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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bolt Action - AAR: Desert War

Welcome to the scorching desert of North Africa Bolt Action fans! Recently the LRDG podcast crew got together for a big group game. The 4 of us each fielded a 1250pt army each, so 2500 pts a side! We loosely based the game around the second battle of El Alamein in late 1942, with this sector seeing the Allies (Free French and Australians) taking on the Italian defenders. The result to was too good not to share.

The main goal was to get together and have a fun social game with all four of us (Warlord Tobu, Dave'O War, Lachlan, the mouth of madness himself, and Bryan). as well as allowing us to get all our miniatures onto the table. Three of us had armies from the desert war so we decided on this theatre. Lachlan has enough Italians to cover one whole side of 2500pts! Looking at our armies we couldn't find an exact historical battle which would perfectly include our armies. As well as Lachlans Italians, Bryan has his French (which can either be Allied Free French or Axis Vichy) and Tobu has his Australians. But, the second battle of El Alamein did include all these various forces, just not side by side. The Italians defended all along the Axis front, so this was fine. The Free French and Australians however fought on opposite flanks of the allied advance, so for this battle we just took our own liberties and moved them together so we could use our miniatures.

We decided to set up two 6x4 tables alongside each other and use the 'Tank War' mission, so both tables featured multiple objectives. We did this to encourage a cinematic game where both sides needed to advance and grab objectives, but also to solve the challenge of group games of Bolt Action. You see it's just not fun to have 3 players standing around while one guy uses his latest order die. To keep the game moving and simple, we decided the two tables remain separate games. But to give that feel of a large united battle, we put the two Italian players side by side along one edge and the Allies on the other. Then, we made the decision that the victory would be determined by the side who held the most objectives OVERALL. This gave us the feel of a united effort and result, without the complications and slow down of trying to co-ordinate 4 players out of a single dice bag.

4 objectives were rolled for one table and 6 the other. So one side needed to grab at least 6 objectives  across the tables to gain victory. We placed the objectives where it made sense. You can see in the pictures above and below the various objectives placed at strategic cross roads, full dumps and other important features like high ground.

The boards came together in the middle with a small town straddling it to link them up.

The Italian players (Dave and Lachlan) won the roll off for table sides and chose the left in the picture above, featuring great spots for their defensive emplacements. We did choose to allow the Italians to be the defender so they could use their cool national special rule. Dave's Italian army ended up facing of against Tobu's Aussies, and Bryan's Free French would be attacking Lachlan's Italian force featuring a large platoon of colonial Askaris. We all had an appointment to keep at the pub for a few beers that night, so we mutually agreed to just 'go for it' and charge in. All forces except forward deployers had to advance on in the first turn.

The battle began badly for the Italians with the French Foreign Legion sniper taking out their Forward Artillery Observer. An early order dice saw the the sniper on ambush, having deployed in a fashion to cover line of site lanes to where the French Howitzers planned to come on later that turn, he did his job in protecting them from a nasty Italian barrage.

The French armoured cars ran on, heading straight to objectives as fast as they could, with infantry following up to hold them, in this case some Foreign Legionnaires.

Foreign Legion Anti-tank rifle and infantry section advance, their objective in the grove of palm trees beyond.

The Senegalese colonial troops and the venerable Renault FT-17 tanks were committed to the French left, their task to grab the three objectives around the town.

The Senegalese are regular troops but have the Tough Fighters rule, so are deadly assault troops but fragile to incoming fire.

A battery of Foreign Legion medium howitzers deploy into the French center, setting up to be able to provide supporting fire for French the attacks on both flanks.

Lachlan's Italians leap into their defensive emplacements and prepare to fight off the advancing Legionnaires. A squad of veterans in the distance advance toward an objective on the hill nearby.

The Italian deployment zone featured a large central hill which was perfect to set up one of the emplacements. The medium howitzer deployed into it and proceeded to dominate the approaches to the town.

Lachlan committed his own colonial troops to take the objectives around the town. The Italian Askaris are also Tough Fighters, so this was shaping up to be a bloody street fight indeed. Several tanks, M13/40's, advance with the colonial troops to provide some major fire support to the Italian attack.

