Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bolt Action: Stalingrad

Had another crack at Bolt Action on Saturday evening. After last weeks game I thought I’d read the rules and have a crack at an out-of-the can scenario with two “even” forces.

Traditionally Saturday evenings has been  Savage Saturday”. Unfortunately we haven’t played any Savage Worlds since last November- everybody’s just been too busy… I had hoped we might be able to pick up where we left off, alas, most were unable to make it this week…

For some time I had run an East Front WW2 campaign and so I thought I might be able to convince Rick and Patrick to revive some of those heroes of the Great Patriotic War (if in a slightly different game…) and have a go at Bolt Action…



An enemy pocket of resistance along the Volga River must be dealt with! The Germans are to be engaged and pinned in place by a portion of the attacking Soviet force, while the rest will make their way around the enemy position to surround them and isolate them from their supply chain. 


We played SCENARIO 1: ENVELOPMENT, straight out of the  Bolt Action rulebook. Rick and Patrick played the attacking Soviets, and gained victory points by getting their troops into my deployment zone or off my edge to he table by the end of the game (which would be 6-7 turns).

Both forces were just under 1000 points – we only used infantry and light supporting weapons – no tanks or vehicles or off-board artillery or air assets.


Soviet Forces

1x Company Commander (Captain – Regular) + Flag Bearer and Commisar
1x Medic
1x Sniper and Spotter (Veteran)
1x Infantry Squad (NCO w/SMG, DP + Loader, 8 SMG-gunners – Regular)

2x Rifle Platoons each with:
 - 1x Senior Lieutenant + 2 runners (Regular)
 - 2x Rifle Squads (NCO w/SMG, DP + Loader, 7 Riflemen – Regular)
 - 1 MMG Team (Regular)

German Forces

1x Company Commander (Major) + 2 orderlies
1x SS Squad  (NCO w/SMG, MG34 + Loader, 7 Riflemen – Veteran)
1x Sniper and Spotter (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)


I had to set up at least half of my force on the table and the rest could remain in reserve. I think the incentive to leave some in reserve is to keep them safe from the pre-game artillery bombardment, but it didn’t turn out to be that bad and so I could have started with my whole force on the table… Not a great proposition for an attacking force!?

At least in flames of war I seem to recall a defending force HAD to keep half of their force off the table and had to dice for them to arrive!?

Now I haven’t had a full read through the rules. Chrisitan read them  before last weeks game and since then I only had a chance to look up a few things that I didn’t understand or stuff we had questions about…. Insofar as I can tell there are no rules for entrenchments!? Of course that would give even more advantage to a defender…?

I think the scenarios are really meant to be mad skirmishes in fairly close terrain Defenders don’t have great fields of fire and so “attackers” can advance on the enemy position in relative safety. The fact that the defender can conceivably sit tight in terrain and wait for the attacker to come to them is I think supposed to be balanced by the fact that with an aggressive player it could be really challenging to keep the attacker out of your deployment zone… At least in this scenario…?

I digress…

I basically left the Company Command, The Veteran (SS) Squad, and the Sniper in reserve – that would quickly (on turn two) rush to the front line when a soviet attack came in…

Depolyed on the table, then, were the three Heer Rifle squads (Regular) with their platoon commander, the MMG Team and the Mortar and Spotter.

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

There were two pretty good defendable positions just inside my deployment zones that I set up a squad in, the third squad I had tucked behind a building in readiness to rush ahead and occupy a building further to the front to stall the Soviets further back rom my deployment zone.

In the pre-game bombardment My HQ and mortar teams took 2 pins and the MG team and a Rifle Squad took one pin each – fortunately for me ALL of those units happened to be in the same area and all within 6” of the HQ team – which gave a bonus for recovering from those pins! By the end of the first turn most of the pin markers were gone – simply from successfully receiving orders. The Command Team rallied themselves. The Mortar team lost it’s second pin marker at the beginning of the second turn.

BOOM! AT the beginning of  the second turn I scored a lucky hit with my Mortar! The Soviet squad went to ground so I only scored one hit and a pin on them.

Extent of the Soviet advance at the end of the first turn/beginning of the second turn.

