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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bolt Action - Mixing Nations in Generic Platoons to Create a Unique Force

By Patch

For the readers that have followed my adventures in our great game of Bolt Action over the last three or so years, it will be no surprise that this is another article involving Early War French. Now I can actually hear your eyes rolling whilst I write this but this is something different I promise.  This time I am embarking on force that will embrace two of the great allies of the Battle for France in 1940 into one cohesive force, England and France!

Since starting to play Bolt Action, the list of forces that I want to paint and play seems endless but one force that kept popping up again and again was the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). It has been one of those forces which has seen me surfing the online stores staring longingly at the miniatures then just before hitting the 'take my money' button a realisation would always sink in, that I have way too many other projects to do first. The unpainted pile of lead I already had would stare at me accusingly, even mockingly. 28mm Russian, Japanese and German heads all saying in unison 'You have to go through us first Patch, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!'.

In order to get around this type of hobby blocking I came up with an idea to be able to field some BEF miniatures whilst not having to commit myself to another huge project and risk upsetting my existing unpainted forces that have waited patiently for their turn. I would collect only enough to field two squads of Infantry, a Command team and some support options and field them as part of a combined BEF/French force based around the Battle of Dunkirk. I sourced the BEF miniatures from Warlord Games and found them to be excellent with a minor issue where the bayonets had mostly snapped off in transit.  For a run down of my French forces see here.

In my head I came up with the concept of a small British unit, cut off from its Battalion during the retreat to Dunkirk and being attached to a larger French force who have been tasked to hold the advancing German forces at all cost. I have not based it on any particular unit, rather a circumstance that could have happened where the two allies found themselves in the same foxholes and having to cooperate at the small unit level.

How is this represented in the game though? We know that mixing nations is not a thing, you can't have two national rules and essentially create an uber unstoppable combined force with a free artillery observer and free medium howitzer. You have to pick one or the other. It comes down to the story you are telling with your force, and the theme and uniqueness that will want you to keep playing it and start great conversations when the dice are rolling.  In order to field the BEF, I will make them French (I am sure my friends in the UK are screaming profanities at me right now). Why pick French and not British though? Well it comes down to the saturation of British forces at events I go to really, the result I suspect of being from a Commonwealth Nation with a proud military history. I want to offer my opponents something different and despite my championing of the cause there are still only a few French forces going around.

To represent the BEF, a competent and professionally training army that is well equipped, I have chosen to play them at the regular experience level without any special rules. Stock standard infantry at 10 points per soldier and I will run them in two squads of 10 each with just rifles and single Bren Gun per squad.  A regular 2nd Lieutenant (That's Leftenant to you soldier! Don't confuse us with those ridiculous French), a MMG team and an ATR team.  One of the great things about Bolt Action is that support teams are all represented the same so no need to proxy these, for example a Regular MMG team is 50 points for every nation.

The French component will be drawing on the French special rules and will have four x 10 man inexperienced squads (Buy three get one free deal), an inexperienced 2nd Lieutenant (That's Lieutenant to you soldier! Don't confuse us with those ridiculous English), an artillery battery consisting of two inexperienced light howitzers and a regular medium howitzer (Free), a mortar team and an AMD Panhard 178 Scout Car with a Somua Light Tank in support.

Essentially the BEF will be platoon one and the solid core as you would expect from a professional army. Having two 10 man squads will be a threat to any opponent and big enough that they will be hard to wipe off the table.  The MMG will provide some cover while the ATR will be a back up AT team. The French will provide the bulk with 40 inexperienced infantry in four squads just carrying rifles. These will represent a hastily called up unit and perhaps meeting the enemy for the first time. They will be difficult to play being inexperienced but it's not the first time I have fielded such a force. The artillery will be two inexperienced light howitzers and a regular medium howitzer with an inexperienced medium mortar as support.

I will make special mention of the Panhard and Somua, as it was a difficult choice for me to include them over a Char B1. The Char B1 is such an iconic tank and with multiple weapon platforms and all-round armour, it is a formidable unit, however it is in my experienced a magnet for pins and very expensive for what it is actually worth. By splitting that cost between two units I get a lightly armored recce vehicle with a light AT gun and a light tank also with a light AT gun with medium armour from the front. I have only fielded both these units occasionally so want to use them more.

Hopefully I have created a force that represents the chaotic time of the Blitzkrieg where allied forces found themselves fighting side by side against a rampaging German force that was rolling them into the sea. I could just of easily, and may do so in the future, run the entire force as British and this will give an entirely new feel to the same force.

There are many times the intermingling of nations occurred during the war such as the Norway Campaign or D-Day, as well as numerous others, so you are almost unlimited in choices. All you have to do is look for a unit type that is similar in both forces and run them under a single nation. Good luck on your next project!

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