09 September 2013

Bolt Action- Final part

Here we come to the final part of my overview of Bolt Action. Time for Assaults....
Like most games, assaults (close combat) is particularly brutal in BA. Essentially once a unit is given a Run order and can move into contact with an enemy infantry or artillery unit it can then execute an assault.If it started the assault greater than 6 inches from the target unit, that target gets to conduct a round of defensive fire as per the shooting rules above. All pins are ignored, and all survivors of the assaulters then get to attack.In fact as soon as a unit charges or is charged in assault, it loses all its pins automatically.
The Russians line up ready to assault the German squad in the ruin

If there is no obstacle between the assaulters and the target, then the assaulting units gets to roll its dice first. If there is an obstacle however, then both units get to roll simultaneously...so hiding behind a fence or wall is great if the enemy is charging you!
To attack, each model gets 1 dice if equipped normally, and 2 dice if equipped with an assault weapon (ARs, SMG, Pistol) Some Unit Special Rules grant an extra dice in close combat which can be very nasty (you don't wanna know about Ghurkas....)
There is no 'to hit' roll in close combat, you simply need to roll the target units Kill value (ie 5+ for Vets, 4+ for Regs etc) Every dice that comes up with this number or higher removes one enemy model.
Once all participants have had their attacks, the result are compared to see who caused the most casualties, and the loser is wiped out, regardless of the amount of models actually left in the unit. Again, some unit special rules prevent this (Fanatics for example) and allow units to fight on to the bitter end.
The winner then consolidates D6 inches (and can't re-assault that turn)

As far as scenarios go, the 6 in the main BA rulebook range from capture the most objectives, destroy the enemy base, kill everyone and Top Secret, which is a bit of a silly dash for the middle objective and then run the item off your table edge. The tournaments I have been in usually modify these missions somewhat for a more interesting game, but the basic scenarios (bar 1) are quite workable.
In almost all scenarios, you can keep some of your force off table as reserves, and can even outflank down either table edge (left or right) by secretly writing down the units and which side you will bring them on . An orders check on the turn you decide to reveal them allows you to bring the outflankers on 12 inches down the edge for every turn after Turn 1 that you held them off table for...so a unit coming on in Turn 4 will be 36 inches down the side of the table...handy for those right flank attacks! Of course, having to pass an orders check (at a -1, stand fast USA) means there is a chance they will refuse to come one (nav errors) and any units that don't make it onto the table by games end count as destroyed.....
Airpower and offboard artillery are handled by having a Forward Observer on the table (one for each) who can call in a single strike per GAME....a table is consulted and there is a 50 percent chance nothing will happen that turn, either allowing a shift in target point, or target unit....for air, a roll of a 1 on a D6 will actually cause the aircraft to mistake friendly troops for enemy, and your opponent can instead choose the target!
Arty tends to cause pins on multiple units over a wide area, whilst air tends to be more devastating but on a specific target unit....
The different nations that fight have their own Army Books, although the minor allied powers and Minor Axis powers have been grouped together into one book each. Each nation will have from 2-4 Nation specific rules, such as Hitlers Buzzsaw, which reflects the German MG36 and MG42 high rates of fire granting all German LMG and MMG an extra RoF dice, and the US Armies Better Comms which means they don't suffer -1 to leadership when rolling to come on from Reserve, nor do they suffer the -1 to move and shoot due to their M-1 Garand semi-auto rifles. The US also get an extra Air Observer for free if one is bought, hence allowing the US two air strikes a game vice 1, and the Brits have a simliar rule allowing a free Off Board Artillery observer, hence allowing 2 arty strikes per game. The British book also allows the Brit player to pick an extra two rules from a list of 4 or such as extra Assault dice, extra firepower from rifles, stubborn leadership checks etc which the player can use to represent the other Commonwealth countries fighting abilities (Ghurkas, Australians, Indians etc all get to be represented depending how a player wants to assign the extra special rules) Each army book also includes theatre specific list restrictions to reflect the historically available units to allow more accurate match-ups for that nation.
So my thoughts overall ? I come from a Warhammer 40K, Warhammer, Flames of War and some dabbling in Force on Force background. I find the Bolt Action system a lot more streamlined to play, the order dice and pin mechanics are different and really force you to think with every unit. The random alternating unit sequence makes you feel like you have a lot more control over the battle than 40k or Warhammer or even Force on Force. Whilst the mechanics are quite simple, there is still nearly everything you need to cover for WW2 action (stand fast fortifications, mines, booby traps etc which aren't currently covered) and that gives enough 'historical' appeal for a WW2 gamer. In fact a lot of Flames of War players also play BA. Its very much an infantry game, with tanks and arty relegated to almost minor players (although there is also a supplement allowing armour platoons to duke it out) and that is cool too. Model support from Warlords Games has been good although they did have many of the models for sale before they released the ruleset. I've found a number of other 28mm manufacturers who make excellent models and add some real individual characters to a force (Artizan to name one)The great thing is how cheap a platoon of infantry, a tank, arty and a transport is (under 60 pounds/80 euros/100AUD) which is a complete army.
Here in Canberra, Australia we are very fortunate that BA has attracted a strong following, especially considering the game was only released 12 months ago. There is a real community feel amongst those of us who play that we are building a strong community and that we are contributing to the further development of the rule system through constant feedback.But most importantly, Bolt Action is a fun fast playing game with a low cost entry point but high addiction point!

