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Friday, January 31, 2014

Bolt Action - AAR: Hold Until Relieved, 1941

Cory, Andy, Colby, my Dad, and I, got together the other day for an epic battle.  I wanted to bust out some of the Early War vehicles I own that never see the light of day.  This ended up being a lot of fun.  The Germans had a StuG III D, an Sdkfz 233, and a Panzer II; while the Soviets had a BA-10 and a T-26.  Both sides also ended up tricked out with a healthy dose of soft skins to get them into the fight.

I love terrain.  I love it so much that it probably has more of an impact on whether I enjoy a game or not than the outcome or play of the game sometimes.  It is one of the reasons I game.  I want to feel like I am there, and terrain is a very important part of the gaming process.  So I try really hard to make my terrain look as good as I can when I host a game.

I ended up getting really involved in building my board for this game.  Mostly, I started obsessing about wanting to make my "woods" look like woods.  One thing I love about Bolt Action is that everything on the board in its place matters.  So, while the brown felt represents rough going for movement, it does not represent the woods.

The woods are defined by the stuff that is clustered together.  I started grouping trees together to provide sufficient cover for a squad, added twigs from my yard to represented fallen trees, and rocks of various sizes as well.  I intentionally left some lanes wide enough for tanks to drive through, while I made it so tight in other areas that they couldn't.

(Holy terrain! - Judson) A stream ran through the woods, so I made the banks rocky.  Since the stream is in the woods, I added log jams.  When I ended up finishing this board I was euphoric.  So euphoric that after we finished, I left it set up just to so I could go out to the garage and bask in its presence.  I got in the zone while building this table.

I know that its a simple board with a large grassy field butted up against a wood with a road running through it, but I am proud of it. I drew inspiration from my last trip to Minnesota.  I made the hills tall by stacking a few layers of items under my mat.  I did this because I wanted my hills to be more real in size and scale.  The size of the hills - all the detail, the grassy field, the open road lane - ended up playing an important role in the battle.

The Soviet force was inexperienced.  I made them inexperienced to represent the rawness of Soviet troops in 1941.  However, this bridge on this farm is an important bridge.  Furthermore, despite their rawness, the patriotism of this Soviet force flowed through their vines with such force that they sweat courage.  All the infantry platoons were rated as fanatic, inexperienced rifle squads.

On the other hand, there were the fascist invaders.  This Panzer Grenadier platoon rides into battle on the backs of their trucks and are supported by a self propelled infantry gun (StuG III D), a Panzer II, and a SdKfz 232.  While the Soviets have a healthy dose of anti tank capability, the German force was designed to take on infantry.

The mission was Hold Until Relieved.  At the start of the battle, a squad of Soviet infantry and a 45mm ATG found themselves alone in the woods, the only troops between Hitler's invaders and the Motherland.

45mm ATG guards the bridge

While infantry take the high ground above the creek

German armored forces prepare for the attack just outside of the woods

Soviet infantry start their sweep of the woods.  They find a Panzer II pressing through the trees, and the chase begins

The first of many mortar rounds attempt to take out the 45mm

The StuG positions itself to attack the infantry on the hill

A Maxim sets itself up to cover the bridge

Soviet 82mm sets up to put fire on the road

The BA-10 provides support

The T-26 fires a wild round at the 232

He is supported by more Russian riflemen

A German MG 42 adjusts its position to respond to the Soviets

The T-26 moves up and sets the 232 on fire, the crew is unable to put the fire out, so they make a break for the rear

The fire illuminates the road

The T-26 then finds itself in a cross fire, but the German gunners cant find their target

These Soviet riflemen head to the rocks near the banks of the river

Not being close enough to assault the Panzer II, the riflemen continue the chase

The 45mm bounces a round off the Panzer II

The Soviet mortar starts shooting at the road

German grenadiers, fearful of the mortar fire, jump out of their truck

A Soviet ATR sets up to cover the road

In a moment of desperation, Private Vladimir straps a mine to the platoon's pet dog's back

The Soviets covering the road

A view of the creek

The Panzer II drives up and lights up the T-26

Vladimir lets Sasha's leash go.  Hungry for Panzer, she bolts for the Panzer II

Sasha is suddenly engulfed in flames.  Bow Wow BOOOM!!!! When the smoke clears, the Panzer II remains little worse for wear, and the crew is momentarily stunned by the explosion.

