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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bolt Action - Pre-Game and Answering the Call of Alessio

Fellow BARbarians, this will certainly come as a surprise to frequent readers, as I've deservedly earned a reputation as a freedom-loving lister, but I've decided to run a game with my brother.

Using Alessio's tournament rules!

Twelve dice! Hello!

Yes, I understand your shock. It started out, admittedly, as a bit of a stunt. An order dice cap does a lot of things, and all but one of those things - keeping game times under two hours - have been derided across all forms of communication. Forums, Facebook, telephones, and smoke signals from Alaska have all been used to malign Alessio's little experiment. I fell into the pre-game process feeling much the same way I imagine some people do before heading off to another day in the hated career they're stuck with.

Yet almost in spite of myself, I started to enjoy it. Sure, the twelve order die limit meant many possibilities were off the table. It absolutely meant I could not do anything I could imagine in a list; but I could still do a hell of a lot. Remembering that my sibling's not exactly a fan of all things gaming, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I even limited our lists to one generic platoon. I'm surprised to admit that I had a great time listing in those conditions.

I suppose that means this is a bit of a nod to Mr. Cavatore. I'm sure Bolt Action will still be enjoyable at twelve order dice, with some extra restrictions thrown in for good measure. I'll reserve my final judgment for a while, but I imagine you'd like to take a peek at the lists. We'll get the battle underway tomorrow night and have a report for you as soon as possible.

This game pits the Germans versus the Soviets in a thousand point brawl. We have no idea who will command the Germans or Soviets, nor what scenario will be played. Let the dice decide!

At this point you might think, "boy, he's really out of his wheelhouse now, better take it easy from here on!" You would be right! Except, I'm already throwing so many variables into this matchup, I figured I'd toss LMGs into the lists as well. Logical? Not at all! A slow, controlled addition of craziness would probably be prudent, but I'm opting instead for bludgeoning myself with the frying pan after I jump out of it, into the fire.

Let's start with the Germans!

There's an LMG there. Just want to make sure you see it.
I figure one of the only things the Germans have going is their excellent three-man, assault rifle command squads. It's hardly appropriate in the majority of era-specific battles, but I'm not planning on really setting this in any particular time. We'll call it late war, but only because of the assault rifles; and ultimately I feel no guilt for taking advantage of a national ability like AR-access when the rest of the list looks like it does. I go big with the command and take a Leutnant (2LT) with two attendants, all veteran.

After the big time command squad, I selected three seven-man regular infantry squads equipped with one LMG and one SMG (NCO) each, and two six-man regular infantry squads equipped with the same extra gear. The six-man squads will end up stuffed in a suicide machi - er, Hanomag to serve as a bit of a mobile element. The seven-man squads will be the pawns of the list. I must admit that I'm excited to see so many LMGs on the table. Dano-at-a-fast-food-restaurant-after-a-long-tournament-excited. I'll feel guilty about it afterwards.

Will I regret the pintle-mounted, forward-facing MMG? Nope!
I've included a sniper and a light howitzer here as well, to give a bit of utility and increase the order dice count. Unsurprisingly that was a problem, as I really wanted to include that Hanomag. Those armored, open-topped transports really whittle down your dice. At any rate, the list also includes the aforementioned Hanomag, a Puma, and a Stummel, all regular.

I'm excited about the look of this list on the table. It's hard to argue that it's something you'd never see. The Puma probably stretches it more than anything else, but 250s and 251s were everywhere with everything strapped to them. This list got to only eleven order dice, which is something I'd consider a weakness if I were going to an open event somewhere with it. Luckily, I'm not! That was one nice thing about the twelve die limit. Ten or eleven dice doesn't feel so anemic any longer.

One hundred points in LMGs. Ten percent of the list. Is this really happening?

I will probably nudge my brother away from the Germans as gently, yet firmly, as possible. There're too many open-topped vehicles and units with funky indirect fire and such. Oh, not to mention one hundred points of machine guns. Of course, he'll probably want to play as the Germans, because they've got a bunch of "sweet" vehicles, or some other factor that translates poorly in Bolt Action.

Once those Germans were churned out, that set the stage nicely for the Soviets. I knew what I had to work with, and figured I could probably balance pretty well against this with the models at hand, while still making the forces seem different - except with LMGs because, well, twelve order dice and machine guns. C'mon.

A free twelve-man squad does not seem insignificant in a twelve dice capped scene. No, sir.
I talked about the German list from the top-down, starting with the boss, but that's not how these came together. It never really is, right? You have an idea of some things you want, and you throw them in, then see what you're left with. Well, it just so happens that the twelve order die cap was so foreign to my normal Soviet list-making "feel", that I ended up with lots of extra points. I ended up breaking from my comfort zone and grabbing a veteran First Lieutenant with one attendant. Rounding out the HQ portion of my list, I also threw in a Forward Artillery Observer with an attendant, both veteran, as well as a lone Commissar. He needed to be in because, well, that sort of caricature is expected when someone jumps into a history-based game. (Thank you, Andy Chambers.)

At this point, we've got to talk the infantry squads. In a one-platoon maximum setting, that Free Rifle squad, first and foremost, is going to be huge, I'm guessing. Time will tell, but having one more infantry squad is less significant the more both players have. To exaggerate, ninety-nine infantry squads isn't hurting too badly against one hundred; but six squads in a five-squad maximum setting? This sounds rough. Again, though, this "quality of quantity" fits the preconception most have regarding the Soviets, at least in World War II. This list will also have three seven-man regular squads, each with an LMG. By the way, if you thought I felt sick putting so many into a German list with special MG rules, imagine how I felt in a Soviet list without them. The infantry portion is finished off with a ten-man regular rifle squad and a nine-man regular SMG squad. There are a lot more Soviet bodies on the field, but that's what he'll expect, and often times we're all more pleased when something seems to be just like we expected.

That's right. A veteran tank in a Bolt Action game. Those Soviets had a lot of points to spare.
Something interesting happened when I got the support units; something very un-Soviet. I was flush with points throughout this process, but not order dice, so the value of anti-tank rifles flipped on its head. In open formats, taking a few anti-tank rifles helped bump-up the overall dice count for my lists. Now, I couldn't afford to take more than one, since my order dice were too scarce to spare. One had to show up, however, because they're just so iconic.

Many more points were spent on HQ and Infantry assets in the Soviet list, which while I think will give the game a much more Hollywood feel, it definitely didn't leave a lot of points for support. After the anti-tank rifle, I threw in an SU-76 at veteran, and a ZIS-3 at regular. While I'm not exactly excited about paying 138 points for an open-topped vehicle with only one attack per order, I am glad those extra points bring it up to veteran to mitigate the inevitable extra pins it takes. Besides, that medium anti-tank / light howitzer combination gun the Allies get is just amazing. Both gun and vehicle are pretty classic WWII Soviet stuff. He might not be a gamer, but my brother is enough of a history fan to know what everything is, and that fact that all of the gear was relatively common. I think he'll be pleased by the force construction.

A lot more boots on the ground, but the Germans have the half tracks! Wait, actually -
Eleven order dice for the Germans, and twelve order dice for the Soviets; and I even satisfied one of my many quirks and managed to get each list to exactly one thousand points.

I really am excited for this game, and that tells me a lot about the situation we're in here with Alessio's proposed changes. Without a doubt, it restrains creativity, and that's not ever a good thing in a game where a significant portion involves being creative. We can all give it a shot, though, and see.

Have you tried it? Tell us about it on the forum. I'll be posting the battle report soon, so stay tuned.

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