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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bolt Action - Armored Platoons will be Standard

Yesterday morning, for those of us on the east coast of the United States, Alessio Cavatore dropped a big surprise in our laps. It was something that I, after reading the review copy, said was not going to happen in Bolt Action. As Alessio made quite clear in his article, however, I had interpreted it incorrectly.

As it turns out, the upcoming Armored Platoons are indeed intended to be used alongside the Reinforced Platoons we're used to, and not only in separate one-off games.

In a recent article, Mr. Cavatore clarified the somewhat vague book verbiage - to paraphrase, you may use the Armored Platoon rules if you choose - to something much more concrete. Here is the direct quote from the "Armoured Platoons" section of his write-up:
"The one design parameter that I think it's a good idea to make very clear at this point is other than having a different selector ruling what you can include in a force, Armoured Platoons follow all the normal rules of Bolt Action!
This means that you can indeed field an armoured platoon against a normal reinforced platoon - and the points values will take care of the balance. Of course, in friendly games you might want to forewarn your opponent that you might be taking an armoured platoon against his reinforced platoon, that way he will probably reinforce his anti-tank capability.
In events and tournaments, as normal, it will be down to the organizers to decide whether to allow either or both type of platoons, and which scenarios to use."
Oh, really?

It turns out there's even more, just a few paragraphs down, that alludes to an Armored-is-OK shift in the scene. The following is the last sentence in the "Tank Battle Scenario" section of his article:

"If I were to organise a tournament that allowed both armoured platoons and reinforced platoons, I would add this scenario in the mix of scenarios played in the event, so that armoured platoons would have a slight advantage in this scenario, but would struggle with scenarios from the rulebook, unless they also brought some infantry/artillery in support."
The short of that entire section ultimately still boils down to one key line: "In events and tournaments, as normal, it will be down to the organizers to decide whether to allow either or both type of platoons, and which scenarios to use."

Before I go any further, I'd like to answer the question you may or may not be asking yourself, "Why does this matter?" The first phrase that comes to mind is that I'm old fashioned; that back in the early 2000's, I'd pack up my one GW army and head to the store to play a game with the guys there using the one version of the rules everyone used to play the game. Of course off-shoots existed. Rules for giant robot monstrosities were optional. Rules for drop pods. Rules for aircraft - yet all of those were clearly optional rules. This may not seem very old fashioned to certain gentlemen in the historical war gaming, or even GW crowd, but the point is that "back in my day" you could go to a shop and get in a pick-up game with someone there; and both players would have a "standard" list ready.

This Tank Fight book brings something else completely to the table. Before tantalizing hints like, " might want to forewarn your opponent that you might be taking an armoured platoon against his reinforced platoon, that way he will probably reinforce his anti-tank capability," were dropped, I thought the Tank Fight rules were completely optional. For perspective, like a game of Warhammer 40K Apocalypse - completely separate from the standard rules. I needed to ask the man himself what his intentions were, because this was too big of a deal for me to just leave as an all-too-familiar, "do it this way if you and your opponent agree" matter.

Being the open, nice guy that he is, Alessio probably wouldn't mind direct quotes in this article. However, to eliminate any possibility, ever, that someone sites this article as any sort of official ruling (we are completely unofficial) I have decided to only paraphrase what he said when asked about these new rules. To put it a different way, if you cite any article on BoltAction.Net as proof of why you can do something in a Bolt Action game, you are wrong.

That said - and remember I'm paraphrasing here - when asked if these are not, in fact, optional rules but rules intended to be added on to the normal game, he said yes, they were not intended as optional. As mentioned in his article, the points secure the game balance, the amount of tanks do not. He also mentioned that the perceived power of armored platoons is based significantly on the scenarios in which they're used. To make sure the important part of that stuck out, when asked if the tank rules were optional or standard, the answer was that they will be standard with the release of Tank Fight.

This affects the list that 2000's me would bring to the store to get pick-up games in, and anyone that would suggest that these players represent the minority are deluding themselves. The minority players are those that are off on their own, on an island, who randomly decide to pick up Bolt Action because they saw that Warlord Games was going to be releasing plastic halftracks. People need a standard, because otherwise we're just all playing Apocalypse - which, technically, is a standard I suppose - with our Bolt Action models. Otherwise, pick-up games simply can't happen.

Of course, all the usual conditionals are included in the official article. Tournament organizers can do what they please; you and your friend can play whatever you want in the garage; if both you and your opponent agree - we get all that. Those are non-statements, though, essentially. If my opponent doesn't want to play standard Bolt Action with me, then we're playing house rules; and for a lot of new guys rolling into a shop for the first time, if everyone's playing "well that's how we play it here" Bolt Action, they're going to head right back out the door without first dropping a single die in anger. There's a need for a standard, because it keeps things neat and tidy. The neat and tidy (paraphrased) standard is that, yes, armored platoons should be played side-by-side with reinforced platoons.

Many people will kick coffee tables or innocently-bystanding pets as their knees jerk in reaction to this. All I can advise is to play it a few times. There are going to be scenarios that completely favor armored platoons, and Alessio said as much in his article today; but the fact is, there are scenarios currently where certain reinforced platoons fared better than other reinforced platoons. If you make a list with a powerful and expensive back row of heavy guns, then find out you're playing Hold Until Relieved as the defender, you're at a disadvantage because none of the guns may start on the table. Before armored platoons ever became "standard" (again, my quotes) players could make lists with two armored cars and two tanks, which amounts to an armored platoon. Try it before you punt your dog across the room, or off of a bridge. Do it for dog's sake.

Seriously, don't kick Baxter off the San Diego bridge.

I'm really excited about this for another reason. While Mr. Cavatore would not state unequivocally what the new points level will be for the Warlord Games Tournament pack, he did say that it would be somewhere between 1250 and 1400. The less-than-1500 makes sense: Two platoons is the maximum any of us want to see on the other side of the table, nine times out of ten. Anything more is probably just for the sake of doing something gimmicky. This is exciting, because players out there have already been championing a points increase (props to MarkDawg and Co.) and they will get it. In my opinion, Alessio just made us a whole new game. This is just as big as a version two. This is not simply a book of optional rules as I originally perceived it to be. It makes tank lists "legal" (for the last time, my quotes) and watching this develop is going to be fascinating.

What do you have to say about it?

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