The 82mm throws another round down range

The battle rages

A BA-10 engages the StuG

The rest of the Grenadiers roll in

The fighting becomes intense (What a furball! Love it! - J)

The Soviet command section directs the battle from the woods

The anti-tank dog handlers take cover and hold the bridge

Two squads of Germans deploy into the woods

The Soviets continue to threaten the German flank

The Maxim puts rounds into the Panzer IIs rear (And isn't a heavy weapon, so doesn't do anything - this was hashed out on the forum, later. - J)

The Panzer II puts fire on the Soviets in the woods

A Russian mortar just misses this MG-42

The dog handlers kill two Germans from their position on the bridge

Encouraged by the unit commissar, these troops give their lives for the Motherland

The Soviet CO crosses the stream (First recorded instance of crossing the streams in Bolt Action, I believe. Venkman! - J)

The Soviet ATR moves in closer

While the Germans attack down the road

The BA-10 machine-guns the German infantry squad in the road, but only manages one kill

The Germans successfully assault the dog handlers, but lose two men in the process.

The Soviets in the woods fire down on the Germans

The Panzer II runs over a section of fence to get to the BA-10

The Soviet CO orders his men forward

Comrade Commissar and his cronies valiantly protect the bridge

Avoiding mortar fire, they hold on tight

Green ones go fast! The Soviets rush a Maxim to the front

A wide shot of the battle shows the chaos

Germans still press the center

Panzer II covers the infantry

The Commissar team avoids major damage and hangs on to the bridge

They rush forward and wipe out the remnants of a German squad

More ineffective Soviet mortar fire

More rounds hit the road

The Panzer II immobilizes the BA-10

Maxim lays down fire on the Germans near the bridge

Finally, on turn six, the Soviets in outflank arrive - good thing the Commissar has died by this point, otherwise they would have some explaining to do

Desperate to thwart the Germans last drive on the bridge, the Soviet CO charges forward and is killed in a hail of gunfire.

The Maxim sets up and lets loose

Lucky for the Germans, it goes to turn seven, giving them enough time to capture and secure the bridge

The aftermath.  Two vehicles burn, while another smokes.  The dead litter the field. (So many little red counters! Let there be blood! - J)

This was a brutal and enjoyable fight.  The Germans captured and secured the bridge on turn seven.  If we had ended on turn six, the Soviets would have won.  This just shows how close the game was.  Both sides suffered significant casualties.  Having the Soviet infantry be fanatics was a lot of fun, and lent to the flavor of the game.  The Soviets made a few mistakes, most notable being that they failed to put a truck in outflank with infantry aboard.  This would have helped them get deeper onto the board when they arrived.  Sadly, they didn't come on until turn six, because of their poor morale.  Also, at the end of the game, the Soviets might have been able to contest the bridge, but failed to realize they were close enough to move a squad into range to challenge the objective.

Both sides played well, and for Colby it was his first game of Bolt Action.  Like anyone who has played the game, by turn two he had picked up on the rules and was fully engaged.  I also Tweeted out random updates of this game as the battle unfolded.  I hope anyone following enjoyed that as well.

I really enjoyed using my Early War models.  I know its easy to just take the big, cool tanks, but I encourage people to try out new things and see what it is like playing themed games set in certain years of the war, with what was available at the time.  The game is just as enjoyable in this setting, and it makes for an interesting and fun time.

(Sure seemed like it! Let us know on the forum about your experience played era-specific games. - J)

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