read the book!

Thinking about a different project – a topic for another day – I was looking in one of the older Bolt Action campaign books, Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin. In the pages I found another take on the Belski Brothers.

The Warlord Games version is for a partisan squad. The key twist is gaining the fanatic rule when opposed by SS units. Officially for the Soviet lists, I see no reason why these squads could not be included in a partisan force. Combined with my special character rules for the Belski brothers it could make a fun eastern front themed Partisan force.

So, there you go. Read those books, you never know what you might find.

weird war turkey

Back in 2018 I wondered what sort of army Turkey would have in the weird-science, alternate history world of Konflikt 47. And, here is my answer.

Staying neutral as long as possible, Turkey enters the war late, signing as part of the Axis with Germany. With the real and fictional history only diverging in 1943, I felt this was a great opportunity to field a wide range of armour and other units, representing an under-prepared Turkey scrambling to respond to the seeming unavoidable Soviet invasion from the east and north-east.

I have chosen to restrict the number of units with weird technology. This reflects the junior partner nature, and likely German skepticism of just how committed their new ally is to the cause. In particular, I have no horror causing units which are such a distinct feature of German lists.

I swapped the heads of the Italian heavy infantry. I ended up with this set accidentally when I grabbed the Italian instead of the German box. Always take your reading glasses to the hobby shop. There is little chance for confusion, as this is a distinct looking unit in the force. Tougher than ordinary infantry they are still susceptible to anything that have armour piercing capability. If you can get them into cover near an objective they will be hard to dislodge.

The core of most armies are ordinary, regular infantry squads. With a few fezzes added, they are armed as late-war Germans. One squad has an LMG, but under my home brew they don’t get the Hitler’s Buzz Saw special rule, so no extra shot, leaving them with the same number of shots as other armies.

The second compulsory infantry choice has assault rifles and a panzerfaust.

Not all units are first-line. I will use these WWI Ottoman Turks from Woodbine Design as inexperienced troops.

Germany have deployed observers. Their role is to train and advise their new allies in battle spaces impacted by weird technology. Veteran observers have the special rule, Weird Tech is Expensive, which allows Turkey to field (selected) units with weird technology. These miniatures are Gebirgsjäger from Black Tree Design.

By keeping the colour palette restricted I have helped to give a more cohesive look to what is otherwise an intentionally disparate model selection.

A Panzer IV in Turkish livery. The decals are 1:48 modern Turkish air force and have come out great.

The Panzer IV-X is funky science version of the Panzer IV. The turret is a simple swap with the ordinary Panzer IV. So, while I can’t field both, I have the choice to field either in a game.

The Allied nations had hoped Turkey would join the war on their side. Part of this process was access to the Lend Lease program, where Turkey took delivery of a wide range of different tanks, all in small numbers. This included Valentines. This model is from Rubicon.

Every army needs officers. These figures are all from the Woodbine Design first world war range. They are lovely minis, full of character.

A German Liaison officer and his interpreter. As long as the interpreter is alive, the officer gets to use his German national rule to add an extra unit to the number he can Snap To. Liaison officers also have the Weird Tech is Expensive rue, so are an alternative to an Observer squad. Next project might need to include some practice with faces.

Support squads include a Pak 38.

Which has a Kettenkrad as a tow. This is another Rubicon kit.

A sniper and his spotter.

A medium Mortar.

A medium machine gun, another set from the Woodbine Design Ottoman range.

An anti-tank gun. By the late war these were mostly useless against most of the common armour. However, these heavy caliber rifles have found a role on the Konflikt 47 battlefield as a specialised sniper targetting heavy infantry and lightly armoured walkers.

Perhaps my favourite model is this Spinne Light Panzermech. Silly and wonderful in equal measure. In game they are reliable reconnaissance vehicles, suitable for rough terrain.

A feature of the Independence War in the early 1920s were irregular fighters that fought both for and against the emerging Republic (and sometimes both). I have included a unit of irregular cavalry, reflecting local resistance to the invasion of their homeland in 1947.

In addition to the painting and modelling, I have written a home brew army list. A draft version is posted here.

