Sunday, 24 November 2013

Objectives and Terrain eye candy

Private Timmy is down the well
In many of the games of Bolt Action, battles focus on one or more objectives. Not only does this intensify the battle and encourage calculated (and "daring") risks and strategies, it also gives scope to the creativity of the players.
The Bolt Action rule book describes objectives as:
"These objectives could be tactically important positions such as a building or hilltop, or supplies such as an ammo dump or fuel reserve, or maybe a command post, a vehicle repair shop, or an emplacement for long range artillery or rocket launchers.  Objectives can be simple markers or tokens if the players prefer, or can be represented by scenic pieces along the lines described.  The important thing is that both players clearly identify the objectives before the battle begins."
Tournament organisers have mostly settled on players bringing three or so objectives all no larger than 40mm to 50mm along their sides.  This is very wise as I can imagine a player saying, "But look at it.  The Grand Stone Hotel would make a fine objective."
We have posted a number of our objectives on this site - Hold Until Relieved, It's Time for Dinner, A strange blue box and Lest we forget.
Objectives are a fun excuse to make something different, related, however loosely, to the period and brighten up the board.
Oh Bother. I'm caught in a tree.

As we plan on running public participation and demonstration games we have another reason for interesting objectives and terrain pieces.  Eye Candy.
While their son or brother is immersed in playing in the game, the father, mother or siblings will be able to have a good look at the tables.  Everyone that is interested will be given a "Spotter's Guide" with photos of interesting things they may find on the boards.

The third reason we are spending so much time on our scenery is that it makes the board look good.  We know from experience that painted troops fight better, but also better boards make for more memorable games. If you look back over our battle reports you can see how the board assists in the telling of the story.  Combined with rules such as Bolt Action and the game is full of snippets that we recollect to others.

So, with only 9 weeks to go to Cancon, we will continue play testing our games and making more "objectives" or eye candy.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Battle for the Beer Factory - narrow Russian Victory

As we foretold last week, we finally played the battle for the Russian Beer Factory today.  We played a modify Point Defence game with 3 objectives spread across the centre line, with both sides have half their units on board in turn one, the rest coming on as reserves from turn 2.  To win the army had to hold at least 2 objectives.

I was interested to see the impact of the German vs the Russian special rules.  The Germans get an extra dice for infantry machine guns, while the Russians get a free squad (!) and can re-roll morale for units below half strength.
For the Motherland!
Peter's Russians made a very brave frontal assault in turn 2 after capturing one of the objectives.  The remans did a defensive fire killing 6 of the attacking inexperienced units.  The remaining 5 guys kills 4 (!) Germans.  The remaining 6 remans nay killed 3 Russians and so were wiped out.  The last 2 Russians were able to re-organise to just outside the door to the house.
Not far enough!  The German HQ unit of 2 men charged and killed them in a close quarters assault.
But the free unit killed a German regular unit.  A very fair trade.  But the extra LMG dice did kill a Russian.
A straight shot for the PAK 40 AT gun
The Russian T34/85 raced into the centre of the factory complex daring anyone to attack.
"I'll fire my Pak 40," said James the German player.
"I forgot about him." said Peter, the Russian.
The AT gun missed. This started a trend.  The German Hetzer crushed a wall and fired at the front of the T34, hitting, but doing no damage other than a pin.
The T34 then failed morale twice, while the Hetzer missed the next 2 turns. But the Hetzer was able to put some pins on one of the Russain infantry units.
This outhouse is ours.
So while the objective on the German right flank was in German hands, the middle one in Russian, the let flank was a good chance, even though it was held by the Russians.
The Russian squad that had captured the outhouse was whittled down by infantry and AT fire to half strength.  When they wanted to apes morale they failed and went down.  The German squad charged and wiped them out.
The supporting Russian squad with only one pin caused by the ether, rolled a FUBAR and ran away, leaving the Germans in control of 2 objectives at the end of turn 6.
But Peter was overjoyed that a turn 7 was happening.
He charged his medic at the lone Lieutenant guarding the right hand objective, survived the MMG fire, thanks to the Russian Re-roll special rule and was left in charge of the objective with nothing to stop him.
So the Russians clawed a victory from defeat in the optional 7th turn.

A typical exciting Bolt Action game where the lead changed several times during the battle. tension and excitement were high, and the marvellous outhouse was captured.

Objective - Hold Until Relieved

Hold UntilRelieved - and enjoy a good read in the meantime.
We have been enjoying ourselves making appropriate objectives for our games.  This is or latest, the outhouse, most often used in the games to "Hold Until Relieved".

