Learning the ropes to Bolt Action
The figures I used are based for Flames of War and I would have to mentally remember which figure is KIA. The Litko obviously dead tokens help out by showing the number of dead per stand.
Litko skull tokens would be used to indicate the number of pins a unit has.
I rolled a D6 to determine which mission. Mission was to be Hold Until relived. I then randomly rolled to determine who would be on defense which happened to be the US. In this scenario the US can only have two units on board, a wave one, and a reserve force. The Germans had all infantry on board and their StuG in reserve.
The US para squad and MMG (.30 cal) set up in the center of the town. The objective for the Germans was to hold the center of the town with no opposition with 6 inches.
The SS plan was to envelop the city from two directions. They get the hidden set up rule and can be placed within 18 inches of the defenders.
On the first turn the SS rushed toward the city using the cover of the buildings to eliminate return fire. I was surprised how far a unit can go in bolt action using the run rule (12″) for infantry. I had one squad advance and fire to get some pins on the US Para and the other squads run to close as quickly as possible.
Hitting a unit in a building with a unit on the move is difficult as in I had to role 6+. To kill a veteran unit takes a 5+ after the hit. This squad was going to be tough nut to break open.
Using indirect fire was so much different from FOW. First there is no template to place down. Second there is no range in roll. It is an automatic hit on 6+ the first turn and subtract one from every roll after assuming the target doesnt move and you target the same place. Makes the saying ” move or you will die” have some truth behind it!! The German 81mm mortar team failed to get a hit in.
Now the game doesnt work on a you go, I go turn basis. The turns are based on a randomly picked dice from a jar. In my case a stormtrooper mug. Each unit contributes one dice to the mug. Even though I was playing solo in this game, I saw right away that picking which units you activate first is extremely tactical and will dictate the pace of the battle. I like it :) In many cases you will want to force your opponent to show his strategy before you show yours.
At the end of turn one there were no hits or casualties.
On turn two both sides bring their armor in as reserves. To bring a unit in as a reserve, you have to activate the unit, and then roll a morale check. Since all my units were veteran I needed a 10 and under on a 2D6 to pass. Easy enough… both sides got their reserves in. Reserves cannot shoot on the turn they come in.
During turn two I was able to hit the US para in the building using the mortars. One hit from a unit results in a pin marker. Multiple hits from the same unit do not increase the pin markers. Hits from different units increase the pin markers. Mortars have a HE rating. In the case of the 81 mm medium mortar is has a HE rating of D6. That means if you hit, you then roll a dice to determine how many hits to allocate i.e. 1-6 in this case. You then roll a save or damage value roll. One of my questions in this example was that I had two units in the buildings. The officer and two support troops plus four para from the para platoon. The mortar targeted the para platoon. From what I have read so far you can only cause damage to the unit you target. So, if I had rolled a 6 on the hits, I would have to allocate the 6 hits to the para infantry unit and not the officer unit? or would I have to evenly distribute the hits across all units in the building. There is a rule that units must maintain a one inch space. I could see where this might prevent this from happening.
During turn two, a SS squad was able to get in range and fire at the building at close range. Close range really increases your odds of hitting a unit in a building assuming you dont have too many pins to that unit. I was able to get two pins on the para infantry in the buildings that turn plus one kill.
The para infantry in the center building returned fire and were able to get one pin and one kill on a German squad. Now the pins where starting to be a game changer. The MMG team did nothing that turn.
On turn three the US Sherman struck hard the SS squad hiding behind a wall. The main gun with HE and MMG fire does terrible damage to infantry in the open. It was able to get two more kills and add another pin to the German squad. By the time that squad was activated to advance it received an additional pin. At this point, I got the change to test the pin mechanic. The German squad had three pins and three causalities. At close range a squad with no pins needs a +5 to hit a unit hiding in a building. With three pins that same unit needs a +8. not going to happen unless you get back to back 6s. This unit was effectively removed as a ranged combatant.
