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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bolt Action - How to Run a Multi-Player Bolt Action Game in the TL;DR Era

As we start war gaming, we play with just one other opponent at a time and everything is great.  But, then comes the time when we would like to try a multi-player game to get that feel of larger forces and extra players, to make a special day of it all.

Unfortunately, while most multi-player games are enjoyable, they tend to take forever, are often not completed in time, and there are large patches of inactivity waiting for other players.

At the Demo Gamers, we think we have a solution to this problem.

We have played with 4 and 6 players, but still completed a full 6 or 7 turn game in two to two and a half hours.  This also has the bonus of the same tension building of a normal 1,000 point game and frantic last move charges and rescues.  Start with the normal fun and excitement of a typical Bolt Action game, but add in the additional challenges of more players. Yeah!

So how did we do it?



The three part plan.

1. Pair off

Each pair of players uses their own dice bag.  This means a four player game has two dice bags, a six player game three bags and so on. Each pair moves along at their own pace, only waiting at the end of each turn so everyone moves to the next turn together.

Also, we always have at least one objective per pair of players.  This provides each pair with a primary focus as well as assisting their allies.

2. 600 points each

600 points allows four to eight order dice, depending on the mix of armour and support units. Free squads are limited to 6 men (as 1000 points = 10 men, 600 points should equal 6 men) This means the order dice bag for each pair has eight to sixteen dice, normally around twelve dice.  That moves the game along pretty efficiently.

The other benefit of 600 points is that it is very hard to unbalance your force with too many overpowered units.  With a HQ and two squads as minimum, there are not a lot of additional points to spare on multiple vehicles or artillery.

Finally with so few forces, each unit needs to be used well as there is little spare to be wasted.

Here are some 600 point options (We rounded points to make compilation easier):

United States (6 dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Sniper (2 men) 1 @ 50 pts = 50 pts

Regular Squad Mid (NCO (SMG),BAR,8 rifles) 3 @ 110 pts = 330 pts

M24 Chaffee (Med AT, MMG, Coax MMG) 1 @ 150 pts = 150 pts

Total: 600 pts


Britain 1 (6 Dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Infantry Squad (NCO (SMG),LMG ,8 rifles) 1 @ 125 pts = 125 pts

Airborne Squad (NCO (SMG),LMG ,8 rifles)

           - Veteran Stubborn 1 @ 165 pts = 165 pts

PIAT (2 Men) 1 @ 40 pts = 40 pts

Artillery Observer 1 @ 0 pts = 0 pts

Cromwell (Med AT, Coax MMG, MMG) 1 @ 205 pts = 205 pts

Total: 605 pts




Britain 2 (7 dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Heavy Mortar (Spotter) - Off Board 1 @ 65 pts = 65 pts

Artillery Observer 1 @ 0 pts = 0 pts

Infantry Squad (NCO (SMG),LMG ,8 rifles) 2 @ 125 pts = 250 pts

Airborne Squad (NCO (SMG),LMG ,8 rifles) - Veteran Stubborn 1 @ 165 pts = 165 pts

PIAT (2 Men) - Veteran 1 @ 50 pts = 50 pts

Total: 600 pts



Australia (8 Dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Sniper (2 men) - Veteran 1 @ 65 pts = 65 pts

MMG (3 men) 1 @ 50 pts = 50 pts

Infantry Squad (NCO (SMG),LMG ,8 rifles) 3 @ 125 pts = 375 pts

Artillery Observer 1 @ 0 pts = 0 pts

PIAT (2 Men) 1 @ 40 pts = 40 pts

Total: 600 pts



Germany 1 (4 Dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Heer Infantry (NCO (SMG),LMG,8 rifles) - Veterans 1 @ 155 pts = 155 pts

Waffen SS (NCO (SMG),LMG,8 rifles) - Veteran Fanatics 1 @ 185 pts = 185 pts

Panzer III J (Med AT, MMG, Coax MMG) 1 @ 195 pts = 195 pts

Total: 605 pts



Germany 2 (7 Dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Heavy Mortar (Spotter) - Off Board 1 @ 65 pts = 65 pts

MMG (3 men) 1 @ 50 pts = 50 pts

Heer Infantry (NCO (SMG),LMG,8 rifles) - Regular 1 @ 125 pts = 125 pts

Volks Grenadiers (NCO + 4 (Ass Rifles) + 3 rifles) - Green special 2 @ 65 pts = 130 pts

Sdkfz 234/2 Puma (Med AT, Coax MMG) 1 @ 160 pts = 160 pts

Total: 600 pts



Germany 3 (7 Dice)

Officer (2nd Lt + 2men) 1 @ 70 pts = 70 pts

Medic (Veteran) 1 @ 30 pts = 30 pts

Heavy Mortar (Spotter) - Off Board 1 @ 65 pts = 65 pts

Heer Infantry (NCO (SMG),LMG,8 rifles)

               - 2 x Panzerfaust each 2 @ 135 pts = 270 pts

Volks Grenadiers (NCO + 4 (Ass Rifles) + 3 rifles)

               - Green special + 2 Panzerfausts 1 @ 75 pts = 75 pts

Sdkfz 222 (Light Autocannon, Coax MMG) - Recce 1 @ 95 pts = 95 pts

Total: 605 pts


3. Full board dynamics

This is the important last point.  All of one side can fire at any of the other side's units, even if they are moving to the pace of another order dice bag.  This encourages the slow movers to hurry up as if they wait too long suddenly they may find themselves fired at while they are deliberating.  One player was pondering whether to run across the courtyard as there was a single man observer on ambush.  While he was pondering, the player from another dice bag had four order dice in a row and suddenly he was faced with four squads on ambush waiting for him to run the gauntlet.

The other benefit of multiple dice bags but interacting forces is that you have to concentrate on your opponent as well as consider helping your allies, but there is so much happening you miss opportunities.

From our play-testing it works out that two to three feet of board edge per player is about right.  That focuses each small force on their direct opponent with peripheral action to each side.



The results are pretty impressive.  We finished a four player (1200 points) seven turn game in two hours. We finished a six person game (1800 points) game in two and a half hours.

So go forth and play bigger games!





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