There are heaps more pictures in other posts. You can find them by using tags, especially the tag Turkish Army. My next goal will be to get them onto the table.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me so far.

fark!

Back in 2018 I had an idea to build a Turkish force for Konflikt 47. I accumulated most of the models I wanted, and there it sat until May last year when I picked up it once more.

One of the first units I started was a cavalry squad of irregulars. Which then sat on my desk until it was the last unit left unpainted. Well, I picked up my courage. Picked up my brush, and now, I have finished! Seventy-odd fighters, several tanks, and support units. Phew!

Kit-based, based on the Perry’s US Civil War cavalry

In my home brew army list, irregulars have the special rule, The Hills Have Eyes. This means the local area knowledge of the irregular units prevents opponents from outflanking. This rule is one of the Bulgarian national traits re-named, and I think brings some nice flavour (and options) to the list.

I will do better pictures, and get a beauty parade together. But I’m a little bit excited at reaching this point and wanted to share this with y’all.

lessons were learned

In the summer of 1944, German and fascist forces conducted many operations across Northern Italy. The sweeps and armed security-patrols into the rugged mountains were designed to break up the growing partisan companies and restrict their ability to operate.

Many of the rule book missions could be used to re-fight aspects of a security operation. But I want to create a mission where partisans are making a desperate bid to break through a security cordon to escape. With this in mind I played a couple of solo games to get a feel for how squads might interact on wooded table, with one side attempting to exit and the other to stop them.

I went with infantry heavy forces with around 450 to 500 points. A bit smaller than even a small game, but large enough to try out some ideas. For the partisans I tried one game with a small number of squads and another with the same number of fighters, but split into groups of 3 to 5.

I opposed the partisans with a more structured German force: several 5 man squads with rifles, a medium mortar, a 3 man LMG squad, and an officer. Thematically, I think matching the partisans against an inexperienced or green security force could be a lot of fun, but for this experiment I went with regular squads.

In the first game I deployed the partisans randomly, using the paratroop drop rules from Market Garden. Then the Germans entered the board from random board edges. The double randomness was too much and would likely lead to very swingy games- even more swingy than BA is usually!

For the second game I dialed back the random deployment. The Germans deployed up to half of their units on the board, but their reserves came on randomly in from turn 2. The partisans started off board, with at least half coming on as first wave.

The dynamic of using squads of 3 to 5 was interesting. It gave the partisans plenty of dice, but limited fire power, and forced moral checks more frequently. Another idea might be forcing the fleeing partisans to start with 0 to 2 pins on each squad.

I need to sort out scoring yet, and I think the points need to be balanced a bit. A higher number of points for the partisans, perhaps 50% more might even the sides up a bit, given the partisans need to advance into the Axis deployment zone and move off the board in order to win.

Also victory points need to be worked out. I think something like 2 victory points per exited unit for the partisans and 1 victory point per partisan squad eliminated by the Axis force.

More experiments are clearly required.

Rise Up

Members of the resistance faced many dangers: discovery, betrayal, and the direct danger of violence while carrying out their duty. Many resistance fighters were not even armed. For most it was a significant risk to just obtain weapons and ammunition, even before other acts of resistance could be contemplated.

As the Allied army approached Paris in August 1944 the population of Paris, led by the French Forces of the Interior, rose up in rebellion. One of them was Georges Loiseleur, an ex-soldier and active member of the army of the interior. Like many, he went out onto the streets to find a weapon.

A German truck was attacked with a grenade as it drove along Quai des Grands-Augustins, which runs along the left bank of the Seine. Scrambling through the wreckage to salvage a weapon, not all the Germans were dead. Instead of finding a rifle to join the liberation, George was shot dead by a German armed with a pistol.

Georges Loiseleur died August 1944, age 28, and is commemorated by a small plaque near the spot where it happened.

To capture some of this in Bolt Action I propose being able to add unarmed fighters to late war partisan squads. The unarmed fighters have the special rule Rise Up! that provides a chance to obtain a rifle during the game. This rule reflects the risks taken by people like George during those frantic days of liberation in the final months of the war.

