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Monday, December 17, 2012

Bolt Action - Review: Armies of the United States

It's finally here! And you can pre-order it here!

Another fine addition to the Bolt Action family! Congratulations Osprey and Warlord!

And I get to tell you all about it! Thanks for the long awaited title, Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games!

I approached my review of the Armies of Germany book more as a book reviewer than a gamer, but I've decided against it this time around. Great art? Peter Dennis and Mike Chappell - Check. Great writing? Massimo Torriani - Check. Great design? Osprey and Warlord - Check. If you've read my first two Bolt Action rulebook reviews, you already know that the production values of these books are quite high. So let's get to the gaming side!

Great form.

The book starts off with a brief intro from the author, Torriani, and a general overview of the Americans in World War II. There's a lot of great information here for those unfamiliar with the United States' involvement in the war. History buffs will breeze past this part, but it's a must-read for the new guy!

New Bolt Action books are my candy!

The new American book reminds us that a US Forward Air Observer gets to call two strikes over the course of a game and that American infantrymen with Browning Automatic Rifles and Garands don't suffer the normal firing penalty when on the move.

Then, the book throws us a curve ball. Thanks to the new "Modern Communications" rule, American units that are required to pass an order test to move onto the table from Reserve don't suffer from the normal -1 penalty to their morale. Very nice addition.

Lees! (And some Shermans.)

What everybody's going to be talking about - and already are on our forum - is the new "Gyro-Stablizers" rule. Veteran tanks that also have a weapon with gyro-stabilization do not suffer from the normal -1 movement penalty when firing. Tanks firing at tanks can be a brutal affair, as they're bound to be crossing terrain features when they fire at each other, and they generally need to move towards an objective. I've fired more shots needing a 6+ (after cover, range, pins, and moving penalty) or worse than I care to remember. This special rule is really going to be a boon to American players.

Steve's previewed it in his batreps, that sneaky dude, but they've got Lees in this book. This is important because we haven't seen a tank with two big guns yet. Very cool!

Tank Destroyers! No longer a dirty word!

If you're looking for new gear, obviously you're going to get it here. Airborne squads may upgrade to carry a light machine gun. I'm not sure how often I'd make this upgrade from a general gaming standpoint, but I know many people looking to replay historical scenarios will be happy to hear it. If nothing else, it's another new tool in the American toolkit.

Remember how the Germans could take two medium machine guns in many of their period-specific Theater Selector lists? Most of the later war American lists can have up to two bazookas in one reinforced platoon, reflecting the proliferation of both weapons in their respective armies. I thought that was a very nice touch.

Think you can fight a better Kasserine Pass? Now's your chance!

As in the German armies book, their are also period-specific rules that go along with some of these lists. No American units may be selected as Veteran in the earlier lists, reflecting their relative lack of experience. Other Selectors, like the Airborne lists, dictate that any non-Jeep vehicles must be kept in Reserve to reflect the platoon's forward deployment. There are selector-specific vehicles, with unique stats, as well; like assault boats, DD Shermans ... all sorts of cool stuff.

My personal favorite new unit in the book is the Ranger squad. Rangers cost 14 points each, and for the most part look like any other Veteran infantry squad from the United States list. What separates them is their special ability. Rangers are able to make a run move after both sides have deployed, but before the game begins. This is going to be another unit that takes people by surprise - but only once, kind of like a flamethrower.

Yes. They're here. Finally.

The Marines have arrived in this book, and I'm happy with their treatment.

They didn't load them up with a bunch of special rules to differentiate them from their Army counterparts. Certainly, they have access to different equipment in their two Theater Selectors, both in the form of small arms and vehicles; but they weren't given some ability that makes the average Marine across the board better than your average GI. I was relieved when I didn't see this. Want to make a Marine list where they're all extra tough? Make them Veterans.

Marines are allowed to take more Browning Automatic Rifles than normal Army squads. Interestingly, they're allowed to take (3) pistols in addition to their other weapon for +1 point each. I guess that's a tip of the hat to the Marine fans out there that feel there needs to be something distinct about a Marine, to make them better. Well, there you go. Spend 14 points instead of 13 points on a Marine rifleman and he gets two close combat attacks. Hey, wait a minute - that is awesome! Ugh - even Massimo Torriani isn't immune to the Marine mystique. Congrats, Marine fans, you win again! (Because only Marines carried extra pistols...)

They're also allowed shotguns now (1 shot at 18" range plus assault) for +3 points. I think I might prefer them to submachine guns, but I've yet to table them, so the verdict is still out. Again, just another cool addition to the tool box.

I think those are most of the highlights. Come talk about it with us on the forum, though. A few of the guys overseas also have the book, and we're glad to talk shop with you about it!

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