It was also on the third turn that was able to experience the first close combat. I thought FOW was bloody… in Bolt Action loser are annihilated. Whoever kills the most is the winner even by one! My opinion is mixed here. It makes for a very decisive action. However, there seems to be no mechanic for figures to make a tactical withdrawal. Also what happens to figures in the unit that were not in the same building? Are they removed too? In that cause I decided figures not in the same building would not be destroyed. A SS squad was able to wipe out a para squad in the church because they caused two casualties and the para squad caused one.
At the end of turn three the US had lost 9 figures and the Germans had lost 4. However, the US was still in control of the center of town and reinforcement were about to make their impact.
On turn four the Germans attempted to take the center house by force using an unpinned squad before reinforcements changed the game. This squad was able to successfully remove the remaining three figures from the infantry team in the center house. It is good to know that a unit that is 6″ or less can initiate an assault without defensive fire. I like it!
However, the officer and two assistants still remained on the upper floor! It was hard to believe, but those three guys did more damage than the 8 guys from the SS Squad. SS squad evaporated. One note is that the SS troops do have a fanatics rule which allows them to stay longer in close combat. Basically until all figures are dead. However, in this game I did not buy that upgrade. These were timid SS troopers, so only one round of close combat was enough for them to give up.
On turn 4, the second Para squad made a successful assault on the remaining three SS grenadiers nearby the center. They didnt last long.
The third US para platoon made a successful assault against the remaining Germans in the church and removed them. At this point the german infantry was gone. Only the Officer, 81mm mortar, panzerschreck, and StuG were alive. The StuG had been unsuccessful at damaging the units in the center buildings.
On turn 5, I had my first tank on tank battle. This went rather quickly. The StuG fired first and did not damage the Sherman. The Sherman fired and did massive damage! what that means is that it rolls twice on the damage chart to see what kind of damage was done to the StuG. The StuG suffered a fire and was destroyed.
On the 5th turn, the US cleared the town of the officer team and panzerschreck. Only remaining German unit was the 81mm mortar which was wiped out on the 6th turn.
Is there rule that if the officer is killed the game is over? I could not find it if there is.
Overall, I think Bolt Action is quick fun game. The game is designed to get the opposing forces into battle as quickly as possible and to kill each other as quickly as possible. I think it succeeds very well at that.
- Quick game once you understand the rules.
- Great to have an infantry focused game.
- Activation system is a nice change and I would consider using it in a set of home rules for Flames of War games just to keep things interesting. It adds a whole new tactical level to the game.
- The Pinning effect really is a game mechanic that has a lot of impact on the success of units. Pin units have a harder time hitting and harder time taking orders. Make sense! big thumbs up here.
- I thought the ranges of the weapons feel much better at the 15mm scale than the FOW ranges. Just have to keep in mind the long distance rule and that modifier.
- Vehicle damage is more than just bailed or dead. I like having other options. Especially the superficial damage and immobilization.
- I am not sure I like the close combat results. It is devastating and game changing, but I like a FOW assaults a little better as units will make tactical withdrawals.
- I prefer templates for indirect fire weapons. I guess I just need to get use to the HE and indirect fire rules. Templates are so much easier! I do like the idea that it gets easier to hit every turn the target stays put!
- Single based figures would be significantly better for this game. Multi figure based teams is doable, but requires admin to manage. I have 28mm miniatures I am painting which represent the same units, but I think I will make a number of 15mm units because I like the feel and I have lots of 15mm terrain and pretty much no 28mm buildings.
- Armored vehicles are far too simple with respect to stats. I know this is a general observation from the community.
A Flames of War rematch:
After the game of Bolt action, I used the same forces for a quick FOW game. Obviously there was some liberties taken to pull the game off such as no company HQ.
Anyways… the Germans were attacking so they got all their forces on board. I massed them this time from one side.
The US Para platoon took up residence in the town and spread out. The Sherman was in delayed reserve.
In this game the german platoon concentrated on the american paras which were spread out in the buildings. I made the mistake of spreading them too far that they could not directly support each other once assaulted. They could perform defensive fire, but most would never be in range to join in the melee. As a result the Germans were able to take out individual buildings with their whole platoon against at most two teams at a time. The one mortar tube was able to keep the paras pinned down pretty much the whole time. Game was over in about 4 turns.