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Monday, March 17, 2014

Bolt Action - Do Tank Armies have a Place in an Open Tournament?

This is a question I have been pondering for a while.  Not just in tournament settings, but also in open gaming. Can armored platoons and infantry platoons fairly face off against each other?  Likely most people’s gut tells them that an armored platoon is too powerful for an infantry platoon to handle.  I have to admit this was my initial thought as well.  However, after playing in two armored tournaments, I have begun to second guess that assumptions.  Certainly this move would upset the Meta of the game.  Introducing armored platoons would require all of us to completely rethink how we build our armies and play Bolt Action.

If you introduced armored platoons to regular game play you would see more anti-tank units in Infantry lists. Infantry players would be forced to adjust their game play to account for the possibility of facing off against an armored platoon.  Suddenly all those PaK 40’s, 6 pdrs, Tiger tanks, Panzer IVs, M10s, and 3 inch guns in our collections would become important.  The value of anti-tank grenades would increase, and the German Panzerfaust would find a home.  Our listing would become more balanced as we built armies capable of facing off against infantry and armored targets.

The same goes for tank forces, they would likely have to build a tank force that can deal with both armor and infantry targets.  If a tank force equipped itself with primarily anti-infantry units it would struggle against tank units.  If it primarily took anti-tank it would struggle against infantry.  People running armored platoons would be forced to take balanced platoons as well.

Tank platoons would also be limited due to point values.  Most armored platoons would likely have no more than 3 or 4 vehicles in their army with some added infantry support (with transports) in the standard 1000 point game.  A force like this would have a relatively small number of activation dice.   The limited activations would definitely be a limitation on the tanks and a bonus for a well thought out infantry force.

Of course the elephant in the room is what would stop someone from taking an armored platoon of vehicle flame throwers?  Let’s be honest who wants to face off against 4 to 6 vehicle flame throwers.   Not me, facing two in an infantry list I bad enough.  This is where I would purpose the TO’s or players agree that you could only take vehicle flame throwers in the support slot for vehicles instead of in the core three vehicles.  This would make players have to choose between flame throwers and other options like recon, and would likely limit most armored lists to no more than one flamer.   The other option would be limiting armored lists to one platoon. This second option would also stop people from swamping the board with armored cars and light tanks.

I feel pretty strong that introducing armored platoons to regular game play would force the Meta to change. Right now it seems most players are building their lists to primarily deal with infantry and guns, and we are typically ignoring armored vehicles, or at a at least paying little attention to their effect.  At Cold Wars, for example, most vehicles brought were armored cars or light tanks.   By introducing armored platoons to regular play it would put value on units no one is currently taking. 

The more that I think about it (with flamers being the exception) I don’t see most tank lists overpowering most infantry lists, so long as both sides knows that they could face off against each other and players have a chance to prepare for the possibility in advance.  I should also add that my opinion is heavily influenced by all the home grown Bolt Action games I play here in Alaska.  We routinely have large numbers of tanks on the battlefield with infantry and we have never had balance issues with tanks fighting infantry (partially because we plan on having tanks and infantry fighting one another).  Of course if you brought your current spank infantry list it would likely not do well against an armored list, because like my lists, your list probably didn’t take any legitimate antitank assets because you don’t consider tanks to be a real threat in game play.
I brought this up with a few people at Cold Wars and they had a variety of opinions on the topic.   I am interested in what the large community thinks of this.  What do you see as the pros and cons?  Can the two fairly face off against each other in both pick up and tournaments games?  Let’s chat about it on the forum.

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