Monday, 29 June 2015

Bolt Action - Turns 2 / 3 and further impressions

German centre squad advances.
This weekend I had a chance to get back to the gaming table to continue with Bolt Action. Playing the Soviets, I'm trying to get as much of my formation as possible across the 'phase line' of the enemy's base board. This is the envelopment scenario from the core rules.

On the right, I brought on my Maxim heavy machine gun team, setting them up in light cover, with the plan to engage the German MG42 team further down the road. However, my opponent moved her command squad up in the centre, most unexpectedly, but obviously adopting the view that attack is the best form of defence. I thought it foolhardy at the time, but in reality it has succeeded in blunting the Russian advance.

The Maxim team, seeing the German squad moving up to the ruined priory in the centre of the field, opened fire on them, but MG fire from their original target downed two members of the team, leaving one to man the gun on his own, at a -1 penalty.

In the centre of the field, a big firefight developed around the ruined priory. The Soviet squad began to win, however, thanks to the fact that four of them are equipped with SMGs. Even at long range and firing at targets in hard cover, that's eight dice before you factor in the squad's light machine gun and rifles. The Germans lost their NCO in turn 2, and then three more men in turn 3, including, potentially, their forward artillery observer, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The German lieutenant has kept the squad from failing a morale test, but they are now in a sticky position, with more Russians on their right flank.

Maxim HMG team sets up to lend support at the priory.

The Russian officer has moved his unit across the road from the church, and is now preparing to potentially assault his opposite number's squad, although whether this is a sound move is open to question.

On the left, my plan had been to rush a big 11-man squad forward down the road past the church, while the sniper team in the tower covered them. The German MG42 team in the cottage put the hurt on the sniper in the tower, killing his spotter, and the poor comrade then panicked (FUBAR roll), leaving him unable to support the advance.

Russian squad laying it on thick in the centre of the battle.

This left the advancing squad with no covering fire, moving down a country lane into the teeth of a German MG team. I forgot that they could react with a Down order (still learning, you see) and my opponent quickly took out five men, including my forward observer! Desperately, I order Run, only for the squad to trespass into the LOS of the German unit in the ruined cottage. More Russians fell. A morale check was passed, thanks in part to the presence of a grizzled Russian sergeant.

German HQ squad down to three men and in a pickle!

Still, it's not going brilliantly as we set up for turn 4. I've got three, maybe four turns to get units over the phase line. The Germans look to be in too good a position, with MG42s on both flanks, one in hard cover, and now I've lost my ability to call in more artillery. Rats, rats, rats.

Impressions of Bolt Action as a rule set

About to get chopped up by an MG42.
The game moves along at a fair clip, which is good. Where it can be fiddly is working out which squad is armed with which weapons. If I'd generated formal army lists, this would be less of an issue, but we're just having an informal throw down game with everything I've got painted. I like the fact that activation is random - you have no idea who will move next. The orders dice are a great way to keep track of who is doing what, particularly if someone is on Ambush orders.

The game is a good, simple introductory level rule set. In some ways it is very similar to Disposable Heroes, and is also reminiscent of Warhammer 40,000, but with the rubbish bits filed off. At a complexity level, it probably sits up there with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and I can readily see how Warlord Games saw the science fiction possibilities for these rules. I am now pondering whether to play test Beyond the Gates of Antares.

If I had a concern, it is working out line of sight, which can be complex as you try to work out who can see the enemy and who can't. In Force on Force, for example, this seemed to work more smoothly. We will continue to playtest and form further impressions as we proceed.

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