1 (1)

(x) denotes a vehicle-mounted weapon.

Notes and Analysis

The objective of this list is two-part – 1) use as much of the Starter Army as possible and 2) make a List that works at a competitive level. Please keep in mind, this List was written using only the contents of the Starter Army.

Look, there is no other way to say it; this Starter Army is not good. The options are far too limited because the Italian Army & Blackshirt Infantry kit is too limited. There are no options for Alpini. No options for Bersaglieri. You are forced to take either Reg or Inexp Army Sections or Blackshirts and those three unit options are far from optimal. Not only that, the Army Sections are a bit boring. At least the Blackshirts have some wild (but hardly dependable) rules.

Thus the above army list was created. Because we are so incredibly limited with this Starter Army, I was scrambling to hit 1,000pts. It bears repeating, there are no options to add any Vet. infantry units. I had to bump our weapons teams to Vet. just to reach 1k. And that’s with the inclusion of a 100pt Forward Artillery Observer.

As for the units themselves; we used every single model in the box. You’ll need 33 of your 36 plastic infantry to build out the four squads. Two squads of nine Reg. Infantry Sections and two squads of Blackshirts (one of eight and one of seven). Two of the remaining plastic infantry are used to build the Sniper Team and the third will be the Med. Mortar Spotter. The Lt and his buddy, use the two metal models from the Army HQ. Use the Observer with the radio to be your Forward Artillery Spotter and the Medic as well, the Medic. You’ll need to build the Light AT Gun, Med. Mortar and MMG Team. And also put the pintle MMG option on the M11/39 Tank. As I said, we used every model in the box.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some sections of this list that I really like. For one thing, the M11/39 is an MMG beast. That thing spits out 20 MMG shots per turn (if you use the pintle) and can target three different units. That’s massive Pin potential. I also like the combo of Light At Gun in support of the Tank. If you run into heavy armor you’ll be in trouble but you should be ok with anything Armor 9 or less. The Med. Mortar is always a solid pick and you can rarely go wrong with a Sniper Team. Folks often overlook MMG Teams but stick it behind some cover and it’s one annoying unit to deal with. I’ve backed into creating a bit of a gun-line-style army list as you have so many MMG and LMG shots with almost no assault element to speak of. And that’s ok! The Italian Army Special Rules favor a defensive stance (if you are lucky enough to actually play as the Defender).

But the core of this army. Yeesh. What can we say about these four infantry units? The Reg. Infantry Sections are just, well, meh. The Blackshirts, if they pop to Fanatic, that is what you can use to assault the enemy. But those two units are just as likely to turn into Shirkers as they are Fanatics so it’s a real gamble. A more “stable” pick would be to use all four units as Reg. Infantry Sections but that’s even less flavor! Honestly, upon further reflection, if you run this Starter Army, just go with four squads of Blackshirts and you’ll know by the end of the first turn how the game is gonna play out…that is also some major theme points and Rule of Cool.

Either way, keep that Lt and Medic close to your four Infantry squads. They are going to almost certainly need both the Moral boost and Medic saves. The Light AT Gun must support the M11/39 as it advances toward the enemy soft targets. Using the M11/39’s turret cannon should be a last resort. It’s an infantry sheading machine, not so much against hard targets. This army will work, but it’s not as exciting or fun to command as it could be. Unless, of course, you throw caution to the wind and turn all your Infantry into Blackshirts.

The Italians in Bolt Action are a unique and exciting force – when you leave the Army behind. You gotta go with Colonial Troops, Paracadutisti, Cavalry, San Marco, Bersaglieri, all the exciting options to make this army work. In its current state, I would not take this Starter Army to the field of battle. I made decisions when building this force that I would never normally make. Mixing SMGs and LMGs, Vet weapon teams when the infantry is Reg – it’s just insanity. But I had no choice if I wanted to build a 1,000pt force.

This is the first and hopefully only time I’ll say this – avoid this Starter Army. There are better, more effective, and less expensive ways to start your Bolt Action Italian journey. This box is not it.


What’s Next?

Thoughts and musings on where to go from here:

  • Add mobility – The Autoblinda is the first unit I’d add to this army. You need some mobility and the Autoblinda has that in spades. Dual Directional Steering, Light Autocannon, fully enclosed, it’s amazing and you need one. Also, a Truck with a unit of Colonial Troops or SMG-toting Paracadutisti aboard or a unit of Cav will do the job nicely to boost your assault punch.
  • Add specialists – Colonial Infantry, Bersaglieri, Paracadutisti, something! This Italian list needs some spice and these elite infantry picks are spicy indeed. Really the one thing this list lacks is a dedicated assault element. A couple of Tough Fighting Colonial Units or Paracadutisti with SMGs will do the trick.
  • Get Campaign: The Western Desert – Like minor of the ‘minor’ powers, Italian options are pretty thin in Armies of Italy and the Axis. Luckily, the very solid Campaign: The Western Desert provides a bevy of new options. Not only is there a completely new set of Army Special Rules, there are Tank Platoons, special forces platoons, and all kinds of new units. This book is a must-have for any Italian force based in North Africa.
  • Swap the Light AT Gun for a Howitzer – You are much better off with a Light or Med. Howitzer instead of a Light AT Gun. The howitzers are more versatile and HE is king.
  • Add an ATR – To boost the AT assets toss in an Anti-Tank Rifle Team. For only 30pts Reg you get a unit that can snipe out enemy Trucks and Light Tanks on the move.

2 thoughts on “Italian Army & Blackshirts Starter Army I

    1. Agreed. But to be clear, it’s a lovely kit (the models and contents are great). What we have is more an issue with the Bolt Action unit rules and selections. If you branch outside the standard army or Generic Reinforced Platoon, there is some real magic here.


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