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Friday, July 26, 2013

Bolt Action - Prof Aruba's First 500

(Prof Aruba read our First 500 articles and couldn't resist but join in. He's taken a new approach - from a guy that only owns the main rule book. Hope you enjoy it, and find it useful if you're just getting into the game. - Judson)

Hello and welcome to my office hours. I can see by your transcript that you’re a new student to the Bolt Action program at WWPD University. Well as I understand from you E-mail you are having some trouble in Bolt Action 101.

I can see from the look on your face you are having some trouble with list construction, and I know it is a rather hefty portion of the final exam. So let’s start from the basics, sure there are lots of fancy supplement books out there, but you only have the main rule book. Well fear not, there are plenty of good lists to be made from just the rule set in the back. In fact, let’s walk through a list I plan on taking to an upcoming 500 point tournament.

So, I have two armies currently. I have my competitive Germans, as were recently seen at the tournament run by Styx at Salty Bay Con (Great event, can’t stress that enough). I’ve waxed poetically about them a lot recently, and while I built them to be my main tournament army, I really did not want to pair them down by 500 points for this tournament. That leaves me with two options. I could either make a new army, something not easily done for me at least (Jud can attest to the deluge of emails he gets about it), or I could play my other army: AMERICA!

The very definition of Fire and Maneuver.

So here is the list I came up with after some thought.

2nd Lt + 1 Man (Regular): 2 Rifles

I think a pretty standard choice for HQs in the 500 point bracket are second lieutenants with one or two guys. Now while people usually agree the best HQs are German 2 or 3 man groups with Assault Rifles, a close second is the American rifleman due to Fire and Maneuver.  So accordingly I took a 2nd Lt with one extra guy, both regular. While I prefer 1st Lieutenants for the tournament scene, at 500 points, it’s hard to justify the extra points for one more point of leadership at this points bracket. I really wanted to take two extra men with him instead of one, but I needed the points elsewhere.

Combat Squads:
NCO+7 Men (Regular): 8 Rifles
NCO+ 6 Men (Regular): 6 Rifles, 1 Automatic Rifle
NCO+ 7 Men (Regular): 8 Rifles

So for the real meat of the list I took three roughly similar squads. While not exactly the same in numbers and equipment, they are all about the same in output (dice rolled, shots down range, wounds, combat effectiveness). I think these three regular squads are certainly going to mow down inexperienced troops, but some lists - like a Russian list with some ten-man regular squads - might give me pause.

“I can’t believe our player just made that move, he’s going to get us killed!”

Heavy Machine Gun Team (Regular)
Heavy Mortar (Inexperienced): Spotter
Medium Howitzer (Regular)

Support options are like insurance. They should usually protect your guys from the opponent’s guys or his spank units. While at 1000 points you’ll have to worry about the gamut of units from forward observers to tanks, at 500 points you really have to worry only about two types of potential spank units; being armored cars and artillery.  While armor cars are not usually talked about as the stuff of legends in Bolt Action, at the 500 point bracket they are going to take on the responsibilities and effects of tanks in the normal game.

That means that (unless its open topped) small arms fire is going to be ineffective against it. At the 500 points level, small arms are going to be your most numerous weapons, and your best offensive tools are going to be your infantry squads. While the armored car is not going to generally trash a squad a turn like the spank weapons of the 1000 points level, it will take on a terrifying form in games like demolition or top secret, where it can operate towards winning you the game without fear of being destroyed.

The other tool of destruction at the 500 point level you have to worry about is artillery, and by the same mechanic, mortars. HE is going to reign in the world of infantry dominated warfare. These dangerous weapons can and sometimes will wipe a squad a turn, either by causalities or pins. I pity the fool who is on the receiving end of a direct fired heavy howitzer at the 500 point level.

So how do you protect yourself from these weapons? By taking these weapons in your list, fight fire with fire so to speak. Now I personally am not wowed by recce options in this game. Too few are not open topped and even fewer of those are actually effective. In fact, at the writing of this article I’ve found only one that is worthwhile completely, and that is the humble Type 92 Tankette in the Japanese book I just got today. So personally, I’ve chosen to stray more towards the artillery camp. As you can see I’ve packed in my favorite combination of tools in Bolt Action, a Medium Howitzer and a Heavy Mortar. I like teaming both these weapons up, frankly, because they have the same stat line and that’s one less thing I have to remember during a game.

To round out the list, I took the obligatory .50 cal, as it would not be an American platoon in Bolt Action without at least one .50 cal.

Everyone’s jumping on the .50 Cal bandwagon. (They wish. - J)

So that’s that. My 17th Airborne platoon circa Operation Varsity is ready for action at the 500 point level. I have to say that while I never envisioned taking these guys to a tournament, I’m glad I will have at least one under my belt with them. Who knows, might even change my perspective on them and make me play them more in tournaments. Now, shall we sign you up for some classes?

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