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Friday, November 8, 2013

Bolt Action - Fall-In List Shop

(BARbarians! Many of you are gearing-up for Fall-In and The BAR staff is no different. I thought it might be interesting for you to get a bit of insight on how Nemesis Andy gets ready for an event. I'll be following up with my own either Wednesday or Friday. - Judson) 
Time to roll.

As you know we are trying to build lists for Fall-In that go against the "Meta" (What a word. - J) or the typical lists that we have seen in the last few tournaments.  These lists generally include Veteran squads, 2d6 HE artillery or mortars, double tanks, and Flame Throwers (VFT and man-packed).  We also plan to limit ourselves by taking no flame throwers in our lists, since they really are so good.  To that end we are trying to design a list that is competitive against these type of lists while at the same time using a different tactical build so we aren't just "fighting fire with fire" as it were. (And mean no slight against it. Including that stuff is a great choice for sure. - J)

The first thing we decided to do was to find a "sweet spot" for our squads that would make the big HE and Flame Throwers less of a threat to the list as a whole.  Since all qualities of troops die equally to the big HE and Flame threats we decided to approach a "less is more" attitude.  Killing a 5-man Inexperienced squad worth 35 points with a VFT is not even worth the risk of running out of fuel.  Additionally the loss of said unit barely impacts our own ability to win the game by capturing objectives.  On the other hand killing a 100+ point Veteran unit is a great use of said VFT and losing 10% of your list in one hit has a distinct impact on the game. So that is where we started.

We decided to explore smaller units of all qualities to see what is most disposable.  Through experimentation we went through everything from hordes of 5 man Inexperienced squads to small effective SMG toting regulars and Vets.   We found out that there really is only so much a 5 man Inexp unit can do without Flame support.  Also, we discovered that spending more than 75+ points per squad had diminishing returns for disposablity.   Where we are now is at a point where we are using a mix of different quality troops to accomplish different jobs during the game.  Some examples:

5-man Inexperienced Squad, 35 points: Basic distraction, drop a pin, objective threat, annoyance

5-man SMG Squad, 65 points: Short-range damage dealers, cheap assault or <6" range shots

5-man Vet Infiltrators with SMGs, 85 points: Early game distraction, pressure on enemies back row good at building denial but on the expensive side of disposable but more resilient for assaults

With the guidelines for acceptable squad costs in place we also had to figure out a way to destroy the enemy.  Flame was of course out and we figured out that assaults with SMG's is probably the next best way to shift opponents out of buildings.  We also discovered that to make our troops disposable without making them an easy choice as a target we needed to build redundancy in the lists. 

("Redundancy in a list is more about reliablity of effect then replication of effect" - Nemesis A. - J)

In other words to count on a job getting done, you need at least couple units that are capable of doing the same job.  This way, if one gets taken out we have another unit that can accomplish the job.  So, a sort of Noah's Ark type of listing developed - if a squad is worth taking, take at least two.  Not surprisingly, we ended up taking list that had two platoons in them in order to get the redundancy we were striving for.  This way we could take duplicates of all the units we needed for a competitive, no flame thrower list.

Now, on to my quandary regarding twin air: During our latest play test I had a single FAO and a Chaffee tank.  Both options are great (since the FAQ) but I discovered that when the FAO decided to goof up, my Chaffee was much too tempting a target and ended up getting scrubbed - hard. The Chaffee didn't fit in as a disposable unit and the Air ended up being very good at killing it.  Normally, I would use the Chaffee as bait for big weapons and rely on it's recce to keep it relatively safe (In Cold Wars in three games I only lost it to a bad FUBAR roll - the result of which has since been cleared up in the FAQ).  I have since decided that I can't have them both in the same list as 185 points is too much to lose to a single die roll.  The rest of my list is designed to be relatively disposable with 84 points being the most I have spent on a unit.  With the Chaffee gone, though, I lost a lot of the offensive punch in the list.  With the points saved, I was able to slide in a second 105mm Medium Howitzer, which helped a little; but I'm not sure it will be enough to handle the Devious 2-Tank list.  I am unwilling to spam HMG Jeeps, and bazookas are laughable for AT effectiveness.  The solution is pretty straight forward - a second FAO.  It fits into my redundancy theory as having two drastically reduces the effect (for me) of rolling the inevitable Rookie Pilot during a game. Should that happen, I should still get a 2-3 good airstrikes which should be plenty to deal with a couple of tanks, and the loss of a single unit is acceptable given the cost of my units. 

My dilemma is this - Forward Air Observers are good. Very good.  Will taking two diminish the fun of my tournament games for me and my opponent?  Now, they aren't a guarantee - it is Bolt Action after all - and dice are involved; when they work, they work very well.  The whole point of not taking flame throwers was to come up with a list that no one should object to playing.  Now, I don't think FAO's in anyway are as good as a VFT but I am also considering taking two.
Noticing a picture theme?
The big advantage for taking two isn't the total number of air strikes I get in game, but the fact that I can call in 2 on the first turn.  This drastically increases my chances of taking out my opponent's big threats early on in the game even if one doesn't show up for a turn or two.  This in turn would give me the initiative when pressing on objectives by turns 3+.  Taking two also diminishes the effect of rolling a single rookie pilot result. It won't necessarily cost me the game, and the likelihood of rolling 2 in a game is very minuscule.  Even if I did end up rolling two, I should still be able to count on taking out one big threat in my opponents list as well which should be a fair trade off.

The big disadvantage for the air is that I have to build my list around it, and this limits some of the good choices in my list *cough*Chaffee*cough*.  My own air WILL end up hitting me at some point in the tournament.  Add this to the random timing of when the air might actually show up - 33% of the time the pilot can't even find the battlefield - and it will not single handedly win me games.  FAO's are not an "Auto Win" button - I will still have to use the rest of my list to secure a win.  So, is adding a second FAO worse than say, adding two Inexp heavy mortars?

(Tell him it is! On the forum! - J)

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