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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bolt Action - Tigers On The Prowl (How To Use Big Cats In BA)

I, Old Man Morin, am a tank lover. I always have been.  As a child I used to walk around military bases and was astonished by the size and noise of them.  I guess I never really outgrew that awe. One of my favorites has always been the Tiger I. It is iconic, it is HUGE (for its time), AND it has a MASSIVE GUN!!! What’s not to love? Well, Bolt Action is an infantry based game…  And it is a GREAT BIG TANK!

When I was starting to play BA, one of my first purchases was Wittman’s Tiger.  I couldn’t help myself.  Over a few games I quickly learned that, given the bang to buck of some other weapons in the game, (howitzers and flame weapons for example) the Tiger’s 88 is only good in a few situations in the game, and costs a lot of points.  Likewise, most of my opponents were running infantry heavy lists that had very few anti-tank assets of their own.  They couldn’t hurt my Tiger, BUT, my Tiger wasn’t doing much to them in return.  It seemed to be a waste of points given those circumstances - it was almost 40% of my army - so needless to say, the Tiger got shelved. For years.

As the TO of Conquest a few weeks back I needed a gumby army in case I had an odd number of players.  Something that I could play with and get games finished in a quick and tidy manner (and something that would not be too competitive).  The answer to that riddle, was collecting dust on my top shelf: The Tiger.  I decided to pull out the big cat. Its price meant that the rest of the army needed to be small.  Few dice. Shorter turns.  Shorter games.  That was the theory anyway.  I also decided that I was going to try and make the list competitive (or at least as competitive as I could) and see if I could disprove the common internet logic that big AT is bad.

Here is my list:

I wanted some basic regular squads to claim objectives and reach out to punch people so I grabbed three identical squads (easier to remember what I had, again a speed method).  I backed these up with two cheap Volksgrenadier squads.  I have had bad luck with these guys, but thought I would also give them another chance.  Now, I have written a few tactics articles recently talking about my philosophy that you need to take a variety of tools to best counter your opponent’s units and toys.  Using this philosophy, I picked up a mortar, a sniper, and the nebelwerfer.  I figured they would partner with the ramming power, big gun and heavy armor of the Tiger. As an odd number of players arrived on the day… I quickly found out how it would fare.

I played 5 games over the weekend and played a fairly wide spread of army make-ups and nationalities.  I won one game and lost four.  This sounds bad, but I won game 3 and came within one unit of tying my opponents in both games 4 and 5.  The list took a little while to learn but, despite the numbers looking grim, was effective in the end.  It was competitive enough to win games and to give my last two opponents heart attack style close games that were resolved in the last turn. Here are a few things I learned:

1) GO HARD! 
If you are going to go with a 400 point (at regular) tank that is literally as large as some small buildings in the game, and has armour to shrug off most hits - get stuck in!  The Tiger likes to grind over things. The newest version of tank assault and its ability to crush buildings with people inside them are major assets.  Tank assaults can wreck your opponent's game and can get rid of the pesky pins that have been ruining the aim of your 88.  Also, if you destroy a building by ramming it, the unit inside is…  DEAD.  No other rolls needed.  This is huge if someone is parking a pesky unit next to an objective and you just can’t seem to get them out.
2) Artillery Strikes Suck.
Receiving pinning from off the board by artillery (and other stuff) in two games taught me early to use my sniper to kill arty observers dead.  Snipers are also good against mortars that are trying to range in on the big cat or other units hugging buildings. In the same vein, howitzers and ATR’s need to die early.  You need your tank to hit or at least move, so you can ram things. Pins are bad!

3) Believe Your Own Hype.
This is going to sound weird, BUT, believe in yourself and all your dreams CAN come true! (Thanks Mouth of Madness.) (Yes! - Judson) After sucking hard in my first two games, I walked into game three talking trash about how my Tiger was going to single handedly wipe my opponent from the board.  It must have heard me because it moved and fired in the first three turns of the game and each shot hit and wrecked its target.  This is not normal, but after that I used the same line in every game and my opponents started to act scared and stopped ignoring the little (little? - J) beast.  This eased the pressure off my other units, and was hugely responsible for my later successes. 

4) You Need A Backup Plan
I tried to build an army that could at least defensively survive if the Tiger died.  You need troops to hold buildings and objectives and toys to back them up. If you go the Tiger route, you will not have tons of toys to throw around, so make the rest of your points count. I skipped transports and left the aggressive maneuvering to the Tiger. Everything went the defensive or on the cautiously aggressive route.

5) Have Fun
You cannot take a tank like the Tiger I and expect to regularly win against a variety of opponents.  You will face armies that will ruin your day (I suppose that is always the case).  Just play to have a good time and enjoy the big kitty for what it is. Fun! 

'Til next time… May your guns shoot straight and your order dice come up next!

Old Man Morin… OUT!



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