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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bolt Action - Mission Debrief: Michigan Grand Tournament

By Seamus

Recently, several members of the Chicago Bolt Action group made a little trek to an event run by our friends in the Michigan Bolt Action Group. Despite grossly early mornings, time zone differences, and biblical rains, we made it and had a great time over the two one-day events! The Michigan Grand Tournament was special for me because it was the first games out with my newly painted Royal Marine Commandos.

I’d modeled my Commandos around No. 10 Inter-Allied Commando, a unit consisting of displaced men from many of the conquered countries of Europe in 1940. There were Poles, Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians, French, and even some displaced Austrians and Germans!

Given this diversity, I tried to really go all out on the faces as well as including Tam-O-Shanter and Sikh heads from Warlord for variety. I daresay I’m getting pretty proficient with painting moustaches (Bryan and Anf will say it’s all prep for doing Hungarians…), and all told I’m really happy with how these fellas turned out. Being modeled around a raiding force, though, I decided to avoid taking things that they wouldn’t be able to carry themselves. No tanks, no armored cars, and so on. I did include a medium anti-tank gun, so that I didn’t have to rely on my PIAT to be my only anti-tank asset. I modeled a PaK 38 that the Commandos had “commandeered” for the battle. For my free artillery observer, I stole an idea from Anf and Patch where I modeled him as a guy detonating explosives rather than someone calling in an actual artillery barrage. This seemed to fit the theme a little better. I used the excellent Royal Marine Commandos list because it’s a great example of how to “theme” a force, rather than just the infantry squads.

Since this was still a First Edition event, I decided that in order to balance an entire army having Tough Fighter, I’d take smaller squads and limit other potentially “powerful” units. It would be a tricky force to play, but I did not want my opponents to have any bad feelings. The resulting list had three squads with SMGs and rifles, a squad with two Vickers K guns, a small squad with all SMGs, two light mortars, a sniper team, a PIAT team, and the PaK 38/QF 6 pounder. The list had teeth, but it was also somewhat fragile in other places. I’d really have to be savvy and go for objectives while also using cover as much as possible.

My first game was Maximum Attrition, which I knew I’d struggle in once I saw that outflanking wasn’t allowed. This was also my first game against Italians, and my opponent was pretty clever. He used cover quite well, and never got into line of sight of my anti-tank gun. Those Italian tanks are no joke! I’ll claim that the game was a learning experience for me, what with having a new army and facing an army I’d not faced before… but the fact is my opponent just outplayed me. It was a great game, nonetheless, and I will never think poorly of Blackshirts again!

My second game was Kittyhawk Down and against Italians again! Here was a game with an objective! Of course the plane didn’t arrive until turn four, but it was an objective game at any rate. Surviving the Italian firepower proved to be a more difficult prospect than I’d thought (had I learned NOTHING from Game 1?). Again, my opponent avoided my anti-tank gun until very late in the game, at which point I managed naught but a “Crew Stunned” result. It was a very intense game, which went absolutely down to the wire and every pull of the order dice was crucial. The game ended with a bloody mess of close combat near the airplane, and included Italian Cavalry and Tough Fighting Commandos. I barely managed to scrape a victory in this game. Great fun, too. As a side note, the Italian army from Game 1 was on the table next to me and again the Blackshirts were indomitable!

My third and final game of the day was against a really cool late war German Army. It had a StuH 42, a Puma, a Hanomag, a Flakvierling, and a few squads of regulars with LMGs and Assault Rifles. This was going to be a tough game, but it was Point Defense so I had a shot… I could Outflank this game! I took a gamble and outflanked most of my army to either side of the table. I wagered I’d get the two outside objectives, but probably not the center one. The game played out much as I thought it would. I tried using smoke to cover the advance of some small teams, but this proved to be too random. Pins proved to be vital as they locked down a lot of the German units, preventing them from really dropping the hammer on my limited deployed forces. Once again, my opponent didn’t let me get a shot at his tank. Why do people do that?

I brought on the bulk of my army from both flanks somewhat late in the game. My opponent’s dice were exceptionally unforgiving, so my flank attacks proved more potent than one could normally expect. I handily locked down the objective on my left, even after rolling a 1 for my artillery barrage. The units defending the center objective proved too hard a nut to crack, and I was not able to shift the unit holding the objective on the right. Hindsight being what it is, I should have gone in after them rather than trying to whittle them down with combined fire. All said and done, the game was a draw. Given how poorly my opponent’s dice had gone, I’m somewhat glad for this. He was a top notch opponent, though, and never lost his positive attitude or enjoyment of the game throughout. Hat’s off to you Brandon.

The Michigan Grand Tournament was a smoothly run event, with great players and some impressive swag. I would definitely recommend the event to anyone in the Midwest, or nearby Canada, for next year. Cheers Mike and Paul for a solid outing.

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