Special Rule: Rise Up!
A regular Partisan Squad (Late War) or an inexperienced Partisan Squad can add 0 to 3 unarmed fighters for +5 points (inexperienced) or +8 points (regular) per unarmed fighter. The quality of the unarmed fighters must be the same as the rest of the squad.

If an enemy infantry or artillery unit takes at least one casualty within 12” of a unit with an unarmed fighter, roll a d6 for each unarmed model up to the number of casualties:

4-6: weapon acquired. Replace the unarmed model with a model armed with a rifle.
2-3: no weapon found. The unarmed fighter may try again if the opportunity arises.
 1: tragedy strikes. The unarmed model is killed or wounded attempting to find a weapon and is removed from play (this doesn’t cause a pin).

While unarmed, models cannot shoot or attack in close combat, but can be removed as casualties.

The sort of early war actions of obtaining war material is a story outside the scope of Bolt Action.

These unarmed fighters cost on point more than unarmed fighters in Soviet penal squads. This reflects the chance that some will survive long enough to obtain a weapon.

The Belski Brothers

Tuvia Belski was a Polish Army veteran and a charismatic leader who led a group of men, women and children, which grew to over 1,200 people by the end of the war.

Belski and his brothers led their partisan band through the terrors of the nazi occupation, often hiding deep in the forests of Belarus. Check them out, the story is amazing.

The base Partisan list has access to first and second lieutenants, who can be either inexperienced or regular quality, but not veteran. This makes sense for the core list and reflects the lack of organisation and structure of most partisan organisations.

However, every partisan movement included extraordinary people, men and women, of outstanding courage, skills and charisma. It would be nice to be able to bring some of these elite personalities into Bolt Action, expanding selection choice and range of Partisan armies that can be deployed.

The Warsaw Uprising theatre list in the Road to Berlin campaign book includes officers of higher ranks and the option for taking veteran offices. This makes sense for the AK. This same entry could be used for a late war Yugoslav National Liberation force, or even a Soviet Partisan force.

Special characters are another way of rounding out some of the holes in the Partisan list. Assigning points for new or additional rules without distortion is a delicate thing. However, re-skinning existing rules, or tweaking so modestly it may as well be re-skinning, is a safer route.

The home brew special character mashes together four things: history, and the existing rules for captains, intelligence officers, and Hungarian officers.

Tuvia Belski, partisan hero, is a regular captain (110 points).
You may add up to two additional partisans from the following list:
Asael Belski (+10 points); Zus Belski (+30 points); Partisan fighter (+10 points).
Named characters may only be selected once per force.
Weapons: pistol, SMG, or rifle as depicted on the model.
Special rules:
Asael: as long as Asael is alive, Tuvia and his unit gain the fanatic special rule
Zus: has the intelligence officer special rule (see Italy: Soft Underbelly).
Once per game Zus may act on intelligence he has gathered; before the first die is drawn, on a 4+ he may choose a die from the bag for the first activation.

Clearly, these rules are not official and will need your opponents permission to try out. The fanatic rule for Asael has no additional cost. It is based on the national rule for Hungary. Just as in Hungarian list, it appears for some flavour that will have little effect on the game. Unless some crazy cinematic moment occurs. Very Bolt Action.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. On Tuvia, special characters in Bolt Action. or other ideas to extend the partisan list.

Easter Front Round Up

The first two day Bolt Action tournament in Melbourne for a long while ran as part of Conquest over Easter. It was ace and a genuine pleasure to roll dice with gaming friends once again. Some I hadn’t seen since last Easter (or before)! Winners and pictures of the fabulous tables and armies can be found on FaceBook. Search for Cast Dice page for heaps of photos. Bravo to Leigh and Brad for a terrific weekend.

As you might have expected, running an army for the very first time in an actual tournament was a steep learning curve. Partisans don’t get quite as many toys as many other armies, so you need to consider how co-ordinate your units to achieve mission objectives.

A large squad of Nationalist Chinese militia. They died in droves but held on to secure an objective.

I played five of the six games, lost two and had draws in the other three. All but one was a close affair, but in the end I couldn’t do enough to pull out a victory. Very historic, I guess. Without support from regular troops, Partisans rarely fared well in a stand-up fight.

