Pack more ammo

If medium machines guns sometimes seem underwhelming on Bolt Action tables, squad based support weapons seem to suffer from not even being invited to the dice-rolling party. Squad based light machine guns are a common topic when BA players gather. A lot of the debate centers on the cost of including LMG in your infantry squads.

With a basic cost of 20 points and requiring another squad member to act as loader, LMG are not cheap. In return, you get 4 shots with a range of 36″. An increase of 2 shots over two soldiers with rifles. LMG also increase the reach of a basic squad with rifles by 12″. In game terms, the choice to include LMG will depend on what role a squad has in your army.

I often include squads with LMG in my armies. Partially this is because I tend to play Germany who, with the Hitler’s Buzz Saw national rule, get an extra shot for LMG and MMG. However, the main reason I include LMG is because they were typical of German infantry doctrine. Especially in defense, squads were mostly porters for MG ammunition. A kind of history tax paid by players who are not completely focused on list optimisation.

I have never notices that big-arsed mold line until I took this photo. A misshapen head won’t stop him from doing his duty though.

I toy with what rules changes could be made to LMG to encourage their use. A points reduction is tempting, but moving the value of just one weapon, especially one that appears in nearly every list, will likely have unintended knock on effects. As ever, Konflikt 47 has a nice solution, allowing squads with at least two LMG (or one MMG) to use suppression fire. This is a trade-off of -1 to hit to cause an additional pin if you do, which is handy at times and captures some of the weight of fire aspect of MG.

An alternative could be to allow squads with an LMG to split into combat teams, creating the opportunity for (historical) fire and maneuver tactics. The LMG provides supporting fire as the rest of the squad moves to assault or take ground. This idea has all sorts of headaches, the magical addition of an extra order die for starters. I suspect the most simple answer is to take slightly smaller squads to represent combat teams, and use the officer rule to pull additional dice to help co-ordinate assaults.

Surely nobody did this outside of posing for a photograph? It is still an ace vignette from Crusader

So, LMG: don’t leave home without them. Oh, and remember to bring plenty of ammunition.

MG- you’re doing it wrong

This has been a topic of conversation in Bolt Action circles for a while, and with format season 3 not long released and BA edition two apparently about to be a thing, debate around what to do with LMG continues.

And the debate is around is what should be done to alter the squad support LMG (and to a lesser extent MMG). Remarkably for gamers, there is broad consensus that the rules surrounding these weapons require some tweaks. I tend to agree but won’t weep if no official changes occur. Of course, being gamers, we all have different ideas on what to do.heer03At this point US players just shrug their shoulders and pick up their BAR! The rest of us need to think about this.

Playing Germans, I found the change in the season format rules reducing the points cost from 20 points to 5 points, combined with Hitler’s Buzz-Saw rule, made the decision to include LMG in my squads an easy one. Although, truth be told, it didn’t change my build much as I already took LMG. What did happen is that I had extra points that avoided a decision on medic or kubelwagon. Under season 3 I can take both.

I have also heard some folk argue to not alter the points but instead increase the LMG rate of fire so the cost “makes sense”. The usual calculation is shots fired per regular dude. For 40 points you can have 4 regular guys with rifles: 4 wounds and 4 shots. Under RAW, your 40 points for an LMG  is two guys (wounds) and 3 shots. Two wounds and one shot down. To balance this at least one extra shot seems to be required. There is even some temptation to go to five shots as base, but with the risk of making the Germans too good.

Applying this sort of maths to 5 point LMG sees them now compare much more favourably, with an LMG team getting one more shot over the same two guys armed with rifles. A rate of fire increase not dramatically different to arming one of the dudes with an SMG.

Variations are possible, of course, 10 or 15 points and 4 shots, etc.

So far I have also ignored MMG, which perhaps would need to move to be suitably more dangerous than LMG. Changing rules is not for the faint-hearted.

Perhaps a more profitable way to approach any change is to consider the effect and role of squad based LMG and supporting MMG. They were common in WWII, basic squad structure was often little more than a delivery mechanism for LMG. They were feared. Squad based assault relied on a fire base built around the LMG and an assault group that pushed forward under its cover. Support weapons were also central to defence. I think any set of rules for a WWII game played at squad/platoon level needs to allow this to occur.

To a large extent Bolt Action already does this. A modest tweak may help bring this out.

However, a fundamental complaint would remain: people feel that LMG and MMG should be more common on the table. Clearly the rules writers also feel this, LMG are a near ubiquitous support option and the standard reinforced platoon selector – and nearly all theatre selectors – include an MMG choice. They want, and expect, us to take them.

Just take the LMG. They are historical and integral to the period.

In some ways it is that simple.

Commanders rarely had exactly the equipment they wanted. What they were issued with were LMG. The other stuff is cool. The other stuff may lever the rule set better. Use it by all means. But take the LMG, consider it a history tax.


Table supplied by Battlefield Accessories

If I get a call from Warlord asking my advice, I’m tempted to say use season three format, but with this added rule: give hits from LMG added pins. Given medium mortars are the smallest weapons to potentially generate additional pins, instead of D2 pins I suggest that LMG cause 2 pins on a 6 (and one otherwise) and MMG 2 pins on a 5+.

What do you think, do machine guns need to change? Do we see them often enough?