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Bolt Action! Battle Report

A few of the Warheads are getting into Bolt Action.  We like the fluff and it’s inexpensive.  I’ve also got a soft spot for the authors Rick Priestley and Alessio Cavatore.  The gameplay, we are finding, is also top notch (more on this later).   Finally, the publisher is Osprey.  If you’re unfamiliar with Osprey it’s a long-established military publisher which has never been wrong about the number of rivets on a particular tank.  Combine Osprey with Cavatore and Priestley and you’ve got my interest.

The other night Baz and I played a 1000 point game.  This was our second game.  Our first game was a bloody affair but Baz won the mission “maximum attrition” handily enough.

The Soviets brought:
1.  Veteran Junior Lieutenant w/SMG + SMG buddy
2.  Veteran Medic + rifle buddy
3.  Inexperienced Commissar + rifle buddy
4.  Veteran squad (11) w/ 6 SMGs, 5 rifles, +2 panzerfausts
5.  Veteran squad (11) w/ 6 SMGs, 5 rifles
6.  Veteran squad (8), all rifles
7.  Free green, inexperienced rife squad (12) with anti-tank grenades
8.  Veteran M-42 45mm anti-tank gun
9.  Veteran medium mortar
10. Regular sniper
11.  Regular T-34/85

The Germans brought
1.  Veteran Junior Lieutenant + buddy
2. Veteran medic + buddy
3.  Regular sniper
4.  Regular PaK40
5.  Regular Hetzer
6.  Veteran medium mortar with observer
7.  Veteran squad (8) w/ 2 SMGS, 2 assault rifles, + 1 panzerfaust
8.  Veteran squad (8) w/ 2 SMGS, 2 assault rifles  + 1 panzerfaust
9.  Veteran squad (5) w/ LMG, SMG
10.  Veteran squad (5) w/ LMG

We decided to give the mission “Hold Until Relieved” a try.  This mission tasks one player with holding an objective in the center of the table with minimal forces until reserves arrive.  Our table just so happened to have a nice bridge dead center.  This was the objective.

In this mission the defender deploys two infantry or light-armoured units near the objective.  Half of the remaining units walk on turn 1 and the remainder roll to come on from reserves starting turn 2.  The Germans decided to attack.  The Soviets had two large, veteran infantry units and they put one in each house you see above.
The attacker deploys all infantry at least 18″ away from an enemy unit or the objective.  The rest of his units go into reserves.  For the Germans this meant the mortar, the hetzer, and the PaK40 were in reserves.  It must be acknowledged that this was only our second game of Bolt Action and the German army was completely painted.  That’s impressive.  The German’s deployed some of their forces to the west of the small building and the sniper and an infantry squad to the south-east of the larger building.
A photo of a small squad on the other side of the table:
To the north another small squad with an LMG took up position in a forest:
With the deployments out of the way we started the first turn.  It went the Soviet’s way: they got first dice and drove on their T-34/85 which MGed a squad killing the NCO and another trooper.  The Germans advanced an eight man squad towards the bridge but were unable to put pins on the troops in the buildings.  As a result this squad suffered casualties and was heavily pinned..
The German’s other eight man squad approached the other house.  It was in assault range and the question was, who would get the first dice on Turn 2?  It turned out to be  the Soviets.
Turn 2 started with an easy decision: the Soviet player was compelled to take a large squad out of a building and assault the approaching eight man squad.  
Poor rolling resulted in only 2 kills and the Soviet player was sure he’d be wiped by the retaliatory swings.  However, the Germans rolled as bad: 2 kills.  The Soviets killed the remaining germans to death in the following round.  The Hetzer rolled on and attempted to MG the exposed soviet squad but it failed to inflict any casualties.  The PaK40 marched on to the table as well but was unable to shoot the turn it arrived.  In other shooting the Germans attempted to put some pins my other large infantry squad in the building but the combination of range and hard cover proved insurmountable.
Turn 3 need to go the German’s way.  It did not.  Both the Hetzer and the PaK40 whiffed on the T-34/85 (n.b.: we forgot that the Hetzer could have split fire and had the MG go after the nearby soviet squad while the main gun shot at the tank).
Rather than returning fire the T-34/85 ran behind a building.  Years of playing Flames of War are to blame for the Soviet player’s fear of PaK40s.
The Soviet squad in the open assaulted the German sniper who had occupied a building.  Their other shooting was largely ineffectual although they stacked up a few more pin’s on exposed German infantry unit.  
With turn 4 we saw the end approaching for the Germans.  The soviet reserves were flooding on to the table.  The two eight-man squads of the Germans had been eliminated.  Nevertheless, the possibility still remained that he could at least contest the objective.  To this end the Hetzer advanced:
At this point the T-34/85 broke cover and took a pot shot at the Hetzer needing a 5+ to hit…..and it rolled a five followed by a six for damage.  The Hetzer exploded.  The PaK40 was then eliminated by that relentless soviet squad:
The German player made a final heroic effort on turn 6 to contest the objective with his medic, lieutenant, and a runt squad but the Soviets were simply too strong.  
Lessons learned:
1.  The points discount on the Hetzer for weak side armor and a hull-mounted gun probably isn’t worth it
2.  Don’t split forces: come at one angle with some of your units applying pins while one or two others move in for assault.
Now a few thoughts on BA game play and design.  If’ you’ve come this far down the page I’m hoping you’ll stay to the finish.  Here’s the trick about Bolt Action: everybody is a space marine.  It’s not so much Soviet vs. Germans or Brits vs. Italians as it is: Rainbow Warriors vs. Silver Skulls.  A veteran infantry guy–regardless of nation–is 13 points.  A regular medium tank with a heavy gun is 235 points.  Special rules are negligible and tend to affect force composition rather than units.  Thus, although the Soviet special rules give them a free green, inexperienced infantry unit it still costs 3 points to upgrade a trooper from a rifle to an SMG–exactly the same as for other nations. 
How can this be, you ask, that Osprey has published a game system which obliterates the finer distinctions between a Pz.IV and a T-34/85?  Priestley and Cavatore have impeccable credentials.  They are franchise writers.  So they’ve produced a streamlined, extremely playable rules set that nevertheless provides full engagement with the setting of the Second World War.  It’s the business arrangement between Osprey to publish the rules, on the one hand, and Warlord to flog the models, on the other, that could be the key to success.  The abstractions will be too much for many historicals to take.  No matter, they have  other options.  The key for us as wargamers is the balance this game has achieved.  We’re quite enthusiastic about it and the War Altar will be bringing you other battle reports very soon.


  1. The hetzer tried to hetz, but just crapped out

  2. Nice report I've had a couple of games of BA & I've got to say i enjoyed it, I think the whole not knowing who is going to go next is what give it it' edge.
    I look forword to more reports.

  3. Yeah, it's a very simple mechanic but has a huge impact. Sometimes you want an order dice desperately; other times you want your opponent to be forced to activate units.

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