A soviet team attempted to rush forward but was caught, more or less, in the open by one of the German rifle teams and suffered three casualties! After this the Russian players got pretty cautious about their movements… something they really didn’t have time for…

The German Heer platoon HQ, MG and Mortar Teams and one rifle squad holding the left flan against the Volga River… These are the guys that caused those first three shooting casualties. Thereafter they didn’t see hardly any Russians as the soviets switched their advance over to the other side…

On the second turn on march all my reserves… And the rifle squad that had rushed ahead on the first turn consolidated their position in the ruined house they’d occupied.

The Russians continued to advance, mostly under cover.

Another shot of my reserves arriving and the German deployment zone.

Sneaky Soviets continuing to sneak up.

On the Third turn my mortar missed, but the soviet Squad failed to receive (or at least OBEY!?) their order to advance so I might get another chance to hit them next turn!!

The soviet SMG squad moved out into the open and started taking fire from one of the German squads, suffering one casualty.

I think this is the beginning of turn four and my mortar missing again, despite only needing a 4+ now!?

A soviet MMG team opened up on the forward German squad and caused a pair of casualties.

The other Soviet MMG team poured fire onto the mortar spotter’s location and with a lucky shot, took him out!

Rick being indecisive about where to send his infantry lost another riflemen to the squad holding my left flank.

Opening up on the Soviet SMG team in the open with all I got….

… took down FIVE of them – the passed morale, but went of rcover the next turn and the Soviet advance pretty much stalled!

An overview of how things were around the end of Turn Four/beginning of Turn Five.

Soviet Positions at the end of Turn Four/beginning of Turn Five. This pretty much marks the extent of their advance.

Turn Five was a pretty bloody ordeal….

Returning for on the Soviet MMG team that had begun harassing them, a German Squad wiped them out! Two victory points for me!

Dead Russian Machine-gunners

A soviet squad fired on my forward German section and caused three casualties.

Returning fire the Germans knocked off two Soviets.

The Soviet sniper took out the Germans NCO, then the other Soveit MMG Team took down three more of the team and the remaining Infantryman scarpered. They had two pin markers, no NCO and nowhere near close enough to any command element. One victory point for Rick (by this point Patrick had had to take his leave).

I think this is the state of things a the end of Turn Five

From the soviet lines end of Turn Five/Beginning of Turn Six.

A soviet rifle squad shot up the SS causing four casualties!

The SS team, however fired next blasting the Soviet Sniper team behind the wall across the road with a hail of point-blank bullets. The spotter was taken out. The Sniper failed his first morale test (which would have meant two more victory points for me!) but because he was Russian got to re-roll that and passed! FIE!

The Germans hanging back on the right flank shot up a soviet Squad that had taken up a position behind some rubble and started firing on them the previous turn – they took out five of the squad – which had already suffered a few casualties – leaving only the squad leader. Luckily HE passed his morale check and stayed in the game – denying me a further two victory points!

The previous turn I’d moved the mortar to a spot in the open at the very back of my deployment zone that had a goof view of things – to fire over open sights – but was (hopefully) safely out or range of most small arms! On the sixth turn they started trying to bomb th soviets bogged down in a ruined building. They missed.

Other than that the sixth turn was pretty uneventful.

At the end of turn six Rick rolled to see if there would be one more turn…

…there wasn’t…

Intotal I’d scored two victory points (for the MMG team I’d taken out) and Rick had scored one (for the Rifle Squad he’d taken out). There were a few other teams/squads that had been on the brink of being “lost” – one soviet squad had taken nine casualties and only the NCO remained, another squad had taken six casualties, another had suffered two. The only other casualties I’d suffered were six in the SS Squad and the mortar observer.

I’d be game to try it again. It might be fun to play the same scenario with Force on Force and see how it turns out… or just play it again with what we’ve learned and see how it turns out… The attacker can’t get bogged down and exchange fir with an enemy in hard cover… They’re just not going to take anything out.

I’m a bit disappointed to see so few units lost due to morale only one (mine) was lost due to morale failure – and that squad had been reduced to one man. As mentioned a soviet Squad had also been reduced to one man and remained in play?!  There also seems to be no force breakpoint. Two other squads had been reduced below 50%, but otherwise suffered no ill effects – other than a pin marker her and there – which quickly go away with a successfully received order…

As I said I’d definitely like to play a few more of their canned scenarios with matched, point-based forces to get a better feel for the rules…

I need a darker sheet to cover the table... This one's too bright - there's too much contrast between it and the terrain features... 

