Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bolt Action – First Game

For the longest time I’ve used Savage Worlds as my go-to miniatures skirmish game. It’s a generic miniatures skirmish game that can be pretty easily adapted to almost any period. I like this because I’m a bit of a thick-o and can never keep rules straight in my head and so the less sets of rules I have to remember the better.

I have to admit, however, the game kind of breaks down in the twentieth century, I’ve never been entirely happy with the vehicle rules or modern combat involving automatic firearms, etc. Morale plays a huge part in the modern battlefield and the SW morale system is… somewhat lacking. Oh, it’s still a great game and I’ll use it for any skirmishing before WW2 and even still use it for modern role-playing. But for skirmishing WW2 and more recent conflicts I finally had to admit I needed… something more!?

Last fall I decided to pick up two new sets of rules: Force on Force and Bolt Action – both published in partnerships with Osprey Publishing. Because I was more interested in more modern conflicts at the time I decided to try out Force on Force first (honestly I’m pretty much sick to death of WW2 – I’ve played so much of it because so many of the people I end up gaming with LOVE it – love, not like… LOVE!!! – and I’ve tried SO DAMN MANY different WW2 games… I digress…). Because I wanted to really wrap my head around Force on Force I left Bolt Action alone because I knew trying to learn two completely new rule sets would completely befuddle me and I would never get them straight.

Somewhere along the line I decided to DELEGATE! I gave (loaned) my copy of Bolt Action to Christian who promised to read it and run a game with it for me (and others) (using my toys, of course…). And so he did. What follows is a report of our first games of Bolt Action – run by Christian with my rules (which I couldn’t be bothered to read) and toys…

Christian had decided to run two quick scenarios to try out different aspects of the rules. The first was to be a quick infantry engagement, followed by a quick engagement involving armour. As it turned out we got started a little later that planned and ran out of time.

Normandy, June 1944


The Regina Rifle Regiment has found itself fighting elements of the 12th SS in the bocage of Normandy. No. 17 Platoon of D Company has been tasked with pushing through to the next field. Their other platoons of D company (No. 16 and No. 18) are advancing on their right and left (respectively). Supporting the platoon are 2 Vickers MMG teams


Advance through the field and beyond.



No. 17 Platoon, D Company, Regina Rifle Regiment

Platoon commander + 2 riflemen

Medical Orderly + 2 Stretcher-bearers.

3 Sections of Infantry, each with:
-1x Section commander - Sten
-1x Section 2IC – Sten
-1x Bren Bunner – Bren
-7x Riflemen – SMLE

Light Mortar Team (gunner, loader, observer)

2x Vickers MMG teams


Elements of the 12th SS

2x Panzer-Grenadier Sections, each with:
-1x Section Commander – MP-40
-1x Section 2IC – MP-40
-1x MG Gunner – MG42
-2x Riflemen

1x MMg Team – MG42

1x Sniper


Gary and I took the Canadians and Rick played the Germans.

Christian made up some new rules for the scenario for the Bocage – essentially treating it as “impassible” terrain, and if in contact with the bocage elements could see beyond it (and could be seen). I don’t’ really have any Bocage terrain so we made due with corduroy strips (which I usually use for roads) and assorted vegetation that I do have.

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

Here is the platoon at it’s kick-off line. The little squares of MDF in the opposing hedgerow were “hidden” and “dummy” markers. All the Germans started in “Ambush”

We set up one section and an MG to watch one of the two fields – to keep the other two section from being flanked.

The other two sections (along with the platoon command, medical orderly, 2” mortar team and MMG team) prepare to assault across the other field.

One section moves out after the mortar dropped a few smoke bombs on the other end of the field (rules Christian made up on the spot..). The SS MMG team opens up! Their first round of fire caused a pin, the second (on the following turn) caused a casualty

The second squad moves out.

Only the MG and  a sniper had been watching this field originally. Our Vickers team took out the sniper, so rick decided to redeploy one of his Panzer-Grenadier teams that had been watching the other field to this one, lest he be outflanked!

Almost across.

Because the bocage was impossible to cross we didn’t end up with any close assaults at the end, just blazed away at each other from opposite sides of the bocage.

By the tiem we called it the Germans had lost their sniper and four of five of one of their Panzer-Grenadier teams, the Canadians had lost, I think four, maybe five out of one of their platoons.

