This was my first outing with my new Soviet Union army and and I gave Brian a chance to be my first opponent. We chose to play 1000 points and rolled up scenario 3, Point Defense. If your not familiar with Bolt Action, it’s a World War 2 (WW2) miniatures wargame using 28mm figures. If you think games like Flames of War, then your on the right thought, but think a bigger scale closer to our Warhammer Fantasy figures. Most games are scenario based, with a lot of them using objectives. Point Defense is no different with a clear attacker/defender chosen. Once this is chosen, the defender places 3 objective tokens and up to half their army in their deployment zone. Brian chose to be defender with his United States forces and went to work setting up.
Brian’s forces set up with, starting with my far flank a Medium Mortar supported by an eight man squad of rifleman. In the center, an eight man squad of Rangers who used their special move to advance into the board. In the ruins to the right was another eight man squad of rifleman. To the far right, the Americans deployed a 57mm medium anti tank gun. Finally, in the tall, centerish building/ruins Brian hid his sniper with a great vantage over my deployment. I was able to do preparatory bombardment as the defenders, scored a couple of pins on the mortar and 1 kill on the squad in the ruins. All in all, not great, but it was better than nothing and I was right away fighting up hill in this game with a lot of board to cross in 6 turns with my mostly infantry army.
This turn started with us both drawing all of the dice out of the bag for our units that start off the board and can’t come on this turn. Once we got into the action, this turn really was me just running stuff onto the board and Brian positioning and doing some of the same. I was only able to bring on half of my force as a first wave, which stinks a bit when you have to cross the table as much as I did. The game allows you to put some units that are Reserves into Outflank which allows you to deploy from either the left or right short table edges. I choose originally to do this with one squad to the left and one to the right. I think this bit me late in the game, but I’ll talk about that later.
Round 2 saw more of my reserves pour in, but a key unit of infantry in the veteran rifleman refused to come on this turn and placed a bit of a monkey wrench in my plans. When your counting rolls in this game that had a huge impact on the outcome, that’s definitely one of them. Brian continued his defensive shooting pressure, and was able to kill the NCO with a clean shot on my free inexperienced squad. I followed that well placed shot by rolling a 1 on their green roll. This meant they took more pins, keeping them really in place and neutralizing the effect of one of my large squads.
Pins in this game mean a unit is under fire and it’s harder to give them commands they will follow. Units would much rather hug ground and duck for cover then run a crossed a battlefield under fire. To represent this, each time you are successfully shot at you add a pin marker to the squad. As long has a pin marker, they must make a successful command check to activate. Each pin marker on the squad penalizes this roll by one, so the more pins the harder it is to get your guys to do what you want. Lose the commander and the squad also adds another negative one to their command. So, my green innexperienced squad of rifleman ran onto the field of battle, if you can imagine and sniper takes a clean shot at the units NCO. The shot hits the grizzled old man who’s leading your squad and his brains explode from the back of his head. Thinking twice, you and your guys around you think this is crazy and duck for cover. Really cinematic huh? Well, that’s Bolt Action for you.
Turn 3 was a lot of positioning and not a lot of great shooting. My sniper team was able to pick out an NCO in the rifle team that moved out of the little rubble building, while my T-34/85 tank put down covering fire with it’s guns. My big howitzer continued to try to hit the building the sniper was in, but couldn’t land a successful hit. Who would have thought it was so hard to hit a building with a giant explosive round! That veteran squad of rifles moved on and my flame thrower moved into position hoping to be able to blast the US Rangers who are up into the center of the table. Brian calls in an air strike on my T-34/85 and my air strike, which I called on his car (not really a good choice) failed to come in that turn. However, realizing my mistake, my forward air observer getting static on his radio fiddles with the nobs realizes a little too late that the armored car is in position to gun him down.
