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Friday, May 31, 2013

Bolt Action - New to Bolt Action: Your First List

Craig did a great job earlier in the week letting you know what you need to get before you start playing, up to and including several miniature manufacturers to choose from. Once you've read the rule book and decided on your nation of choice, it's time to dive into my second favorite part of any miniature battle game - listing!

Time to form up and head to the table front!

If you can resist the temptation to just buy, buy, buy before reading the rule book, please do so! I can't stress this enough, yet I realize it's sometimes unrealistic. You might be standing at a vendor booth where they're selling the rulebook and have a great sale on some miniatures. Buy the stuff if you have to, but if you've played any war games before, chances are you've made a hasty purchase before reading the rules in the past; then later regretted it. I know I have! 

There are countless "good" ways to start your list. Most of us - and I'm definitely included in this group - jump into a miniature war game thinking somewhere along the lines of, "I'm going to play x because it's cool!" You may choose a different way to phrase it, but the sentiment is the same. Without having read the rule book, we want to play something just because. I'd like to say that I pick which nation and list I'm going to play based on some sort of well thought-out plan or idea, but I don't. Regardless of whether or not someone thinks it was a "good" reason, if it gets you jazzed and rarin' to play a game of Bolt Action, it's the "right" reason, and that's what matters. So don't worry so much about the specifics of your list. Is it legal and you're into it? Go for it.

Don't get too hung up on committing to one specific list, either. While there are tons of options available to each nation, you'll almost always be using a bunch of infantry. It might take the form of inexperienced, regular, or veteran, but it's always going to be infantry. Yes, you'll ultimately want to change your list, because that's what we do, as gamers; but in Bolt Action, the core of your list will always be the infantryman. Early purchases and painting/modelling efforts should therefore focus on the legs. None of this money and work will be wasted if you decide to change up the list later. (Because you will decide to change it up.)

You've got some options when it comes to helpful tools for constructing your list, but might I suggest (wink, wink) using any one of our list utilities to help you organize your thoughts? I'm pretty proud of Duncan's work on it, and it's the best option I've tried so far. Hey, it's gotta' be easier than a pencil and a pad, right? And you can't beat that $0.00 price tag.

Only to the officer selection and I already can't decide...
Once you've picked which nation you'll use, the question becomes, where to begin? And the answer is, it doesn't matter. If I'm going to start a new list, it's because there's a unit that I'd like to use, so that's what I start with. Taking the list I brought to Cold Wars as an example, I knew that I wanted to use a Crocodile, so I started there. Bear in mind, this decisions was based on two things: One read-through of the rule book, and my own preferences. That's the secret recipe for success in listing, if you haven't picked up on that yet. Once you've purchased the thing that you know you want, you should focus on the things you're forced to include. Some of the lists I found most effective and entertaining were those I made where I started with the compulsory units, though, so don't always focus on the fun toys like the aforementioned Croc'. If there's a specific type of infantry unit you're into, that's a great starting point for list making.

Every list needs to have an officer and two infantry squads before it's table-legal. Flip through the appropriate section in your rule book, or the appropriate "Armies of" book, and decide what type of infantry you want. It's important to mention at this point that Bolt Action can either be played using Basic Selectors or Theater Selectors. The Basic Selector is a general list that allows access to every unit in the game. The Theater Selectors restrict what a player may choose for his or her list, as they reflect historically appropriate units for certain theaters at certain times. If you're playing with a Theater Selector, your compulsory choices will be fairly straightforward, as each one begins by telling you exactly what types of infantry squads you will need to take. For someone just starting out with no idea exactly what they want, a Theater Selector might be a good option, as the Selector tells you what compulsory stuff to bring, and limits the optional units quite a bit.

Won't be seeing any of this in a Bolt Action list.

I hesitate to say much more about list building. It's a personal thing! You want to make the list yours. Sure, I could go over what I like to round out my list with, but that really wouldn't make this about your list, would it? With whatever points you have left, after buying your compulsory selections and whatever you're excited about, you'll buy the rest. A fine starting point to shoot for, for you and your buds, is 500; but 1000 is the standard points level. 

So get out there and start listing! It's the second best thing about table top war gaming, in my estimation. Make sure the first thing you do is purchase and actually read the rule book before you buy anything - that is, of course, if you can resist the temptation to buy beforehand. I couldn't.

One last thing. Come chat about the lists you come up with on our forum. People are helping dissect lists 24/7 from around the world there, so if you're stuck, someone's bound to give you their two cents' worth. Just remember that the best list is the one you enjoy playing. 

(This just in! Got my hands on a copy of the Armies of Imperial Japan book today. The review/preview will come out Monday. Check back then for all the details. - Judson)

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