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Friday, November 16, 2012

Bolt Action - AAR: Germans vs. British, Demolition

After a long weekend of introducing people to Bolt Action at Fall-In, there was nothing I would rather do than...
Germans versus British in Demoltion!

...introduce a new player to Bolt Action! My brother, Chris, showed up, looking to get his first game in; so we put some models on the table for a modified Demolition scenario.

Side note: I've still got a Flames of War mindset when it comes to making a table. What you see below is essentially my second attempt, as it initially looked like a Flames of War table. After taking a step back and noticing that the only clean lines of fire of more than 12" were found looking down the road and the stream, I took about half the terrain off of the board and spread the remaining out a bit. I was pretty pleased with the result, keeping in mind that table making is an evolving art that changes as you get more games under your belt.

We decided the stream would simply be treated as something you couldn't run through, except for the two rocky paths across the stream, which could be traversed without restriction. The plowed fields didn't effect play, and were just there to break up the green monotony. The copses of trees were treated as soft cover, as were the hedges. The only hard cover (initially!) to be found was inside the bombed-out farmhouse, which we treated simply as a building. We treated the road as - you guessed it - a road.

Roads make slow tank commanders happy.

Demolition's a scenario with the Reserve special rule, but neither one of us decided to send any outflankers. I decided to tweak it a bit (since Dano and I are trying to cook up some of our own scenarios - Judson) and treat the objectives not as something to be destroyed, but something to be captured; so if a player ever contested his opponent's objective without any opposing figures contesting it, that player would win. It was a minor tweak, really, but it ended up having significant ramifications.

Each player had access to three lengths of sandbags with which to create their command post, or the objective for the opponent. Anything behind the sandbags would count as having hard cover. For objective contesting purposes, we decided that the roughly 4.5" curved center section would be the piece we used to measure whether or not a unit contested it. The two straight lengths could be positioned anywhere, as long as they were touching the curved "objective" piece, but didn't count towards contesting the objective.

Treating the above image as the face of a clock, the Germans started with a regular StuG III at 12 o' clock. They also deployed two veteran, eight-man squads, equipped with the usual maddening array of special weapons. One squad started in the copse at 10 o' clock, while the other started inside the German HQ. Rounding out the starting force was a veteran light howitzer at 11 o' clock. The remaining four German units - veteran sniper, flamethrower, Puma, and command - were left in reserve.

The Brits deployed a regular Crocodile at 4 o' clock on the road. A regular PIAT team deployed at 5 o' clock behind a hedge, while ten-man regular infantry squads equipped with one LMG and one SMG each deployed at 6 o' clock and inside the HQ at 7 o' clock. Not pictured is an eight-man squad of SAS (veteran) infantry to the right of the Crocodile. They've got an even mix of rifles and SMGs, with an LMG thrown in for good luck. The commander, a flamethrower, a medic, and an Artillery FO sat inside a Universal Carrier in reserve.

Why move the StuG, when you deployed it aiming right at the Croc'? Fire!

The Germans pulled an order die first, and as is so important in Bolt Action, decided to fire at the Crocodile in the hope that it would be knocked out before it had a chance to do any damage. As an afterthought, it's MMG fired at the PIAT team. Both shots failed to effect their targets. The previously unseen SAS squad stands to the left of the Churchill.

Since the main German anti-tank asset had been used, the British commander felt no pressure to act with the Crocodile immediately. Being more or less stuck in the open, the SAS squad ran to the next copse of trees between it and the German HQ. The British regular squad occupying the middle of the board ran towards the objective as well, occupying defensive positions within the destroyed farmhouse.

German defenders duck behind their defenses as the Crocodile spits a stream of liquid fire at them, falling just short of their position.

To round out turn one, the attacking German veteran squad moves through the trees towards the lone British squad defending its HQ. Its advance is supported by the German light howitzer, which attempts to range in on the British defenders. Firing over open sites is pointless for the gun, as the defenders benefit from the Hidden Set Up rule, however, a bombardment from an on-board unit hits a hidden unit on a 6 - so just as well as it would hit a non-hidden unit. The artillery fails to find its target, but the defenders keep their heads down, opting to remain hidden instead of firing on the approaching German infantry, thereby maintaining their hidden status. Hey, hey! Combined arms working its magic! Who knew? - Judson

After seeing the PIAT run towards the house, the Crocodile advances 12" down the road. Being slow, it's normally restricted to a 6" advance, however roads double the distance vehicles can advance and run. Its medium anti-tank gun fails to penetrate the StuG's armor, and its flamethrower fails to reach the Germans occupying their fortified position.

Recovered from the shock of the Crocodile's near miss, the German defenders look out nervously from behind their sandbags.

At the start of the second turn, the British player draws the first order die. Fearing a lucky StuG shot ruining the battle plan, the British commander didn't hesitate to order the Crocodile to advance towards the objective while it still could!

The Crocodile sprays flaming death into the German position as a friendly PIAT team looks on in horror.

The second jet of flame from the Crocodile washed over the defending infantry squad's position, while the Croc's main gun fired again at the StuG. This time, the shot completely missed the StuG, but the grenadiers inside the HQ took terrible casualties. Five of the eight men died to the flamethrower - but after passing their morale test (with three pins!) decided not to give up the position and hold their ground!

Seeing the staunch defenders grimly accept their fate, the Crocodile crew emptied its fuel tank, attempting to dislodge the Germans. The Crocodile has rolled a one after firing on the infantry squad, and has therefore lost use of the feared flamethrower for the remainder of the game. Noting this, the defenders must have decided to stay put. Their tenacity had been rewarded!