Turn 4 starts with both of us calling in successful air strikes. Brian calls in a heavy ground attack aircraft which knocks the T-34/85 tank out of commission and into a firey wreck. Likewise, I call in a little YAK-3 figher and it was equiped just well enough to take out an armored car. The gun crew in it is forced to bail, but one of the crew dies while trying to bail out and the .30 cal medium machine gun team has to go down. This turn it was pretty big to see who had the first order dice in the draw, and that went to me. My Flame Thrower advanced out of cover and with a gout of flame burned the a pair of Rangers to death. Any time your hit by a flame thrower, you take d3+1 pins and have to take an immediate command check or be removed. The rangers were not persuaded it was good to be this far into the field of battle, failed their order check and left the game! Well, that started out well. Couple this with my howitzer finally managing to take out the american sniper team. Who’s got the big gun now! More pressure shots here and there just to make activating units tough. Brian did fail a couple of order checks here to activate squads. While that does suck, it’s not nearly as bad in a scenario like this when your the defender.
It was about mid turn 4 when I started to think to myself, ok, doing well in this game. I have Brian pinned down pretty well and took out some big units while still having the bulk of my force in tact. Maybe I should pay attention to the scenario objectives. Now I say this because I have have played enough wargames and enough of this game that I should know better then to ignore objectives. However, I think this is a bad habit I have gotten from playing Warhammer where the primary goal in nearly every game is just to flat out kill the opponent dead. In order to win this game, I have to have control of 2 or more objectives. Mind you that all of the objectives started in Brian’s deployment zone under his control. The only way to change control is for, at the end of the turn, if the enemy has no units within 3 inches and you have at least one unit within 3 inches. Well, crap.
Ok, operation grill now full in effect. Anything that I pretty much can that has a chance to make it or contest an objective runs towards an objective to at least put some pressure on. I also bring my last unit of troops on from reserves. As next turn might be the last turn, I didn’t want it to come down to one command roll to see if the last unit of reserves came on. Brian does call his second air strike on my veteran infantry squad, but as we see it never comes in by the end of the game. Dodged a bullet there.
Turn 6 and 7
Ok, at the start of turn 6 we ran a few numbers, talked about and realized that there was nothing I could do to win the game this turn. Ok, there wasn’t quite nothing. It came down to two rolls, both needing a 6 to hit. First my mortar team trying to hit Brian’s. A hit here, with how his Engineer team ended up after it came on the board and tried to flame thrower (to little effect) my tank hunter team would have given me that objective. The other shot was a late in the turn, Brian had only one squad on the center objective and I was in position to contest if not take it. I needed to hit that infantry squad on a 6 with my medium howitzer. Direct shot, but too much cover meant I missed. My last few moves were more in thought to trying to set things up for a turn 7 since I couldn’t knock Brian off a single objective in turn 6.
So, typical scenarios go 6 turns in Bolt Action with a 7th turn on a 4+. Brian tossed the dice, it landed on a 3 and away we went. I landed an assault with my vet rifleman with tough fighter, cleared out a big block of American rifleman on the center objective, but rolled a 1 for my consolidate move. If I would of rolled a 4 or more, I think I could have positioned that squad to block his LT and air observer from getting to the objective.
On the far left flank, the Engineer squad uses their flame thrower to wipe out the last tank hunter after that squad assaults and wipes out Brian’s mortar. On the far right flank, I wipe out his 57 mm anti tank gun after it somehow fails to hit my SMG squad that is like 2 inches away from it. This gives me one objective and the draw.
Big lesson’s learned. As is usual with Bolt Action, even if you are smashing someone’s models you have to keep your eye on the prize. I didn’t do that till late and it hurt my chances. Also, my list going in, and I felt this way, needed a forth big squad of 8 or more guys. I could have gotten them in this list with a little fiddling, but I just didn’t have the models painted. IMHO you need at least 4 squads at 8 or more in 1000 point games to do well. These are your work horse quads after all. Finally, as impressive as a medium howitzer is on paper, with terrain and such, it just wasn’t very good in this game with no clear targets or big negatives on my to hits. I didn’t have models for it or my mortar to have spotters, which I think would have been really big in this game. All things to think on and work on modelling for my next game.
Hope you enjoyed this. Till next time, peace out.