One of my favorite German units from World War II has always been Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, largely because it fielded both the Elefant and eventually Jagdtiger tank destroyers. You don’t get metal any heavier than that! I wrote the Flames of War PDF that covers the 653rd on the Eastern Front, along with some of its unique vehicles. So when I found out that Fortress Italy would include the pachyderms from the 1/653 as its own unique list, I was very excited! Unfortunately I wasn’t on the playtest or proofreading block for the compilations, so my first real experience with the lists was when they actually came out. So how’d Battlefront do? Overall not bad, but I do have a couple of nits I can pick.
The overall force organization is good, but as with any Elefant list your compulsory choices will set you back a hefty 900 points – though in the PDF you can get away ever so slightly cheaper if you take the Tiger (P) (late) HQ (which I almost always do because it’s so darn COOL!). There is, however, one problem with the HQ choice – 1/653 in Italy did have its own Bergetiger (P) recovery vehicle. I’d hoped to see this as a recovery vehicle option, but all we’re given is the Sd Kfz 9 Recovery half-track.
Support choices are also generally pretty good. 1/653 fought closely alongside 508. Schwere Panzerabteilung, and these are included as “Weapons Platoons” rather than “Support Platoons” in the list. Depending on the size of your game, this could afford some interesting options for Kampfgruppe. The Radio-controlled Tank Platoon is also an appropriate weapons choice as the 601st Remote Control Panzer Battalion served alongside the Elefants.
The “Hermann Göring” Division also fought close alongside the unit, including its Panzer battalion. Therefore the inclusion of the plethora of HG support platoons is entirely appropriate. Most of the other infantry and artillery support choices are also very good, and are accurate to the unit’s deployment.
There are, however, a couple of glaring omissions from the support choices. The Elefants also participated in at least one attack with 216. Sturmpanzer Abteilung, but the Assault Tank Platoon on page 142 of the rulebook is not an option for 1/653. In the same attack elements of the first battalion of 4. Panzerregiment also participated. This unit is represented by the Reserve Panther Platoon on page 143, but this is also not an option for the Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie list.