British regulars watch as Germans advance on their HQ under the covering fire of a light artillery gun.

Meanwhile the Germans continued their push on the other side of the stream. Their leIG 18 attempted to range in again on the British, hunkered-down inside their sandbag walls. Although artillery normally ranges in on its second attempt with a 5+ if neither the gun nor the target has moved, the Hidden Set Up special rule states that hidden targets can only ever be hit on a 6 while they remain hidden. Again, the artillery barrage failed to effect the defenders. Now within small arms range, the advancing Germans sprayed the British position with fire, but unfortunately the rounds failed to find a target.

British troops advance out of the house, firing on the remnants of the German defenses.

After witnessing the effects of the Crocodile's flamethrower, the British NCO decided it was time for his infantry squad to leave the safety of the farmhouse and advance on the objective. Their rifles and Bren opened up as they moved, but failed to hit the beleaguered defenders.

Seeing the approaching enemy riflemen, the same defenders fired with their remaining weapons and inflicted a casualty. The nearby StuG fired its heavy anti-tank gun at the Crocodile and its MMG at the advancing British regulars. Neither weapon found its mark.

Several teams leap from their Universal Carrier, freshly arrived from reserve.

Seeing victory near at hand, the British commander arrived from reserve aboard his Universal Carrier and quickly dismounted, attempting to support the last push on the German fortifications. Accompanying him were an Artillery FO and a medic. The flamethrower team stayed inside to man the vehicle's LMG as it carried them closer to the fight.

A veteran Puma moves on from reserve in order to address the SAS squad that has approached the German trenches.

Noting where the British reserves have arrived, the wily German commander commited his Puma to support his at-risk HQ, rather than sending it to the other side of the stream in support of the attack. It opened fire on the squad of SAS, dangerously close to the ravaged defenders. The squad sustained no casualties, but received a pin marker. The SAS squad, in turn, advanced on the German position, but failed to inflict any casualties on the infantry within.

"We may be advancin' through the firin' lanes of a tank battle, but at least the Croc's 'thrower is outta' fuel!"

A sniper arrived at the HQ to assist in the German defense, but the commander and flamethrower failed to materialize, apparently delayed in reserve.

Deciding that the Germans are now too close, the British riflemen fire, risking the attention of the German infantry gun in the distance.

At this point, the German commander decided his only hope of wresting victory from the British lie in the fate of the lone advancing veteran squad, supported by the light artillery. The British riflemen, however, refused to go down without a fight, and suddenly stood and fired from their previously hidden position. Considering the gun had already fired during the turn, a brave British NCO realized that fire from the German infantry gun in subsequent turns must be weathered, or else the veteran Germans would cut the regular British down in close combat. With this is mind, he issued the order to fire on the approaching grenadiers. The incoming hail of bullets inflicted a surprisingly terrible toll on the veteran Germans, and three men fell.

The charge is too far!

At the start of the third turn, the British again pulled the first die, and prudently decided it was high time to move the advancing regular squad out from between the StuG and the Churchill in the middle of the road. The NCO said a few quick words to his men before issuing the order to charge - but it was too far! The squad faltered, mere feet (technically less than a half an inch) from its target and was cut down by the combined fire of the defenders and the StuG! Which, incidentally, missed the Croc' with its main gun again. - Judson

Again, the defenders of the German HQ managed to hang on!

Finally noticing the PIAT team attempting to line up a shot on the StuG, a German sniper zeroes in.

The regular PIAT then drew the attention of a defending sniper, and after surviving the fire, decided to support the SAS assault on the objective by focusing on the Puma instead. It ran to do so. The British commander and medic moved to support the SAS as well.

At this stage of the game, mid-turn three.

In a normal Demolition scenario, the SAS squad was in a position to reasonably consider blowing up the HQ by the end of the turn. However, since we'd tweaked the conditions, a turn three victory for the Brits was nearly out of the question.

The SAS prepare to advance again on the position.

Fire from the SAS caused the defending grenadiers to finally break, and the flee the field, leaving behind them a recently arrived flamethrower, sniper team, and commander to defend the HQ. The Churchill fired at the StuG, again, to no avail with its medium anti-tank gun. While the condition of the German defense was not strong, they had certainly yet to lose the fight!

The British defenders fire on the approaching Germans before the artillery has a chance to fire at them again.

The defending British NCO, realizing that with an artillery piece bearing down on them his squad's effectiveness could soon be limited, ordered his men to once again fire into the grenadiers. Their fire was just as surprising to the Germans as before, killing three veteran troops. Faced with such a ferocious defense, the German squad decided to quit the field.

Finally, as he ordered the retreat, the German commander signaled the infantry gun to take one parting shot at the defending British infantry.

It missed.

At game's end.

This was, of course, a learning game; but I had a lot of fun. After two games with the Croc', my fear of vehicle flamethrowers has mostly disappeared. Sure, they can be nasty, but they (rightly) become the focus of your opponent's plan, and are anything but invicible. Additionally, the reliability of anti-tank guns really hit home again for me in this game. They're amazing when they hit, but in this game, you can't expect to hit even half the time if you generally need a 5+ to hit!

The failed charge of my British regulars was a real kick in the gut, and quite a game changer! These tense moments come up often in Bolt Action games. I felt like the German objective was anything but lost when we ended. However, my brother, the consummate sportsmen, decided that having no way to reach my objective was tantamount to defeat, and called the game.

We both had a good time with this. The guys at Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing really did a great job on the Demolition scenario. It fits the pace and style of Bolt Action perfectly. I prefer their version of Demolition to the hastily changed version I tried, as it encourages players to move towards the enemy instead of simply hunkering down at his own objective.

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