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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bolt Action - Review: Three First Impressions

Hello everyone!  Welcome to my "Three Firsts" review of BOLT ACTION, a 28mm WW2 ruleset by Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing.

First Look:  At first glance, BOLT ACTION is a 28mm miniatures table-top wargame.  This hard-cover book is published in an uncommon shape akin to a small cookbook of 217 color laminated pages.  Four armies, with their associated points costs, are described within the pages for you to dream up recipes for war and the utter destruction of your unwitting opponents.  The last 6 pages crams in all the tables and charts that may be needed for quick referencing during game play.  The artwork within is fine Osprey standard, but the model pictures were the grabber for me.  These pictures of painted models in gameplay action made me form a mental "Standard of Play" for future games, terrain and painting.

So, 28mm World War 2?...sounds fantastic to me!  I'm humming marching songs...I'm imitating machine-guns and tank movement vocally...already!  Time to dive in and read.

First Read:  Well, well, well;  having read the book from cover to cover (with interspersed breaks for self-indulging list constructions, muahahaha) I have found that BOLT ACTION is a unit based game with a theme for infantry platoon-sized skirmishes and any associated support elements you wish to include, based on the predetermined points allotment you and your opponent decided on beforehand.  The description of the rules didn't force me to look back and forth, trying to piece together rules from different sections in order to understand the way something works.  It was a good and easy to understand read. 
BOLT ACTION has an alternating turn sequence (unlike the popular "I go, you go" mechanic) where you or your opponent will nominate a unit, carry out one of the six orders you've chosen for it, before randomly determining who will activate their next unit.  A unit may only be given a single order during the entirety of a turn.  Once every unit on the table has executed - or attempted to execute - an order, the turn ends and a new turn begins.  This mechanic makes for a unique ebb and flow of battle within a turn.  Quite different from turn-based games' turn to turn flow! Excited yet?

Some juicy facts:

Dice.  This is a d6 system.  You Hit and Damage using a single d6.  There are a few tests associated with the Morale stat of units that are resolved using 2d6, adding the dice together.

Compulsary organization selections.  A platoon leader unit comprised of just a single model or joined by up to two more staff, plus two infantry squad units comprised of  five soldiers with an options to add up to seven more infantrymen and/or arm them with a variety of small arms and anti-tank grenades.

Troop Quality and Morale (Infantry).  There are three degrees of InfantryTroop Quality and associated Morale.  These values vary from unit to unit and are expressed by a points cost during your list construction choices.  For the most part, all three Qualities are available to all of a nation's units.
Inexperienced: 8 Morale, -1 to hit with weapons, and become a casualty on a 3+ after being hit.  ex. Conscripts, poor or little training, no combat experience.
Regular: 9 Morale and become a casualty on a 4+ after being hit.  Normal training or some combat experience. 
Veteran: 10 Morale and become a casualty on a 5+ after being hit.  ex. Special training or extensive combat experience ala Rangers, Fallschirmjager.

Morale and when its used.  A unit's Morale is used for Order Tests and Morale Tests.  A units Morale can be modified by -1 for each pin marker on it and/or for an Officer within 6" of it.  A Morale Test is taken when a unit losses half its current models from another units fire.

The six Orders available to you for your units.  Fire, Advance, Run, Ambush, Rally and Down.  An Order Test is required to perform these orders if the unit has any Pin markers on them, with the exception of Down, which is always executable, barring not already having been given an order earlier in the turn.
Fire: Your unit does not move and fires at no penalty other than modifiers associated with range and the targets cover.
Advance: Your unit may move first and then fire at a -1 penalty.  Infantry have a base move of 6 inches.
Run: Your units models may move double its move.  This movement may not exceed a models normal rate if moving in Rough Terrain.
Ambush: Your unit does not move but may later on fire at a single unit that activates within its Range and/or Line of Sight.
Rally: This order allows your units to attempt to remove d6 Pin markers from it.
Down: This order adds an additional -1 to be hit from enemy (and sometimes friendly) fire.  A unit may Down as a reaction to make it harder to hit and lessen the effects of High Explosive weapons.

First Impression: I am liking the intuitive representation of stress on the battlefield by way of the Pinning mechanic.  The authors of BOLT ACTION have taken the Morale stat and turned it into something that needs to be managed consciously by the player rather than a bland stat or event that is only addressed before and/or after a turn, like in most table-top wargames.  If ignored too much, units may well become unresponsive to the needs of the player.  If micromanaged, then this may give your opponent the initiative to counter your approach.  And this is only the Pinning aspect.  There is HUGE list composition potential here as well.  The number of units in your force can directly affect how your force plays, either through squads covering anothers advance with an Ambush Order or a relief action, allowing them to perform a Rally Order while keeping up the fire support. 

After reading this ruleset I've developed an appetite for some 28mm WW2 and the only way to satisfy my gaming appetite is to roll some dice and cook me up some Jerry BBQ with some sour Kraut on the side. 

I have the rulebook in hand,  Time to scratch up a list, get some models painted, and learn what wasn't obvious in the rulebook.  This is always my favorite part of gaming.





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