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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bolt Action - Season 1

For some time now, niggling issues in an otherwise outstanding system, such as the value of light machine guns, have bothered many players the world over. As is its right to do, Warlord Games has decided not to make changes in response to these limited problems.

Rather than address known flaws in the system - of course the term "flaw" is highly subjective - Warlord Games has opted to release a stream of content which is almost in its entirety labeled as optional. Questions regarding rules are sometimes answered by stating simply that they are optional rules and are to be used only if both players agree. This has predictably left some players wondering when, if ever, an update to the rules might be expected. Now that the third year has begun, I've put together a Bolt Action Dot Net rules packet in the attempt to address these universally identified sticking points in the rules.

If you're reading this, most likely you're a discerning, thinking gamer. "Why," you therefore probably ask yourself, "does this guy think he can make changes for the better to Bolt Action?" You would be perfectly reasonable to ask such a question, and the answer is found in the origin of the Bolt Action Dot Net Format. Download the format here. Download the score sheet here.

Roughly six months ago, the social media traffic dealing with any number of hot button issues in Bolt Action was at its peak. Mr. Alessio Cavatore, to his credit, participated in the discussions, offering helpful suggestions to alternate rules and explanations to why things had yet to change. Unfortunately, this did not lead to any change, but led instead to more "discussions" around the internet.

That is about the time I decided to form a Bolt Action rules congress! It started off so fantastically, forming teams of delegates from around the globe to hash out resolutions to various long-time rules issues. Opinions expressed on Facebook, our forum and other places were collected and considered. The entire community, although they didn't realize it at the time, was directly involved in solving these problems. Compromises would be made! Errors would be fixed! A perfect, utopian society of Bolt Actioneers would come together to form a more perfect union of Bolt Action rules!

Of course, anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes on the internet is already laughing at my naivety.

Predictably - in hindsight at least - the intercontinental congress of Bolt Action failed to agree on anything. Everyone had fantastic ideas. Amazing ideas, things I'd never before even considered, were flying in from every direction; and as passionately as one person would argue for their own change to be implemented, another would argue against it and instead for their own change's implementation. After eight weeks of sorting through this sort of discord, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

At this point, I'd like to add an aside to this. If you've been a BARbarian since the early days, you know that Dan and I have been the loudest proponents of leaving the game system the way it is. We discouraged people from house rules, because that would lead to multiple and very different versions of the game existing. The hypocrisy of my current approach does not fail to smack me square in the jaw. However, those statements were early made based on the faith that after issues had revealed themselves they would be "officially" corrected. Sadly, there are a rare few, but glaring, instances where that has yet to occur.

Back to the matter, now in my hands alone - taking this project on by my lonesome would accomplish two things. First and foremost, it meant that the document would be eventually completed. With a dozen disagreeing voices, this was never a guarantee, but one person could realistically accomplish it. Secondly, since I had been the one collecting opinions from the community at large, and had also been in the middle of all the back-and-forth amongst the "delegates" of our little congress, I felt more or less in-tune with, if not the exact changes everyone wanted, at least what they wanted changed.

What I also realized throughout this process is that there is no single rules change that will make everyone happy. There is still apparently someone out there who says twenty points is a fine price to pay for a light machinegun, and that's okay! Everyone's got a way to address the LMG issue, and in their mind, it's the best way to address it, even if that method is to just leave LMGs alone. This disagreement is what I feel was the most important decision in the life of the Bolt Action Dot Net Format rules: It would be an ever-evolving document.

Here's the skinny, folks: Bolt Action Dot Net Format is going to exist in six-month seasons. During every season, feedback will be considered, and the document adjusted to reflect the consensus in time for the next season to start. I'm not crazy enough to think that everything can be fixed with one fell swoop. No, this sort of thing needs to evolve, like any other successful system, and that evolution will be perpetual and controlled by those who participate and use The Format.

By the way, my friend Gregg over at EasyArmy has agreed to offer a button that changes things according to The Format's rules in his list utility - so you can still use his great interface to write your lists!

If you're still following me, you've almost certainly asked yourself the question, "Why would I use this document rather than simply making my own document?" I've already touched on one of the reasons. People want to play the same rules as someone else, and they want to feel like the rules have been tightened up as much as possible, without any holes. A statement from the authority, in this case the game company, such as, "These rules are optional, so discuss them with your opponent before the game," does not instill confidence. That's basically telling the players to do whatever they want. Why buy the rules? Come up with your own! Do whatever you agree upon - which of course brings up the problem of actually coming to an agreement on every single instance of an optional rule. The potential problems in a do-your-own-thing rule set are numerous and community-killing, if players need to argue for their favored rules before every game begins.

The second reason to use The Format is because BoltAction.Net will track international standings for those wishing to be included. Explaining the scoring would be time consuming, and that's what the document is for in the first place, but players can compete internationally in many different categories including Best Painted; Hanoswag; Best Allied General; Best Axis General; and Best Minor General. Organizers will complete a simple scoring sheet and submit it to for tracking. Official PDF files will be sent to those tournament organizers running Bolt Action Dot Net Format events so that certificates can be handed out as well. In order to qualify for ranking and certificates, though, the event needs to follow Bolt Action Dot Net Format guidelines. This ensures that everyone being ranked is playing the same game.

The establishment put the game in our hands, folks, by refusing to commit to changes and taking the approach that players should use whichever rules they enjoy - oh and also convince their opponents they, too, should use those same rules. Vehicle flamethrowers needed to be changed. Light machineguns needed to be changed. Bolt Action Dot Net Format will not be universally favored, but it's a start, and if people participate and provide feedback, it will one day be the perfect game Bolt Action almost is.

No matter whether you end up enjoying it or not, thank you for trying. If you think something is amiss after giving it a shot, please leave feedback! That's the only way we can make it work!

Want to weigh-in on the subject? Please reserve this feedback link for your feelings after you've played using the rules. Use the link below to tell us what your first take is.

Big thanks to Bryan for once again providing his outstanding design services!

Bolt Action Dot Net Format Rules Download
Bolt Action Dot Net Format Score Sheet Download

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