05 September 2013

Donald Featherstone, 1918-2013- RIP

It is with great sadness that I read today that the Father of Modern Wargaming, Donald Featherstone, passed away earlier this week. Like many of you, his books were the first ones I ever read, and were often the only ones I could find in our local public library (and school library for that matter).
Another gaming legend passes to the Great Mancave in the sky......

04 September 2013

Bolt Action Overview Part 2

This is a continuation of my first post on Bolt Action, picking up where I left off...

When given a Fire, Advance or Ambush order, units can shoot at the enemy. Shooting is a base of 3+ on a d6,with -1 for softcover (trees, bushes,wooden fences etc) on the target or intervening, -2 for Hard cover (brick walls, vehicles in the way, ruins etc), -1 for over half range, -1 for moving and firing (an Advance order) AND -1 for each pin marker...noting that cover mods don't stack (you simply apply the worst case ) a unit is usually hitting on 5s and 6s, add in the Pin penalty and you can see how quickly the pins render a unit combat ineffective!.....of note,you can still hit on To Hit numbers that are higher than 6, by rolling a 6 and then a 6 again...happens more often than you think....oh, and rolling a 1 is always a miss...

The Weapons in Bolt Action have a Rate of Fire, such as 1 dice for rifles, 2 for Assault rifles and SMGs (which don't suffer the -1 for moving and shooting) 3 for LMGs, 4 for MMGs, and usually 1 for any tank or AT gun. Auto cannons, (like the 20mm) are 2 with a chance of scoring 2 or 3 hits with each hit. Weapons above 12.7mm (.50 cal) have a Penetration value, ranging from +1 for the .50 cal to +7 for the 'super heavy' Anti Tank Gun (88mm). This Penetration number has two roles which I will cover later.
So you add up all the RoF of the firers in a unit (noting crew served weapons such as LMGs have a guy firing and the other as a loader who can't shoot) and roll to hit. For every soldier in the target unit hit, the firer rolls a damage die (d6) , adding the Pen value of the firing weapon if any. To kill a Veteran requires a 5 or more on a D6, a Regular will die on a 4+ and an Inexperienced solider on a 3+...a 1 means they miraculously survive....so as you can see, HMGs and Autocannons firing at infantry, with their Pen of 1+ or 2+ can really make mince meat out of them, especially as the good ole 20mm Quad AA gun gets 8 shots, each with the potential of causing 2 hits at +2 pen......
HE weapons also have a Pen value, ranging from +1 for light mortars and light howitzers to a +4 for Heavy Artillery....
More on Indirect Fire shortly...

