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Friday, July 29, 2016

Bolt Action - AAR: D-Day Double Game Special

Nearly 2 months ago, I got to attend a very special event up in Sydney, Australia, hosted by the gracious Bryan Cook and the Company of Dice gaming club to commemorate the battle for Normandy on D-Day and the days following it. I drove up from Victoria (a 9-hour drive) and met up with Baconburgers, Tristans and Rob who had flown up from Melbourne and we all spent the weekend enjoying Bryan's gracious hospitality.

In the lead up to the event, there had been a lot of good-natured friendly banter between the players from both sides and we knew this was going to be something special. Unlike your typical open style event, this was a team focused, scenario driven event, very much rooted in the historical aspects of Bolt Action. It consisted of 2 rounds, played over the one day, with 13 players per side, battling for control of the Normandy beaches and surrounding landscape. While I was initially excited to give my Canadian Airborne another run out on the tabletop, I ended up playing Germans to help balance the numbers on the both sides.
My first game was to be on the stunning table below, made by the talented Joseph Simeon, as part of a 2v2 game. We were using the Gold Beach scenario out of the Battleground Europe theatre book which proved to make for an interesting game. As a German commander tasked with holding the beaches, what else could I take but an Ostruppen horde?

My 1000 point Ostruppen horde is shown below. It used the Atlantik Wall selector with 2 platoons, which let me take 6 squads of Ostruppen, 5 inexperienced MMGs, 2 Snipers, 2 Lieutenants, an inexperienced PaK-40 and 2 Artillery Observers, which I hoped was going to be the firepower I needed to keep the rest of the list alive. The selector also gave me a bunker, which I would use to give the PaK-40 some extra protection. The list had 18 order dice and 91 warm bodies to try and hold back the attacking Allies. My team mate Ulli also had 1000 points of Germans, with a more regular/veteran list and we were facing off against a 1000 point US list and a 1000 point British list, both of which received a free special Artillery Observer for this scenario that could call down multiple artillery barrages. This was going to be brutal.

The game started with a preparatory bombardment killing one of my Sniper teams straight off the bat. They were on top of the bunker, as we had put our MMG teams inside each of the bunkers on the ridgeline.

And with that the game begun!

The British force started to stream out of their landing craft opposite me. I picked off a couple and put down some pins with the waiting MMGs firing on ambush.

Meanwhile, on the other flank that my team-mate was protecting, the US forces started to advance. We did have a few minefields protecting the exits off the beach.

A US Sherman rolled onto the beach, firing at my teammate's Flakvierling that was deployed on the top of one of the bunkers.

At the start of Turn 2, we begun to resolve the numerous air and artillery strikes that had been called in. This was going to proven very deadly! Jason, the US player rolled a 1 for his special Artillery Observer, so we placed the barrage straight back on top of the Observer inside his landing craft. The artillery strike not only killed the Observer but also the Mortar Team behind him! It also gave a pin to the Sherman, but Poseidon was not finished yet.

With another 1 for Jason, the pilot of his attack aircraft got confused and unloaded on the US Sherman, blowing it up in a shower of twisted metal.

Meanwhile Theo's Brits keep making headway across the sand towards my men.

As the Brits begin to make it to the deadzone underneath the MMGs, I realised I need to start bringing on my reserves before a break-out happened.

Two squads of Ostruppen rush on to hold my right flank, as the inexperienced MMG teams are not enough to stop the veteran British infantry. The Brits then call in an artillery strike on the approaching reserves.

Ulli's Wirblewind moved towards my side of the battlefield to help try and hold off the approaching Allies.

The artillery barrage did little to the Ostruppen, who shook off minimal pins they took, as they moved further down the trench, but it did do some pins to my Artillery Observer who was on top of the bunker.

By now, more Allied reserves had arrived, including another Sherman on our left flank and a Sherman Crab moving up the middle. The Crab was from the Allies reserve pool. Both the Axis and Allies had a 14th army list, that could be parceled out and used in whichever game they were needed most. More Ostruppen moved into the trenches at the top of the beach to stop the approaching US troops.

