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Charles Stampley
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Austin
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Bolt Action is a collaborative set of World War II rules from Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing. As with anything from Osprey, you know you are going to get the full color pictures that make their books popular with wargamers and military historians. And Bolt Action doesn’t disappoint—the hardcover book is 216 pages full of not only paintings, but photos of painted miniatures and terrain on the tabletop battlefield.

Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestley of Games Workshop and Warhammer fame wrote Bolt Action and that is indeed one of the common complaints of the rules—that they are Warhammer set in WWII. But Bolt Action in my opinion is a much better set of rules that manages to captures Warhammer’s simplicity without going overboard on complexity.

Bolt Action is clearly written for 25mm or 28mm figures in mind but can be played with 15mm models as well. Each figure is individually mounted and represents one soldier. The basic unit is the squad consisting 1 NCO and 4 men, but you can add up to 5 additional men. You can also add options like special weapons such as a machinegun or upgrade the officer to improve the squad’s morale. Bolt Action is points-based. Soldiers and options cost points so theoretically two different armies comprising of the same points cost are equal. For example a standard German Wehrmacht infantry squad starts off at 50 points before additional soldiers and weapons are added. In addition to infantry squads your force can also include artillery, anti-tank guns, tanks, and other vehicles. Air support is abstracted and brought into play by paying for a forward air observer.

Order of movement is determined by dice draw from a cup. Each player places a die in a cup for each squad or vehicle in play and then dice are drawn. When one of your die is drawn, it is placed next to the unit and you can choose one of six orders for that unit to perform. The orders are Fire-fire at full effect without moving, Advance-move and fire, Run-move at double your moving allowance but not able to fire, Ambush-the unit does not move or fire, but can fire during your opponent’s turn at units that move into range and line of sight, Rally- you don’t move or fire but can remove pin markers, and Down- the unit does not move or fire, but gains a -1 to hit.

Movement is simple—infantry advance 6 inches a turn but can run 12 inches. Facing is not in play; units can turn and change direction any number of times as long as the distance traveled does not exceed the maximum allotted distance. Combat is D6 based. A roll of 3+ is the basic to hit score, but can be modified by troop quality, weapons, and cover. The weapons ranges are generic; rifles fire 24 inches so a British .303 Enfield has the same range as a German Gewehr 43. Players looking for more detail and weapons distinctions may be disappointed by this rule but I personally prefer not to have the added rules for the minimal difference this would make in a game. Some weapons and nationalities do have extra rules that differentiate them –for example US forces armed primarily with the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle forgo the -1 to hit penalty for shooting and moving.

Assaults are also simple. Units use the run order to come into base to base contact with the target models. Target units that have not activated in that turn can fire at the charging unit. Models roll to hit and whichever unit inflicts the most casualties wins. The losing unit is destroyed and surviving models removed. Assaults are clearly very bloody and shouldn’t last long. Again this is an abstraction, but I prefer this to a long drawn out melee and multiple rules.

Morale is also covered. Units have a base morale that can be increased by assigning better officers to the unit. Regular squads usually have a morale of 9. Units must take morale checks when suffering more than 50% casualties in one turn. Units can also accumulate pin markers from taking casualties which act as negative modifiers toward morale checks. Units with pin markers must also take an order test before accepting an order with the amount of pin markers again acting as a negative modifier.

The vehicle movement and fire rules are the same as the base infantry rules with additional modifications. Vehicles just have one armor value but shots targeting rear or side armor gain bonus modifiers. Artillery also uses the basic move and fire rules with additions such as firing smoke, direct vs. indirect fire, and mortars.

The rulebook includes army lists for the United States, Britain, Germany, and Russia. These lists are focused on late war, but are more than enough to start playing. Further army books are planned with the first—Armies of Germany-- being released this month (Dec 2012). Six generic scenarios are included along with a general timeline of World War II describing major battles and events.

Bolt Action is obviously designed as a simple set of rules to be used at the platoon or company minus level. I am unsure how it will scale up with additional platoons of infantry and added vehicles and artillery. Bolt Action is going to have its detractors primarily from people looking for more detail and differentiation of units and weapons than what is offered so the question of whether or not you will enjoy Bolt Action depends on what you are looking for. If you want more detailed rules you will probably not like Bolt Action. If you want a simple set of rules for quick platoon skirmishes then Bolt Action delivers. Personally there are times when I want a more detailed game which is why I have been playing Advanced Squad Leader for over 12 years, but there are also times when I prefer something quick and easy like Bolt Action.


