Saturday, 28 November 2015

Bolt Action - First Game

I recently headed west to a rather wet and windy Cornwall for a long anticipated weekend of friends and gaming with top Wargames Table chums Paul B and Colin (of Charlie Foxtrot Models).

I packed the car very early on Friday morning and headed off to work. Lunchtime couldn’t come along quick enough! The journey was fairly steady as there was plenty of traffic, however this did afford me the opportunity to appreciate the lovely Somerset, Devon and Cornish countryside. In fact I think the landscape gets even better as you head west. Gotta love the South-West!

We spent Friday evening drinking cider, chatting and playing about in Colin’s workshop where he keeps his laser cutter. What a marvellous piece of kit it is. Colin has a nifty CAD package so, amongst other things, we knocked up some designs for order tokens for Zero Hour (more in future posts I hope). Two blokes, plenty of cider and a workshop with lasers... Hmm!?

Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear; unlike our heads, especially the CEO of CFM. Say no more guv'nor! ;o)

First game of the day was to be my inauguration in to the ranks of Bolt Action players and I was really looking forward to it. I've wanted to play BA for ages. Like all wargames it has it's detractors but I wanted to make up my own mind. So here’s what happened...

I took command of Colin’s beautifully painted British Paras whilst he led his equally well painted Jerries. It was Normandy 1944 and the Red Devils were attempting to breakout from their initial lodgement around Ranville. I selected a 1000pt force based very much on my experiences with Chain of Command, with addition of a few support weapons. Colin (an experienced BA-er) fielded a similarly reinforced platoon. The scenario was simple (it was an ‘intro' game after all), just force the enemy from the field. We elected to place a little over half of our forces on the table with the remainder held in reserve.

Early in the game and the British are advancing cautiously; the PIAT team and the 2" mortar take cover behind the glider.

On the other flank the 3" mortar prepares to fire, whilst a section advance towards the woods on the right.

Colin brings up two of his squads to capture the barn and surrounding walls. A key building given it's central position and good fields of fire.

The German mortar stays behind the farmhouse and uses a spotter team to guide their shots.

After some fairly pants rolls to bring on my reserves ... they finally turn up!

The delay meant that the troops I had placed on the table at the start were being overwhelmed by superior German numbers. But now the Paras could get stuck in proper!

I used the 2" mortar to drop some smoke rounds to block the German lines of sight and hopefully allow my two sections on the left to outflank them. But first they had a SdKfz 222 to deal with. You can just see it lurking behind the big hedge on the far left.

Back on the right and Jerry is making disturbingly good progress. The Vickers gets ready to give them a good blast but it all depends on who gets the first dice out of the bag next turn - thankfully it was the Brits and Jerry got a good hosing of .303 rounds.

The vehicle on the right is a beautifully painted truck mounted AA gun and, just as in Chain of Command, it's a weapon to be feared whether you're on the ground or in the air! I nicknamed it the "Deathstar", and By George it was "fully operational". It was able to draw a bead on my para section and they were quickly pinned then broken.

The CEO of CFM gets firmly in to character by donning his helmet. :o)

That's it for the photos. The game ended as a winning draw for the Paras - beginner's luck I suppose? Anyway, it was a really enjoyable and relaxed game of toy soldiers. Especially considering it was my first game. Colin took me through the rules and explained various options as we went along. There were some great cinematic moments as troops broke cover pouring rifle and sten shots in to the enemy.

In the evening Paul and I played Kings of War. Now that is an interesting game; definitely worthy of further investigation! I used Colin's stunningly painted Ogres and Paul played with his gorgeous Empire figures (in Bögenhafen colours too!!).

The game itself is deceptively easy to pick up but this apparent simplicity hides an elegant and subtle set of game play mechanisms. Really it deserves a blog article of it's own! Anyway, it was very good fun, quite brutal and ultimately a hefty win for Paul's Realms of Men army.

Next day Paul and I played another game of Bolt Action (which I totally forgot to take any pics of - Doh!?). He led the Paras whilst I cooked up a Panzergrenadier list. It was another really good fun game. Paul's an experienced player of BA so I don't the result was ever in doubt; a solid win for Paul's Paras. Again plenty of Hollywood moments and plenty of laughs too! It was also quite an instructive game in the sense of seeing how to get the best out of fewer, more elite, troops. If only I'd taken some pics!?!

Now for my views on Bolt Action...

It's a game of toy soldiers (and a good game IMHO) not a historical simulation. I think it's fair to say the CoC offers a more 'realistic' simulation of the mechanics of warfare in this era. However, BA takes a slightly more "Hollywood" approach. If you grew up on a diet of gung-ho war films, Sven Hassel books and comics like Commando and Battle then you'll probably enjoy BA too.

Lists mean it's easy to represent a mixed or battered force and keep some sort of balance. Ok, lists also mean some wargamers will concoct some very un-historical forces but that's some wargamers for you - just don't play 'em twice! ;o)

Having an activation dice per unit doesn’t mean all units get to have a go. If you have a unit that is about to take some heavy incoming then you can opt for them to take cover; this reduces the effect of the enemy shooting but means they lose their go this turn. Also, once troops are under fire they must pass a morale test in order to obey instructions - fluffing one or two of these test can really confuse your plans!

Like Saga, the rules are straightforward enough to be able to pick up quickly but quite subtle in some ways, e.g. the order dice and considering which troops have already been activated this turn.

The weapon ranges are shorter than in other games but in the sort of dense terrain we favour in our games that shouldn't be a problem. If you play on more open terrain you may find this an issue.

The rulebook is well laid out and the game needed little rulebook referencing too.

In summary then, I really enjoyed playing BA and look forward to more games. I also really enjoy playing CoC. So I'll be playing both and enjoying both, just in different ways.


Paul Scrivens-Smith said...

Nice looking game.

I have pretty much given up on Bolt Action, to me it's a game that you play with your WWII soldiers. The game is ok, but seems to have little relation to history.

I'm surprised you did not introduce them to Chain of Command for the second round.

Paul O'G said...

"If you grew up on a diet of gung-ho war films, Sven Hassel books and comics like Commando and Battle..."

Didn't we all? :-)

Great pics, lovely table and clearly good times with good mates

Glad you enjoy BA and I could not agree more with your conclusions on its nature and comparison to CoC.
The beauty is that I play both games with the same figs and same friends depending got what kind of mood we are in

George Anderson said...

I too grew up on all that stuff and I think it would suit me better as a game but I have enough pokers on the fire at the moment without making room for another.

Great report and review.

Rodger said...

Looks fantastic Matt!

Matt said...

Thanks chaps. I hope to introduce CoC at some future point. BA is simply a jolly good laugh and great to play.
@George - go on, you know you want to!

Moiterei_1984 said...

Lovely looking game! Personally I love BA because of its simplicity. This and it lets you feel as if your troops are part of some Hollywood action film.