This Italian emplacement perfectly covered the open ground looking onto the objective in the palm trees. The French Legionnaires would need to come under their fire to take this.

First wave advances. The armoured car is just short of grabbing the objective on turn one, but a truck full of Legionnaires can be seen arriving to support.

With the help of a road the 2nd French armoured car races forward to grab an objective in turn one. A full platoon of Italian colonial troops is just around the corner.

Turn two opens up with a HE party as the Italian medium howitzer knocks out one of the French guns in counter battery fire.

One of the French howitzers is knocked out without firing a shot.

On the opposite side of the Allied line, Tobu's Australians advance into the oncoming Italians. A captured M13/40 (counting as a Stuart tank) takes the high ground and puts fire down into the Italians

Australian mortars deploy next the smoking wreck of an Italian Autoblinda recon vehicle.

The Italians advance aggressively with a pair of M13 tanks toward the Australians taking cover behind the house.

The Legion platoon commander dismounts from his destroyed transport luckily unscathed after it is knocked out by Italian rifle fire.

The Legionnaires weather the Italian infantry small arms fire to head closer to the objective in the palm trees.

How the battle looks at the top of turn two. In the center, a Legion squad is facing down an Italian Semnovente SPG as it advances to reclaim an objective from the French. The platoon's Ant-tank rifle bouncing rounds off it's heavy armour.

Both Italian and French colonial troops advance into the town...things look like getting bloody...

From the French side, 3 sections of Senegalese plus their command and an Anti-tank rifle move up to support the armoured car.

The Italians win the race and grab the large building first. They are inexperienced but Tough Fighters, so it's going to be costly to get them out of there.

With the Legion platoons Ant-tank rifle doing nothing, the amoured car makes a desperate move to stop the Italians taking the objective with the Semovente. In the Tank War mission, once an objective is claimed, you cannot contest it. You only hold it by removing all enemy units within range at turns end. The presence of the French amoured car stops the Italians claiming it.

A round of rifle fire from the infantry and MMG fire form the tanks fails to pin the Italian colonial troops in the building. These troops are dominating the town as they can assault out of the building as well as being protected by it.

Warlord Tobu (left), Dave 'O War (centre) and Lachlan (right) in deep battle thought.

Dave 'O War's main Italian attack heads straight toward the vital fuel dump objective.

The Italian colonial troops unleash a bloody assault from the building and wipe out a section of French Senegalese infantry.

A pair of Italian M13 tanks wipe out the Australian infantry behind the building with their multiple MMG's and move on to the next soft target.

Tobu's Australians advance into cover to hold the central objective from the Italian infantry in the distance.

The assaulting Italian colonials are reduced down by French rifle fire but not assaulted. The French colonials are hugging cover as just out of shot are the Italian tanks, festooned with MMG's, advancing toward them. In the meantime a second squad of Italian Colonial troops occupy the large building.

Bolt Action happened as the French armoured car draws an early dice and gets a shot with it's HMG on the rear armour of the Semovente, destroying it! The Legion are holding their objectives.

The Italian attack on the town. Colonial troops advance around and into the building with an M13/40 in the bottom of the shot in support.

The feared Italian M13/40 tank crashed over the stone wall to pour machine gun fire into the hapless Senegalese infantry...

...the survivors desperately fighting off a second Italian assault from the squad advancing around the building.

A third Italian colonial squad now occupies the building but time is running out to grab the objectives. The French FT-17 tank, armoured car and Senegalese command section go on ambush and dare them to assault. The objective on the cross roads, grabbed early in the game, is seemingly safe in French hands.

With that much fire power waiting for them outside, the Italian troops stay put behind the thick stone walls. The game ends on turn 7 and the objectives are counted up. On one table Bryan's French have claimed 5 out of the 6 objectives against Lachlan's Italians. The other is a draw with both Tobu's Australians and Daves Italians claiming 2 each. It is an Allied victory with the overall objective count. But most importantly it was a win for Bolt Action and dice chucking with mates. All of us had a huge amount of fun. It was really refreshing taking early war lists and including all the miniatures in our collections, not just the most optimal units we usually do in 'standard' 1000pt pick up games.

Have any questions on the game or armies used? Or have you worked out good ways to play group games of Bolt Action? Join in the discussion on the forum:

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