Bolt Action Battle Report #1


So, if you haven’t heard about it yet, then you probably missed us talking about it on the show but in our spare time Brian and I have been playing this great World War 2 historical game called Bolt Action from Warlord Games.

Bolt Action is a turn based game, but unlike Warhammer where you complete all of the actions of your units (move, magic, shooting, combat) then your opponent resolves their actions before the turn ends, each player in Bolt Action activates one of their squads or units when one of their order dice is drawn from a bag or dice cup. All of the dice are drawn from the bag the turn is complete and the players reset. Order dice also then represent the different “orders” a squad might be given, such as run, go down or fire at the enemy. It makes for a great turn sequence where you really interact with your opponent and there isn’t a lot of waiting to get to do something in the game.

Now that you have been introduced a bit to the game, on to the report! In today’s game, we discussed using a fan generated scenario that looked interesting and that I heard about through some other podcasts. The scenario is called Domination and can be found at the great fan site, BoltAction.net. The scenario really is about controlling the table, with objectives pretty evenly distributed and each worth different points. You can control a lot of objectives to win, or you can try to push for the more expensive objectives in the center of the table and hope to control enough of those for the win. Really cool concept and something I am going to look at throwing into a Warhammer game some time.

In our game, Brian is playing the armies of the United States while I am playing the hated German army. Brian’s list consisted something like the following:

  • 2nd Lt with assistant (regular)
  • 2 squads of 8ish regulars with an NCO with a Sub Machine Gun (SMG) and a BAR rifle
  • 1 squad of Combat Engineers, with a BAR rifle, man packed flame thrower and NCO with SMG
  • 1 squad of Rangers with a BAR rifle, some SMGs and such
  • 1 artillery tractor
  • 1 57 mm anti-tank gun
  • 1 sniper team
  • 1 Forward air observer

My list was themed on late war Grenadier infantry. Our lists were roughly 900 points, which is pretty much everything Brian can put on the table and nearly everything I can put on the table, less some expensive vehicles.

  • 2nd Lt with Assault Rifle and assistant
  • Sniper Team
  • Forward Artillery Observer
  • Opel Blitz Truck
  • Kubelwagon
  • 8 man Veteran Grenadiers with NCO with SMG and 4 other SMGs
  • 8 man Veteran Grenadiers with NCO with SMG and 4 Assualt Rifles
  • 2 – 6 man Grenadier squads with MG42 Light Machine Guns (LMG)
  • 1 Inexperienced 81 mm Mortar Team (Medium Mortar Team) with observer

All right, now that the lists are out of the way, on to the game. Our battle was set, as we could imagine, probably in the French countryside somewhere with expansive fields, some bocage and stone fences and small town on my left side of the board. Brian was the defender and moved his units into position early with the rangers, sniper and air observers all taking the board. I set up, what are effectively my scout units and then we were off. This scenario uses an interesting mechanic where your units are coming on to the board, half of your army anyways, as part of the first turn so the turn order the order dice are pulled can be a big deal as to seeing how your opponent wants to play and where they might be feeling like they want to push the attack. I leaned my units to the left side of the board, away from Brian’s Rangers and his combat engineers that were in the center. My plan was to use some of the reserve unites to be able to hep push and support a hard left flank attack and move to the center late in the game. If I could get Brian to start pulling over some of his units to that side of the board to react to the pressure then I should be able to get a great artillery hit. As we get into turn 2, the first picture of the game I have to share, you can see the great bottle neck of units around the two stone towers. I have him right where I want him!

Turn 2

Turn 2


As we start turn 3, I have to roll to see if my artillery strike comes in that I called for the turn before. Basically, on a 4+ it comes in, but on a 1 it comes in and Brian can place the strike point anywhere within 24 inches. I chuck the dice and blam, there is a 1. This is basically the same mechanic as is used to call in air support with an air observer, and the Americans get to call in two air strikes per game per observer and Brian has never rolled a 1. My first time fielding the artillery observer against him and boom, it backfires against me. Ouch! Brian has the strike pin point on my Puma armored car and I roll a 10, so everything within 10 inches is impacted. Only one unit takes real damage from the strike, but it’s critical to my plan and that is my vet Grenadiers with the assault rifles. My other squads though were shaken very hard by the strike and took a lot of pins. Pins basically make it harder to give your squads orders and expect them to execute them. If you have pins, they impact a morale check to see if you can actually activate the squad that turn. So, much of my army that was just poised to break out, all sat with 3+ pins on them and my squad of grenadiers had to take a down order to avoid being obliterated by my own artillery strike. Note to self, that artillery observer will be executed if he survives this game!

