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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bolt Action - Australians in the Pacific

(Hey BARbarians! Enjoy this amazing article from Bryan, BoltAction.Net new talent, as he walks you through his incredibly painted Australians and their performance at Cancon. - Judson)

This is my first army for Bolt Action, and part of why I starting playing this game. I’ve always wanted to paint up an Australian army for the Pacific, and Bolt Action's scope and scale are really well suited to fighting battles in this theatre of WW2. My aim was to paint an initial 1000-point army and enter my first tournament with it in January; Cancon in Canberra Australia. I had three months to get the project finished in time to play!

I am passionate about history and love a themed army, but I also have enough war gaming experience to know you need a half-way decent and balanced army to get started. With this in mind, I attempted to balance my initial unit choices with ‘in-game’ effectiveness and research into historical campaigns.

The history of the Australian army in the Second World War is not that familiar to most people. I won’t go into the details too much here, but I urge you to look up campaigns like Kokoda (1942-43), Milne Bay (1942), Sattleberg (1943), Shaggy Ridge (1943), and Tarakan (1945). Fair to say, what you need to know is that the Australian troops arriving in the Pacific theatre to defend their homeland from the Japanese onslaught were veterans of the North African campaigns, and had forged a reputation as innovative, tough fighting men, who were never willing to give up. The Australians' dislike for formal discipline, and their natural individualism, also allowed them to quickly adapt and become a match for the Japanese in jungle warfare.    
I have used the Armies of Great Britain book for the Australians. This is completely fine to represent most Australian units and their equipment. ‘Up and at ‘em’ was the national rule I chose for my Australians, but I would say that ‘Tough as boots’ and even ‘Vengeance’ would be equally justifiable for representing the character of Australian troops.

I have built this initial force around a single reinforced platoon, because that was one restriction for this particular tournament I was entering. My unit choices all come from researching the battle of Sattleberg. The core of the force is a platoon of Australian veteran infantry from the 9
th Division; that’s three sections and a command. This is supported by a medium mortar, a 25pdr light howitzer, sniper, anti-tank rifle, and transport truck, all from the same Division.

To reinforce this platoon I selected two sections from the 2/4
th Commando Squadron. This unit was tasked with flank protection and raiding in support of the main attack in this campaign. The commandos give me some great units to out-flank with and make the important assaults for winning objectives.
Finally, because the model was just way too awesome to not include, I chose a Matilda tank. Although it’s not the most ‘optimised’ tank choice (slow, only able to put out 1 pin per turn) I could take in a tournament, this model is a great centrepiece for the army. Historically, a squadron of Matildas from the 1st Tank Battalion was deployed to where the fighting was toughest, its heavy armour allowing it to move up and literally blast Japanese defenders out of their bunkers at point blank range.

So, if you wanted to collect an Australian force, then where do you get miniatures from? There are not many specific or extensive miniature ranges that cover this army right now. Here is a run-down of how my search made this army a reality.
The majority of my miniatures come from the Warlord Chindit range. This metal range is very extensive and gives you most weapon options, as well as featuring many variants in sculpts, so no two squads will look the same. There are minor differences in uniform between the Australians and Chindits.

However, there is only one SMG and LMG figure in the Chindit range, so I highly recommend you check out ‘The Assault Group’ in the UK and their British in the Far East range. I was able to fill out my sections with plenty of Thompson and Bren guns. These sculpts mix really well with the Warlord miniatures.
To make Australian Commandos, simply grab a Warlord plastic British Commando sprue to add berets and knives to your metal Chindits. I simply chose the Chindits with the most ‘close quarter fighter’ look, wielding grenades and machetes, to make my commandos.

Apart from these lads, the only real conversion in the army was sticking Chindit heads with slouch hats on a couple of the Warlord Games 25pdr crew members for my light howitzer.
You can get your Aussie vehicles from ‘Company B’ in the USA. Both the Matilda and the truck are resin and metal kits in 1/56th scale. These are both good little kits and were a pleasure to paint up. Company B even has specific Australian transfer sheets for the infantry and armoured units.

This is my army list for Cancon:

1 Veteran 2nd Lieutenant pistol, extra veteran with SMG
1 Forward Artillery spotter, extra reg with rifle

7 Veteran infantry, rifles, LMG, NCO with SMG
7 Veteran infantry, rifles, LMG, NCO with SMG
7 Veteran infantry, rifles + 1 SMG, NCO with SMG
7 Veteran Commandos, rifles +2 SMG, NCO with SMG

7 Veteran Commandos, rifles +2 SMG, NCO with SMG
Regular Medium Mortar team 50
Regular sniper team 50

Regular 25 pounder team 55
Regular anti-tank rifle team 30
Regular Matilda II CS Tank 155
Regular Morris truck 31
Next time, I will give some insights into how the army played in reality. I don’t want to ruin it (but the results are out there), and it actually turned out to be a very effective army on the table-top. Also, if you are interested in how I painted my miniatures, then keep an eye out for a step by step painting guide for an Australian Infantryman coming up in future weeks.

Have you ever collected a Bolt Action army from a specific battle or campaign? Head over to the forums and tell us about it!

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