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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bolt Action AAR: Tunisia 1943

By Bryan,

Welcome to a battle report from a huge game of Bolt Action my clubmates and I had recently, set in Tunisia 1943. The armies were 4000pts a side, with green US troops vs the veteran Germans. The mission was Key Positions and the dice bag was indeed heavy, with close to 60 order dice in it!

This giant, multiplayer game was played at Company of Dice in Sydney, Australia. If you are in the neighborhood, you can find the details here if you would like to join us for future games. Having the extra space at the club allowed us to set up the game on a 6x8 ft board.

A few of my recent painting projects for the Germans in North Africa had inspired the games setting, the Tunisia campaign of 1942-43. The Germans have some captured US halftracks from the US defeat at Kasserine Pass, as well as the newly arrived Tiger I heavy Panzer. So the German forces were made up of Panzergrenadiers of the 10th Panzer Division with an attached Tiger tank. These made up 2000pts of the German side, with the other half being Herman Gorings boys, the tough as nails Fallschirmjäger! My mate Zane was in command of this infantry platoon backed up by a few Panzer IV's and armoured cars.

The forces of the United States of America were bravely lead by Matt and Jo, who were keen to spread Freedom and Democracy across the landscape with their 11 Sherman tanks. Backed up of course with almost 100 GI's and supporting heavy weapons. Their force was mostly regular and inexperienced, vs the all Veteran German troops.

You can see here the opening turn of the game and get a good idea of how the terrain was laid out. The main feature was a massive long ridge line right across the board center with a road down the valley and two small towns, one at each end. These major terrain features formed the 5 objectives for the game, the mission being Key Positions from the main rulebook.

We deliberately set up our terrain in this way for two reasons. First, we wanted the objective markers to not be on random spots on the table, but on logically important terrain, like the ridgeline (2 objectives on that) and then the main road and the two towns. That way the battle made sense. Second, we set up the ridgeline along the board center to deliberately block line of site. Having a reduced line of site and the objectives mostly in the middle of the table would encourage both sides to move up and not just sit back and shoot at each other. It was going to be a really bloody battle for that high ground!

In turn one both sides deployed rapidly onto the table as first waves, most units on a run order to get closer to the key objectives along the ridgeline and the main road. The Germans sent an armoured task force of Panzergrenadiers in halftracks toward one of the objectives on the ridge, with the US sending their own halftracks and infantry toward this same one.

In the center the US players sent a platoon of Shermans straight down the road, backed up by a medium howitzer and a platoon of GI's

Another platoon of GI's moved up to take the settlement closest to the US table edge and started to set up heavy weapons to support their troops goIng for the high ground to their right.

The Germans arrived first in the race for the high ground but kept their Panzers on their side of the ridge line to avoid the massed Sherman tanks bearing down on them.

Joe moved up aggressively toward the second objective on the high ground with 5 more Shermans.

The Shermans were backed up with a platoon of inexperienced GI's, it was going to be a tough fight ahead as they faced the elite German Fallschirmjäger.

On the German right, the Fallschirmjäger deployed to contest this very objective on the high ground as the Tiger tank rumbles on straight up the main road to face the platoon of Shermans.

It's bloody from the outset in the fight for the ridge on the German left. Pioneers deploy from their halftrack and prepare to assault the American infantry threatening the objective. The Marder takes shots at the Shermans but misses.

The German Panzergrenadiers have moved up out of their halftracks to hold the objective from behind hard cover. The halftracks hang back to keep out of sight of the Shermans 75mm guns on the other side.

The Tiger tank is in a prime spot in the open to sow fear and panic in the US forces. It's 88mm cannon hits a Sherman but rolls a 1 for the penetration roll...

The US advance continues toward the high ground on their left, the 3 Shermans bearing down on the single German squad keeping their heads down for now

Matt notices the German 222 armoured car has exposed itself over the ridge and turns his Shermans to take a shot...

...and destroys it!

Meanwhile the Germans have deployed a PAK38 to the same ridge to try and deal with the marauding Shermans.

The Tiger tank causes a US halftrack to panic and reverse onto the road, which blocks the trio of Shermans from returning firing on the Tiger!

The Panzer 4 uses it's MMGs to clear out the GI's in front of it.

Zane sends his German armoured cars towards the US forces in support of this Fallschirmjäger.

Jo has big plans for his platoon of inexperienced GI's and doesn't back down

The halftrack again fails an order test and blocks the Shermans who are stuck behind it on the road.

The US infantry finally arrive at the ridge to contest the objective marker.

With three Shermans in support things are looking grim for the Panzergrenadiers. The US cleverly deploy a Bazooka on their flank to stop any Panzers attempting to move around their flank and threaten the US advance.

The Panzer III takes the risk anyway as the halftracks attempt to bring their MG42's to bear in support of their Panzergrenadiers desperately holding onto the ridge objective. The GI's even launch multiple assaults on one halftack but fail to destroy it.

A lucky shot from a Sherman now destroys the Panzer IV!

With the objective now threatened by a squad of US infantry, the German Pioneers decide to risk the fire of the Shermans and move up on top of the ridge so they can use their flame thrower to drive them back. Only infantry and artillery units can hold objectives in this mission, so the risk is worth it.

The German vehicles lock down the extreme flank and prevent the remaining US infantry squads from flanking the objective.

The Tiger tank has spent 2-3 turns shut down by pins from bombarding artillery so it's up to the Fallschirmjäger to run out into the open and grab the objective on the road.

On the German right, things have gotten bloody as the Fallschirmjäger risk coming over the ridge and down into the plain among the Sherman tanks. Their Pioneers put a few pins on the lead Sherman and a Panzer IV knocks out another.

The objective in the town near the German side is well secured by the Fallschirmjäger platoon. At the end of turn 6 the game ends. Of the 5 objectives, 3 are held by the Germans (one of the ridges, a town and the main road) and 1 by the US (the town near their deployment zone). The opposite ridge-line objective is contested by both sides even after the German Pioneers efforts with their flame thrower. It's a victory for the German forces in Tunisia 1943.

One unfortunate side note for the US forces was that Wardaddy and his crew in the Sherman tank "Fury" did not survive the game. Their career was cut short by a German armored car maneuvering behind them for a rear shot, it's autocannon penetrating and destroying it! We know the models are both late war, but they proxied as a 75mm Sherman and an SDKFZ 8rad.

Some tips for big games!

This was a massive game of 4000pts per side...and well as much as we love Bolt Action, it can take a while to play a large game like this. So if you are thinking of trying this yourself, here is our advice;

In a group game you'll end up with all but one player standing by and waiting as the latest order dice is used by one of the players. That's the nature of the Order Dice mechanic. The larger the game the more most players are inactive. The two ways to speed things up and keep the game engaging for all players and keep things moving are;

1) Have one order dice colour per PLAYER, not side. Having a colour per player means there is no deliberation between players on the same side as to who gets to use it on what unit...the dice come out and one player quickly makes a call. This introduces a nice little bit of tension on each side as it's not always the most vital unit on each side that gets the dice. It does definitely speed things up.

2) If you can, pull the next order dice as soon as the previous one is declared and it's not going to effect anything. For example, if one player pulls a dice and is declaring an order for a unit that won't effect anything else on the board, like a run order, you can move on without watching that player measure the 12" for every single model in the unit to move before getting on with the game. This situation happens a lot at the start of the game as both sides units are simply moving onto the table.

Even with these techniques to keep things moving along, this 4000pt game took 6 hours to play. But it was engaging and fun the entire time. A really special and memorable gaming experience. We encourage you to give it a go! It's a great alternative to the typical 1000pt pick up game.

Until next time,


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