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Monday, May 1, 2017

Bolt Action - Playing my British Expeditionary Force in an event

By Patch

Earlier this year I wrote about my British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and how I expected them to play here. Well I have just finished a four game league event here in Canberra, Australia at Jolt Games and thought I would report back to you guys how it played out.

The league event was a 1000 point Rules as Written (RAW) set up consisting of four games over two months, so a game every two weeks. The way it worked was that a draw would come out and you have two weeks to organise with your opponent to have a game at a time that best suited you both. This format and venue was brilliant and with 12 guys playing worked really well.

I chose my BEF for this event and put together the following list:

All regular using the Fall of France selector and the Rapid Fire national rule.

1st Lt and 2nd Lt
2 x 10 man squads with 1 LMG each
2 x 5 man squads with 1 LMG each
Forward Artillery Observer
2 x Boys Anti-Tank Rifles
Medium Mortar with spotter
Light Artillery with spotter
2 x Bren Carrier with extra LMG
2 x Light Tank Mark VI C with light Autocanons.

Game One - Meeting Engagement

My opponent brought his Veteran late war FJ with a Kugelblitz and a Puma so to say I was terrified was an understatement. The Kugelblitz is a Panzer IV chassis with dual heavy autocanons in an enclosed turret which would chew up my light vehicles and spit them out for the Puma to clean up. My game plan was to draw my opponents forces into my own half of the table away from his support elements, and then bring on my flanking force of four vehicles with two squads to catch him exposed and away from cover.

This plan actually worked... I withdrew my two big squads back to my back left corner and dragged all three FJ squads along as they sensed an easy kill. My mortar landed a lucky shot on the roof of the Kugelblitz giving it three pins which made it then fail two consecutive rally checks (That's Bolt Action!). The Puma got caught up on the far side of the table as I had set up my light artillery in an ambush position restricting it's movement.

By turn three all three FJ squads were in the open and strung out nicely near the left flank when my armoured force came hurdling onto the table. The Bren Carriers were devastating, point blank with two LMG's followed by the squad who had a further 8 shots point blank. I was able to clean up one squad quickly however being veterans and Stubborn they were hard to crack, so took three turns to destroy all three squads. Of note was my Vickers tanks, which missed almost every shot with their autocanons, if they had hit it would have spend things up given their penetration.

End of turn 6 and we had killed three units each so it was a draw, I was okay with this as it was the first game with this force and whilst my opponent had killed two ATR's and my observer I had destroyed his three infantry squads. A good first run and a really fun game.

Game Two - Demolition

This time I faced off against a Vet US late war list with a M4 Sherman and a medium AT gun supporting the usual assortment of infantry with an engineer squad carrying a flame thrower. I had a 6 order dice advantage on my opponent but he had that M4 which could really hurt me given my lack of decent AT. My plan was to group the vehicles and basically charge the opponents base, this time though I put both ATR's and an officer in the Bren Carriers and used my five man squads to help with my base defence. I did this because a carrier with troops on board can capture objectives and destroy the base and my ATR's were not going to do much against a Sherman.

During deployment I was able to counter the Sherman approach (my left flank) with my light howitzer and place my armoured fist outside of harms away (my right flank) with a good line to the enemy base. First turn and my light howitzer using an AT round hit the Sherman head on but failed to penetrate, this was enough though to make him second guess that approach and he then played a bit conservative with it rather than aggressive. My infantry squads using LMG's destroyed the medium AT gun with some lucky rolls and my vehicles rolled up and shot the crap out of the defending infantry squads.

I had captured the opponents base in turn five as he just could not counter the four light armoured vehicle blitzkrieg. This was a good game for me to test out the armoured fist moving up the table and showed it was a viable option when deployed in mutual supporting positions. Big win for the BEF and proved to me that this early war force can really mix it with the late war armies out there.

Game three - Key Positions

I was really worried about this one as it was a Russian force with 14 order dice compared to my 15, and it was packing an SU100. Four key position objectives were rolled and I set up my defensive line with my two big squads along with the support teams while outflanking to the left with the vehicles with the two five man squads embedded.

