Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My First Bolt Action Game

by Novus

I've been a WW2 buff since I was a young kid.  I used to build aircraft models and hang them in dogfights from the ceiling in my bedroom.  That was 21 different aircraft in 1/48 scale!  My dad had to duck when he walked around my room.

(I must apologize for the photo quality.  I left my 20MP macro camera at home, like a boss!)

Bolt Action awakened that monster again.  Once I bought my first set (Band of Brothers), I couldn't stop.  I had a very large force (2500 points) available before I even placed any models on the table for the first time.  Soooooo much to paint, now.

I really like this game!

The weapon system is well thought out and balanced among the nations.  A submachine gun is a submachine gun and acts the same on the table for Germans as it does for the IJA and the UK forces or the US or any other force you might deploy.  There're few differences to be gamed or exploited, weapon wise.

The differences in the forces come from overall faction rules.  For example, the Germans have a rule called "Hitler's Buzz Saw" which gives German LMG, MMG, and HMG an extra shot.  Not devastating on the table, but flavorful and historically accurate as the MG42 had one of the highest ROFs during the war.  The Soviets get free "green" troops, aka cannon fodder.  One thing the Soviets had was lots of people.  Also historically accurate.  The US ignores the penalty for moving and firing.  Well trained forces with massive ammo production capability to back them, which is also historically accurate.  These are all little things, but they each effect the tactics you use and really differentiate the forces.

The combat rules are easy and clear, both shooting and close combat.  It's a very quick rule set on the table.  There's no saving throws.  There's very few layered rolls, meaning no to-hit, to-wound, enemy save, and then enemy 'feel no pain' rolls.  Typically, you hit, you wound, they die/live.  Two rolls!

The activation rules can be a bit swingy, which could make tournament games slightly unbalanced just from RNG alone.  Units are activated by drawing army dice from a bag.  Armies with more dice tend to move/attack more frequently and can be somewhat 'alpha-strike'-ish.  Not as bad as 40k, but not as good as Dropzone Commander.

It's an excellent rule set.   Simple.  Concise. Quick to play.

My Game

I'm not going to do a turn-by-turn, here.  Just an overview.

I played against my long-time Endgame buddy, Devin.  We each had a 1000 point force.  His Soviets against my Germans.  He had a T-34 tank a .50 Cal jeep, an MMG team, 3 AT rifles, and about a billion guys (many of which were green).  He did have tank riders with body armor, too!  I think it was 6 troop squads, total. Near 50 troops in all.

I had a Panzer IV H, 2x Hanomags, one with a Pak 36 AT gun and the other with an MMG, an MMG team of my own, a flamethrower team, and 2 squads of regular army Heer troops.

We played "Top Secret."  Documents were left in a wrecked car in the middle of the table, retrieve those docs and keep them out of enemy hands!

Considering he had far more guns than I, lower quality guns, mind you, I figured I'd have to run up and grab the objective before he got everything into firing position.  I didn't have enough troops to go toe-to-toe.

I had a good deployment, I felt I had great position, and with all the hedgerows (yes, Soviets were looking for secrets in German occupied France!) his guns didn't have much to shoot at until after I broke cover.

My tactics were sound.  My rolling was awful.  Awwwwww-ful.

We lined up on either side of the objective and whoever got the luckiest in the activation draw would have a pretty good advantage over the other guy.  He had 15 dice to my 9.  About 2 of his dice should be drawn before one of mine.  Nope, turned out to be like 6 of his die before one of mine.

Devin struck first, killing my close combat subMG guys with his T-34 riders in one go!  That was half my troops!  At that point I had to forgo fighting/shooting and play to the objective before his other units on my right flank got into position.  I ran my command squad and my remaining Heer troops up to the car with the docs in it and hoped he couldn't wipe them out.  Maybe I could grab the docs and bolt, next turn.

At this point, Keith walked up and started to watch the game seeing as his was done.  After yet another crappy roll, I had Keith roll the next set of dice for me.  Success!  Keith also started drawing from the activation bag for us both.  He drew a key activation for me: I was able to pin the Hell (6 pins!) out of Devins body armor guys to keep them from possibly chasing me later.

Try as he might, after easily killing my command squad, Devin couldn't really damage my Heer squad.  They grabbed the objective and RAN!  To my surprise, they made it to hard cover with the objective.  Devin then easily destroyed the rest of my army, leaving me with my MMG team and the Heer squad with the objective next to each other 4" from my table edge.

The beginning of turn 6.  Keith drew an orange activation die for Devin.  Devin ran a squad up and killed the Heer squad through the hedgerow.  This left the objective at the feet of my only remaining unit, the MMG team.

Devin has a 12 to 1 advantage in dice draw, currently.

Keith shakes the bag.  Slides his hand in.  Roots around.  Draws a grey die.  That's MY DIE!

My MMG team pick up the objective and scoot off the map!

All that said, I cannot take credit for this win.  Keith, my celebrity die roller, and Devin both kept me from making a horrible mistake in Turn 5.  I assumed something about the cover rules that just wasn't true and they both did an "Uhhhhhh, don't do that."

So, Devin should have won this game.  (But I'm counting it in the "W" column, anyway!)

I really enjoyed the game and as a WW2 enthusiast, it's great fun commanding these brave plastic men!

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