Sunday, February 24, 2013

Again With the Bolt Action

As a sort of warm up for the Wargaming Birthday Bash we played a little game of Bolt Action on Saturday Afternoon.

1941, East Front


The Germans have invaded and are plunging deep into soviet territory, encircling vast swaths of the Soviet Red Army, cutting them off and the annihilating them!


Again we played SCENARIO 1: ENVELOPMENT, straight out of the  Bolt Action rulebook.


Soviet Forces

1x Captain + Flag guy (Regular)
2x Senior Lieutenant + 1 runner (Regular)
4x Rifle Squads (NCO w/SMG, DP + Loader, 7 Riflemen – Regular)
1x Sniper and Spotter (Veteran)
1x Infantry Squad (NCO w/SMG, DP + Loader, 8 SMG-gunners – Regular)
2x MMG Team (Regular)
1x M-42 Light AT Gun (Regular)
1x Zis-2 76.3mm Field Gun (Regular)

German Forces

1x Company Commander (Major) + 1 orderly w/ SMG (Veteran)
1x Senior Lieutenant + Sergeant ( Regular)
3x Infantry Squad  (NCO w/SMG, MG34 + Loader, 7 Riflemen – Regular)
1x MMG team (Regular)
1x Medium Mortar Team + Spotter (Regular)
1x Stug IIID
1x Sniper and Spotter (Veteran)


Christian and Gary took the Soviets and Other Tim and Patrick took the Germans.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Christian and Gary – the Soviets

Patrick and Other Tim – The Germans


Preliminary bombardment on the Russian right the Sniper, the MMG team, and the Light AT gun each took 2 pins and the AT gun lost one of it’s crew! The Rifle Squad only took one.

Over on the Soviet left, the platon commander took 2 pins and the Rifle Squad took one. The rest (Howitzer and MMG) were fine.

The Germans roll on.

The Germans brought on their Stug, the mortar and observer, the sniper team and the Company Commander – the remainder (the entire infantry platoon – commander and three full squads) were held in reserve for some flank marching…

The soviets mostly spent the first turn rallying.


There was mostly maneuvering on Turn Two

The Soviets on the German right maneuvered around the hill a bit to stay out of LOS and the Zis went into Ambush Mode – should the Stug (or any other target) roll into view.

Over on the other flank the rest of the Soviets laid in wait as well…

The remaining Soviets (two rifle squads, the SMG squad, a Platoon and Company Commander) all remained in reserve to see where the real German attack would develop.

The German Stug rumbled forward, The rest advanced through the woods to get into a firing position.


The German MMg team fired on the Soviet MMg team causing a casualty. The Soviet MMG team in turn failed to receive an order to (I think…) return fire – so they just went to ground and cowered as bombs from the German mortar started to drop around them (with little effect – still ranging in).

The German sniper team moved into position. The Soviet Rifle squad rushed to the crest of the hill and fired on said sniper team – a “nigh impossible shot” (needing sixes, followed by sixes) hit alt least once, maybe twice, but failed to cause any casualties.

With targets now presenting themselves the Stug rolled up and fired on the soviet Rifle Squad causing two casualties!

A German Squad arriving on the flank also shot up the Soviet Squad causing further casualties.

At some point Finnegan joined us and offered to roll dice for us…


Everybody came piling in out of reserve – or flanking maneuvers…

I’m not a fan of the flanking. It’s just silly.

Russians on the the other flank holding tight just in case that last German squad turns out to be flanking on that other side of the table…

We played on the full table (~5’x7’) but almost all of the action took place in a 2’x3’ corner of the table…

The Germans shot up one Russian squad causing four casualties, including the squad leader. The Zis fired at some Germans causing two casualties and a couple of pins. Another Gemran Squad fired on another Soviet Sqad causing two casualtie. One of the Soviet Squads actually tried to charge into close combat, but failed to get motivated enough. The Russian MG fired. Antoehr Soviet Squad fired and caused four casualties – causing a morale check – which failed – first German Squad gone (and 2 Victory Points for the Russians!). Then German Platoon command advanced and fired on a Russian Squad at point blank range causing two casualties – ncluding another squad leader….. The German mortar missed again (really... target rich environment… missed…). German MMG couldn’t hit anything. The German Sniper however took out a DP gunner. The Stug advanced – causing the Soviet AT gun (waiting in ambush since turn one) to FIRE! But it missed… The Stug also missed whatever it was shooting at…


And just when you though things were just getting too silly…

The soviets finally realized the Germans had concentrated their attack on a 2’ frontage of the (7’) table and began to try and redeploy their stranded elements over on the other side.

The Germans that came on in the first turn, sitting in the woods…

A German squad fired on the Soviet MMG causing another casualty – which prompted a morale check – which was failed and the remaining crewman fled the field of battle (1 Victory Point for the Germans!)

