02 September 2013

Bolt Action-An Introduction, Part 1

Hi all, I've recently been corrupting Paul into yet another game system and scale of figures to collect, namely Bolt Action by Warlord Games. Bolt Action is a 28mm (primarily) platoon level WW2 game, that was first introduced in September 2012. Its had a huge success since, and is fast growing as Warlords lead game system.
I got into Bolt Action when the Starter set game out.

The key thing is that the starter set comes with the full hard back rule book, 20 infantry for both Germans and Americans, 8 Orders Dice in 2 colours AND a plastic ruined farmhouse that on its own is now worth 30AUD to purchase. And all of this for 60 pounds, or about 100 AUD. With some clever unit design, one could easily play a basic 4 vs 4 skirmish over the farmhouse with the full rules right out of the box. That was the first big draw card for me, the low start up cost to get into it.Although naturally I went right out and bought a tank, arty, mortar teams etc, but even these are quite cheap compared to other platoon level games in 28mm.....

So what is it all about?
Each side has a number of units, usually 8 to 18, which are either infantry squads, 2-4 man support weapon teams (mortars, HMGs, Bazookas etc) artillery or AT gun, tank, armoured car, truck etc. The starting block of all forces is the 'Reinforced Platoon', which is a commander (varying in rank from 2Lt, Lt, Captain, Major) and minimum of 2 infantry sections. The basic rulebook has force lists for the 4 'main' nations of WW2, Britain, USA, Germany and Russia, and Warlord is slowly expanding their collection of dedicated Army books for each nation or collection of Minor Powers. The basic lists are still quite good, and bring out another key difference of Bolt Action to other systems.
The stats for each type of tank (light, medium,heavy) rifles, MGs, ATGs mortars etc are pretty much the same across all nations, which simplifies list building and the tables needed to look up for attack ratings, range, damage ratings etc, thus simplifying the game play, but without too much sacrifice of accuracy.There are some differences between nations as to what each type of medium tank for example could have on it, but more on that later.
The Force Construction lists generally only allow 1 of each type of support weapon (mortar, MMG, Sniper) per 'Reinforced Platoon'. You can have more than one Reinforced platoon in a list, ie 2 seperate Lts, and 2 lots of 2 rifle sections, which as well as giving you an extra leader is the only way to have two mortars, two arty units etc in the one list because you only get 1 of EITHER arty, ATG or AA gun per reinforced platoon. So if you want a howitzer, you can't have an ATG (unless you go the double Rein Plt option)
Similarly, you can only have 1 tank/SPG/AA vehicle, 1 Armd Car per Rein Plt . You CAN have however multiple transports. Essentially the game centres on your platoon of infantry which has, for whatever reason, been allocated a few support weapons, armoured vehicle etc, or which they have collected as stragglers along the way. Given the scale of the game, its a bit surprising to have, for example, a 105mm howitzer as part of your force, but one can argue its the remains of an arty unit that your platoon has come across in this sector of the battlefield
A typical 1000pt force, in this case the US Army Starter set

Thats Force Construction in a nut shell. As I stated before, each unit gets an Order Dice, which is a specially made 6 sided dice with all 6 Orders printed on it. All dice of one side are one colour, and obviously both sides need different coloured dice. The orders are Advance (move 6 inches and shoot, at -1 to hit) Run (move 12 inches and assault if possible, no shooting allowed) Fire (remain stationary and fire at no penalty) Down (Hit the deck, no other actions allowed, gives unit a cover bonus against being shot at and halves hits from HE weapons) Rally (remove D6 Pin markers from unit and do no other action-see 'Pinning' below) and finally Ambush (remain stationary and conduct opportunity fire at enemy moving in LOS at any stage)
The turn sequence is essentially players taking it in turns to draw one order dice from an opaque container, or dice bag, and giving it to the owning player, who then selects ANY unit that hasn't yet been activated, and placing the dice next to the unit, turns it so the desired order is face up, then executes the action as above. Once all the dice are out of the bag, the turn ends. As you can imagine, this adds a great random element of which unit is going to act before another, but also gives forces with more units a greater chance to draw a dice when they really need it. The order in which you activate your units requires a lot of careful thought, as you may not wish to activate too early and give away your plans, but activate too late and your prize assault unit may be too pinned to do anything by the time you allocate a dice....

Pinning is one of the two game mechanics in this game that differentiate it from other games. Essentially anytime a unit hits another, regardless of the number of hits (stand fast HE ) it will put 1 pin on the target unit. Each pin is then a minus 1 to shooting for that unit and more importanly means it has to pass an Orders check to do anything..an orders check is 2D6, roll =or under your units leadership value, which itself is reduced by MINUS 1 for each pin on the unit. Vets have Ld 10, Regs 9, Inexp 8. So, a vet unit with 2 pins on it will need an 8 or less on 2d6 to do anything, and shoots at a minus 2 to hit.

I'll continue with how to shoot and attack in my next post....stay tuned! Comrade James


  1. And so the evil grows: Mwah hah, hah hah, gurgle....

  2. Nice introduction. Very tempting.

  3. Nice review!
    The (almost) random sequence of play of the units sounds very challenging (tactically wise).
    And the fact that the weapons (modifiers, charts, etc), are the same independently of the army probably are a big plus on simplifying things IMO.

    Looking forward to read your next article.
    Oh, and it would be interesting if you could write a battle report (even a very small one), to show how it all comes down together.