A Soviet T-26 Tank in Chinese service.

Brad used this beautiful Nationalist Chinese as a gumby army. We played a mission called Nuts!, where there are 5 objectives: one in the centre and one in each table-quarter. Up to half your army can start on the board.

Partisan Guerrilla fighters ambush veteran Chinese fighters, catching them in the open.

I gave Brad trouble early on, but they just kept coming and in the end contested or held all the objectives.I placed my bombs poorly and spread my army too thin to support each other. Lesson: make a plan and focus on the mission.

Ben’s Soviets are are terrific and balanced army. Top-notch painting too.

Ben and I fought to a draw in turn 6. A 50% chance of a seventh turn didn’t occur, which would almost certainly have been a victory to the Soviets.

The Soviet barrage falls on target

Half of my army spent most of the game heavily pinned and down, ceding the initiative to Ben on one flank. But while I couldn’t shoot, dug-in troops are also hard to shift.

Lesson: don’t be afraid to go down or take a rally order to keep unit in the game.

Elizabeth borrowed this fine looking Sherman from Tristan for the tournament

Elizabeth and I fought each other to a draw in one of two missions unveiled on the weekend. In Punch Through there are 4 objectives deployed in a cross 12″ from the table centre. Each player can move one objective up to 6″ (possible the same one). Every one starts off the table, with at least half your army arriving in the first wave.

The British kept on coming but neither of us could keep enough units together to secure an objective by the end of the game.

Lesson: use the bombs to control a fire lane or protect a flank; don’t just spread them out.

The only Axis power I faced on the weekend was Johnathon’s late war German list. The mission was No Man’s Land, straight from the rule book. His veterans were rock hard and steadily took a tally on my grab bag of inexperienced units, leading to my second loss in the tournament.

Lesson: use your army special rules or you just leave points off the table.

Supply Drop was the other new mission on the weekend, and one I think will become a favourite. It is a variation of the classic Kittyhawk Down (itself inspired by Thunderhawk Down from Australian 40K circles). No objectives start on the board. On turn four, three objectives drop from the sky. They land in a straight line through the middle of the board, with the angle of the line and the distance apart randomly determined.

I played long-time buddy Consto, who had a marvelous looking veteran US force (a mix of rangers and paratroopers, plus a Sherman).

Captured inexperienced tanks are pin magnets. The R35 made me laugh the whole weekend.

The objectives landed near perfect for me, taking pressure off my units as the paratroopers made a dash for their own baseline, leaving me in control of my own. A cannier player might have sequenced their final turn orders differently to grab a win. In the end it was another tight draw. Highlight was an IED taking out a veteran paratroop squad trying to dig me out of the centre of the board.

Lesson: Air Support can be random, including having it make a bomb run on your own units. But so sweet when it works.

There you have it: Easter Front 2022.

Maybe I’ll see you across a table one day soon.

Garibaldi Brigade

As winter set in on the chaos of Northern Italy in the later part of 1944 Partisan morale collapsed. Many partisans returned home or took advantage of fascist amnesties to lay down arms.

However, a dedicated core held on and continued to fight to throw out the nazi occupiers and smash the fascist rump-state.

My list is inspired by one such group, the 28th Garibaldi brigade, who in December 1944 joined with the singular Popski’s Private Army to liberate Ravenna.

Most accounts focus on Popski’s British Special Forces troop, but the brave members of the Garibaldi brigade were essential as both a blocking force and as part of the assault.

The army has 13 order dice (units):

Like nearly all wargames, Bolt Action requires a force leader. While Partisans don’t have a structured officer corps (despite the many self-appointed titles and ranks!), I have selected the equivalent of a second lieutenant with regular morale to lead my Partisans. He is accompanied by additional one man, and both are armed with SMG.

Yes, the remaining photos are all ones I have posted already!

I also have a liaison officer. While some liaison officers wore civilian clothes, most wore uniforms, especially out of the towns. My OSS officer wears a US uniform. Once per game he can attempt to call in air support.

The core of the army are four squads of rifle armed Partisans (of either 9 or 10 fighters). Two of the squads have squad LMG to provide a little extra reach and fire power. One is also armed with Molotov cocktails, which will give some defense against tanks.

