Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bolt Action: First Impressions

My 28mm WW2 collection has been growing slowly. At present, they are really more some cool figs in search of a game-system. I have been pleasantly surprise with how much fun 28mm skirmish has been via SAGA, and I don't hold huge hopes of 28mm sci-fi, so when some others got some ww2 stuff I jumped on the bandwagon... No matter that the rules they were considering didn't yet have an up to date WW2 version and were pretty far from the semi-board game carnage that is SAGA. Ironically, I have had more games (one) of the 28mm Sci Fi version of the rules than I have had using Force on Force for WW2. In the meantime, Nathan has got me play not one, but two, different WW2 skirmish sets now. First up was Operation Squad. Now I've had a run using the new Bolt Action rules by Warlord games. Here are my first impressions based on an all infantry 500pt game.

First up, the game is larger in scale than Operation squad. Even at 500pts, there are about four times the figures. At the usual 1000pts there will be even more infantry plus a tank and some guns. Before playing, I had been worried that this would be too much cramming off 'stuff' onto the 28mm table but I think, given the simple mechanics (summary here), that it will work pretty well indeed. Squads of guys with some guns and the odd tank rumbling around. Could be fun. I can't wait to tangle with a Tiger in a village with my assault engineers...

The game is a d6 system with modifiers. Every unit gets one order dice each. They all go into a cup, with both side's dice all mixed, then they are drawn out one by one and the player who gets one of theirs gets to move a unit. Sometimes a unit will act out of turn as a reaction (say by going to ground when under fire) and this will both use up a dice and prevent that unit having other orders this turn. Distances wise, infantry move 6" (x2 for a run) Vehicles move 9" (x2) and some fast ones move 12" (x2). Rifles shoot 24", SMGs 12", MMGs 36", LMGs 30".... and heavy mortars and howitzers may not have the range to cover a full table.... Shades of the lunacy of Flames of War there. Oh well, can't get everything right!

Units have a morale rating, and there are three grades of troops. The better they are the tougher to kill (you roll to wound/kill in this game, which is analogous to infantry saves from other games) and the higher their morale. As you come under fire, you need to pass morale tests to act, otherwise you can always perform more straightforward tasks like hitting the dirt! Really poor troops are poorer shots than usual. That's about the rules as far as the game goes, without vehicles and larger caliber weapons.

We opted for a simple line up and fight. The setup allows for reserves but this is optional for both sides and neither of us saw a purpose in it. No doubt that will be revealed with more reading. Neither of us had played before so we just ran with it using Nathan's impression of the rules. Nathan had about four decent sized squads of Ze Dirty Germans. Most were regulars with the squads packing pairs of the dreaded 'Hitlers Buzzsaw' (which has a higher ROF than other LMGs). His HQ was a Veteran Lieutenant with a pair of Vets armed with assault rifles.

I had two squads of the tough Soviet Assault Engineers, played as Vets to help model their body armour. A third 11 man squad of Green Inexperienced infantry was free as per the Soviet special rules. This seems balanced for 1000pts so was a real perk for 500pts! Backing these guys up were my trusty Kommissar (using the medic rules, a 6+ save on nearby units due to the power of Scientific Socialism...) a Vet Sniper team, a Vet Flamethrower team (hehehe) and a Vet MMG team. Nathan had the edge on ranged fire, while my guys were going to be filthy up close.

 So I opted for my usual plan: Longer ranged guys hold up one flank, while the close ranged guys try to push up the other and tangle up close. It quickly paid off. Nathan chose to hit the dirt as a reaction and the German advance on my right was stalled before it even got going.

 On my left,  the Assault engineers had done a very good job of getting up close. The tall hedges blocked off long range fire and they were up the the board centre in a couple of turns. Infantry Units can either move 6" + shoot (with -1 for moving, unless assault weapons) or move 12" as a run.To the right of the above pic my Flamethrowers are lurking, giggling away as they have read the flamethrower rules but neither I nor Nathan realise just how cool flamethrowers are yet...