The poor form from the Observers continues, as I rolled a 1 for my own Artillery Observer and it came down onto my Ostruppen, hammering them with pins, just before the Brits begin to crest the ridge off the beach!

Meanwhile in the middle, the Sherman Crab clears the minefield, opening an exit off the beach for the waiting US troops.

The Americans begin storming the top of the beach, firing wildly at the Germans in the trenches.

You can see the horde of Allies massing to push off the beach.

In a desperate attempt to stop the Sherman Crab, a Goliath Team I got from the German reserve pool moved out of the trench and sent their deadly cargo towards it, but it got caught up on the way there and failed to detonate against the Sherman.

The game came to an end as Turn 5 ended. We were out of time and most of the other games had finished up, so we tallied victory points. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) we had failed to hold the Allies off Gold Beach. Thankfully, the Allies had only won on one of the other tables, so the Axis had a healthy lead after the first round. This was a very cinematic and fun game and the board was simply stunning. It is definitely up there as one of my most fun games of Bolt Action and I love these larger style scenario games.

For the second round I was getting a rematch against Mathew who I played at Cancon earlier in the year. I forget the name of this scenario but it was another one from the Battleground Europe book with a few tweaks. We both had 1500 point lists, but I was given three regular Flak 88s for free and Matt was given three 75mm Shermans for free.

As you can see from the photo above, the Company of Dice have a great set-up for their club, with cheap beer and decent food! I deployed my three 88s on the table, along with a StuG III and a Tiger I. Matt's objective was to get off my table edge and we were playing along the table length-ways. Matt started laying on the pressure early, getting a hit on one of my 88s with a 105mm Sherman and obliterating the crew, as well as mounting up a pile on pins on a second 88 with multiple 75mm HE rounds. The only saving grace was my second 88 crew managed to pass their moral checks despite the heavy casualities.

I needed to push back though, so I advanced up my Tiger I, whose long short up the road missed.

As things were going pear-shaped quickly, the StuG III commander (ignoring the empty beer) moved up to the top of the hill in my deployment area.

Lining up a shot on the distant target, he let loose the long-barrel 75mm and a Sherman went up in a ball of flames.

Sadly there were plenty more US vehicles heading up the table towards me!

Unperturbed, the Shermans continued to roll up the table towards me, pouring fire at my 88s.

With the mass of American armour coming at me, things were looking grim.

Refusing to be pushed around, my Tiger I advanced up and put a round straight through the most impetus of the Shermans, reducing it to a burning hull in the middle of the crossroads.

The Shermans continued to advance and killed the last of my 88 crew, as my second StuG III and my StuH 42, with attached Begleit squads, moved on from reserves.

Suddenly an unexpected shot from a 75mm Sherman pierced my Tiger I's hull and exploded it. Things were looking dire already!

My StuG III advanced into the cover of the bridge and took out another Sherman, but the Americans continued to push. Matt also grabbed a British Firefly from the Allied round 2 reserve pool.

With a flurry of order dice, Matt rolled around the burning Shermans in the middle of the table and took out both my StuG IIIs in a precise round of shooting.

As the game rolled up, I was down to a StuH 42 and a few Begleit squads, while Matt still had half a dozen vehicles ramming down my throat. The day was Matt's and he'd gotten his revenge from Cancon.

Overall, the Allied made a strong comeback in the second round, winning the majority of the tables, but it was not enough to take the lead and so the day in the end belonged to the Axis, no thanks to me! I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this weekend. It was an amazing event, and well worth the 9 hour drive one-way to play.

Fighting as part of a team for a goal bigger then just personal bragging rights is a whole lot of fun, and even if you are playing poorly, you can get behind the team's efforts as a whole. If you haven't had the chance to play in a similar style event, I highly recommend you try it. Even if it's just getting together a group of friends to play a series of themed games that work together in some sot of narrative, this is a great way to play Bolt Action and mix it up from your standard tournament style play!

"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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