MOAB. What a weekend. I recently attended my 4th MOAB in Sydney the other week for my final Bolt Action V1 event. I marked my 21st Bolt Action event since I started 4 years ago and in keeping with previous events, it was a lot of fun. I got a game in against the amazing Uber Gruber, aka. David Hunter of the Down Order podcast and got to run a new army that I'd only tested out once in the Japanese. My army for the 1250 point, 5 game event, was quite unique and very different to the norm that I've seen in my time playing Bolt Action, but this is how I enjoy playing wargames. I love to find something different and then go crazy with it. So I am about to dive into my list, how it performed and how I go about making my lists in Bolt Action.
First off, I have to give a big thanks to my mate, Mikey, who painted up the entire force for me and in 2.5 weeks no less! I am a terribly slow painter and the thought of painting this army is why it took me 12 months to actually field the list from my initial conception. As I was off on a quest for a week before the event, Mikey sat down and smashed out the army, so any appreciation of how the army looks is thanks to him. The lack of basing is on me as I was suppose to get that done!
So onto the list. MOAB was a 1250 point event. I'd always been intrigued by the Japanese army, and in particular the late war Bamboo Spear squads. My knowledge on the IJA during the war isn't very deep, as the Pacific is not my first choice for research, but the uniqueness of the spear squad was pretty interesting. So I decided to build a list around taking as many of these spearmen as possible, because why go with 15-30 of something, when you can take over a hundred!
I was going to take as many spearmen as I had points for, once the support options were paid for. So I decided on two platoons. That meant 2 officer teams of a 2nd lieutenant and an aide each. As the spearmen are green, Political Officers and the reroll to the Green rule they give seemed like a natural choice, so I included 2 of them as well. I was going to have a massive force, so Observers were going to be a big nuisance. My primary way to deal with Observers usually is to take a Sniper team, so I added one to the list. Next I needed anti-tank assets. The Japanese have the amazing option of Suicide AT guys. These guys are one of the best anti-tank options in the game if they hit with a massive +8 penetration bonus. The downside is they can be easy to pick off, so with MOAB allowing tank platoons, I decided I needed 6 (little did I know, I would not face an abundance of heavy armour in the event).
Another often over-looked thing in Bolt Action is recrewing artillery pieces. With the Japanese artillery having large crews, I decided to throw in 2 medium howitzers, each with 6 crew, which gives me 12 bodies to move about between the 2. I also payed for 2 spotters but I completely forgot about them when I made the army up and got Mikey to paint them, so I played the event without them! This was all the support options I decided I needed, so all the remaining points went into spearmen. This gave me 148 spear-wielding crazed Japanese. I arranged them into 10 squads, giving me 8 with 15 men and the last 2 with only 14 men. The entire list had 174 infantry models and 23 order dice.
Now I wasn't particularly interested in converting up all these spearmen, and doing so would have locked me into playing this list forever or getting even more models. So I did some research and that is where I read about Saipan and the largest banzai charge in the Pacific. Over 3000 Japanese, who'd been trapped and fighting on the island with no resupply for weeks, charged the Allies in a desperate last bid. My army would be based on this action, where the last few howitzer shells would support the banzai charge of my infantry, who, out of ammo, would fight with bayonets (counts as spears). To further the theme, I decided to not give my officer teams any firearms, but used swords and bayonets for them too. This meant, my entire army had only 3 units capable of firing, my howitzers and my sniper (obviously entrusted with the last few rounds of rifle ammo) but it also meant that I could model them as regular Japanese infantry with rifles and other small arms. I just made sure to explain to all my opponents that these guns were completely out of ammo!
This is a pretty extreme list, a huge mass of inexperienced infantry that can only fight in hand-to-hand combat, but it is the type of list I love to play. I get bored very quickly of the 4-squads-and-a-tank mentality of list building and one of my personal enjoyments of wargaming is making crazy lists, even when they often don't work (like my Tiger II list). So how did this list perform? Well you may have noticed in the opening photo, myself with some new bling. The list played well, although I got some luck as well, and I was able to walk away with 5 wins and 94 out of 100 tournament points to take 1st place in a field of 32 players.
My first game was against Dave X of the Left Handed Panzerfaust blogsite and his awesome looking US Marines. MOAB used the .Rich format, where missions are linked to tables, so our mission was Point Defense. I won the roll off at the start and picked to defend. This was an easy choice as attacking in Point Defense is quite hard, and by defending I knew it would force Dave to come towards me and all my spears. Dave saw this and tried to hit one flank, but having half my army in reserve, let me throw 5 full spear squads onto that flank, to suddenly reinforce it with 75 more men. Dave managed to get a command team onto my left objective on turn 4, but they couldn't stem the tide of Japanese and hold it for 2 more turns and as turn 7 rolled in, I firmly held all 3 objectives and Dave was left with only a mortar team and a tow alive after killing about 100 of my men. It was a great start for my force and proved how tough my list was going to be.
Round 2 saw me playing Andrew and his US Marines in one of Cbax's missions, Frontal Assault. Again I won the roll to see who attacked and who defended, deciding to defend. Again, this meant Andrew was going to have to come into my half of the table and fight me for the objectives. We played on a heavy jungle table, that gave me plenty of cover and line-of-sight blockers, which let me maneuver a few squads to hit his flanks, while the block of my infantry blocked up the direct route. Andrew tried to hold back and shoot my men up, but I often used the cover and went down to keep my men alive and he soon found himself running out of time to get to the objectives. His air observer also messed up and called in an airstrike on his howitzer which didn't hurt. I also managed to blow up his Sherman with my Suicide AT guys. He tried hard to keep them away from his tank, but the fifth one finally managed to get through the defensive covering fire and take out the tank in a massive fireball. The game ended with me controlling all three objectives.