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:



  1. Great AAR, the thing I have seen is that for units to break by morale is to give them a few pin markers first before hitting them with a big item that will cause the morale test (like a flamer, large damage weapon like a medium or heavy artillery, etc). Usually if a Vet unit has about 3-4 it gets very touch and go.

  2. Sounds like you guys had a fun, if late night!

    My first reaction was that you guys had a lot of troops - how was the force density?

    I could not find any rules on force breakpoint either - squad level seems to be as high as they go. Nor could I find anything for increased levels of cover beyond hard to reflect improved positions/entrenchments. However, did you use any of the building rules? Infantry in buildings are harder to kill, although it does say to treat ruined buildings and rubble as rough terrain rather than an actual building.

    I think you are right in that the objective of the rules system seems to be to close and assault as quickly as possible. But in close terrain with lots of hard cover, this is a recipe for disaster, as it was in reality. Of course the required offensive tool vs troops in hard cover is HE and lots of it. But in close terrain this is harder to arrange - artillery is hard to do at street fighting ranges, and direct HE must operate at close range where it is vulnerable to counter-attack.

    One of the issues with the canned scenarios is that they don't talk about force balancing. Were equal points in this situation fair? I realise that the scenario special rules favour the attacker, but is it enough? I wish they would say "give the attacking force 1.5x defender points" (or whatever) and then allow bombardments/flanking forces to be purchased.

    Anyhoo, I would like to try it out with FvF, and see what happens...

  3. Well I'm an idiot... I completely forgot about converting hits to kills... Well that's not entirely true - I had thought of it the first time someone was hit, but in the mess of tables and charts I had on various different sheets I could not for the life of me (or the poor fellow that was hit by the mortar round) find it and while reading something got the idea that hit=out of action and figured I was getting this confused with Force on Force (with it's first aid checks...).

    If we'd been doing that there would have been even LESS casualties... which makes sense - tow forces in hard cover blazing away at each other from a distance aren't likely to cause much in the way of casualties.

    With being in the open considerable less deadly, however, perhaps the Russians would have been a bit less timid and tried charging in. which would have made the scenario hell-a-tough for the defenders!

    Still, we couldn't seem to make pins stick. a unit might take some hits in a turn from one unit - get a pin. the next time they activated they would received a fire order, pass the order test, and that pic would go away... I guess you really have to concentrate fire on units from multiple opposing units to make a LOT of hits - or have more mortars or other sources of HE....

    Entrenchments would be easy enough to do - there, that's hard cover for you wherever you want it... and maybe you are counted as "down" for HE shots... But how many entrenchments is a defender allowed? In a standard scenario, like the one we played, the ability to do that would be a great advantage to the defender... Do you pay points for them? How much should they worth? As the current scenarios work - two opponents have their own force of a set point value and dice for a scenario THEN decide who is attacker and defender - if you "buy" trenches and they turn out to be attacker in a scenario where having entrenchments would be useless it's a waste of points...

    I'm probably thinking about this too much. Once I have the system more or less figures out, we can abandon point values and play scenario-based where we can choose to give the defender however many entrenchments and have break points written into the scenario...

  4. Whoops - yes, not rolling for damage would mean significantly more casualties. Keep in mind to that if the required total to hit is greater than 6, you still roll. Each 6 rolls again, and if another 6 is rolled, you get a hit. As for pins, you really need to concentrate fire to get initial pins, but then split it in order to get them to stick, I guess.

    I really don't like the scenario arrangement (or the scenarios), which is largely why I disregarded them for the first game. I don't mind the points so much, however, inasmuch as it gives one a rough idea of starting balance. But it is annoying that there is no points given for stuff like prep bombardments, or entrenchments (or any defensive obstacles, for that matter).

    Basically, scenarios really only come in 3 flavours: assaults (in all their varieties), meeting engagements, or delay/withdrawal actions. That's it. Tell me how many points I have, what the attacker bonus is going to be, and what everything costs, and I can take it from there. Then it comes down to balancing. And that's the hard part. But Bolt Action refuses to do this, and that irritates me.

    1. I did catch the six-and-six-again is always a hit thing.

      Another thing that I could have done - which I didn't because I feared it might make it too hard for the attacker - i started with my units hidden. Like, on the table but declared hidden so they can't be engaged until spotted...

      The scenarios seem like variations on meeting engagements. The one we played was close to an assault, so the attacker gets the prep barrage. The defender doesn't really have prepared positions, per se. I had some good positions only because of hte terrain set-up; ruined streets of Stalingrad. But the same conditions game me little in the way of fields of fire and the Soviets were able to advance to within close range entirely under cover in most cases and then remain in hard cover or their own...