When shooting at Armoured targets such as Tanks, the Pen value is added to a further D6 roll, and compared to the targets Armour rating. These ratings range from 7+ for armoured transports such as halftracks to 11+ for the SUper Heavy Tank such as the King Tiger. 8+ is a Light Tank, 9+ for Medium tanks, 10+ for heavy tanks like the Tiger. Equalling the Armour rating with the damage roll will cause superficial damage, ie a roll on the damage table with a -3, whilst scoring greater than the Armour Rating will cause a roll on the Damage Table. This table is quite brutal, with a 4+ on a D6 = knocked out. So you can see that Light Autocannon won't kill a medium tank but can cause superficial damage to a light tank. A very important game feature however is that any hit from a weapon with a penetration value will cause a Pin on an Armoured target...so potentially a pair of 50 cals could Pin a King Tiger out of the game......not a feature of the rules I am particularly fond of, as it has given rise to the deadly HMG Jeeps that terrorise German armour...but apparently that is being addressed soon....
For weapons capable of Indirect fire, the first shot always hits on a 6 regardless of any other modifers. If firer AND TARGET don't then move, the next shot is a 5+...and so on. If you actually get a hit (and you only get one shot each turn) then your to hit number for subsequent salvos instantly becomes a 2+.....of course, every time your target moves you reset to a 6+, but its useful against teams that don't want to move (like other mortars!), snipers etc...As I mentioned earlier , quite often range and cover penalties mean that everyone else needs a 6 or more to hit targets in the first turn or two so indirect weapons can actually be the most accurate early on.....plus, its a good way to make your enemies move, because anything larger than a light mortar cannot move AND shoot.....and snipers lose their sniper bonuses if they move and shoot ...
Snipers are nasty little blighters as if they shoot without moving they ignore cover penalties, and gain a +1 for accuracy..plus their rifle has a 36 inch range vice the normal 24 inches, so half range for them is up to 18 inches....in other words an unpinned sniper is usually hitting on 2s....they also automatically do "exceptional damage" which means you choose which figure is hit. Normally the target player chooses which models to remove, but anytime a normal firer rolls a 6 to wound, and then rolls another 6, it causes 'exceptional damage' and can pick the target...which is how you remove NCO's, officers, LMG gunners etc...now the nasty part is anytime a Weapon team (MGs,Mortars,FT etc) suffer an Exceptional damage, it is assumed that the weapon itself is damaged and the entire team is removed as a kill...The mitigator is that they only get one shot....

I'll cover on on Assaults and Unit Special RUles in my next post....stay tuned!

02 September 2013

Bolt Action-An Introduction, Part 1

Hi all, I've recently been corrupting Paul into yet another game system and scale of figures to collect, namely Bolt Action by Warlord Games. Bolt Action is a 28mm (primarily) platoon level WW2 game, that was first introduced in September 2012. Its had a huge success since, and is fast growing as Warlords lead game system.
I got into Bolt Action when the Starter set game out.

The key thing is that the starter set comes with the full hard back rule book, 20 infantry for both Germans and Americans, 8 Orders Dice in 2 colours AND a plastic ruined farmhouse that on its own is now worth 30AUD to purchase. And all of this for 60 pounds, or about 100 AUD. With some clever unit design, one could easily play a basic 4 vs 4 skirmish over the farmhouse with the full rules right out of the box. That was the first big draw card for me, the low start up cost to get into it.Although naturally I went right out and bought a tank, arty, mortar teams etc, but even these are quite cheap compared to other platoon level games in 28mm.....