Lets just say it started well but quickly went downhill. I was able to destroy an advancing truck along with some K9 teams inside but leaving an Engineer unit in body armour on my side of the table. The SU100 then started to fire and all but knocked out both of my defending big squads leaving me really short on troops between the enemy units and my objectives. Some lucky hits with my artillery and mortar teams did some damage on the Russian backline but with six of my units on outflank my defensive line was terribly thin.

In comes the cavalry (insert Ride of the Valkyries music here), this left my opponents advancing squads between a strong force of armour and a dwindling but still standing group of defenders. Allocating a Bren carrier to capture an enemy objective my two Vickers tanks turned their guns on the advancing Russians and did some damage, more importantly though they were a threat my opponent had to deal with so he turned all but his engineer squad back away from my objectives.

That engineer squad withstood a withering amount of fire for several turns but could not get close enough to the objective to challenge it. My Bren carrier and the infantry squad had by this time captured one of the enemy objectives and was hunkered down trying not to get blasted by the SU100. One of my light tanks and a Bren carrier were destroyed but they had done enough to distract enemy units and stop forward momentum. Another win for the BEF but was a really close thing and could have gone anyway.

An interesting comment by my opponent was that whilst he knew I had a large force in outflank he wanted to be aggressive and gamble on a decisive early assault on my objectives before they came on. Unfortunately for him he was caught short of the objectives and was therefore left exposed and vulnerable. A risky move but it could have very well payed off with a few extra lucky dice.

Game Four - Sectors

Surprisingly I found myself fighting off for top spot against an LRDG list that had gone three wins in a  row. Surprising because I was in this position but also because I was facing an LRDG list which I had heard was untenable in the 2nd Edition rules, this was clearly not correct as I was about to find out. The LRDG list consisted of 19 dice, six gun trucks along with another four transports each with an MMG giving it ten vehicle firing options (ouch!). Now in a game of sectors where mobility is everything I knew I was going to be on the back foot from the start.

We both got a preparatory bombardment with the only casualty being an LRDG officer however this left both forces, minus a handful of units in reserve, pinned. What followed was some positioning and a general advance by the LRDG using their superior wheeled movement towards my sector. There was little I could do but hunker down and try and withstand the storm.

It all looked lost when his forward observer scored a direct hit on my cluster of artillery and took out my mortar and heavily pinned my light howitzer (it subsequently failed two moral tests even with the 1st Lt nearby). My observer in reply sent the wrong coordinates (delay then a 1) however luckily enough it landed on one of his forces anyway adding some minor pins.  With a horde of vehicles approaching my sector my armoured fist came busting onto the table within my sector, this caused a general withdrawal of the LRDG vehicles and stabilised my defence.

Last turn and my calculations had us very close in score, I had killed eight of his units and he had only killed four of mine. We both had units in each others sector and it looked very very close. Somehow I had pulled off what I had thought impossible, could I actually draw or even maybe win? No, my terrible luck through the game held and my opponent rolled a double one on a gun truck that had three pins and subsequently killed a five man squad that I had in his sector, this followed with another truck taking out one of my Vickers tanks with a HMG leaving the sectors score 18/14 LRDG way. We were left gasping for breath like we had just gone 12 rounds in the boxing ring, a really intense and brilliant game.

General Thoughts

So with two wins, a draw and a loss I was very happy with my BEF. I had no expectations and was very chuffed with this result as I came very close, perhaps as little as a single moral test, to winning the event. All my opponents made comments about how tough my force was to play, not because it had anything cheesy or powerful but the use of the armoured fist leveraging off a solid base of units was very hard to counter.

I found that the ATR's were really a weak point, in four games they must of fired over 20 times but I only manged to destroy one vehicle continuing my ongoing hatred for them. I may possibly drop the ATR's and replace one of the Vickers tanks with an A9 Cruiser giving me a lot more firepower within the armoured fist as it has a light AT gun as well as two MMG's and a coax MMG. The Vickers tanks were amazing but limited in firepower having only a single weapon system to fire each turn.

More from the BEF soon!


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