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Friday, December 14, 2012

Bolt Action - Armies of Germany: Pioniers and Heavy Support

It's been a long time since my first look at the Armies of Germany book, and now that I'm hearing rumblings from our Bolt Action brothers way out there in the Pacific that they, in fact, have the American book in their lucky little hands. Might as well give the "old" German book a second look!

"Hey, remember me?"



Let me start by saying, happily, that damn these books are coming out quickly! I'm barely wrapping my head around what's in the German book and here come the Americans. Whew! Great job Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games - keep 'em comin'!

More to the point of this article, though, are the contents of this book. I'd like to bring a few things to your attention, if you (inexplicably!) haven't picked this book up yet or haven't really dove into it. I'm not going to spend much time talking about the lists themselves, but units of interest. There are quite a few standouts here.

For starters, get a load of the infantry options. Obviously, we knew coming in to this that they would give us more options than the main rule book, but I don't think anyone had any idea of the breadth of options they'd give us. How many different ways can you present an infantry squad? Apparently, many.

German pioniers laughing-out-loud at a T-34's poor parking choice.

The addition of a Heer Pionier Squad option demands immediate attention. Sure, sure - veterans with submachine guns, anti-tank grenades, light machine guns, and rifles are nothing new; but adding a flamethrower option to the squad? This really changed, well, everything!

In the post-Armies of Germany world, you can upgrade two members of your Pionier squad to a flamethrower team. I mean, to anyone that's played Bolt Action, it's no great revelation that flamethrowers are great against infantry. However, the problem always was, how the hell do you get your flamethrowers close enough to fire? They've got a very short range in Bolt Action (six inches) and are, by their unit size limitations, very easy to kill. Two soldiers, even veteran types, aren't much for a squad of infantry or other anti-infantry weapon to eliminate. So what do you do?

The answer used to be, "throw that flamethrower into outflanking maneuver!" Now, though, you can hide that flamethrower inside an infantry squad. Comparatively speaking, this is a much surer way of getting your flamethrower to the front.

Astute gamers, however, might note that for a squad to fire its flamethrower, it has to start off within close combat charge range; and the next logical question would be, "do I want to fire a flamethrower instead of charging in? It's a veteran squad! Killer in CC! Why not just charge?"


(Caption uneccessary!)

If you're thinking like that, you're thinking about the right questions in Bolt Action. You can only take the flamethrower team in lieu of a light machine gun team, so you're losing some pretty significant dice in the shooting phase at any meaningful range. Besides that, when they actually do fire their weapon, the might "die" by running out of fuel. Is that really better than a light machine gun? Or for that matter, is it better than two riflemen for twenty less points? The answer, like the answer to any good question in a war game, lies somewhere in the middle.

I think that if you design a force with a flamethrower-equipped Pionier squad, you need to keep it in mind while you're designing the rest of your force. It really isn't the end-all. Generally speaking, a well positioned veteran squad is better off simply assaulting an infantry foe within twelve inches, so long as the target's not in cover.

And there we have it. If they are in cover, you might consider using the flamethrower instead. The cover you're moving within six inches (to fire) of might provide you with some cover of other enemy squads, so you're not left out in the open after your advance. It might be less risky of a move, especially if the squad is small, or has taken casualties, and might be removed by 1D6 kills. Even more potentially powerful, though, is that the flamethrower causes an immediate morale test. If you plan ahead, knowing that you've got a flamethrower you can now (somewhat) safely move forward with the rest of your force, you might be able to pin one enemy unit accordingly, thereby almost guaranteeing a failed morale test.

A no-brainer, the Pionier squad is not; but it adds a really interesting tool into the German kit.

Speaking of flammenwerfers, did you notice the einstossflammenwerfer option for your flamethrower team?

Paintball gun? Nope. Single use flamethrower.

Just in case you missed it, in the Armies of Germany book, you can now take two single-use flamethrowers instead of one team-fired flamethrower as a flamethrower unit choice. This means that your flamethrower is much safer from snipers and exceptional damage than before. It also means that if you're good/lucky enough to get the flamethrower unit within six inches of its target, you're getting two flamethrower blasts for the price of one. The big drawback is, of course, that when you use these guys, you're guaranteed to lose them, unlike the regular flamethrower which has you roll a die to see if they run out of fuel. Interesting...

Another unit that I've warmed up to is the Sturmtiger. Half of you are laughing right now (at least), but I'm generally not a fan of the big tanks in this game. OK, OK, I like Crocodiles, too; but that's only two out of all the heavy + tanks they offer! Generally, if there's a 300+ point tank with a big anti-tank gun on it, I'm not a fan! OK?

I became a fan of Sturmtigers once they started firing rockets instead of people.

I'm going to lump Brummbars in with the Sturmtigers, because they're functionally close enough as far as the game is concerned. Vehicles like these were not present for the Germans in the main rule book. Heavy howitzers are one of the scariest weapons in the game, and these heavy close support weapons both sport weapons that the game approximates as similar in their devastating effects.

More popular tanks, like Tigers, have menacing anti-tank guns. While that's fine, and certainly serves a purpose in Bolt Action, I focus on the fact that the only compulsary units in the game are infantry. I could take a Tiger, or some other tank-crushing behemoth, but what happens when my opponent doesn't have much in the way of machinery to shoot up? What if there's nothing but leg infantry on the other side of the table? I've now paid 500+ points for two medium machine guns on a heavy + hull. Ouch.

The Brummbar and Sturmtiger let me skirt the issue. If I want a big beast of a tank as a centerpiece, I can take one of them and not feel like I'm exposing myself to a lot of risk. These things are great at blowing up infantry with their assault guns! Of course, the flip side of this means that I can't effectively kill tanks like the firepower those Tiger-type tanks are carrying around. This is a trade I'm comfortable with, though, because there will always be infantry in my opponent's list.

No, this isn't the explosion from a 380mm rocket mortar shell detonating. This is my mind exploding when I think about the 4D6 hits that same weapon does in Bolt Action.

I've mentioned a love for heavy artillery before - but c'mon. What's not to love? Any target on the table is an option, so long as it can be seen. Then, 3D6 4pen hits. Assuming it hits, which is never a safe bet in Bolt Action, it's causing some damage. If that wasn't enough, the Sturmtiger's weapon kicks it up a notch with its special rules. That monster of a gun causes 4D6 hits instead of 3D6! Of course, you sacrifice range with the weapon, as its maximum range is half that of a Brummbar's, but on a 6x4 table, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for that kind of firepower. Whether or not the Sturmtiger is worth its 480 (!) points in a 1000 point game remains to be seen by your's truly - but I can't wait to find out!

So come on the forum and talk about your favorite additions from the Armies of Germany book, or read what those lucky Australians have been saying about the new American army book!



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