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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bolt Action - Australians: Getting Boots On The Table

Greetings BARbarians, Bryan here, and welcome to a small tactical guide to fielding Australians in Bolt Action. You may have seen my army showcase last week, but how did the army play in it’s (and my) first 
Bolt Action tournament? Quite well, as it turned out…

After 5 fun games against great opponents, and many FUBAR‘s along the way, I found myself in 2nd place overall, with 4 wins and 1 draw (which attrition points were used to break in my favour). Obviously, I was really happy with this, and not just because of the game results. I would much rather lose a fun game then win a stressful one. Before I go further, there were a couple of specific tournament rules that should be taken into consideration when viewing this army's success. The TO decided to not allow vehicle flame throwers, missions were mostly objective based, and only infantry or artillery units with 3 or more models could claim these objectives.

I won’t go into a game by game, turn by turn account of my on table experiences, because I think that’s not as helpful to those out there considering collecting a force like this. Instead, I’ll explain how I see the army working as a whole then give a few observations on it’s parts.

The heart of my Australian Pacific theatre platoon is the ‘Diggers’ themselves (it’s the nickname for the Australian soldier throughout last century and even now). 3 Veteran infantry sections of 7, and 2 Veteran Commando sections. All my other units are there to help my infantry get the mission done, which was taking or defending objectives in 4 out of the 5 games.

My basic plan varied only slightly according to the mission, and if I was attacking or defending. First I would make sure I knew the mission rules and victory conditions. Sounds basic, but in a tournament it’s easy to get distracted by all the amazingly painted armies and tables around, and of course catching up with old mates. However, make sure you know the subtleties of the particular mission, especially the army deployment and reserve/outflanking rules.

I’ll use an example mission like Hold The Line to explain how I used the army list I designed. Both sides are going for the three objectives spread across the centre of the table, so both are on an equal footing. The first decision I made in most missions was which 2 out of the 3 objectives I wanted to capture or defend. My army is not huge, 13 dice and at it’s heart, 5 sections of 7 men to win or lose the game with. I had to be ruthless - you can’t expect to spread out and take or hold all three objectives. Once I decided which objectives I planned to go for I would deploy my 3 infantry sections as close as possible to these, as you only get 6 turns of movement to get there. I would then hold off my 2 Commando squads in outflank, 1 section on each side. I would use one to help take the objective I wanted and the other to work in tandem with my FAO to ‘spoil’ the enemies advance on the seemingly easy objective for him.

This is where my FAO came into play. Artillery has a big disruptive factor on your opponent’s deployment and movement, and if he doesn’t spread out his units (or even leave units in reserve) it’ll punish them. Having stacked one half of the table with my veteran infantry, I would call in my Artillery strike to pin enemy units moving to take the objective on the opposite side of the table away from them. Pinning hopefully 2-5 units of the opposing army for a few turns, allowed my smaller elite army to concentrate and attack some of the opposing army’s units with the majority of mine. Then, turn and deal with the previously pinned units later in the game. This doesn’t work against the Japanese, but the one game I played against them was with Old Man Morin…and let’s just say rolling lots of 6’s and getting heavy howitzer hits on 3 out of his 4 units hit by my barrage was a good "tactic". 
The "before" shot:

The "after" shot:

Another feature of this army worth mentioning is the ‘Nation special rule’ I chose, ‘Up and at ‘em!’ As a British player, you can choose from a list of 5 options. This rule allows my Veteran Infantry units to always  pass order tests to assault. Think about it, Veterans are hard to kill…so you try and pin them out, right? You also almost always need to assault in Bolt Action to take objectives. This rule not only historically suits the Australian troops but meant my attacking units could take on many pins and still be very dangerous to the enemy at close range. Even if you take 3-4 pins moving up and are bogged down, as long as the enemy comes close to you (and when there is objectives to take that does happen) all you have to do is be in assault range and you are doing damage, and if you survive the assault, shedding all those pins the enemy worked so hard to put on you. 
My army was fairly light on HE weapons, having 3 weapons with 1D6 worth, but I found my uncanny ability to consistently roll 6’s meant my medium mortar and light howitzer were doing the damage I needed. The rolling 6’s stayed constant though, and I did roll many FUBAR’s that weekend!

I found my medium mortar performed really well at targeting the opponents static support weapons like artillery, snipers and other mortars. Even if I didn’t range in on the first attempt, I would ‘double up’ and use my 25pdr light howitzer to attempt a range in also. This was often enough to make the opposing player move his unit or risk two range in attempts the following turn, which at least stopped it doing damage to one of my vital infantry squads for a turn. 


The other big surprise was my Matilda tank. I really only chose this over an M3 Stuart with it’s 3 MMG’s because I love the model. The Australian Matildas in the jungle are so iconic. It is a slow tank, with only 1 weapons system being able to be fired per turn, being armed with a light howitzer and co-axial MMG. Well, my Matilda repaid my faith with driving on in each battle and taking down units with it’s light howitzer. Granted, there was some good rolling in there for it’s to-hit rolls, but if you move up, howitzers are generally in short range; and I found Ambush orders particularly useful for catching units in the open trying to move between cover. It does prove that you should always include units in your list for no other reason than you think they are just cool. (Amen, brother! - Judson)

In fact, I chose to collect this whole army just because it’s cool, and this tournament showed me how fun and flexible a force the Australians can be!

Anyone else out there rocking unusual armies from across the British Commonwealth? Tell us how you design your lists on the forum.

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