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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bolt Action - Deployment Essentials

by Judson

From time to time, we all face the player that deploys the entirety of his or her forces in a horizontal line across the length of the table, thereby spreading his or herself thin and guaranteeing a complete inability to focus power (dice, specifically) from multiple units onto a single target. The inability to throw maximum dice at minimum targets can often lead to maximum defeat in a dice game; and this is, of course, an error no professional BARbarian would ever commit. Right?

Hate to break it to you, BARbarians, but chances are, you make some cardinal deployment mistakes. Do you disagree? Well, MarkDawgs, read on and find out how many of these mistakes you make!

Without a doubt, the biggest mistake I see made is spreading things out evenly, without intent. Before I get into this, I'd like to confess to sometimes committing this avoidable blunder, as well as the rest of the deployments gaffes included herein.

There's something about a six by four foot table that draws us to deploying everything we can in a horizontal line; or perhaps this represents the instincts of even battlefield masters such as American Civil War heroes like Matthew Broderick or Denzel.

This is a bad idea, however. You've got to remember that this is a game where units have not only multiple threat ranges, but multiple avenues to represent those threats. There is no inherent reason to position one rifle squad directly across from an opposing rifle squad. If your plan is to address that opposing rifle squad, your goal should be to position overwhelming dice against it. Dropping a seven man rifle squad directly across the table from your opponent's seven man rifle squad does not represent a favorable plan to eliminate that opposing squad.

Even the Man in Black from The Princess Bride understands this theory - the picture above depicts him explaining it to Matthew Broderick immediately before Broderick breaks into a song from The Music Man. This, of course, has nothing to do with deployment but geniuses like Broderick and Princess Bride's "Westley" can't be constrained by the logic of mere mortals.

Here's the deal: In some situations, it's definitely fine to address seven riflemen with seven riflemen. If you want to win, your seven riflemen better have something that puts them statistically above the opposing riflemen. If you and your opponent's riflemen seem evenly matched, you need to consider the option of gaining a dice advantage.

Carrying a sabre, growing a fantastic 'stache, and bellowing confidently are ways to win an ACW battle, but not a game of Bolt Action. Assuming you've lined one squad up against an opposing squad, your job is to now to ensure that the opposing squad is presented with overwhelming dice. This can be accomplished in several ways.

Luckily, combat units in  Bolt Action  are easier to maneuver than during the American Civil War. Because of the ranges and mobility represented in this game, you can quite easily match multiple rifle squads against a single opposing rifle squad, thereby gaining or increasing your dice advantage over the opponent.

A potentially greater threat to your opponent is aligning an indirect fire weapon against the same target as that of a rifle squad. It may very well be the case that your rifle squad and the opposing squad roll the same amount of dice against each other; yet the addition of a mortar or similar indirect fire weapon against the same target greatly increases your chances of defeating said target.

These points read like a beginner's guide to tabletop war games - yet I consistently see players lining up their entire force and essentially squaring one unit off against one other opposing unit. Bolt Action is, clearly, a game that uses dice; however the odds can be stacked in your favor if you simply push your units into situations where they're able to combine their relative strength.

You may feel, at this point, like a firey Denzel wishing for a more even-keeled Morgan Freeman to counteract your bad decisions. Here's the deal: You don't need a legend like Morgan Freeman to square you away.

Bolt Action is a dice game! The next time you find yourself willfully committing to a coin toss situation - and by that I mean a scenario where you have a 50/50 chance of victory - you need to stop a reassess your options before you commit. Since you now understand that there's always a way in which to roll more dice than your opponent, and therefore tip the balance in your favor, you should always endeavor to do so.

With all that said, I can't wait to hear stories of how you either worked the system and gained an advantage, or found yourself on the wrong side of an American Civil War-style deployment. Tell me about it on the forum!

(If you have no idea what the main film I've been referring to - there have been several, but one above the others - then you owe it to yourself to watch Glory. It has nothing to do with WWII, but everything to do with poor Bolt Action deployment; not to mention being a great movie.)

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