The Toilet Roll is the end of a lollipop stick with some paper glued to the end.  The magazines lined along the wall are reduced size LIFE magazine covers from WWII.

It's the little things that count.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Bolt Action Index

Now where is that rule?
I have found it frustrating trying to find things in the rulebook so created a 2 page index. I just printed it double-sided and slipped it into the book as a bookmark. Now I can quickly find the important rule I usually mis-remembered.

I have tried to include many items via a number of different ways - e.g. Buildings, entering buildings, Assaulting Buildings, and so on.

I did some play testing by playing a game. Each time I wanted to look up a rule, I wanted to find it first time. For example, the outflanking rule can be found under Flanking and Outflanking.

Let me know if I have missed anything.

Here is the Bolt Action Index PDF.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Turn Counters

You need to know.
In Bolt Action there are 6 or maybe 7 turns.  It is important to know where you are up to as this can greatly affect your tactics and gameplay.
Some use dice of varying types, hopefully distinct enough not to be confused with the dice with which you are playing.
For a demo game we needed something a little more obvious.  A promotional calendar was sacrificed and the turn pages were printed and stuck on to cut down pages with double sided tape.
Now as each turn is completed, the page are turned and the current turn is displayed on both sides.  In this way not only the players but also any spectators are kept informed.

Here is a copy of the turn pages as a PDF.
I have added the Outflanking distances on turns 3 to 5 and the turn 6 ending die roll too.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cancon Prep Board 2 - The Russian Beer Factory

Here is board number 2 which we will play on Day one, the same day as the Grand Hotel Compound. This will be a Winter battle with Russian vs Germans using a modified point defence with three objectives along the centre of the board.
The factory from one side ...
The centrepiece on this board is this factory from Crescent Root Studio very cleverly named 28mm Series 2. I would have called this the Factory or The Beer Factory but I suppose "28mm Series 2" has a certain ring to it.
And the other side.
The Factory becomes a beer factory with the simple addition of beer barrels. We used barrels from Renedra.
Defending the vodka barrels.
It is really cool that the building is laser cut, pre-assembled and sets up easily with little pins.
Factory with extra layers
The building bases are pre-built and you just put the buildings together and play.  How easy is that?
Drive that tank through
The insides of each building do not have the fantastic detail of 4Ground buildings but it makes a great bit of scenery to fit over. And at a very reasonable price.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Cancon Prep Board 1 - Grand Hotel: Hold Until Relieved

We are containing are race towards Cancon.
On Sunday we set up one of the boards we will have on the Saturday with the centrepiece of the magnificent laser cut Grand Hotel Compound from 4Ground. We will provide a more detailed review of the hotel in another post, but in summary it is a huge complex which is almost a battle within itself.
We will be setting the scenario to be "Hold Until Relieved" fought between the US and German armies.  The hotel is placed on the board at an oblique angle as this makes much better use of the windows and compound access points. For our sample battle I played Germans defending the hotel and James attacked me with his US troops.
The scenario requires the defender to have 2 units on the board holding the objective.  In the case of this compound the objective was the corner entry to courtyard back door.
The Attackers edge
The attacker could then place any or all of his units over 18" away from the objective point. Any not placed on the board would go into reserve.
The Defender's edge
The Defender then could place up to half his units as the first wave and the rest would come on in reserve from turn 2 onwards.
The Germans were feeling a bit exposed - even in such a large building
I placed an infantry squad in each of the main building's second floors, spread across the various windows.
James put many of his units on the board, leaving most of his infantry off the board ready to run in later.
A bad opening placement of the Sherman
James forgot that it would be so easy for my Hetzer to come on so close to his Sherman.  With only an Advance move I ended up on the road with a clear shot straight to the rear end of his exposed tank.  Only needing a 4+ I rolled a 1!  The Sherman quickly advanced up the road away from the Hetzer, firing backwards, hitting, but the shell bouncing off.  I moved on my Pak40 AT gun so - depending on the order dice - I should get a couple of chances to try again in turn 2.
Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour.
I had 2 chances to hit him next turn and missed both times.  Bah!
Anyway, the game progressed with the US infantry swarming into the building quickly.  The squad in the closest building fought well but were swamped by the 12 man US squad in close assault.  My other squad was able to hold on until the end, trapped on the second floor, but was unable to affect the objective.
One German squad went right around the compound, close assaulted and destroyed the US mortar, close assaulted the rear of the Sherman which was sitting right inside the courtyard but only stunned it and then was wiped out by another US close assault.
The Hetzer was able to destroy the Sherman in turn 6 and on the last order dice of turn 7, the German squad which had been failing orders for turns 2 to 5 (!) made a mad dash to touch the objective and claim contention.
Phew!  A draw clawed onto with bloody finger tips.