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Aaron Day
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Texas
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For larger games, it seems the general consensus to speed up the game is not to put all the dice in the order cup. Instead you put half and each draw from the cup allows that player to activate 2 units. Or do 1/3 and activate 3 units etc.
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Charles Stampley
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That is actually a good idea--I haven't thought of that. My only concern with the rules is they may bog down with larger battles and this seems a good fix without tinkering with the rules.
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David J Schaffner
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Saint Louis
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Quick and easy usually means quick to pick up by gamers who have never played the system. This is where Bolt Action shines in my opinion. More "realistic" games usually mean more mistakes are made playing (and learning), not to mention the "glazed-eyes" encountered by players who haven't a clue where to begin mastering a ruleset "on the fly".

As it's meant to be a miniatures game, and one that can be presented in public venue, Bolt Action fits the bill of a system that doesn't require lots of referencing to the rule book to play or judge. There are rules mechanics that need defining or interpretation, but as a game meant to be played within the force structure set forth (forces are to be reinforced platoons+), then the system plays very well, and for lots of varied settings, and including by players who haven't had any experience with the game system.

This asset is not something that many other rules/games can claim to, but something that distinquishes Bolt Action above "the crowd".

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c0d3 monk33
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As a long time player of a variety of GW 'big games' like 40k and WHFB (although I've since abandoned them) I was curious to see how Bolt Action fared. To me it really does feel like an updated version of 40k, in a WWII setting. However I mean that in a positive way, Bolt Action seems like something that GW should have done to 40k decades ago. The removal of the awful 'I go, you go' system and replacing it with an equally simple system that also manages to convey the unpredictable nature of the battlefield and add a level of tension to every game is a great idea.

The pinning/morale system is also interesting to play, and has to be carefully managed to get the best use of your units. Again it's a simple change that cleverly highlights the risk of exposing yourself to enemy fire, and moving in the open. The presence of the morale system makes unit movement considerably more carefully planned than I've ever seen in any game of 40K.

I doubt I'd ever play a 1000 point game of Bolt Action (which is the recommended point value) as I can see it would definitely bog down with a large number of units. However as a 500pt skirmish game it plays fast and you can get a couple of enjoyable games in an evening.
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David Manley
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The "WW2 40K" comments are interesting as my son and I may well be working on a project to write our own rules for use with his 40K collection (we really don't like the 40k rules at all) and something "Bolt Action-esque" would seem to be a good starting point.
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Chris Montgomery
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Joliet
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It has been a while since the last posts, but I was wondering if any other players have problems with scale-accuracy? One of the really annoying things I find with lots of 28mm gaming that has a "real-life" setting is that the scale difference between how far a model and shoot, and how tall that model is often far, far out of sync.

For instance, a rifleman 28 mm high (roughly 1" to 1.25") translates to 6 feet tall, but this means his rifle (that shoots 24") only shoots 144 feet at max range.

It has been said this game can be played with 15mm or even 10mm figs. If this is true, I assume you continue to use the same distances in the game? This would, for instance, triple the scale sync . . .

Now that 10mm model is still 6 feet tall, but the distance he can shoot is now around 500 feet.

For some reason, getting that scale closer to a realistic representation is important to me. Even more so if you are playing with "true line of sight" . . . I presume for tournaments 10 mm would not be acceptable, though - but do you think the game would play very well using that scale of model (and that scale terrain) with nothing else changed?
 
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Joe Donnelly
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I just think of the horizontal scale as being somewhat logarithmic, and I like it because it allows more interesting play for guns and armour. On a linear scale, almost every heavy weapon shot would hit and penetrate.

As for the infantry, I consider the limited ranges to reflect the difficulties of acquiring, identifying, and engaging men who are trying not to be seen.

If you don't want to make these mental accommodations, try Chain of Command.
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Chris Montgomery
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Sunray11 wrote:
I just think of the horizontal scale as being somewhat logarithmic, and I like it because it allows more interesting play for guns and armour. On a linear scale, almost every heavy weapon shot would hit and penetrate.

As for the infantry, I consider the limited ranges to reflect the difficulties of acquiring, identifying, and engaging men who are trying not to be seen.

If you don't want to make these mental accommodations, try Chain of Command.


I have no problems making some mental accommodations to enjoy a game . . . but when I look at the board, I just think these guys should be shooting pistols at each other rather than rifles. In all fairness, I had a similar issue with Flames of War . . .

Anyway - it's not the *game* as much as the *look* . . .

I can say that the gameplay looks very, very fun.
 
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Joe Donnelly
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I use 20mm, which offers a slightly better aesthetic, but I understand your concern.
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