      I have a feeling there will eventually be companion books with more rules... probably an assault scenario with entrenchments and a better preparatory barrage to balance things... or bonus points for the attacker...

      The thing to keep in mind is they're trying to follow the GW/Warhammer model where two guys can meet up at a club (or in a tournament!) with their own 1000 point armies and throw down with a game that's "balanced" - it won't ever actually be "balanced" but that's what they're shooting for. Ultimately I'll ignore all that junk, but what I'm trying to determine is, at the core of it, is there a decent set of quick playing rules that I can use for playing scenario games? I still have a sense that there is.

      Certainly it flowed better than Savage Worlds - a battle that size would have bogged down and taken forever... and ultimately ended with almost everyone being wiped out...

  5. We could actually, at some point, try using the Flames of War(hammer) scenarios - it's just that the "units" involved would be squads instead of platoons.

    As I recall their standard attack/defence scenario involved the defender was required to keep half of his force off the table in reserves and had to DICE for them to arrive starting on... I forget which turn... or how it worked... but they would only trickle onto the table. any tanks in a force would HAVE to be in reserve. Any of the defenders forces that start on the table may start "dug in"...

    Or course in FoW if you want a preparatory bombardment you have to take an artillery battery as a support option, plop them on the table and blow them up with that! I suppose you can actually buy field artillery in Bolt Action... but it seems a little silly to have a 25 pounder on the table for such a small skirmish battle - let alone a 155!! I guess there's also FOOs, but the ONE BARRAGE per game...? Maybe a barrage is pretty devastating... We'll have to try them out!

    I can't remember the victory conditions... they had a standard condition whereby when half of your forces had left the table you had to start doing company morale tests at the beginning of each turn and if failed it was game over...

    Of course before getting ahead of myself here I'd like to try and play the envelopment a couple more times - except with the convert to kill rules!? DOH!! and maybe some FOO and tanks... maybe some terrain with not-so-much hard cover everywhere!!

  6. Great fun to read about your first few try outs with Bolt Action. Got my own book before Christmas, but have npt had time to try out the rules myself.
    But it seems to me, that you missed some of the more essential points of strategy in the mission. As far as I can tell from reading the boko, you should use a fairly broad front (they talk about using 4x6 tables, and in the force set-up drawing in the book, it looks like you should use the broad edges for deployment). This would make it far more difficult for the defender to hold the whole front).
    By placing forces in reserve, the attacker can send them on a flanking mission - essentialy shielding them for fire for a couple of rounds, and then placing them about the middle of the table at one front, making it far more possible to break through the defenders line).
    Both points makes it a smart move for the defender to place units in reserve, in order to be able to effectively counter a concentrated attack, since troops placed during set-up will have a difficult time crossing the length of the table in order to close a hole in the line.


    Thomas :o)

    1. Thanks Thomas!

      I will definitely keep that in mind next time!

  7. Yeah, I think that if we were to use field arty, it would have to be in a DF role only.

    Despite it all, I agree that we need to try one or more the base scenarios, but include things like FOs and vehicles, and so forth, and with a terrain mix. And then again with FvF, to see which handles better.

  8. One little hiccup in the whole point system I've noticed is that some American troops can have a BAR - it's +5 points shoots a bit further - i think the same as an LMG (30"?) - and gets 2 shots. An LMG, however, is +20 points, throws three bullets a little bit further than a rifle, but requires a loader. So the total output of that team of two serving the LMG is the same as a trooper armed with BAR and a rifleman armed with a rifle... You're paying +15 points to have one shot go an extra 6"...? That combined with the fact that most American squads have option of having up to 2-3 BARs... and they get that special rule about not having -1 to hit on advance orders (being all semi-automatic and such)... could potentially make American infantry pretty nasty - point of point...

  9. Yeah, I really don't like that special rule, or any of the other nationalistic rules, AT ALL. As for the BAR, I think that ROF 2 is a bit much. Just treat it like any other LMG, as on this scale, it should be functionally no different from a Bren. Even the MG42 rule is junk - just because it could fire a million rounds per minute doesn't mean that there was ammo on hand to do so. Sure, it was the superior MG of the war, but with any MG ammo is the limiter, not rate of fire.