So what is it all about?
Each side has a number of units, usually 8 to 18, which are either infantry squads, 2-4 man support weapon teams (mortars, HMGs, Bazookas etc) artillery or AT gun, tank, armoured car, truck etc. The starting block of all forces is the 'Reinforced Platoon', which is a commander (varying in rank from 2Lt, Lt, Captain, Major) and minimum of 2 infantry sections. The basic rulebook has force lists for the 4 'main' nations of WW2, Britain, USA, Germany and Russia, and Warlord is slowly expanding their collection of dedicated Army books for each nation or collection of Minor Powers. The basic lists are still quite good, and bring out another key difference of Bolt Action to other systems.
The stats for each type of tank (light, medium,heavy) rifles, MGs, ATGs mortars etc are pretty much the same across all nations, which simplifies list building and the tables needed to look up for attack ratings, range, damage ratings etc, thus simplifying the game play, but without too much sacrifice of accuracy.There are some differences between nations as to what each type of medium tank for example could have on it, but more on that later.
The Force Construction lists generally only allow 1 of each type of support weapon (mortar, MMG, Sniper) per 'Reinforced Platoon'. You can have more than one Reinforced platoon in a list, ie 2 seperate Lts, and 2 lots of 2 rifle sections, which as well as giving you an extra leader is the only way to have two mortars, two arty units etc in the one list because you only get 1 of EITHER arty, ATG or AA gun per reinforced platoon. So if you want a howitzer, you can't have an ATG (unless you go the double Rein Plt option)
Similarly, you can only have 1 tank/SPG/AA vehicle, 1 Armd Car per Rein Plt . You CAN have however multiple transports. Essentially the game centres on your platoon of infantry which has, for whatever reason, been allocated a few support weapons, armoured vehicle etc, or which they have collected as stragglers along the way. Given the scale of the game, its a bit surprising to have, for example, a 105mm howitzer as part of your force, but one can argue its the remains of an arty unit that your platoon has come across in this sector of the battlefield
A typical 1000pt force, in this case the US Army Starter set

Thats Force Construction in a nut shell. As I stated before, each unit gets an Order Dice, which is a specially made 6 sided dice with all 6 Orders printed on it. All dice of one side are one colour, and obviously both sides need different coloured dice. The orders are Advance (move 6 inches and shoot, at -1 to hit) Run (move 12 inches and assault if possible, no shooting allowed) Fire (remain stationary and fire at no penalty) Down (Hit the deck, no other actions allowed, gives unit a cover bonus against being shot at and halves hits from HE weapons) Rally (remove D6 Pin markers from unit and do no other action-see 'Pinning' below) and finally Ambush (remain stationary and conduct opportunity fire at enemy moving in LOS at any stage)
The turn sequence is essentially players taking it in turns to draw one order dice from an opaque container, or dice bag, and giving it to the owning player, who then selects ANY unit that hasn't yet been activated, and placing the dice next to the unit, turns it so the desired order is face up, then executes the action as above. Once all the dice are out of the bag, the turn ends. As you can imagine, this adds a great random element of which unit is going to act before another, but also gives forces with more units a greater chance to draw a dice when they really need it. The order in which you activate your units requires a lot of careful thought, as you may not wish to activate too early and give away your plans, but activate too late and your prize assault unit may be too pinned to do anything by the time you allocate a dice....

Pinning is one of the two game mechanics in this game that differentiate it from other games. Essentially anytime a unit hits another, regardless of the number of hits (stand fast HE ) it will put 1 pin on the target unit. Each pin is then a minus 1 to shooting for that unit and more importanly means it has to pass an Orders check to do anything..an orders check is 2D6, roll =or under your units leadership value, which itself is reduced by MINUS 1 for each pin on the unit. Vets have Ld 10, Regs 9, Inexp 8. So, a vet unit with 2 pins on it will need an 8 or less on 2d6 to do anything, and shoots at a minus 2 to hit.

I'll continue with how to shoot and attack in my next post....stay tuned! Comrade James