I like the game well enough. I like the pinning mechanic. The squads seemed rather large and clunky and weapon distances short – compared to the area a squad took up. Perhaps if they were fielded as fire teams of gun groups…

I will definitely try it again – I’d certainly like to try out the armour rules.

I wouldn’t mind setting up a scenario and playing it once with Bolt Action and the again with Force on Force to see how the two compare…

Thanks to Chrisitian for reading the rules and setting up a game for us.

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Some painting I’ve done over the last few days; WW2 Germans, Mmodern Africans, etc.. 


  1. This rulebook is really good, Tim. I have played now three games in my local Club and all of them have been very interesting.

  2. Ok, that went pretty smoothly, but there are a number of things I want to change before we try it again.

    Ranges need to be looked at, although I think using smaller teams will help a bit here. In terms of the scenario, it did what was wanted, ie the 2 sides out of rifle but in MG range. But the problem still remains that an infantryman can move 1/2 the effective range of his weapon in 1 turn.

    I way overpowered the smoke. For starters I ignored the lt mtr range, which helped the allies. Second, the smoke was just too big. Either we should have adopted the FoF mechanic, or only made it a 1 inch effect (sighting modifier) vice 2 inch (totally blocks LOS). You would have taken longer to block LOS, allowing Rick to readjust position.

    I needed to adjust the bocage sharply. I think making it hard cover all round, and then adding a further bonus for being dug in would have made it more realistic. Also treating it as an obstacle would have helped as well, instead of impassable.

    I was guardedly optimistic that the points totals actually seemed to work fairly well. The Cdns were roughly 2:1 in points over the SS, and the result showed it, especially since I softened the effect of the cover.

    So what worked? I like the initiative, orders, and pinning system quite a bit. Gary and Tim used very effective tactics that did not leave poor Rick with many options at all. I thought the hidden ambush and dummy positions worked pretty well, and would have been even better with a turn limit to further rush the Cdns.

    On the whole, I think this system might be more optimized for closer terrain, especially as regards the infantry rules. Let's face it, leg infantry crossing an open field is not great for the poor attackers.

    So smaller teams, increased ranges (or slower movement?), nerf the smoke, a bit better force balance, actually use the as-written terrain rule, and a turn limit, and this would have been a really good scenario.

    For next time, I think we will go with the same basic idea in terms of force selection, plus tanks and AT assets. I need to readjust my map, however...

    1. Dude, you're as bad as Gary. One game and you already wan to make major changes..!?

      I'm no Rick Priestly apologist, but I generally think a rule set should be given a chance. Play the game - the way it was actually meant to be played (i.e. using a scenario from the book - if there are any) - a couple times before tweaking.

      I am reminded of that scene from Aliens where they're in the operations room and the aliens are making their final assault and Hudson is counting down their distance and hicks says "That can't be, that's inside the room..." and Hudson says "It's reading right, man..." and Hicks says "Well maybe YOUR not reading IT right!"

      Maybe WE just weren't playing it right - I know we made a lot of mistakes. Maybe it's more a scenario design issue than a rules issue - not meaning to be critical of your scenario here - good scenario design it tough (believe me, I KNOW!) Look how many games I've run and for some systems that I've played dozens of times I still haven't got my head around how to design a good scenario. Usually my savage worlds tabletop games work out - but that's because I've played it HUNDREDS of times - I've got a pretty good sense of how to make a balanced, fun scenario.

      I say we actually try a couple of the canned scenarios right out of the box with the rules as written before we go changing things.

      If a system is really so broken that it needs immediate tweaking I say put it down and walk away. There's gotta be better stuff out there.

  3. Ok, I have been faffing about on the BA forums, and find that I am not the only one that has issues with the range and movement rate scaling. A large segment of opinion points out that if one has more terrain, the issue goes away, problem solved. However, I think that this is a bit unsatisfactory, and indicative of a bit of a broken system. I would suggest two possible fixes, to be used either separately or in tandem. First, we could extend ranges by 50%, and introduce a further -1 to hit at "long" range. This would push rifles out to 36", but at -1 from 12" to 24", and -2 from 24" to 36". Secondly, we could reduce movement by 33% all round, so infantry movement would be 4"/8" instead of 6"/12". This would mean that it would take 3 moves to close from max range vice 2, or 4 moves if we adopt the longer ranges as well. Thinking about it, I believe that the first option (only) is the more effective. It allows for use of more open spaces without slowing the game down too much. Thoughts?

  4. LOL - Ok, maybe we will give a canned scenario a shot, and see how it works.