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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bolt Action - Three “Second Impressions” by Dano

Hello again my hard-charging wargaming compadres! Dano here with a follow-up article to discuss my “Three Second Impressions” of BOLT ACTION after having spent many an hour reading, forum-ing, listing and most importantly, playing this tasty game.
My “Three First Impressions” was about my initial thoughts on the book and the unique game mechanics.  These Second Impressions will be about my thoughts about the game and how the book guided me AFTER having played a dozen or so games.  Enjoy!

Dano - burning your brains with his flamethrower of knowledge!

Second Look:  I want to talk about the word ‘Skirmish’.  This is a skirmish game in the sense that the models are not in rank-and-file.  It does NOT mean it is a low unit count game.  But, it CAN be played as a low unit count encounter and it CAN be played as a high unit count invasion.  The sky (agreed upon points limit) is the limit!  With that out of the way, let’s proceed.
I played 500pt games on a 4’x4’ table, and the unit count felt right.  I played 1000pt games on 6’x4’ and the unit-count felt low.  Of course this will matter greatly on force composition from army to army but in some scenarios there is a lot of space to cover and the distances are unforgiving with small unit count forces.  Right now some of you are saying “pffft, transports should fix that!” and I agree that transports can and will get units to where they need to be; but transports cost points.  Points spent on transports means points taken away from core objective holding/taking units.  Added to this is the fact that transports can’t fire their weapons unless they are transporting units…conundrum!  But you know what?  I LOVE IT!!!  Gimme more!  More points that is - say 1500pts on a 6’x4’ table?  Sounds like a future BatRep to me boys.  Man, you guys are gonna’ be spoiled.  /wink
1.)     500-750pt games on 4’x4’ table.  1500pt games on 6’x4’ table.
2.)    Look into Soft-skinned transports AS WELL when you’re looking at armored transports.
3.)    At first, play on tables that let you exercise the rules. In other words, use sparsely-terrained tables.
4.)    You will feel enormously outnumbered if you play an all Veteran force vs an all Regular force.  Those 3pts per infantry truly add up more than expected.

See those five tiny squads at the top/middle of the table? Too much table! Not enough models!

Second Read:  Ok guys.  I’ve played my games with book in hand and there was minimal cross referencing required.  If you need to refer to a rule, all the rules are located right where you’d expect them, no piecemeal finger bookmarking required. Could there be some improvements?  Yes.  To name a few:  No index was added; the Air and Artillery observer charts would have been a nice addition to the back pages with all the other useful charts; typos and mistakes through careless cut-and-paste; and it would have been nice to separate the fluff from the rules.  The last one is a biggie for me.  Admittedly, I am a rules lawyer; absolutely and beyond doubt.  However, I’m not the bad “rules-bending-for-my-own-pleasure”, poor sport version of the dreaded Rules Lawyer. I am the one that “wants-to-play-the-game-the-same-way-from-store-to-store” kind of Rules Lawyer.  I don’t care for the “how we play it here” speech or the “how Bob interprets it” discussion.  I want to play it right and/or how it was intended to be played.  I need this so that I can properly form my army list and deploy it without being ambushed by misinterpretation, on my part or my opponents.  I’ve coined this as “Being Ambushed By Obviousness”. (BABO – hooray acronyms! – Judson) It’s always crappy for one party or the other to fall victim to a rules misunderstanding.  Soooo…the rules could use a healthy dose of italics or even separate boxes to segregate the rules from the fluff. 
All in all though, I don’t mind those little things.  Rick Priestly has been active on Warlord Games’ forums answering all manner of questions –  albeit some redundant on the players’ part –  addressing typos, and making clarifications on grey areas.  I paid $35 dollars for a rule set that came with both rules how to play and four frigging armies to drool over.  If there weren’t armies included in the rulebook, I wouldn’t be here yapping on about game play now would I?
1.)    Write down all your questions in a notebook. I say this because you will inadvertently discover some other rule that you want clarification on and the rule hunt escalates. Research them yourself first because knowing is winning!  Discuss your finds with friends, like us here at WWPD.
2.)    If a rule question comes up during a game, stop and each open your book.  Find it.  Don’t ask Bob.  If Bob’s wrong, that makes two more wrong. No one wants to be ambushed by obviousness during a tourney. (BABOed! – Judson)
Judson totally BABOed. "Oh, it's a bad idea to cram a halftrack full of troops, a tank, and an infantry squad into a narrow opening between two buildings - I get it now that the airplane blew them all to hell!"

Second Impression:  I was right on point with one of my First Impressions.  The combination of Orders and the Pinning mechanic is full of win.  Of course, there have been some mathy conversations that came up in regards to weapons points cost versus effectiveness.  These by no means ruin the game though.  Terrain and Scenario make and break these mathy discussions, so the metagame will shift from table to table and scenario to scenario.
Of the six scenarios/missions presented in the book, in my gamey opinion, one is a throw away.  I will not be playing Maximum Attrition.  This scenario has you fighting a battle with no objective other than to kill units for victory points.  I love objective based games too much.  I like knowing where I have to be and where the enemy wants to go. The days of lining up models and seeing who killed more are over for me.
On the topic of Scenarios/Missions, I have to talk about the Envelopment scenario and the Outflanking rule associated with Reserves.  The Defenders objective in Envelopment is to stop the attackers advance.  He is awarded 2VPs for destroyed units.  The attackers objective is threefold.  The attacker get 3VPs for each unit he exits off the defenders board edge…2VPs for each unit in the Defenders deployment area at game’s end…and 1VP for each defending unit destroyed.  Both sides may deploy units in Reserve. Units in Reserve NOT assigned to Outflank may attempt to come on from the owning players deployment edge from turn 2 on.  Units in Reserve may be assigned to Outflank left or right (written down secretly after assigned as reserve) from turn 3 and on.  On turn three, Outflanking units are allowed to enter the board up to 24” forward, on whichever flank they were assigned to.  If they choose not to deploy on the board that turn, they get an additional 12” on turn four…so 36”.  Turn five?...48”.  There is potential here for the Attacker to score huge points with units that have not rolled a single dice in anger…other than to roll onto the board (-1 morale test)…and then to exit off.  Sad Dano will be sad.
1.)    Play Envelopment a few times…a couple with and a couple without the Outflanking rule. Give us your input on how YOU think it plays.
2.)    More scenarios.  Please.  Because I’m already a BOLT ACTION addict while most of the gaming community doesn’t even own the rules.
3.)    More ‘Smaht kids’ to play against.  So please go buy the rule book.  I’ll even wave you having to be ‘Smaht’!
Dano's favorite scenarios are those that allow him to drive tanks through fences. Which means Dano likes them all.

That wraps it gang.  I hope the read was enjoyable and insightful. Discussions are welcome!

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