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Monday, July 7, 2014

Bolt Action - Partisans: Some Recent Thoughts

About a year ago I found a Partisan army up for sale on the buy/sell forum attached to It had been painted to an excellent standard but had been created for another game system (an alternate future WW2, which explains the mech in the background of one of the photos). This meant that while the army was beautiful, it was also too small for a 1000 point game of Bolt Action and included things that might not work very well in the game (*cough cough* hangomags). I paint-matched a few units to supplement what I got in the deal and took the army to the BA MOAB tournament in Sydney last year. Over the next couple of articles I plan to look at the Partisan army as a viable force given the current culture of Bolt Action, based on my experiences using the army. I will also show my army as a whole, both from a painting and from an army list standpoint.

The Partisan army is unique amongst the "Armies of" books in that it covers very different armies from many different locations and time periods over the war. My army, for example, is not the usual French or Russian Partisan force that tends to pop up in history books and movies; though it does appear in a Sabaton song. (Oh yes indeedy! Here it is if you're into it. - J)   It is a Polish force based on the Warsaw Uprising at the very end of the European war. Because this force represents the citizens of Warsaw banding together to throw off the yolk of their German oppressors, it is made up a people wearing a combination of old Polish gear, civilian clothing, and looted German uniforms. Similarly, weapons came from these same places, but it should be noted that prior to their betrayal of the Polish forces, the Russians smuggled weapons into Warsaw to support the revolutionaries. This means that consistency (other than to historical sources) is not a thing to be worried about. Uniform this army ain’t! This is cool because it means I can play around with a variety of models and heaps of different colour schemes.

By building a force around this specific time period and battle I have run into a few problems with some of the unit entries available to me as a player. The list is written for Partisans in a variety of countries across the entire length of the war. The Warsaw Uprising took place very late in the war itself and the weapon options of the Partisan lists do not fully match what Warsaw Partisan forces actually had in the campaign. Don’t get me wrong, the national rules for that list fit (setting bombs, surprising German forces from all sides when they least expected it, looted vehicles, etc.) but it lacks things like looted panzerfausts (outside of one unit entry), assault rifles (which I have painted) and scratch built armoured cars (which they had). The list also includes lots of items that Warsaw forces never used (and as such I will not be using) such as cavalry units (urban uprising), bazookas, and piats. None of these are terribly troublesome though, a massive gap that made little logical sense was the missing entry of the sniper. This thankfully has been errata'ed into existence and will be a linchpin of the "tools" I need to get things done given the character of the army. Speaking of which, let's take a look at the closer look at the army special rules.

Fieldcraft (or the ability to ambush) allows Partisans to treat all Rough Ground and Obstacles as open ground for movement in the first turn. This ability is HUGE! Because most of my troops generally move in from my board edge or my side of the board, I can run large numbers of troops aggressively forward and end in cover. It allows me to put pressure on my opponent early and allows me to take a lot of close quarters weapons like pistols and sub-machine guns without fearing many turns of slogging across the board. I am able to get into a comfortable position early and dictate where and when I want to fight early in the game. Fieldcraft is a GREAT national rule!

Infiltration (or the ability to ignore the -1 when outflanking) is also a great national rule. I used to take a cheap, looted flame tank in my list. By having this rule, I was able to take an inexperienced tank and not have to worry about my roll to enter from a table edge (as much as normal). Though I would NEVER usually take an inexperienced tank, according to the Partisan list all looted vehicles have to be unreliable (take double pins) and have to be inexperienced. This means that whatever tanks you take have crappy leadership, are going to suck at hitting things AND are likely to be pinned into inactivity relatively easily! By taking a flame tank I did not need to roll to hit but I was still vulnerable to pins if I chose to cruise up the centre of the board. So I chose not to. By outflanking, I could hold my tank in reserve and pop it from the side when I later needed it. Sure I needed to roll an 8 because it was inexperienced, but I did not get the minus 1 because of infiltration. However because Warsaw forces did not use flaming tanks, I am taking this out of my list. For similar reasons though, outflanking trucks and expensive elite units really benefit from this rule. Besides, I think it really fits of character of my army.

Hidden Bomb (or the ability to lay down three potentially brutal booby traps) is AMAZING! I LOVE this rule. It really goes towards mitigating the lack of heavy hitting HE units in this list. I get to place three counters at the beginning of the game every time an enemy model moves within 6 inches of a counter I get to roll a dice. On a 1-3, nothing happens and the counter disappears. On a 4 or 5, the counter stays but nothing happens. On a 6, the counter blows up and the enemy unit counts as getting hit by a heavy howitzer. This is fantastic in objective grab missions where players have to get their forces within a certain distance of a specific point. It forces them to risk the roll or forces them to avoid specific parts of the board. Not a lot of armies have multiple chaff units to throw away to force the roll. Meaning... often times the bombs get used on units essential to opponent's plans. Sure there is a good chance they will do nothing… but then again; when they hit, they are brutal!

Though they have these great characterful rules, the army as a whole suffers from a profound lack of anti-tank punch and high HE weapons. The largest AT asset you can buy is a light AT gun (which interestingly only has 2 crew which makes it harder to hit and cheaper to buy). Likewise, the largest HE weapons you can get are medium mortars and light howitzers. This makes sense from a historical standpoint as resistance fighters are unlikely to have heavy artillery stored away in their cellars. This also leads to a tactical challenge that I will have to address when army building.

To wrap up part one: Are Partisans a “real” list? Yes. Can they win games? Absolutely. Do they have weaknesses to match their strengths? Definitely. And most importantly… Are they fun to play? I think so!

Look for part two, where I will talk more specifically about how I have built my list so that it is historically representative of the Warsaw resistance fighters, is fun to play AND can win games.

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