The German Platoon Command attempted to Close Assault the remains of a Soviet rifle squad…

…it didn’t work out so well for them (2 more Victory Points for the Soviets!)

The Stug rolled forward and fired on something… and missed… then the remaining Soviets in the squad that had been assaulted by the German Platoon Command attempted to Close Assault the Stug… but failed to do anything…

I don’t know what’s going on here… it looks a mess… The Soviet SMG squad seems to have finally come out of reserve, as has the last of the German flanking squads….


The Soviet SMG Squad charged the newly arrived German squad. The German squad reacted with fire – 7 hits! (one casualty…)

…and the Soviets whipped them out… (2 more Victory Points for the Soviets)

A soviet Platoon Commander Close Assaulted the Stug and immobilized it!

Some other Soviet Squads rallied… The German MMG fired on one of them leaving only one guy left…

Somewhere in there the remaining German squad close assaulted a Soviet Squad but had their asses handed to them… (2 more Victory Points for the Soviets)

What WW2 battle ever looked like this…? Bunch of guys running around in an open field, firing point blank at each other…

That’s about it… Game ended at the end of Turn Six.

The (immobilized) Stug was the only German element anywhere close to the Soviet deployment zone (though I think the German Company Commander and maybe the sniper team may have left cover and sprinted for the Russian end of the table, but just couldn't make if far enough to score points...), and none had gotten off the Soviet edge… so The Soviet scored EIGHT Victory Points, the Germans only scored one…

This was my least favourite game of Bolt Action so far. Time to ignore the canned scenarios and point values, come up with some rules for entrenchments, and see if this game can work for a sensible scenario…

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Another game report – The 9th Annual Wargaming Birthday Bash – we played the Top Malo House scenario out of the force on Force on Force, but that will have to wait until tomorrow (or, rather, later today....) as I'm way to tired and it's way to late... 


  1. Great report. Yes, there was some instances of both sides charging and shooting but was rare. I didn't see that Soviets had a free inexperienced unit per their national rules? Was it missed from the list?

    1. Cheers!

      No, the free squad was there, I just accidentally made it Regular instead of Inexperienced...

  2. Ok, while this one generated some fun moments, I am giving this ruleset a strike two.

    You focus on the flanking mechanic, and I agree that it is very silly. But there were a lot of other silliness as well. The Stug being limited to 24" direct fire. Why? What is the point of having an HE chucker that has to close to two infantry moves in order to fire? The while point of standoff HE is to standoff! Right now I just rush two squads at it, and it is in trouble.

    I think this ruleset is broken. Ranges and movement distances are a total mess. If we have a lot of cover, which limits the range/movement silliness, then noone can hit anything, and the best way to resolve is to close assault, which is unrealistic. If we remove cover, then units blast away in the open at knife-fighting range, where the best option is to close assault, especially if you have an initial numbers advantage. But close assault is hugely unrealistic, because the majority of times firepower had either killed the enemy or caused him to pull back away from the firepower. The exception was in urban combat, and the only reason this is the case is that the terrain limits application of firepower for both sides unless you are right on top of each other.

    I dunno man. I think that this is just 40K with feldgrau uniforms. And while I'm willing to suspend disbelief for Space Marines, I'm not willing to do so for historical stuff.

    1. "I dunno man. I think that this is just 40K with feldgrau uniforms."

      That was the feeling I was getting too.

      The Stug could fire out to 48" - it just had to sit still and would only hit on a 6 the first turn, 5 on the second if the target sat still - which, it was in entrenchments, it might!

    2. Right, but that is a ridiculous mechanic. It's not like the Stug ever fired indirectly in real life, or suddenly somehow magically can no longer see the target over 24" away. It is sheer idleness on the part of the designers, who just can't be arsed to add "Light/Med/Hvy Direct HE" to the weapons table. And as mentioned above, there are plenty of other problems too.

      The annoying thing is that there are good rulesets out there that cover among other things individual anti-armour stuff. See for a fantastic anti-armour ruleset that is realistic enough to make you have to use realistic tactics. And for me that is the yardstick, especially on a scale that models individual vehicles and especially troops. Bolt Action is feldgrau 40K, plain and simple.

      Having said that, however, it is still only at 2 strikes, so I am willing to give it another chance with a decent scenario.

    3. Gary and I have long discussed this - Where do you want your play to be on the game to simulation scale? Sure you can find very, very "realistic simulations" with lots of data and charts and stuff... but if your games feel like doing homework... what fun is that? I'd rather have a game that is playable and fun (with the right people - with the wrong people any game is going to suck) and at the end we can look back and say: "yeah, that wasn't totally silly... I could see that happening..."

