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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bolt Action - Review: Warlord Bolt Action Rulebook

I first heard about Bolt Action (Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games) from my long-time, gamer compadre Dano. His FLGS had received a draft copy of the rules, and after checking them out, he called me.


Bolt Action, by Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games


"Bolt Action! It's a new 28mm World War Two game and it looks like it might be interesting -"

"Yeah, OK," I interrupted. "Big deal." This wasn't the first 28mm ruleset for WWII, nor would it be the last, I thought.

"- because Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestley are the credited authors, and the model line is already established," he finished.

Suddenly I found myself less dismissive. To a gamer, invoking the names Cavatore and Priestley - some of the guys responsible for many famous Games Workshop products - was akin to a fan of "rock and soul" invoking the names of Hall and Oates. (Yeah, I went there.)

Checking out Warlord Games' expansive Bolt Action model range only served to get me more excited about the line - but more on that later. I was at that point intrigued enough to do further digging, and managed to not only participate in a demo game, but also get my hands on a copy of the rules at Historicon. The book costs only $35.00, a point I was again pleasantly surprised at. Osprey was good enough to provide me with a free copy for review.

I tore into it immediately.



The hardcover is sturdy, with artwork you'd expect from an established publisher like Osprey. Inside, the 216 pages are laminated and filled with not only game rules, but beautiful pictures of painted Warlord Games miniatures captured by photographers Warwick Kinrade, Mark Owen, and Paul Sawyer. Much like the book's cover, its pages are also filled with fantastic artwork from Osprey artist Peter Dennis. The miniature painters are credited as Neil Burt, Andres Amian Fernandez, Darren Linington, Alan Mander, Gary Martin, Bruce Murray, Paul Sawyer, and Darek Wyrozebski. +10 cool points if you recognize any of those names from the WWPD Forums!

The book is noticeably "shorter" than rulebooks major publishers like Battlefront and Games Workshop release. This has no negative impact on the book, however I include it because everyone at Historicon I spoke with regarding the book mentioned something about its unique size. Obviously, the shorter size means the book is easier to transport, and not much more.

Size comparison of Bolt Action and a typical Battlefront hardcover.



As previously mentioned, the pages within meet the standard gamers expect from a quality rulebook. The table of contents and rules themselves account for roughly half (104) of the pages of the book. With only one demonstration game and one read-through of the rules, I can say that the very important table of contents seems in-depth enough so as not to leave a gamer flipping through dozens of pages in search of a specific sentence. The diagrams included are clear and help illustrate examples of in-game rule execution.


An example of what you will find inside Bolt Action. Great pictures!

An example of the clear, helpful diagrams found inside Bolt Action.


The other half of the book is dedicated to the scenarios and army lists one would expect to find in a stand-alone rulebook. Bolt Action comes with six scenarios and the force construction rules to make a German, American, British, or Soviet force. Of the six scenarios, veteran wargamers will find versions of familiar scenarios from other miniature wargame rulesets.

Force selection is unlike other wargames I've experienced in that you're essentially allowed only one unit of each support choice. You want to use a tank? The rules let you have one, but you won't be fielding many armored fighting vehicles in a standard 1000 point game. This game is infantry-centric!

Each available unit in the force selection portion of the book is accompanied by a paragraph summary of the unit's history in the war. Of course, the unit's point cost and stats are also included.

The "Point Defense" scenario from Bolt Action.


An example of the unit descriptions within the army lists section. Tiger II!


I'm excited to dig into Bolt Action. I left Historicon with a German Infantry box set and a couple blisters of various units. After one read-through of the rules and participation in a demo, I can tell that Bolt Action will scratch a completely different itch than Flames of War does. I can also say, without reservation, that besides both being tabletop wargames set during World War II, BA and FoW share very little in common.

As a rulebook, Bolt Action offers a promising new system with production values at least on par with, if not better than, early editions of all the major rulesets that currently dominate the tabletop miniature scene. It has the advantage of a popular and established setting - WWII! - in addition to the unique strength of a pre-existing and respected model line. In an odd reversal by industry standards, Bolt Action isn't a game system with rules for models that haven't been released yet. Bolt Action is a model range that's waiting for the rules to be written for it!

Speaking of the fine models, Bolt Action's model price point is really something to get excited about. An infantry plastic box set costs in the thirty to forty dollar range. This box includes everything you need to fill the compulsary slots in your army list. Armored vehicles cost somewhere in the twenty-five to forty dollar range, while the support weapons cost between ten and twenty bucks. You can purchase an entire 1000-point force, and a rulebook, for well under $200. My first list, using German Veteran Infantry, cost about $150 with the price of the rulebook included! That being said, the entertaining demo I played included far less than the contents of even one infantry box, so a player can start playing with one infantry box set and the rules. This game is definitely budget-friendly when compared to current popular systems!
Although I am reserving judgement on the game itself until I have a few games under my belt, I can wholeheartedly endorse the rulebook itself. I'm really looking forward to seeing how Bolt Action develops in the coming months, as supplemental books supporting new armies have already been announced, and I've already seen the excellent model line they offer. If you're excited about Bolt Action, stop by the WWPD Bolt Action forum and see what everyone's talking about, or contact me directly at judson@wwpd.net!


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