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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bolt Action - My British Expeditionary Force, A Run Through the Ranks

Howdy folks, I have been gathering and painting my British Expeditionary Force for Bolt Action for some time now, and it is finally in a game ready position to write about. I will cover off on why I chose to play a BEF force, what units I intend to take to the table and where I sourced the miniatures from.

So why play BEF? Well I have been to a lot of events and played quite a few games, and whilst I have played many a game against Commonwealth forces I am yet to battle against a specific BEF army. In fact it is a rare sight it seems. British Commandos - check. British Paras - check. Australians and Gurkhas - check and check, but no BEF. As a player who really favours early war and having built and played both French and German it was a natural choice for me to do a BEF army next.

What does the BEF offer a player? Well apart from its iconic nature, its foundation is a solid infantry core of regular troops with a wide variety of support options and vehicle choices. Being early war of course, many tools are not available, such as the heavier anti-tank guns and better vehicles, but this is the fun of early war, making the most out of what you have and watching the late war players forces crumble (evil laugh).

So what units do I have and how do I intend to use them? Well lets start with the HQ elements, in this force there are two. I have a regular British Army command unit that is very prim and proper, as a good English officer should be, along with his support team. The other of course is the Scottish HQ complete with Claymore, bagpipes and a wicked temper! I intend to use both as 1st Lieutenants in a dual platoon force and will have the Scots play very aggressively while the English officer is there to provide appropriate direction to the support elements, and drink some tea. The Scots are from Pulp Miniatures while the English are from Warlord Games. I will also dedicate a man for use as an observer when I find the right one.

The first of my support options are the mortar teams. I have a medium and a light, and both are from Warlord Games BEF range. The medium mortar is the first part of my backline team and is there to target the stationary enemy units with decent High Explosive (HE). The team will generally go into battle with a spotter so they can get some serious LOS blocking cover to allow them to survive for longer. The light mortar is my aggressive HE unit and I will use it to target units of opportunity while directly support my infantry squads. Being a small team they should be able to find cover easily, making them a hard unit to kill and can put a lot of pressure onto enemy infantry squads hugging their own cover or enemy support teams.

Next up is a Warlord Games BEF 18/25 Pound Field Gun and limber, and it is great kit. This is my main artillery unit and will work in conjunction with the medium mortar to take on enemy support teams and dig enemy units out of their cover positions. As it has direct fire capability and a gunshield, I will be using this gun more aggressively by placing it covering a nice arc of fire during deployment, having a secondary function as a light anti-tank gun this will make enemy vehicles very wary of entering that arc of fire.

For those pesky light enemy vehicles, I have two Anti-Tank Rifle teams available. These guys are invaluable as they are hard to kill and can pack a decent punch. They also provide me with some anti-tank capability in an otherwise soft hitting force, which will hopefully make an opponent make some tactical errors while either trying to avoid them or trying to take them off the table. The Scots are from Pulp Miniatures with everything else being Warlord Games. The Vickers MMG will be an optional piece for me in consideration of the rest of my force, however when used they will be placed with long open fire lanes to add some pins and occasionally make some kills. Primarily though it is there to cause my opponent to adjust plans as no sane commander makes his infantry cross open ground against a MMG on ambush!

For the infantry units that will form the core of my force I have two ten man squads from Warlord Games BEF range. Each squad is regular with 9 rifles and a LMG and is at full strength thus getting that bonus of rerolling Order checks while at max strength. A ten man regular infantry squad is very dangerous in Bolt Action, with my preferred option for the Commonwealth special rule being Rapid Fire, the output for each squad is 14 shots, and being regular take some killing. These two squads are my objective takers and holders.

My assault teams come in the form of two squads of five Scottish lads inside two Universal Carriers (UCs). The UCs only have a capacity of five so this limits how big my squads can be, as I really want them as a mobile flanking reserve or assault unit. Nothing concerns a player more then when they can see what units you have left off the table and these guys can really cause some trouble. The UCs will have two LMGs each, so when they come on the table (provided they come together) that is 20 suppressing shots at units close by followed by 8 shots from each 5 man team as they dismount and advance. That's a total of 36 shots from this group when they first enter the table and can really ruin someone's backline or exposed flanks. Once the troops have dismounted the UCs will hang around and provide fire support with a single LMG each and generally cause a nuisance of themselves.

For my armoured wing I have decided on a very iconic tank, with two Vickers Light Tank Mk V1C. This light tank is a real gem and was the mainstay of the BEF along with Matildas. At armour 7 with a light autocanon and coaxial MMG it is hardly going to pose a threat to any half decent enemy tank but its main purpose for my force is as an infantry and light vehicle killer. As I will run them as a pair, I will double their firepower and with the effectiveness of autocannons now, this is a very real threat for opponents infantry squads. I have always run the theory that if you take out an opponents infantry squads you have won the game and that is what these guys will do best. With two autocannons concentrating fire on a single squad even on average rolls they should knock them around enough for my infantry to clean up without too many  problems afterwards.

So that is my BEF force, I have a significant weakness when it comes to heavily armoured opponents as I just won't have the punch to go toe to toe with them, but my strength in being able to take out infantry and support weapons will hopefully counter this. I don't mind if at the end of the game my opponent has a Tiger roaming freely if they have no infantry to hold any objectives or threaten my deployment area. I think I will do reasonably well with this themed force and as always I encourage experienced players to move away from the safe forces on offer (Late War Germans and British Commandos for example) and try out a less popular force such as the BEF.

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