Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Thoughts on: Starting Bolt Action

As you probably saw, there was no post last weekend. This was because I was spending time with family, friends, and looking out for a car. Whilst I was home, I managed to get in two games of Bolt Action, a game that I've made a starter force for, but until this weekend has never played. Today I'm discussing my initial thoughts on the game, and where I plan to go with it.

Bolt Action, for those who don;t know, is a WWII figures game in 28mm scale, produced by Warlord Games. Most of what they make for it actually saw service during the war, as well as a few limited-service, prototypes and potentially concept units. The first thing I realised is it isn't a game you can pick up in five minutes or under. It took me a few turns to realise what was going on and how things worked. Having said that, once you have worked out what the dice that aren't dice do and how the turns work, it gets a lot easier to follow.

After making a list, I realised it is a less vehicle-heavy than say Flames of War and 40k. Infantry is the main player in the game, as most armies are limited to a single tank per platoon. You can take more, but that means you need more infantry. In a way, this somewhat balances the game, and prevents players from spamming Tigers. In my second game, my Flammpanzer B2 survived the whole game, so it seems that even one tank is useful enough (though that might have been due to Anti-tank rifles being weak).

The turns are very different to 40k, and quite exciting. Instead of each player taking their full turn and activating every unit at once, all units are represented by a dice/token, which is taken out of a pot at random. If it's your colour, you pick a unit to act. This continues until all the dice are used up, then it's the next turn. I find that this adds a new level of strategy and planning to the game. You have to decide which unit needs to act first: is it the sniper team who has a clear line of sight on the enemy officer, or do you move the tank that is being flanked by enemy armour? Since you can never be too sure who's dice will come out next, advanced planning is essential.

Snipers are great for pinning units

Shooting seems to be less about killing and more about pinning units. Any hit creates a pin token for the unit, which reduces their combat effectiveness, and leadership. Multiple pins pretty much render whole units useless. So in ways, this is more interesting, and not killing does not mean you are in serious trouble. Even the act of disabling a unit temporarily can give you the edge you may need later.

Burn baby burn!

I've also learned of two of the most destructive things in the game: flame weapons and close combat. Flame weapons, especially flame tanks, are incredibly brutal. My Flammpanzer managed to burn up nine Russians in a single shot, and they were in heavy cover. I imagine it would have gone on to annihilate everything else, had I not run out of ammo immediately after. Close quarters combat is equally destructive. In close combat, both sides roll a number of die equal to the squad size, with bonuses for SMGs. If you hit, a soldier dies. If you kill less than the enemy, your whole squad goes. So in this case, pretty much all close combat rounds are over in one go. They are incredibly bloody, especially when one squad has full SMGs. beware of charges from these guys.

After two very fun games, I think I've decided where I want my army to go next. After I've completed my new Waffen SS veterans and command unit (above) I think a support weapon is next on the agenda. It will most likely be a light or medium mortar team, to help me dislodge sticky units hiding in buildings. My flame tank can take care of them, but as the game gets bigger, so does the enemy's anti-tank guns. After that I may tidy up the platoon with a pioneer squad, an anti-tank gun and some transports.

All in all Bolt Action is a fantastic game that keeps you on the edge. Not as simple as 40k, but in a way it is far more enticing this way.

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