The final round on day 1 saw me face off against David Hunter, aka. Uber Gruber, who had flown all the way over from the UK. David has been a regular on the WWPD forums from the start and a massive part of the Bolt Action community, so it was awesome to finally get a game against the legend. Again we played Point Defense, and again I got to pick. Knowing Uber was going to be my toughest challenge yet at the head of his Maori list (using the Commando selector), I chose to defend again. This was going to be a test between my inexperienced horde and David's small veteran force of Tough Fighters. Our table was a built up desert urban board and our howitzers (I had 2 mediums, David had 2 lights) spent the whole game having an artillery duel, of which David won, killing both of mine while I only killed one of his howitzers.
He hit one flank hard, fighting for one objective before trying to worry about a second. This mean I was able to push my men that way, but his Tough Fighters proved a good match in the assaults. Instead of only needing a single 15 men fanatical squad to grind an opponent's squad down in an assault, I was being forced to throw in 2 or 3 squads to kill all of the Maoris. As turn 6 ended, David had managed to get 3 squads onto my left objective but they were all decimated down to 2-3 men and I had multiple squads moving into place for the kill. Whether David got a draw or not, came down to the roll to see if there was a turn 7. There was and now it was up to whether or not I had enough units into place to kill his multiple loose men. It came down to the last dice rolls, but I was able to kill David's last men on the objective and reclaim it. As the smoke had settled, David only had a howitzer and 1-2 other small support teams alive, but he had killed over 130 of my men. He would definitely come the closest to preventing me getting a win and killing the most of my models.
Day 2 started with me facing off against Damien's Soviets. Damien had brought a bit of a horde list himself, with 90+ men, so our table held over 260 infantry models! Despite this, we still got 6 turns in and it really goes to show that it's not order dice or number of models that affects a games speed, but the players involved. We had Maximum Attrition and I thought this would be the hardest individual mission for my list. Fortunately, Poseidon still had my back, and Damien's artillery strike came down onto himself. He had 3 units under the template and I rolled to see what affect the bombardment had. 6... 6... 6... Three units, all hit by heavy howitzers and suddenly I was 3 order dice up on Damien at the start of Turn 2! Sadly, this was the tipping point, as Damien was never really able to recover. By the end of Turn 6, it was 13 order dice to 5, my way. I had lost 100 men, but mostly scattered across multiple units. Damien was a joy to play, even when his own artillery observer basically lost him the game, and it was very fitting that he would go on to win the Best Sports award.
My final game was requested by my opponent, as I faced off once again against the man himself, Patchimus Prime. Patch was at the head of his awesome LRDG force which would go on to win Best Army (a combination of best painting and best styled force) and we were playing Old Man Morin's Break Out mission. This mission rewards killing your opponents forces and getting into their deployment zone. The table looked like a fairly open battlefield, the perfect environment for Patch's fast and deadly LRDG to race around and shred my spearmen at a distance completely unmolested. But looks can be deceiving. The table had a road network, but on the sides of the roads were fields we had decided to make rough ground. This was definitely mutual, I wasn't trying to game it up, as it was turn 2 until we both realised how much this rough ground would hampered Patch's wheeled vehicles. For Patch to be aggressive and get in close with his mass of machine guns, he had to use the roads which became choke points. I was able to use units to run behind him, cutting off his escape routes and preventing him from using recce to escape the assault from a second or third unit. I also used my howitzers on ambush to cut off certain parts of the battlefield. By Turn 4, I had managed to cut off and destroy all but 2 of Patch's gunships and had killed off most of his limited infantry forces. The game I had been dreading the most, turned out to be a white-wash, quite simply because I had had enough men to box in Patch's units and destroy them, much like a Boa Constrictor crushing it's prey.
I managed to have a bit of luck at MOAB at crucial moments. Like being able to chose to defend in the first 3 games or having Damien's artillery destroy 3 of his own units. But the list also had the ability to weather my own bad luck at times, like when HE ranged in on the first attempt to slam a squad or an assault went against me. The list had redundancy, with 10 big units, I could afford to lose 3-4 and not break my stride. Tactically, it took less time to make decisions with this list as often, my only option was to run at the enemy screaming "BANZAI!" This was a godsend as I had driven for 8 hours the morning of Day 1 just to make it to the event, so my mental abilities were limited!
In objective games, the army literally clogged up objectives and prevented my opponents getting close to them. The maximum attrition style missions looked to be a lot harder missions and took a bit more strategic planning on my part. I had to know when to pull decimated units back and shield them from destruction. The Japanese national rules are of course what makes this list possible, with fanatical units that can just keep banzai charging no matter the pins. The howitzers did not really achieve much in the way of destroying units but they were deterrents that helped restrict the enemies movements, especially when the rest of my army has no ability to reach out and inflict pins or casualities on the enemy.
That is of course, the biggest downside of the army. It has no way of impeding the enemy in the first few turns, where they will get the ability to pour fire on unmolested. The strength of it, is in the later turns, where if you have enough men still alive, the enemy has nowhere to run. Because the list was so out there, it also shook people up and messed up preconceived battle plans. But this fear also meant that in the games where my list dominated, it felt like the list that was winning and not me as the general. This put a little bit of a dampener on some of the victories, because you never like to feel like you won because of an unfair advantage, but I guess the 'cheesiness' of my list is for others to decide.
Overall, it was fun to play something very different and I had 5 great games. I am now retiring this list and look forward to trying a more conventional Japanese list in the future. Especially with some of the V2 changes!
"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.