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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bolt Action - So, You Want to Play a Tank Battle? (You Should!)

By Judson

For those that haven't heard, WWPD is hosting a Tank Battles game at Cold Wars this year. If you're reading this, chances are you've played at least one standard game of Bolt Action, and this article explains exactly why you need to try Tank Battles before the book comes out this summer.

For those BARbarians out there that have no idea how to put serious tank treads on the table, please allow me to give you a quick rundown. Making a platoon in an armored battle game is similar to making one in the standard format. You are forced to take some choices, to color your force, and are allowed to take some others to round it out. In an armored game, unsurprisingly, you must take some tanks before you can take other units. This is way out of the comfort zone for those of you used to making infantry selections before you even think about tanks.

In the current armored battles rules, you need to buy at least three armored fighting vehicles - please check the PDF linked above for specifics - and one of the vehicles must be upgraded to a command vehicle for an extra twenty-five points. Another important rule that sets these tank battles apart is the fact that all infantry and guns need to be transported. That is to say, you need to purchase enough transport capacity to be able to move your entire, non-mechanized force. To be even more specific, you can purchase infantry squads, but you need to also purchase enough transport vehicles to carry every single man or gun into combat. This provides a really interesting spin on list making in tank battles. Of course, infantry and guns serve a purpose in any game of Bolt Action; but are they worth purchasing if you're also forced to take transport vehicles for them all?

Of course, this provides refreshing challenges for the list-making fans out there. If you're going to host or participate in an armored battles game, you've got to take a whole new approach to listing. That's a huge draw to many players. More importantly, however, is the fact that those BARbarians out there who have been dying to tear chunks of virtual sod out beneath the treads of their models finally get the opportunity to put tanks on the table! Of course, you can do this in standard lists, to a degree. In armored battles, though, you're encouraged to drop tons of steel onto the battlefield. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's looked down upon to bring multiple tanks in a standard game. In tank games, it's not only encouraged - it's the rule! You have to bring at least three armored fighting vehicles in order to play!

This might not be attractive to all of you, but I'd like to also add that tank battles games are short. Even when you play games at 1250 points, given the fact that many of the points need to be used on armor, that means that orders proceed much more quickly than a standard game. It's much easier to move one tank, then roll one die to fire with it, than it is to negotiate obstacles with a twelve-man infantry squad before rolling tons of dice from various weapons.  I've never heard anyone complaining that Bolt Action games last too long, but tank fights move along even faster than regular Bolt Action events. Tanks don't roll tons of dice, and the few dice they roll, often end in destroyed enemy tanks.

Besides all these reasons why the mechanics behind playing an armored game of Bolt Action is different, you get the opportunity to use units you wouldn't normally use. Of course, you're going to be using more armored fighting vehicles. However, if you're guaranteed to see more tanks, that automatically means some weapons systems are suddenly guaranteed to be more useful than they would be in a standard game.

Let's go through the psuedo-math! If you're guaranteed to see three armored fighting vehicles in any list in tank battle games, and you're not guaranteed to see any in a standard game, obviously this means that anti-armor weapons are necessary in armored games compared to standard games. Have you ever been frustrated by the cost of a vehicle that carries a powerful anti-tank weapon, because it didn't always provide a return on your investment in a standard game, where the appearance of tanks wasn't assured? This risk is mitigated in tank battle games! Players must bring tanks to tank battle games! Your heavy anti-tank gun - which is a poor use of points if your opponent fields no tanks - has a clear use and advantage in armored fights.

Let's forget about the heavy or super heavy anti-tank weapons for a moment, because that's not a point that needs stressing. It's obvious why those weapons that generally don't get used in standard games, are more attractive in armored games. Think about generally avoided abilities like gyrostabilizers for the Americans. In an environment where everyone must take tanks, the tanks that can avoid the movement penalty are just as strong, relatively speaking, as the (in)famous American rifle rules. Everyone's seen how powerful the riflemen rules are for the US forces, but people rarely spend the extra points on veteran American armored fighting vehicles. Tank fights make these units more attractive.

After all that is said, there's one tiny fact to add: Playing tank battles means that all your units will interact with each other differently. There are so many new angles to approach the game from when infantry doesn't make up at least half the force you're facing! If you haven't tried it out, you really need to. If you have tried it out, you need to jump on the forum and tell everyone how great it is!

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