Another big punch to my Germans this turn is that Brian has the first order dice drawn and fires his 57 mm anti tank gun with a long shot into the side of my Puma armored car. Here is another big, doh moment for me, but it’s the first time I have fielded this car so no worries. The car has a rule called RECCE which allows it, when targeted to make a free reverse move. If I would have reversed I could at least have given my the gun my front armor or I might have been able to move completely out of it’s line of site, rendering the shot harmless. Instead, it rolls a lucky hit with a 6, rolls a 5 and the next thing I know, we have a burning car that hasn’t really done much yet this game. Most of the rest of turn 3 is me just trying to get rid of pins from my units.

Turn 3

Turn 3

There was one epic moment for me in turn 3. In Bolt Action, you can take any of your units in reserve and choose to have them instead come on from the left or right table edge. You have to write this down at the beginning of the game, when you choose to put the unit in reserve. It means there is some risk to doing it, if the battle goes badly for you on that flank or other such shenanigans. Since I planed a full out attack on the left flank, I thought it was a great time (along with the way order dice draws went) to speed on my Opel Blitz truck loaded with veteran grenadiers with SMGs. The soldiers bailed out of the truck and turned around the corner to see one of those 2 units of regular US troops just milling about. In a hail of gun fire, many of those US soldiers were mowed down to SMG fire, and later in the game I would assault the squad wiping out another big block of American’s from the table.

Turn 3 SMG team comes on the board

Turn 3 SMG team comes on the board

On to turn 4, what was looking like a sure thing was now starting to look extremely dicey as Brian had a significant lead on controlling objectives and it was going to be an uphill battle to get my remaining troops into position. Since my previous turn was spent largely rallying the troops though, it was time to push through and see if I could snag a couple more points. Rushing my remaining troops that could make a bead on the center of the board, my only shot at victory for the Germans would be if I could take the center of the board. That would snag me a big 3 victory points and surely snag victory from defeat. My mortar homed in and hit the combat engineers and knocked out the flame thrower team and the pins started to pile up on the squad. It’s going to be close, but I might just have a chance.

Turn 4

Turn 4

Turns were speeding up at this point, with me bleeding order dice and units off the board. At this point, I had to do some crazy stuff and had my LT assault his LT, and after blows were swung, I managed to knock his out of the game. This would be big as the pin markers continued to pile in on the combat engineers with another mortar hit on the unit! My Vet’s with SMGs made for and took out the US .30 caliber MMG and made for the objective in his back zone. However, my supporting squad of regular grenadiers that had been near my LT just a moment before, watched two more of their number fall to enemy fire and at this point the squad had enough and exited the game. With just the single LT model left, it was going to be really close to see if I could somehow survive and claim that center objective.

Turn 5

Turn 5

As it turns out, going into turn 6, things wouldn’t go quite so well for me. With the order dice drawn, I had delayed as long as I could and had to move the LT. He moved up to the objected and opened fire into the combat engineers, getting enough of them to now be able to secure the objective at the end of the turn. However, the full strength unit of Rangers (or near enough!) moved towards the center, opened fire, and gunned down my 2nd LT. It was a noble effort, but one that at the end of the game, just fell a hair short.

Turn 6

Turn 6

At the end of the game, there was some great swings in the game, both back and forth and I loved the feel of the scenario. Brian had mixed feelings about it and felt like there were too many objectives on the table. I think I played the game correctly and executed my battle plan. I made a game rules error with my Puma armored car, but the real game change was the fact that my artillery did come back on me. Even if it wouldn’t have landed till a later turn, the amount that single event changed the game was huge. It meant that on the turn I should have been moving out of my hole and moving towards the center I was bogged down and couldn’t move for effectively a turn. Movement in this game is very big, and that gave Brian a turn to adjust, advance and pick off units on my flanks and bog them down. MVP for the game was definitely my 81 mm medium mortar. It hit 3 times out of 6 in the game, always needing a roll of a 6 or a 5 to hit.

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