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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bolt Action - Speed Kills: A Discussion Of Mobility In Bolt Action Armies

Greetings and Salutations gang,

Old Man Morin here with some thoughts about building an atypical army list: a mobile one. I recently took a fairly mobile list to the BA tournament at MOAB as a bit of an experiment and came 3rd.  My original idea revolved around an army in which every unit was a vehicle or a unit of troops mounted in a transport. I'll admit I chickened out a bit and dropped a few transports to make a list that was 50% move and hit and 50% static "rock".

I had three squads of veterans in field cars with assault weapons, an open topped heavy howitzer assault gun and a motorcycle with a MMG zipping around the board to apply pressure on my opponent's army, typically where I needed it most. I spent precious points on transports that after dropping troops were a liability at best. In Maximum Attrition I was stuck with vehicles that were easy kills for my opponents and units that needed to use those easy targets to get close enough to the enemy to have any use. In other missions discarded transports would get in the way of my next wave of troops or would block my own lines of sight when firing my big gun at enemy units. I couldn't just throw them forward (automatically killing them) either because part of your tournament results depended on how much of your army was left over at the end of each game. I learned to integrate transports into my battle plan. In Top Secret, I dashed forward with one squad at the end of turn 1 to run up a road to grab the objective. With my first dice the next turn I ran my squad back on foot and used it's transport to give it a light cover. I then used the next field car squad to build a wall of guys and parked cars to further block shooting and possible assaults by the enemy.  Was it fool proof? Nope. Did it work? Absolutely.
By having so much of my force mobile I was really able to dictate where a lot of the battle was being fought. I could focus a large offensive push into my opponent's army on one side and was often able to overwhelm one side of their army before swinging around to destroy the rest.  I know tactics like this work in real life. It was nice to see them work on the Bolt Action tabletop as well. I could also maneuver in and around terrain in such a way that would keep my opponents from focusing fire (from their most effective units) onto my mobile elements until it was too late. Multiple units of assault weapon armed Veterans at point blank range were very effective in destroying most of my opponent's "spank" units before they could "spank" me first.

I also found that building my list this way allowed me to keep my mobile elements in reserve.  I could then force my opponent to commit at least half of their units (depending on the mission) before I rolled to come onto the board. This freed me up to choose weak spots in their lines and/or effectively deal with threats to my own forces on my terms. This was also very handy when making runs across the board to snatch and grab objectives with veteran troops.

Would I go entirely mechanised? I am not sure. I liked having the static elements of my list out on the board to bait my opponents into committing their forces and having a block of units in place to defend my own objectives (demolition anyone?). I also liked having 7 dice on the board to weaken enemy units and load scary units up with pins before sweeping in with the fast moving guys. I suppose I could just rejig the static elements of my force to sweep forward even earlier. This would risk my getting splatted by un-injured and un-pinned enemy units but I could always sweep in with another wave later.  I am not entirely sure that this would work.  Maybe using transports like Indian Carriers with two LMG's would be a good idea for a “start on the board force.” They would have the weapons and range to sprinkle pins around the board and trim units for later harvest. At 60 points a pop though?  I am not sold.  I guess it depends on how big your army is and which nation's army list you are using. That 50% of your order dice in mobile reserve worked beautifully for me once.  It is definitely worth trying again.

I think having at least one big gun is necessary in a list like this though.  I used a mobile heavy howitzer.  Its ability to maneuver into position to fire not only scared opponents into making silly/ hard decisions but also smashed units in the rare instances where it actually hit its target.  In order to properly distract your foes, you need a weapon that has the range and punch to wreck threats from outside most enemy weapons ranges when it arrives from reserve.  Being small enough to partially hide behind terrain is important too if you want to survive reprisal shots. I regarded my Grille as a throwaway distraction. It was too dangerous to ignore but it was not a crucial part of my battle plan. If it did die, I did not overly care. It had done its job of drawing shots away from my transports and important vehicles. It also gave me a tool to deal with units that my list would otherwise struggle with (heavy tanks for example).

Recce is a huge part of this strategy as well though I feel like I could write pages about recce. To briefly sum up though: If you are able to position yourself in a manner that “forces” your opponent to waste his shot to make you recce, especially if you are able to then get out of his line of sight, you are minimizing the shots coming the direction of your transports. This is a very good thing. Like my Grille, I used my MMG motorbike as bait. I played very aggressively with it to tempt my opponents into shooting at it and usually that worked beautifully. Sure I lost it sometimes but my opponents often had to dedicate up to two units shooting it to pick it off. For 40 points, to be able to keep shooting elements from shooting my transports… well that was a great deal.

I think mechanized lists are certainly historical and can be fun to play. More to the point they can be effective too if you plan properly.  I plan on trying them out with another nation soon. Let me know what you think of mechanised forces on our forums.

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