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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bolt Action - 100 Games: Looking in the Rear-View Mirror

By Anthony "Anfernee" Mason

  Recently I had a gaming weekend where I played 3 games of Bolt Action with a friend who is just picking it up. After these games, I realised they had pushed me over the 100 game mark, having now played 102 games of Bolt Action. (Yes I do keep all those stats, it stems from my love of mathematics haha). So today I plan to look back over those games and share with you some of the things I've learnt playing this great game and some of the things I still struggle with every time I play.

  I began playing Bolt Action around 3 years ago, at the end of 2012. At the time a friend from my local game club was interested in picking it up, so we both begun to accumulate armies.  After a half dozen games, my friend who is a gaming butterfly moved on to something else, but I was still entranced by Bolt Action. I'd played Warhammer 40,000 since I was a young boy, but Bolt Action was new, exciting and had a firm grip on me. I heard about a tournament in Canberra, 500 kilometers (310 miles) away and decided to make the trek.

  In those 3 years, I've now played 102 games. Which may not sound like a lot to some people, but when you factor in only 30 of those games have been played with anyone within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of me, it's been quite the feat. I have traveled 16,500 kilometers (10,250 miles) within Australia alone to play Bolt Action (not counting a tournament in New Zealand and 3 games against the MuGu guys near Seattle, US) and played in 16 tournaments, making for 64 tournament games. Despite all this, Bolt Action holds so many lists and things I want to try out.

  My win ratio isn't the best, at just over 33% once you factor in draws which has been the result in 20% of my games. My poor Germans take the brunt of those loses. I have often used my Germans to try out my crazier list ideas at tournaments. A Tiger II in 1000 points. A Flak 88. Hordes of Ostruppen. I have ran plenty of out there lists and to be honest I enjoyed playing them, even if I am not in a rush to throw them down again. My Soviet scout list has been the one that has gotten my best results (shocking no?) including my only podium finish at a tournament.

  One of the biggest lessons I have learnt, is it is hard to go past the humble infantryman. The lists I do the worst with, have always tried to include too many big toys, and they always fall short of achieving the mission objectives. This is something I still struggle with today when making a list. I try and force myself to take at least 4 squads of infantry, but being a big fan of tanks, it is hard. If you've listened to a Bolt Action Alliance podcast, you may have heard the others referring to me as the Rocket Man. I do love a good multiple launcher or four. They are one of the units I have the most experience with, and I can happily say I think their points value is pretty spot on. I have had countless games where they fire for 6 turns and are lucky to kill a single enemy team weapon. Of course many opponents will remember the one game in which they rained down death and killed 4 squads of infantry, but they are definitely a unit for the gambler.

  Besides the humble infantryman, having a mixture of support teams is always another good idea. I know Old Man Morin is a big proponent of having a stocked toolbox whenever he goes to war on the table. Snipers, mortars and even the humble medium machine-gun all have their roles in a well balanced list.

  Speaking of my fellow podcasters, they have generally be a thorn in my side when it comes to winning games of Bolt Action. Old Man Morin, Bryan, Tristan, Garratt and Lachlan have all given me several beatings and wins against them have been far and few between. In fact if I've podcasted with them, they have probably beaten me at some stage! Including the legendary Mark Dawg.

  One thing I must say after all these games is, I always look forward to new missions. There is only so many ways you can skin a cat, but after a while the 6 original missions in the rulebook can always do with some variety, especially when some of them encourage draws. I think 20% chance of getting a draw is maybe a little high in a game system and would love to see that stat drop to 10%.

  I've also played a few larger scenario games in this time, often against my brother. I love big mega games as a break from tournament style games and it's always a great excuse to throw down lots of toys. In fact we have another big game planned for the holidays, with 4000 points per side spread over massive table.

  One of the best things about Bolt Action is getting to play a great game against great opponents. I have rarely had any problems against the myriad of people I have played, and Bolt Action has given me a group of friends for life, scattered all over this globe. I've played in New Zealand and the US, and also had the chance to play people from the US (Dano) and Sweden (Jakob) who flew all the way to Australia to play. A lot of these great friendship were made at tournaments, I think an important note for those who haven't attended one or have a preconceived notion of what goes on at these events. It really is all about having a great time with like-minded gamers.

  So where does this leave Bolt Action in my future? Well I am starting a Japanese and a Partisan army soon, and would love to add some units to my Canadians and eventually try out my Kangaroo list I've always wanted to run. So I look forward to the next 100 games and who knows, I may even chase down that elusive tournament win.

"Anf" is a long-time gamer from Down Under, who currently focuses his hobby time on Bolt Action.
With an equal love of rockets and Ice Hockey, he constantly explores weird and wonderful army lists in his  never-ending quest to collect them all.

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