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Friday, December 7, 2012

Bolt Action For Battlescribe

After spending a few minutes on the Warlord Games forum I stumbled upon a poster that mentioned writing his own Bolt Action list builder file for the Battlescribe utility. Having never heard of either (nor having a mobile option for Bolt Action list building) I decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. He's graciously accepted my invitation to talk a bit about the software and his file! Check out his website sometime - http://www.warcolours.net/ - Judson

Battlescribe! Check it out if you're looking for a mobile option!

With the release of Bolt Action, I have found myself drafting a number of different lists for my favourite forces (all British: Infantry, Airborne and Commando) using the basic listings published in the rulebook, while waiting for the release of the appropriate army book from Osprey/Warlord.
As many fellow gamers know, making a list is something that can easily be made with paper and pencil, but then you have to refer constantly to the book for the different details/special rules during game play. This is not the most desirable of options in general. I have been using software that assisted the process of list building in the past years, and there are several options available around: since there was no data file for Bolt Action around, I decided to try and make my own. I chose for this purpose a really neat piece of software called Battlescribe. The main reason for this was that I wanted to be one step ahead, moving with the times, and be able to have my lists on my new Android tablet. Now, how neat is that? Battlescribe is available for nearly any platform (Windows PC, iOS and Android) and it is free, so more money to spend on miniatures, another big plus for me. The software for editing files is not available on mobile devices though, so I prepared them on a Windows PC.



The first thing to do when preparing a file for Battlescribe is to define the Game System, so I opened the Game System editor and created a new system (aptly named Bolt Action). Here you define the force types and profile types available in the game system. Since in BA there aren't individual profiles for units, I ignored the last option, and simply created a force type called Platoon, to which I added the type of entries available: Headquarters, Squads, Supports, Transports and Tanks. I know this is slightly different from the way units are listed in the rules, but I chose this so I could implement the different controls to check if the list was legal. This way you have 1 mandatory HQ and 2 mandatory Squads, and cannot have more than one Tank entry (grouping tanks and armoured cars here) while you can have 1 transport for each HQ, Squad or Support entry you choose (the number allowed is increased with each selection of the above. Once I saved the file, this part was over.

I then turned to the Catalogue Editor. This is where you define each and every entry available to the forces in the game. First of all, it has to be specified that you need to create a single catalogue file for each faction (in this case nation) available in the game. In my case it would have been Germans, Americans, British and Russians. When the relevant army books come out, allowing the player to build different kind of lists for every nationality, it will be necessary to have a catalogue for each possible list (ie, for instance, British Airborne, Normandy 1944).

The Catalogue has a section of shared items, ie items that are common throughout the list: rules, entries (such as weapon upgrades) or entry groups (such as members of squads). This option comes in handy when it comes to cutting the amount of work needed to enter all the data, which can be tedious. The trick is to try to accomodate the  quirks of each gaming system into the software engine, in order to create rosters that are legal and that work. In my case, I took a few shortcuts and created entries for each unit in the book costing them at 0pts but giving the rating (Inexperienced, Regular or Veteran) as an upgrade, so that I did not have to repeat everything three times. The only exception for this were the squads, where I had to make them separate since different ratings generally have different weapon options. I created shared entry groups for the squad members, setting the NCO as mandatory together with 5 men and giving the appropriate number of additional men, plus setting the LMG and SMG upgrades as required.

I used the shared rules for all the different options that I wanted to be specified on my roster, so I could have everything readily available when playing: to this end I also used the appropriate modifiers and conditions to hide or reveal them according to the opptions that had been chosen, for instance hiding the Tank Hunters rule where no Tank Grenades had been selected.

At the end of the day the process of preparing the Data Files was not exceedingly complicated, requiring only a little bit of thought when considering the controls that were needed to see if a list was legal. It has been a fairly repetitive process, and in this a vast amount of cutting and pasting has helped. I have added the French Provisional list now that it has been published, and plan to add more lists as the different national books become available (as soon as I get to have them, that is of  course).

Now I have these files on my mobile and I can create my roster while riding on a bus to my gaming club and have the list neatly displayed on my tablet while gaming: I totally love this, let me tell you. If any of you would like to get the files, try them and give me some feedback on them, please feel free to do so.
They are available at the following address: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/10316265/index.xml



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