Or, at least they should be. Alas! In Bolt Action, medium machine guns are somewhat underwhelming. They can be nasty, but it also feels like they can be neutralised far too easily. Snipers often seem to be a better choice, and moreover also seem to be an effective tactic against MMG teams. I’m not really sure what can be done about this. Perhaps nothing has to be. There are certainly a lot of opinions about.
The basic economics make sense. For 50 points you get a regular MMG team that has 5 shots (6 for the Germans) and a max range of 36″. A regular infantry squad with rifles has 5 shots with a range of 24″, but has two more bodies and can move and shoot. If you can manoeuvre an infantry squad to within assault range, they will probably win. Getting to a place to charge an effectively dug-in machine gun team, that is dangerous work. This describes pretty much every squad level engagement since machines guns were widely adopted in the early 20th century. Yet, this is not part of the Bolt Action vibe, and the game is a little less than it could be because of it.
In the recent campaign book, Italy- Soft Underbelly, there are scenarios where the defender gets multiple MMG. So the designers at least have faith, and it does reflect history, which is at least part of the point. Perhaps this is all that is needed. Allow 0-2 MMG in a standard list, use terrain, hidden set-up and ambush. Job done!
One of the most successful tweaks has been the introduction in Konflikt ’47 of the ability to perform suppression fire. Trading accuracy for weight of fire allows additional pins. A neat mechanism and one that would port into Bolt Action well and present players with additional tactical decisions.
Extra shots, cheaper points. Some wonky equivalent of tiger fear. Solutions that likely come with a bunch of unintended consequences. I keep coming back to some form of extra pins as an attractive way to increase the power of MMG.
A light mortar gets d2 pins, so additional pins is a simple extension that is probably not overpowered. I wonder if making MMG d2 and light mortars 1 pin + 1 additional pin on a 5+ might give the right feel? Or vice versa. Simply doing extra pins also avoids a new mechanism to remember, which has a merit of its own.
I would restrict MMG buffs to infantry teams and pintel mounts. Most gun ports on vehicles have such restricted views that the big sweeping shots, and even prepared fire lanes are rarely an option. And they will still throw out 5 shots in most situations, which is still dangerous. Adding a small benefit to infantry-crewed MMG will help tip the balance back the other way a little. I include pintel mounted MMG since most vehicles will become open-topped as the brave soul operates the gun. Maybe too complicated already. This does illustrate the point that trying to fix one thing might (will!) cause a new problem.
Here is another thought. Only provide additional pins to MMG that are deployed at the start of the game. A special rule like “fixed lanes, or prepared positions” where because crews have had time to prepare fire lanes and ensure enough ammunition, they get the additional effect of extra pins. Once you move (other than rotate as part of an advance order), you loose extra benefits. Depending on the mission this will tend to benefit the defender, which is perhaps as it should be.
Lots of ideas on MMG here. What do you think?
Do MMG need a tweak or are they fine as they are?