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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Armies of France and the Allies

Here it is, folks. Fresh off the printers, and sold into the greedy hands of Historicon goers. The Armies of France and the Allies book for Bolt Action!

I don't know how everyone else feels about this, but I'm a big fan of any company that brings a box or two of a product you can't get anywhere else to a convention. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is it just another reason to go to conventions? Hell yes! Apologies to everyone that couldn't make it to Historicon, but go to the next major convention near you, play great games with new people, and pick up stuff before anyone else!

So, the book itself - I'm going to pardon myself at this point if any of you expected a critical look at it. It's safe to say that being credited in the book excludes you from any credibility when it comes to a review. Instead, let's call this a preview.

The book does introduce some new artists, and apparently the people responsible have decided to add some computer editing to the models photographed within. Both of these, I believe, are firsts. The previous books all had pictures taken on terrained tabletops with backdrops. This features models in front of edited backdrops, as well as what you're used to. The artists credited include Mike Chappell, Richard Chasemore, Peter Dennis, Howard Gerrard, Richard Hook, Steve Noon, and Mark Stacey.

All painted miniature work inside the book is credited to Neil Burt, Jose Bustamante, Andres Amian Fernandez, Stephan Huber, Gary Martin, and Bruce Murray.

You'll notice many more names that usual. I appreciated the diversity, but it is definitely a departure from the established norm.

The book includes force selectors and lists of units for France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Greece, and Partisans. Remember, however, that this is a 108 page book. While larger than some other "Armies of" supplements, the book is shared by seven parties. If you're expecting the Dutch to receive the same attention as the Germans, you will be disappointed.

Interestingly, every army in this book except the Partisans has the "Communications Breakdown" special rule. This rule attempts to help capture the feel of the plight of these forces, often caught unprepared to react to blitzing Germans, by stating that if an order die of these armies is the first drawn in the game, the opponent can decide if the die should be placed back in the cup in order to draw a new die. This can happen once, only as the first die is drawn.

To make up for it, some armies gain a free gun or artillery piece, also representing the doctrine of the era. Some can get a free inexperienced infantry unit, so long as other inexperienced infantry units were purchased first, representing hastily mobilized reserves. Others, if the scenario allows for hidden rules, may have hidden units start the game in ambush, helping represent prepared positions. Some avoid the -1 penalty to arriving on the table from outflank, and - at this point, you probably get the picture. The abilities are diverse. Some are shared between nations, while others, like the Poles and Partisans, have more unique abilities.

Weapons like the VB Launcher, previously relegated to PDFs, are added to this book. Of all the books, perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the most diverse "Armies of" title to date. A Partisan force, for example, can plant hidden bombs at the beginning of the game. These amount to booby traps around the board that can truly devastate an opponent, if fortune favors the Partisans. Captured vehicles are also made more standard in this update, becoming official in the Partisan entry.

This is the first Bolt Action supplement we've seen released that allows access to more than one nation's military forces; and given that these nations fought with independent, national armies for relatively short periods of time, do not expect late war versions of each. These powers' lists were designed to make them as unique as possible. Creating lists, for example, of Polish Paratroopers in exile, might not be as valuable a use of the page as giving players an opportunity to recreate the early war struggles each of these nations participated in.

Come talk about this book, whether you've got it in hand, or have many questions about it, on our forums.

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