      I don't love rules. Reading rules. Changing rules. I like to find something that works, is fun, and playable and then I stick with it. There could be a better game out there - but how much time (and money) do I (or you) want to invest in searching for it, buying, reading it, inventing it and/or tweaking it... That's why I stuck with Savage Worlds so long - one rule set to remember and it worked okay for most of what I wanted it to do. It took a lot of dissatisfaction for me to want to seek out something different for modern era games (I include WW2 in "modern" in this sense).

      Is Bolt Action a step up from Savage Worlds? I think so. Is it "perfect"? Hell no, but what is? The most important question is: is it going to be workable for what I (we) want to do with it? I say: "maybe...". I, also, am willing to give it another chance (perhaps with some tweaks...).

      (I'd rather switch gears and play some more Force On Force before coming back to this, however!)

  3. I hear you about the rules. Part of the problem here is that I am a massive WWII nerd, and get mired in the nitty gritty of which range a T-34 would penetrate the front hull armour of a Stug or not. I recall what you said at one point about not always enjoying WWII games because of nit-pickers like me and the others who think like I do.

    But for me the thing is I want a wargame to be set up to reward tactics that make sense. Savage Worlds was never designed to do this - it is unashamedly pulp, and makes no bones about it. But the Top Malo scenario was a good example of being aware of tactics. The brits used a support element and an assault element, and they fired up the Argies, and then assaulted. This is the way it is done, and is good tactics. Sure you can add smoke, or arty, or something else. But when assaulting enemy infantry, you fire them up, and then assault the remains. Now the defenders might be dug in, and your small arms fire might not be doing anything. So you chuck HE at them. And then you pull other tricks out in a bit of a rock/paper/scissors combined arms dialogue. But essentially you toss more firepower at the enemy then he can at you, and you generally win the battle. But Bolt Action does this too clumsily. It tries to make things so quick and fun that a lot of the tactics and matchups that come out of trying to apply firepower get lost, and overly silly things happen. I have more hope for Force on Force.

  4. I agree about the goofiness. A lot of the stuff just felt wrong. Mortars were one of the biggest killers of infantry in WWII and in this game they are completely useless. 3 riflemen with no special gear assault a moving tank and completely mess it up? The flanking is stupid, as already mentioned.

    I definitely agree that there has to be some compromise in rules between playability and realism. Unlike Gary, I do not enjoy the "opportunity fire" mechanic. I think one can play satisfying games, using historical tactics with an igo/ugo system. I am a big fan of Flames of War. I seem to recall not minding Contemptible Little Armies all that much. It was fun, wasn't it?

    1. "Mortars were one of the biggest killers of infantry in WWII and in this game they are completely useless."

      I had been thinking the exact same thing!

    2. I don't think Contemptible Little Armies was really an "igo/ugo system". Players alternate activating units of move (or declaring them to hold), but then everyone fires simultaneously, and then everyone's close combat is worked out simultaneously. Because of the period tactics and the scale the game is played at (units representing battalions or maybe companies... or I suppose even platoons - though we never really played it at that level) there isn't really a need for opportunity fire.

      In a modern (20th century and beyond) skirmish game I see a mechanic for opportunity fire being somewhat necessary. Otherwise someone could be waiting in ambush - or just watching their field of fire waiting for their enemy to poke their nose out - if there's no mechanic for opportunity fire said enemy unit a unit with enough movement and enough terrain could potentially move from behind cover and out of sight, cross some wide open ground (in clear view of their enemy), and end in some cover completely out of sight again - without any chance of being shot at. Does that happen? Well maybe sometimes - if the enemy is quick and stealthy and/or the ambushing troops are sleepy or not paying attention or otherwise distracted... But to allow that to happen all the time and say it reflects modern infantry/combined arms tactics seems a bit odd to me.

  5. Okay, it had been so long since I played CLA that I completely forgot how it worked.

    As for the opfire discussion, I find in Flames of War that if you have good terrain density and well-deployed units it really isn't that much of an issue. Remember, one can always defensive fire if assaulted. As for crossing clear gaps without assaulting there are ways to do that also. Historically I have seen much footage of a squad or platoon of infantry crossing a contested street 1 or 2 men at a time. It may take several minutes, but they're banking that the enemy does not want to give their positions away in exchange for causing minimal casualties. Instead of forcing players to move their models like this, the game abstracts it into the system. For a smaller scale game like FoF you might want more detail. You guys should try Infinity! Every time a model acts every enemy model gets to react. The system gets rave reviews.

  6. Being from just north of Kansas City, I was pleased to see a Chief's shirt representing!

  7. That's me! A Canadian retailer called Giant Tiger sells licenced NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, etc. stuff for very reasonable prices. I have a shirt for almost every NFL squad including a couple Chiefs ones. Although I usually cheer for the equally sadsack Raiders and Dolphins. Unfortunately those teams are a trifecta of terrible.