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.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Another High Wood Practice Game

Dave and I decided to get together for another practice of the High Wood inspired WW1 demo game we've been working on. This was a much condensed version of the game as the table was limited to 6'x4', but it did allow us to try out the latest small tweaks that Dave has made to the Zero Hour rules; mainly movement and moderating the effects of artillery.

Here's the initial deployment.
On the left are the German trenches running through the wood.

Part of the British army, deployed in open order. The cavalry are being held in reserve.

A closer look at the German position. There's still quite a bit of scenery to be made (and figures to finish off!) for the demo, so in the spirit of good old-fashioned wargaming we just got on used whatever we had to hand.

The German counter-barrage finally starts to find it's targets.

Now the Germans are dropping bombs on the Tommies! In these rules the planes are not very effective but they are good fun and sometimes tempt the troops on the ground to waste some shots, blazing away in to the sky.

The British start to reach the woods but the first platoons to arrive have been badly mauled by the well prepared Germans.

Reinforcements advance on the British right.

Huzzah! Here come the cavalry hoping to exploit the 'breakthrough' created by the infantry. Hmm?

More reinforcements on the other flank. The first of the platoons from the Highland company arrive.

The Germans advance in to the wood in an attempt to dislodge increasing numbers of British. They've even dropped some gas shells in too - albeit perilously close to their own lines.

The fight for the wood becomes a ferocious scrap with close combats and short range firefights. Casualties rise quickly and soon both sides are exhausted without being able to strike the decisive blow.

Technically this was a win for the Germans - my Battle Objective was to hold the line whilst Dave's Brits had to either destroy the two best German companies, or achieve a breakthrough.

Another superb game of these excellent WW1 rules! It's great to be involved in the development of a set of wargames rules again. My thanks to Dave for coming round for the day, providing quite a few of the figures and generally being a first class chap!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

First Paras now painted!!

Yes, the Paras are now starting to roll off the painting production line and I'm quite pleased with them. First is a sniper, a Warlord figure.

Bang!! Keep your head down Jerry!

Here's my Lieutenant, brandishing his trusty Webley revolver ... and an umbrella? Ideal tools for giving the Wehrmacht a good thrashing! An Artizan figure and as with all my leaders, he's on an octagonal base with a splash of red flowers - makes them a bit easier to spot when you're playing.

A 2 inch mortar, never leave home without one! Warlord again. Ideal for plopping some smoke right in front of Jerry's MG42's.

Quite like the poses on these chaps! I wonder if the Chain of Command rules don't make these a little too effective - although I admit I cannot find any hard info on just how accurate they could be in the sort of close range encounters that CoC represents?

I've really enjoyed working on these figures. I'm not sure how many of these chaps actually went in to battle wearing their red berets but it does add a certain something to the units on the table. I'll give details of the painting 'recipe' in my next post.


As mentioned before I wanted to base these figures slightly differently, going for a lighter, sandier effect. Here's the test piece I did using a spare 40mm base.

The recipe:
  • The usual PVA followed by a mixture of grit and sand. A few bigger pieces are always good.
  • A base coat of VMC Flat Earth (983), then highlights of VMC Gold Brown (877), then VMC Dark Sand (847).
  • The grass is simply GW Scorched Grass.
  • Then add a few tufts and some Woodland Scenics clump foliage.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Starting another WW2 force

Not content with Panzergrenadiers and British Regulars for the excellent Chain of Command rules, I've started yet another wargaming project... This time it's the chaps from the Parachute Regiment!!

The figures are a mixture of Warlord, Artizan and Crusader and I'm very pleased with how well they mix. The Warlord figures are a fraction more finely sculpted (i.e. slightly more slender weapons) but in general the scale is good.

L-R, Warlord, Crusader, Artizan. All sprayed in Warlord British Uniform Brown and ready to go!

Since I already have some supports for my regular British platoon (plus supports in Chain of Command are always considered regulars anyway) it seemed sensible to just collect the basic Para platoon of 37 figures. I may add a few Para specific supports but this lot will do for now.

But... rather than continue the theme of Normandy, I've decided to look in to a slightly different aspect of the wider European campaign - namely the invasion of Italy. This will allow me to base the figures a bit differently and maybe add a few unusual items of scenery - like a vineyard, some Mediterranean buildings, etc. However, I expect they'll still make an appearance hedge hopping through la belle Normandie too.

A couple of chaps on the TFL forum (Andy D and Rafael O) have put together heaps of useful info, lists, etc. Have a look here
Well worth a read.

 Finally... It's Remembrance Sunday, so wear your poppy with pride!