On the right, Nathan has discovered a new reaction: he can shoot back (after any pins and casualties from the shooting are applied) and this is not pretty for the Inexperienced Soviet Strelki. They Kommissar attempts to motivate them but they are uninspired. However, I've taken them as 'Green'. Green troops roll a dice when hit and can either take extra casualties or potentially get upgraded to regulars as they discover their mettle under fire! I got the regulars upgrade, score! While the Strelki were getting hammered, the Sniper was methodically picking off MG 34 LMG gunners amongst the German ranks. Sure, realistically someone else could pick that weapon up, but who'd want to after that?

The Germans to my right were fast discovering how much accumulating pin markers sucked. I like the mechanic, like accumulating fatigue in SAGA. Essentially those guys were getting more an more unlikely to hit anything and less able to follow orders. Except of course hitting the dirt, for the all the good that was doing them. Meanwhile, my lead Assault Engineer Squad had run through the gap in the hedges and onto the road and were quickly paying the price for their fervour....

After initially proving very hard to kill (Vets are 5+ to wound/kill), their body armour seemed to end up too riddled with holes to work anymore and the unit ended up pinned down then eliminated by concentrated German fire.

However, the flamethrowers had finally got where they were going.  Remember that cool initiative mechanic? Nathan hadn't really got it right on his first quick read. So we played most of the game taking turns to move a unit. By this stage in the game it turned out that I could hold my last unit and guarantee it would move first next turn. Since back to back moves seemed to good - I read up on the actual rule and we played it right for the last couple of turns. How cool are flamethrowers? Roll a dice and kill that many guys, no protection from cover. 6" range so 12" threat radius. Very, very mean. You roll a dice each time they fire and on a 1-2 the unit is removed. Mine lasted to fire twice. After they led the way I barely even needed the followup engineer squad!

The Soviets may have steamrollered that game but the free squad was very good for 500pts and I'd take flamethrowers and a sniper over massed LMGs any day, in Bolt Action. Germans can have all those toys too, plus the extra LMGs.

First impressions? Loved it. Fast, fun. Can be tactical. Mainly focused on letting people run around with whatever toys they find cool. I am going to order some Plastic Soldier Company Soviets to bulk out my force. And then a Tank(s) with maybe some transports for my Scout figures. And some guns....

Can't wait to play again. 


  1. Sounds very cool. We have the rules but have yet to give them a whirl!

  2. Sounds like fun Jamie, I'm interested in checking out the rules.


  3. I was impressed, the rules were actually better than expected. The big question marks for me are the impact of heavy tanks and lingering questions over weapon statlines vs points. Running my eye over the book, it does look like they've kept stalines fairly generic though, which will help make sure everything is priced appropriately.

    The key thing though was that it was fun. It has about the level of detail as SAGA. So less crunchy than Force on Force or Operation Squad (though that one was ok because you had less stuff). It looks like Warlord have taken over the mantle of GW historical well as they now have four sets out there. I plan to look into their Pike and Shotte one too.

  4. It seems you had great fun there! Russian words are a nice touch to the photos! Nice battle - nice table - nice miniatures!

  5. Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

    Of course now I feel the need to expand my 28mm terrain collection to fit WW2....

  6. Looks fun and I'm glad to see someone else with 28mm painted up.
    Hint hint people!
    However, clearly you are headed down the wrong path!8P

  7. The wrong path - being the wrong period, the wrong scale, or the wrong ruleset?

    Nathan has quite a lot of 28mm painted up. He even has the Romans almost done.

  8. Sorry just a ruleset gybe of course.
    Sadly I am trapped in the pacific.

  9. Well if I'll play using space marines, I'll gladly play vs actual marines lol 1946 style gaming around some contested islands could be very cool :-) I think I might even have some palm trees.....