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Monday, October 22, 2012

Bolt Action - Review: Armies of Germany

It's a wonderful yet terrible feeling when you get your hands on the copy of the book you've been waiting for on a Friday evening. On the one hand, you finally get what you've been waiting for! On the other hand, are you really going to spend Friday night reading it?

This is the worst/best parcel to ever arrive at my house on a Friday.

Why, yes. Yes I did spend Friday night reading Warlord Games' and Osprey Publishing's first supplement to the Bolt Action rules: Armies of Germany. Turns out, it was a Friday night well spent!

"All right, which one of you accidentally fired your helmet?"
So let's get down to it! Warwick Kinrade is the credited writer of this bad boy, and the credited photographers and artists involved are legion - but our man Gary Martin's work is again present on the beautiful pages.

The book will remind people of those eighty page soft cover books Osprey is famous for. It's sturdy for a softcover, and contains ninety-six pages of supplemental rules for the game. You can expect the same production quality you received with the main Bolt Action rule book, only this time in soft cover.

Awesome art and photographs? Sure!
The contents of the book are amazing. It starts off with a great table of contents, that really lacks nothing. It's specific enough so that you can look up each individual unit from it, which is convenient considering the amount of units you can choose from. If the table of contents had not have been so thorough, Armies of Germany would have started with a strike against it, but they hit a home run with this table.

The following fifteen or so pages gives readers some historical background on Germany's actions in the war - obviously a plus for those few of us in this hobby that didn't have a love for history before getting into miniature wargaming.

We knew that the book would expand the rules, but none of us outside the walls of Warlord Games and Osprey had much idea just how much expansion we'd get. I was surprised to read that there are eighteen lists in this book, representing German forces from all eras and theaters of the war.

Most important in this book, the list section starts with the general list, the same one you get in the main rule book. No changes were made to it. Following the general list is the German army units list. There were many, many additions to the units list. Infantry, for example, is expanded to reflect not only the gear differences between what they were using during different eras of the war, but also the types of troops you can choose. New entries like Kriegsmarine, Hitler Youth, and many more are offered, and each is unique in gear availability and special abilities. Of course, all sections of the arsenal were expanded, not only the infantry. Secretly wished they had included SDKFZ 251/16 Flammpanzerwagen in the main rule book? No sweat, dude, it's in the Armies of Germany book! If you never wished there were rules for it, what's wrong with you? And why were the rest of us only secretly wishing it was included?

I can't say enough about the amount of unit and list information crammed into these ninety-six pages!
Sweet, sweet art - and rules for new units and lists! Everything I wanted!
I have one complaint about the book, and truthfully, it may be more of an endictment on the way I play games than a valid complaint. I enjoy squaring off with someone and matching wits within the structure of the rules the brilliant designers came up with. It's therefore unfortunate that there are a couple references to being able to do something in the game as long as your opponent gives his approval, as well as using general terms like "suitable" to describe very specific things.

To provide an example, I'll quote a special rule on page 86 from the "1944 - Atlantic Wall Resistance Nest" list.

"Defenses: As well as pillboxes and bunkers, a resistance nest should also be well supplied with trenches, sandbagged dugouts, barbed wire and other obstacles."

Now, I appreciate that there's always the "it's just a game, man" defense when someone brings something up like this, but I really don't know how many pillboxes, bunkers, trenches, sandbags, wire, and other obstacles the quantity "well supplied" represents. I completely understand what the author is saying - make it realistic - but what if I'm playing this game and don't really know what realistic is for an Atlantic wall resistance nest? And what if my opponent decides that well supplied means "fill the entire table with crazy fortress stuff"?

Not to mention, I don't want to ask Dano's permission if I can do something awesome against him, thereby embarassing him in front of our peers as I crush him beneath the heel of my New Balance. I want to do that with the rules as they're written.

To all game designers: Stop trusting gamers to be sensible, reasonable people.

All that being said, this isn't much of a criticsm. It doesn't come up often in the rules, and is one of those little things that would only come up one in a thousand games.

A sample of the list section of the book. So good.
The book let's you take captured Allied vehicles for your German lists, which is great freaking news for those modelling fans that love the opportunity to paint vehicles colors they normally wouldn't be able to. History buffs will be happier, probably, than any other group of Bolt Action gamers out there. These lists get very specific into exactly what each list can historically take. If you want to use the 1941 Fallschirmjager list - you know, the guys that jumped into Crete - you aren't getting any vehicle support. Can't dump Tigers out of planes! If you want to play a list depicting the last, deperate defenders of Berlin in the final moments of the war, you're going to suffer fuel shortages and have access to troops of a lower quality than those available earlier in the war. Every list has been "seasoned" with unique units and some even have those special rules, like the fuel shortages rule mentioned before.

There's so much to say about this book, but it's hard to do much more than run around the room I'm in screaming and tightly gripping my new, precious, dear, Armies of Germany book to my chest. I can't imagine what more anyone could ask for in these supplements. This book, combined with the rule book, lets any German player play with accurate forces in any era of the war.

I'll leave it in the words of Mr. Kinrade: "This is a supplement for the tabletp wargame Bolt Action, and it deals with the German Army of World War II. Within you will find background and details of the German Army's organisation and equipment from the beginning of the war (the invasion of Poland in 1939) to the very end (the fall of Berlin in 1945)."

There you have it. If you're playing with, or against Germans, you need to check this out.

Now, back to reading this book for the tenth time.

"Oooooh! Bogward Wanze Ausf C!"

Some more history, for those of us that know more about Star Wars that World Wars.

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