Partisans can take a squad of veteran Guerrilla Fighters. I’m taking a squad of 6, armed with SMG.

There are 3 teams with support weapons: an MMG, sniper, and PIAT. Of these the sniper is probably the most useful, but don’t underestimate the other two teams.

Actually, the PIAT team is inexperienced. They will supply an order die for the bag and otherwise likely spend most games hiding.

The last two units, a light howitzer and a captured tank, are both somewhat of a stretch historically. In games terms both will be useful. Both will play the important role of being able to throw out pins on enemy units. Both will also most likely die horribly. This is sad for the crews involved but will at least mean my core units are not being shot at.

To represent the lack of support and training, both the tank and artillery are rated as inexperienced. In addition, the Renault R35 has the captured rule, which means it is also unreliable.

Easter Front is a 1005 point Bolt Action tournament being run over two days as part of Conquest 2022 in Melbourne.

les gros canons

You are not going to believe what mon oncle found in this shed. Hid it in his shed at the armistice thinking it might be useful one day. Well the time has come, because it might only be a light artillery gun, but my Partisans are going to find it very useful.

This is a 75mm light artillery piece from the Warlord Games French Resistance range, but it will fit right in with my late war Italian Partisans.

One advantage is under the rules it doesn’t require a tow to come on the board, the poor crew can push it. Not something that actually happened, I suspect.

I have also made a PIAT team.

To reflect the lack of training in the weapon I will make them inexperienced.

I’m sure it will be fine.

Partisans in Bolt Action

Bolt Action sometimes get described as Hollywood WW2, capturing dramatic moments of heroism and action that on closer inspection defy physics, history, and occasionally logic. But as a game it delivers with popcorn-munching glory.

Its focus is actions involving what the writers call reinforced platoons, which seems to be as good a name as any. Most armies are built around 4 to 6 infantry squads plus supporting elements from light-mortars and machineguns all the way up to tanks, off-board artillery, and air support. This is an elastic form, set in the moment when the big bombardment is over. Manoeuvre of battalions and companies is on a scale abstracted from the immediate game, and – most importantly- contact is made with the enemy. The game simulates those frantic minutes, up to a couple of hours tops, where troops must close and destroy or displace their opponents to achieve their part in the wider battle.

Being a game, a key design decision is to match balanced forces in the contest. Both sides have (more or less) equal chance of winning. This is not an absolute restriction, but most games will meet this broad outline.

The big 4: Germans, Soviets, British, and US, have all the toys they need to get the job done against most opponents. The largest of the less common army lists: French, Italians, Hungarians (especially with the additional units available in the Budapest campaign book) and even Finnish can build solid, balanced lists without too much extra effort. I’m not sure where Japanese sit, as a part of a big 5, or with the Italians, but they can also meet most table-top challenges.

Then come the minor powers. Not only can suitable miniatures be harder to find, building a good list can be harder too. Greece, Holland, Norway, Belgium. Bulgaria. Not impossible, just harder. All these lists face a central dilemma of fewer choices around armoured vehicles. In fact, pretty much all vehicles. Artillery and some of the other specialist slots can also be limited. These more limited choices are compounded by national rules that are mostly a bit underwhelming compared to the larger powers. Not fatal by any means. Just a larger challenge.

And then there are the Partisans.

You can have a looted tank, inexperienced, of course. Not much artillery. The national rules can be fun- booby traps and a movement bonus. Better than the Italians, anyway.

Partisan actions were desperate, brave and fierce. Fighting with limited resources, with little help or hope of relief or reinforcement, is its own special brand of courage.

They are also mostly a long way from the reinforced platoon level of all the other armies in the game. The Partisan army list in the French and Allies book acknowledges this dilemma. The official list focusses on late war Soviets and Yugoslav forces. The early war selector would require being matched to a suitable early war opponent- the Security Force from the German selectors or Bulgaria. This is not so different to many of the selectors that focus on particular periods or battles. The Warsaw Uprising also fits, being a prolonged city-fight.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying I like Partisans, but to bring them to life on a Bolt Action table they need a bit more than just the ordinary matched play.