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Monday, February 25, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Armies of Great Britain

I've been waiting for Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing's latest army book, Arrmies of Great Britain for a long time.

Well, the game hasn't yet been out for a year. I guess it hasn't been that long - but my Tommies needed some love! And love, they got!

As expected, the crew at Osprey once again set the standards for graphic design and physical quality. Four books into the Bolt Action series, I feel like I don't need to mention this anymore, but I've got to give credit where it's due. Their books are beautiful, and just feel good in your hands. I guess I could ask for a cup holder or something - Dano would probably like it better if the pages were waterproof to better facilitate bathtub reading - but any serious complaint about the book's attributes is simply unfounded.

Peter Dennis is the artist credited with all the magnificent work both outside and inside this title. His work not only brings the actions it depicts to life on a personal level, it also somehow manages to grasp the feel of a game of Bolt Action perfectly.

I'm ashamed to admit that before getting into Bolt Action, I wasn't aware of much of the great historical art out there. Thanks a lot, Mr. Dennis. You've somehow managed to find a way for me to spend more money on this hobby; unless, of course, you'd like to donate some of your work to me, in wish case, I can be reached via email at

The author is listed as good ol' Jake Thornton, yet another recognizable name from the Games Workshop family tree. His style and storytelling is outstanding, and I applaud many of the decisions he and the editors Priestley and Cavatore - more on this throughout the review.

I feel like I need to preface any review of the "guts" of this book with a little background. For those of you that didn't know, the main rule book came out during the late summer of 2012. We've already received the army books for both Germany and the United States. Some fans out there had begun to express some dismay over the state of balance in the game, half a year later. As might be expected, the addition of more special rules and units for the Germans and Americans left some players feeling that the army lists in the main rule book had been left out of balance, weaker than the new arrivals.

Well, I can't attest to the veracity of these claims, but I can say that the Armies of Great Britain book manages to assuage any fears I might have had in that regard. As a matter of fact, I'm most impressed with this expansion, of all those that preceeded it.

This book is unique in the series. For starters, the forces of Great Britain aren't issued new national rules ala the Americans in their expansion book. Wait, that's not quite right. AoGB does issue new national rules, but puts a spin on the new rules we saw from the American book. Instead of getting one or two new, constant rules, any force chosen from this book is allowed to select on ability from a list of five. Essentially, creating an army list now takes on another dimension, as you not only pick your force, but you pick one ability from a list to either more accurately represent the historical force you're hoping to simulate, or help you maximise the symmetry in your list. This really helps spotlight the diversity of troops fighting under the flags of Great Britain.

Of all the decisions made during the design of this book, that focus on diversity constantly pops up, and really sets it apart from its predecessors. Not only can you pick one of five unique abilities to be shared by all Regular and Veteran units in your list, but the veteran units themselves have been given a noticable diversity.

Each veteran infantry unit available in this book has different abilities. Previous books had given different squads different weapon loadout options. AoGB manages to not only provide options for uniquely equipping your sections, but it also gives a unique special ability to each section. This accentuates that diverse feel this book has. You're never merely selecting "veteran" troops. Each veteran section is tailored to a specific role. Looking for brutal assault troops? Check out the Gurkhas. Looking for some troops that just won't quit the field? Try some paratroopers. Looking for some troops that are great at sneaking around the flanks, and sneak attacking the enemy? The commandos are what you're after!

So many choices! Combine this with the ability to pick a special, national rule, during list making, and you've got yourself the most customizable and diverse force yet.

The theator selectors are well thought out and cover all the eras and theators you might want to game. I'll again applaude the author and editors for this section. They managed to make some lists quite specific, while at the same time very flexible. Here, diversity comes up again.

Take the raiding list. They cover, really, all theators were forces of Great Britain battled, from 1940 to 1943. The units allowed feel appropriate, even though they represent forces from distinct territories. Of all the books, I really feel like AoGB is the most adaptable.

In case you didn't already assume this, the models depicted within are fantastic. The scenery is absolutely awe inspiring, and each picture gets me itching to play another game.

For those of you looking for expansion of your favorite units, you won't be disappointed with this book. The Bren Carrier has many entries in this book, justifiably. All the early war cruisers are here, plenty of American models, as well as a change to my beloved Churchill! Yes, the Crocodile in this book - let's just say the tank is a lot different in AoGB than the main rule book. And I love both versions equally!

Of all the books so far, this one's really got me feeling like I never need to buy another nation's force. Really. There are so many options in this book, and the customizability it allows make every list potentially completely unique. I could make a highly-defensive British list, or a super-aggressive assault-focused list.

Speaking of which, I've gotta' get back to listing...

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