What did we learn?
1. Full US squads are hard to kill and do well in close assault.
2. We will swap attacker and defender edges for the real game.
3. Bolt Action is an exciting system where one can still come back from seemingly certain doom.
4. Every game seems to have it's own Commando Comic moments.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Simple Sandbags for Cool Cover

We have been having fun making sandbags for our troops.  There are lots of ways to make sandbags for miniatures but we are big fans of cost effective and simple solutions. We think you will find that this is a simple way to make great looking terrain for your models.

The equipment:

Very fancy equipment
PVA Wood glue - we bought a 4 litre container which we use for almost everything.  It washes out in water, is non toxic, is cheap and can cover areas well.
Cheap modelling clay - ours cost just $10.99 for a 2kg bag from one of those discount stores.  It's bound to be cheaper in the US.
Blunt knife - raid the kitchen drawer while Mum isn't looking.  Don't get the good knife.
Cheap Paintbrush - this is to paint on the PVA glue. Precision isn't the key so a basic brush from the same discount store is fine.

The not so tricky steps:

Step 1: Make a roll of clay

Just roll it on your cutting board or table
Cut out a small piece of the clay and roll it into a cylinder about 5mm (1/4 inch) diameter.

Step 2: Flatten the roll slightly

Flatten it with that knife you pilfered
Flatten the cylinder so it has a flat top and slightly rounded edges.

Step 3: Make the sandbags

Press down with the blunt edge of the knife
Press down with the blunt edge along the cylinder at about 10mm intervals (or 1/2 inch if you use those odd measurements).  Precision is not necessary - near enough is good enough.  The reason we press down rather than cut is this forces the cylinder to have flat corners - just like a sandbag.

Step 4: Finger mould each sandbag

Your thumb and fingers are just the right shape
Use your thumb and fingers to smooth out the edges.  Then start placing them down on the surface you want the sandbags to go.  If you are placing them on a vehicle or other surface you will need to use the PVA glue.

Step 5: Glue the next layer

Paint on the PVA glue
If you want the sandbags to stay where you put them, liberally use the PVA glue before placing them down.  You can see the first row in the background.  At this point the sandbags are still soft and pliable.  Feel free to push them into spots, make then not quite straight or partly fallen over.  Whatever looks good to you.

Step 6: Check the height

Is this high enough, little dude?
There is no hard and fast rule for how high the sandbag wall should be.  Just get one of your dudes and place him next to the wall to check the height.  In our case, it wasn't quite enough. Another row it is.

Step 7: Get more dudes and see if they're happy.

Sandbags worth fighting behind
Step back and look to see if the wall looks about right. Now the hard part is you need to allow 24 hours for the clay to dry.  Then you can start painting.  The clay has some minor shrinkage, but it doesn't affect the sandbags enough to be a concern.


We have had fun placing sandbags in buildings, around gun bases and even on tanks.  We'll put up some photos of painted guys later.
Added Bonus:  Press a Tea towel (not your Mum's best one) onto the sandbags (before they dry) to get an appropriate cloth look to the bags. (Hat Tip to the Bolt Action Australia/New Zealand Facebook group)
More than a ruined house
Tanks for the Sandbags
Australians enjoyed the added defence now painting is done
Update: Now the sandbags are painted and looking very fine indeed.  If you zoom in you can see we have even made some sand oozing out of the misplaced sandbag.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Order Dice vs Normal Dice

All in the right order
Bolt Action revolves around the order dice each unit needs to make a move.  There are six orders:
1. Fire
2. Advance (and can fire)
3. Run (No firing)
4. Ambush (Fire if someone comes into sight)
5. Rally (Attempt to recover from pins)
6. Down (Drop with hands over head)

Initially we used normal dice and we all knew which number matched the appropriate order.  Then we tested our methods with a new player. Matching numbers to orders was another thing to worry about rather than what the actual orders meant for his units.  Good Point.
I was discussing this with Ian from War and Peace Games.  As part of his sponsorship of our demo games at Cancon 2014 he provided us with some order dice.  Thanks, Ian.
In combination with the marvellous dice bags my wife made and this part of playing the game is greatly improved.


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