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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bolt Action - Orders, Sir?

There are few things in this world I enjoy more than breaking open a brand new rulebook and wrapping my head around all its intricacies. I'm sure that sounds sadistic to some of you, but for those like-minded individuals out there, you understand the sense of satisfaction I'm talking about. A request was recently made on our forum by "braxen" for a general explanation of how the game plays, and since at this game's core is it's unique order system, I decided to start by writing about those orders.

Shots of the beautiful work of Gary "big-gazza" Martin have been included to spice things up. Check out his blog here.

WWPD Community member "big-gazza" generously supplied the painted minis featured in this article. Check out those advancing SS soldiers!

At the start of each turn, players set aside a number of six-sided dice equal to the number of units their force contains. These dice are combined into a container of some sort, so that players cannot see them, and are then drawn blindly, one at a time. The player's dice that is drawn is allowed to issue one order to any one of his units. These units must past an Order Test before they are able to execute the desired order - more on that later!

Per the chart on page 20 of the rulebook, you may order your units to execute the following:

"FARARD". Not the most memorable acronym. We can do better. Head to the forum and come up with something.

Paras setting up a .30cal surprise! For those that didn't know, "big-gazza" is Gary Martin. His beautiful models are featured in the BOLT ACTION rule book. 

Giving your unit a Fire action is pretty straightforward. They stay where they are on the table and fire whatever weapons they're equipped with. The benefit of this order is it provides the only way to shoot without penalty in BOLT ACTION. For those curious, small-arms have ranges varying from 6" for pistols to 36" for medium machine guns. As for the bigger guns in the game, the current weapon ranges reach as far as 84" for a super-heavy AT gun (ala our old friend the German 88).

A close up of an SS soldier. Somebody get that man a razor.

An Advance order is another possibile order you can issue your units. Advances are the only order that allows your unit to move, then shoot. Predictably, there is a one-point penalty for moving and shooting, making your fire on the move less effective that when stationary. Also, Advance moves cover less real estate than full Run moves.

To give you an idea of the speeds in the game, infantry advance up to 6" in any direction, fully-tracked and half-tracked vehicles advance up to 9", and wheeled advance up to 12". Interestingly, fully-tracked vehicles are only allowed one pivot of up to 90 degrees during an advance. Half-tracked and wheeled are allowed two 90 degree pivots, or one of up to 180 degrees. Clearly the intent was to show the cumbersome nature of these vehicles in close quarters - and I think it really adds to the feel of the game. Reading this section of the rules, I was immediately reminded of the final battle scene in Saving Private Ryan, where lumbering tanks struggled to deal with the infantry scrambling all around them.

As a generalization, lighter guns may Advance, which includes pivoting, but not Run, while heavier guns may only ever pivot with an Advance and are otherwise static. While an Advance is a less efficient way to move than a Run, and a less efficient way to shoot than a Fire, it's the only order that lets a player combine the two.

Advancing bad-asses. Is that guy in the middle mad dogging you? Yes, he is. What are you going to do about it?

Run orders are used when you need to get your units across the table in a hurry. These allow infantry to move up to 12", fully-tracked and half-tracked up to 18", but not less than 9", and wheeled vehicles up to 24", but not less than 12". Again, we note that turning is limited for vehicles, but moreso during a Run order. Fully-tracked cannot pivot during a Run. Wheeled and half-tracked vehicles pivot once up to 90 degrees during a Run.

As most of the scenarios involve capturing objectives, and most scenarios end on turn six or seven, Run orders will be a part of players' battle plans. Six Advance orders only cover 36" of movement in six turns! So get Running! For those of you coming over from WWPD's Flames of War coverage, it bears noting that in BOLT ACTION, a Run order - or double timing in FoW - does not provide your opponent any inherent advantages when attempting to fire on a Running unit.

Gary Martin - making the rest of us look bad, one squad at a time.

An Ambush order gives BOLT ACTION players the beloved (by some) ability to have a unit go into "overwatch mode" or whatever other gaming term you prefer to use for this mechanic. If you give a unit an Ambush order it essentially does nothing at the moment the order is issued. However, during your opponent's turn, an Ambushing unit may interrupt the movement of an opposing unit with a Fire action. This is interesting to me, since BOLT ACTION has shed any semblance of "IGO-UGO" turn format, an Ambush order allows a player to act during the other player's action.

More excellence from Mr. Martin.

A Rally order allows a player to attempt to remove extra pin tokens from his units. Previously I'd mentioned Order Tests. To pass one, using two six-sided dice, a player attempts to roll under the unit's morale. Units rated as Regular (the middle of the road types) in BOLT ACTION have a starting morale of 9. Once units take fire, though, they begin to gain pin tokens. These tokens each provide a -1 penalty to morale, so if a unit takes enough fire, they can be nearly paralyzed with pin tokens. Every time your units pass Order Tests, one pin token is removed, so Rally orders are for those occasions when you need to get ride of many pin tokens at once.

Great work, big-gazza!

The final order you can issue your troops is called a Down order. This is similar to Flames of War's "gone to ground" effect. Your units try to hide, and because one harder to hit. This is an order you can voluntarily give your men, and it also happens if triggered by gameplay. One such trigger would be failing an Order Test, which causes your unit to go down. A unit may voluntarily stay Down for consecutive turns, which lets the player remove one pin marker without having to past an Order Test. This is the only way to remove pin markers without rolling dice.

Those are all the orders! Come to the forum and talk about your units going down or other unfortunate coincidences of the English language!

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