Sunday, March 03, 2013

Bolt Action - A Review of Sorts

Over the last few weeks there's been a lot of Bolt Action gaming going on for me, it is the present trend at the club and has won over plenty of converts.  That said, I'm not completely sold, and I'll explain as we go, but for a start here's an account of a recent game between myself and George.

We set up a small village using the buildings and wrecks I had made for the club display game (more on that in coming posts).  My Germans would defend, aiming to hold the centre of the village.

Whilst George's British would make an attack from the road and fields to my north.

 Whilst George had gone for a regular force with armour and transport in support, and thus had numbers on his side, I had taken a veteran forcethat was much smaller.

In game terms this proves significant for a couple of reasons.  Firstly command and control; troops are one of three quality levels - Green, Regular or Veteran - needing 8, 9, or 10 on 2d6 to activate; further modified by the presence of an officer, or by the build up of pin markers.  A veteran unit has a much bigger advantage statistically starting from a base of 10 for rolls.  Moreover veterans can only be removed as casualties on a roll of 5+, when the norm is a 4+; a huge advantage.  Sure they cost more, but they are worth it!

Germans also have access to incredible firepower at a squad level.  In simple terms infantry shooting is a number of d6 based on the squads weapons complement - a rifle is one d6, a light machine gun usually 3d6, and so on - with a base to hit of 3+.  Now this is modified by the usual values, +1 for moving, +1 for light cover, etc; but it is also modified by each Pin Marker on the unit - so a unit with three pins would get a +3 to hit modifier.

 How bad can that be you may ask; well, each time a unit takes hits from fire, is hit by artillery, or otherwise adversely affected, it takes at least one Pin Marker.  By concentrating fire, a player can neutralise a unit even if he never causes any losses.  To activate once pinned, you roll a command check minus any pin modifiers, so as units get bullied down by fire they can reach a point of near total inactivity.  Yes you can elect to keep your head down and remove one pin automatically, and if you activate you also remove one, but the only quick way to remove them is by rallying, which of course requires a successful command check, and then takes a turn.

I practice we've found that any unit with three or more pin markers is screwed.  Not only does it have a hard time activating, but if it chooses to fire the modifiers will mean that it almost always needs to roll 6's followed by 6's to hit.  Slim chances.

In the game George was playing hid and seek with my armour, whilst laying immobilising fire on unit's where he could.  The superior command structure of my Germans allowed them to blunt the British attack.

I was using smoke screens from my light artillery to screen my troops.  Smoke is a useful deterrent in the game, but overall I'm uncertain about the artillery rules, light artillery is very inaccurate but there is no danger from it if it misses.  It can readily be purchased for use on table, but for the big guns you need an observer, usually an expensive purchase, but for some reason free for the British!

Heavy artillery is very powerful and rather abstract, but it's main role is to add loads of pin markers to unit's under it's area of effect; D6+6 inches from its target point.  On the down side it has a 1 in 6 chance of being friendly fire, but either way it is devastating, and can really grind a game down.  Use with caution.

In the centre the Brits tried to storm up the road and attack the main building.  A recce section went in first and were cut down in an assault against a well equipped squad; An infantry squad lined up nervously to try next.

Assaults work simply and effectively, with each model involved usually rolling one D6 each needing the normal 4+ to cause a casualty.  Of course veterans are harder to hit, troops with assault weapons (Pistols, sub machine guns, assault rifles) get more attacks, and whilst usually the assaulter goes first, if the defender is in a building or fortifications the action is simultaneous.  There's nothing much wrong with this.

Having suffered more than half losses on their attack the recce squad needed a break test, against their modified command value, fail - as they did - and you are removed straight away.  Broken surrendered or mopped up.

Late in the game, my Panther finally got a view of the Cromwell and let loose with the big gun.

The armour rules are simple, but work.  The basic hit mechanic is the same as for infantry, but the modifiers for armour play out a little differently.  All vehicles take at least a 6+ to wound head on, and so for example a medium tank like the Cromwell has frontal armour of 9+  However get around the side, as my Panther did, and the armour is at minus -1 (or -2 for the rear).  

To penetrate the armour once you've hit it's the classic mechanic of rolling a D6 and adding your penetration value of your gun, which in my case was +6.  Therefore I only needed a 2+ on the dice to penetrate, I rolled a five and smashed through the Cromwell blowing it to bits.  There is a nice touch that although the damage table is simple, the degree by which you beat the enemy armour modifies the result, and also it is impossible for weak weapons to do any harm to super heavy armour.  Still, 'Blammo' and the tank was done for.

At the end of the game it was technically a draw, par the scenario rules, the book contains 6 fairly standard scenarios.  In losses terms the Brits had been hammered, whilst most of the Germans were able to slink away.

As for the rules, well my view (and not all will agree) is that they are flawed, but workable; get used to how to deal with some of the extreme effects of the rules as written and the game plays well enough; for what is essentially a Warhammer 40k/Battlefield Evolution inspired system, with a command control  system largely lifted from Epic 40k that perhaps doesn't work as well as may have been hoped.

Still, it is accessible, would work in 15 & 20mm just as well as 28mm, and is developing a following.  Is it the best set of rules for WW2?  Not even close; but they are, OK.

I don't think my damning them with faint praise will stop them being popular anyway!

1 comment:

  1. I still haven't decided on this ruleset. I do not want to "hate" on bolt action or FOW, but I get the feeling that they may be workable systems till I find better from obscure systems.