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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bolt Action - Scenarios: Envelopment and Maximum Attrition

BOLT ACTION at Guns of August 2012
In BOLT ACTION, as in any miniature wargame, you and your opponent can decide to drop all of your models on the table and have at each other, the game continuing until one player doesn't have anything left. While this can be fun, and help you get a grasp on the rules without having to learn the rules of a scenario at the same time, I feel that scenarios are the only way to play. This is true for me across rules systems. If there's no objective to drive either player across the board, then what drives conflict, other than an overwhelming desire to roll dice and a senseless lust for simulated bloodshed?
Reading that last sentence, I realize the question answers itself; but let's pretend for a moment that you've come to the gaming table in search of an experience where the goal was something more than simply destroying your opponent's forces. You want your units to be in pursuit (or defense) of some objective while they destroy your opponent's forces! That's where scenarios come in!

We plan on covering all of the scenarios included in the rulebook. This article covers Envelopment and Maximum Attrition.

There is one generalization you can make about all of the scenarios in the BOLT ACTION rulebook: You've got a 50/50 chance of being the attacker. You can't make a list and bank on being the attacker or defender in BOLT ACTION, so come to the table with a flexible list, son!

These guys came here for two things, to roll dice and chew gum. Guess which one they're all out of!

Envelopment (p.108):
The first scenario listed is Envelopment. In an Envelopment, "An enemy pocket of resistance is to be engaged and pinned in place by a portion of your force, while the rest will make their way around the enemy position to surround them and isolate them from their supply chain." What that means in game terms is, as the attacker, you're trying to get your units into the defender's deployment zone (12" from center of the table) or better yet, off the defender's table edge.

This scenario ends at the end of turn six or turn seven, depending on the roll of a die at the end of six. This little twist obviously provides both players something to stress over as six is coming to a close. Once the game ends, points are tallied. The defender gets two points for each attacking unit he eliminates. The attacker gets one point for every defending unit he eliminates, two points for each attacking unit in the defender's deployment zone at the game end, and three points for each attacking unit he's successfully moved off the defender's table edge. You win if you end with at least two points more than your opponent. Any other score is counted as a draw.

The defender in this scenario gets to take advantage of the Reserve and Hidden Setup rules. Hidden Setup allows the defender to deploy his units in a hidden state if they're completely in cover. The cover penalties for incoming fire increase to -4 in soft cover, or -5 in hard cover. Hidden guys are hard to hit! More interestingly, units in Reserve can come in from the defender's table edge after passing an order test at -1 or may attempt an Outflanking Maneuver.

Worried about enemy units performing Outflanking Maneuvers.
Outflanking Maneuvers (OMs) are a really exciting twist for me in a game with reserve units. In BOLT ACTION, if the scenario has the Reserve special rule, the player may publicly nominate units at the beginning of the game to perform OMs. The player then writes down, in secret, which side of the table each individual OM unit is going to enter from. On turn three, these units can attempt to come on the table via the previously written down table edge, up to 24" from that player's table edge. Each subsequent turn, the units may enter up to a foot further, so that turn three would allow 36" from the edge, and so on. Obviously, this leads to some tasty decisions for the player with the Reserve special rule. Should he start with that Sherman tank on the table, or hold it in Reserve and OM so that it comes on behind the defender?

Less obviously, Reserves provide the player with a slight "order advantage" for lack of a better term. Units held in Reserve still contribute order tokens to the controlling player's pool, and they must be given Down orders each turn they remain in reserve. Therefore, you may stall, in a sense, by issuing orders to units you plan on holding in reserve for OMs, so that your opponent is forced to move in front of a unit that has yet to be given an order. This is just one example of the thinking that goes into Reserves. Very cool.

On the attacker's side, they enjoy the Preparatory Bombardment special rule in the Envelopment scenario. At the start of the game, a die is rolled against each unit in the defender's deployment zone (another reason to keep units off-table with Reserve) and the result is compared to a chart on p.118.

The guy pushing this tank only came to roll dice. Gum chewing wasn't even on his itinerary.

So now that we know how Envelopment works, conjecture becomes possible. It's easy to imagine a wily defender attempting daring OMs with half his force while the other half sits in Hidden Setup, hoping only to weather the oncoming storm and inflict some casualties before the OM units arrive. It's also easy to see a defender getting bloodied badly by that Preparatory Bombardment, especially if the attacker is British.

I'm excited that they've included a non-objective scenario in the collection, although sometimes tables can help or hinder the attacker's escape, that can be said about any scenario and any table. Discuss how you see this scenario playing out on the forum!

These guys are lined up and ready to roll - some dice!

Maximum Attrition (p.110):
It's too bad this scenario has such an awesome name. I fondly remember worn and busted copies of MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL kicking around various places I wasted time at as a younger man. Maybe "fondly" isn't the right word. Maybe "remember" isn't even the right word - it's all a little hazy. At any rate, Maximum Attrition is your standard, kill-every-thing-he-has-before-he-kills-everything-you-have slugfest.

Players earn one point for each opposing unit they destroy. At the end of turn six or seven - again we get the cool random game length - points are tallied and if one player has two or more points greater than the other, they're the winner.

I'm not a huge fan of these scenarios, although I of course understand they have their place in the hobby. There's not much to say about it other than...

... Search and Destroy!

Sorry about that MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL-induced flashback!

Maximum Attrition - no place for a static gun!
Look forward to more BOLT ACTION scenario reviews in the future! Come talk about scenarios, and everything else BOLT ACTION on our forum!

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