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Friday, April 4, 2014

Bolt Action - Terrain Trouble

Different game systems require different terrain conventions, and our favorite Bolt Action system welcomes the use of "true" terrain.

This is an idea we should embrace, and here's why:

Because it's better.

Of course, that's a ridiculous cop-out. I can appreciate holding tightly to preconceived notions of what's right or wrong in miniature war gaming. Old habits die hard. There's a reason the term "grognard" exists, right?

Before we drive too far into that revolutionary new pool, though, let's take a good look at the area terrain way of doing things.

Line up; get cover, yo!

I intentionally chose a certain science fiction game to use as my example, although there are plenty of "way-more-historically-accurate-games" out there that also love the old, area terrain cliche we've all grown up with. Fender to fender, baby! For accuracy's sake!

You don't have to suffer with these constraints in your Bolt Action game though, BARbarians.

Take this example above - it might drive an area terrain'er to drink. If you were to look at the target German infantry unit from the point of view of the elevated Jeep in the background, you would notice that the stone wall does not obscure the majority of the unit. However, the infantry squad is obscured by that tree in the center of the image.

Is it really more "accurate" to call that low stone wall hard cover, regardless of the elevation advantage that the Jeep enjoys atop that hill in the distance? No, it's not. However, it's completely fair to give that unit soft cover from the nearby tree. None of this is decided with a piece of felt on the table, or some other illusion-ruining material thrown on the table.

I know what you're thinking after this last picture. What a disaster! How can you possibly sort out what's going on if you don't cover your table with a pile of felt circles and squares, so everyone knows who receives cover saves.


The Chaffee, for those interested, did not have a line of sight to the squad inside the ruined building, because the destroyed vehicle between the two units was completely blocking it. Line of sight blocking had nothing to do with units standing within imaginary felt circle borders than extend to the sky.

Something from this angle, of course, would incur a hard cover penalty in order to fire at the American unit on the other side of the wall. Notice, however, that there are some angles through which units could fire at no penalty whatsoever. This is exactly the sort of thing that commanders would consider. Angles and lines of approach were important - it didn't come down merely to entering circles of felt and firing out from the edges of them.

Of course, you have to include as much "extra" stuff as possible in these situations. There is a true need for giant felt squares on the table, given certain circumstances -

- and the reasons we need rules like "if your unit is inside that square of felt it gets a cover save" are reasons the Bolt Action community does not need to stick to. Area terrain is useful, when employed sparingly, but is ridiculous when employed exclusively.

Remember, this is not an expensive, elitist option:

Don't settle for the felt squares!

Please, show off your terrain on the forum!


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