We had another 500 point Bolt Action game last night. Matt and his GIs attacked Ian's Fallschirmjägers, tasked with capturing two objectives (a milk churn and a telegraph pole).
Ian had three small infantry squads, an MMG, flamethrower, sniper and 2nd lieutenant. He placed two squads and his officer behind bocage on his right; the third squad, MMG and flames in ruins in his centre-left and his sniper in more ruins in front of his centre.
Matt led three strong squads, a medium mortar and a 2nd lieutenant. His preliminary bombardment inflicted a few pins but not much else, besides killing the sniper’s spotter. He then brought his force in close together, leaving Ian’s right uncovered and pointing two squads at Ian’s left.
The game played out interestingly. Matt closed to close quarters as fast as he could, incurring some risks in the process. His tactics nearly paid off handsomely. The end result saw Matt in firm control of the objective on Ian's left but Ian was hanging on to the one on his right. Matt had got his forces at right angles to, and behind Ian’s cover (a stretch of bocage). He looked in control and had the game lasted another turn, Ian would have been hard put to hang on to the second objective. As it was, the game ended in a draw on turn 6.
There were some tense moments. True to previous form, Matt scored an early mortar hit on Ian's MMG, reducing it to paste in two rounds of firing. His mortar spotter knows his job. Make that ‘knew’ because Ian's sniper took him out soon afterwards. Matt fudged a move with one squad, but when Ian's flamethrower tried to capitalise on the mistake, it missed.
We discussed after the game whether a veteran force can perform well at 500 points since the numbers are so few. We concluded that it can, but that at this game size, one chance event can have a bigger effect on the outcome than in a game of 1000 points or more.
So the running total of BA games played looks as follows:
Matt: played 4. Won 2. Lost 1. Drew 1. 5 points
Ian: played 5. Lost 2, Drew 3. 3 points
Tim: played 5. Won 2, Lost 1, Drew 2. 6 points.
Before Matt joined us, Ian introduced me to 8th edition 40K. I had lost interest when 7th edition came out, mainly because the small forces we had built up with previous editions stood no chance against monster models like Imperial Knights, Stompas or whatever. It was great fun. Ian bundled an Ork mob, some stormboyz and a warboss down the road into my Cadian squads, sentinel, Company commander and commissar. I really liked the streamlined rules. Age of Sigmar turned me right off, partly because of the rubbish back story and some silly new models (a dwarf riding a dragon? Come off it! They will always be race enemies in my head). I loved the Old World and was sorry GW abandoned it. But 40K 8th edition seems to have improved play without ruining the universe. I will play this again.
After five games of Art de la Guerre against four different opponents, I am starting to feel more comfortable with these rules. DBA experience helped me to get going but ADLG needed to offer more: DBA is great for introducing new players to Ancients but for my taste is too vanilla to use as more than an entry game. The signs aree promising that ADLG has replay value and more subtlety to discover.
We have used the same two 2000 point armies for each battle: Republican Romans versus Carthaginians. Two games were with oldest sparring partner and tabletop nemesis, Keith; two with wargaming partners who are new to Ancients, Matt and Ian; and one with Warren, a complete newcomer to gaming. Keith, with whom I started playing Ancients back in 1982, knows these rules already and helped me to get to grips with the mechanics. I was glad of his perspective, especially about some aspects of flank attacks on which I find the rules unclear. Warren, at the other extreme, got the idea almost immediately. He had a grand time and is keen for another game, which is a good result.
So what impressions have these rules made on me? I really enjoy them. The command rules, a pretty close lift from DBA and its successors, work very well. I like the sense of control unravelling as the game develops and the choices proliferate. Shooting is dead easy and its effect well judged: it isn't too powerful but can make an important difference as a softener before melee. The Movement works well, particularly the ‘slide’ rule that helps avoid the situation when a unit can't move because a corner would clip a wood or other troops. Interpenetration is sensible and easily remembered. The rules for Light troops work very well, especially the ability of light horse to irritate an enemy but with a slight risk of being caught when evading.
Melee is exciting and works very well for armies dependent on heavy infantry to slug it out over several turns. I really like the way Impact and armour affect melee. It took me a couple of games to see the value of using the Rally order on troops in melee: I just presumed initially that troops couldn't rally while still fighting.
We did find that a pair of extreme dice rolls can upset a melee significantly. I wondered about using the optional rule of replacing normal with average dice, but Keith advised from others’ experience that average dice can make melee very slow to resolve. Instead, I am tempted to use another optional rule of allowing each side a number of reroll
I like the victory conditions, modified again by the optional rules. I also really like the terrain selection procedure, which in a game with Ian produced a fascinating table with a strong narrative (two groups of Romans, separated by a steep hill, try to join up before the Carthaginians can destroy one wing).
Overall, I am really glad I picked up these rules and look forward to learning how to use them properly.
Bolt Action at the Crossroads
Last week Ian, Matt and I played two 500 point games of Bolt Action in an evening. It was fun to be back with these rules after a short interlude in the 3rd century BC.
The aim in both games was to control a crossroads surrounded by buildings and hedgerows. The terrain was adjusted between the two games but the cobbled road stayed the same. It was a chance to use my recently finished ruined houses from Charlie Foxtrot Models.
In the first game Ian's US Airborne faced my German grenadiers. With the terrain so compact and the bocage rule (can't be seen through except by troops adjacent), we engaged at very close ranges. Both Ian and I both did better on our left flank. On his left, Ian caught a section of grenadiers before it reached cover and it spent the rest of the game down and sustaining casualties. On my left, a lucky first salvo by my medium mortar, followed by close range firing from another grenadier section, wiped out an Airborne squad. I thought the game was mine but Ian brought up his victorious left wing squads in turn 6 to contest the crossroads. With the game ending after this turn, we called it a draw.
For the second game, my grenadiers faced Matt's US infantry. Ian shifted the terrain around a bit after the first game, inadvertently making Matt's approach route quite difficult by removing a couple of gaps in hedgerows and fences. Again, we each did better on one flank (this time on the right) and Matt took out both my MMG and my mortar's spotter. But on my right, two sections got up close to a US squad that had stopped short of cover and destroyed it. I got overconfident, sent my lieutenant into the open to shoot up a mortar team and instead he was taken out. The game lasted for a seventh turn and at the end, I took the game with two squads on the crossroads. It was expensive however: had we been playing on points lost, I think Matt would have taken the game.
To be honest, I don't think a 1000 (or bigger) point game adds that much to the enjoyment of Bolt Action, except in one respect. Namely, with a 500 point game, a lot can hang on whose die is drawn first each turn. With more points, forces are more resilient so there is perhaps less at stake. Nevertheless I do like the excitement of that first draw each turn.
So back to our running total of BA games, we now have:
Matt: played 3. Won 2. Lost 1. 4 points
Ian: played 4. Lost 2, Drew 2. 2 points
Tim: played 5. Won 2, Lost 1, Drew 2. 6 points.
I need to sit out the next couple of rounds. My score won't look so healthy by the time the others catch up with number of games played.