Getting a little weird

I have continued to work on my Turkish army for Konflikt 47, kit-bashing and assembling the core infantry choices. In addition to adding some undercoat I also started the first of the rift tech units, some heavy infantry.

The models are the Italian Bersaglieri bought on sale at a FLGS without understanding they are quite different to their German counterparts. No worries, Avanti! as the Italians might say. A couple of odd looking headswaps later and I will run them with the German stats. Or, given it is a homebrew list, run them with the Italian stats. I will ponder that.

I have been thinking about how to include rift technology into the Turkish list. There are a couple of templates provided in the rule books. The Finish gain access to some of the horror causing units, e.g. Shrekwulfen, as well as rift tech vehicles and weapons. Finland is a motivated partner in the war against the Soviet Union, with a successful track record when given the right tools and material. Granting access to the new technology makes sense to me.

The Italians need supervision, and have access to fewer choices. I think this matches the Turkish situation better. My current thinking is to dial this up and allow rift tech in one of two ways. A Turkish force can include Axis Support, similar to Hungary and some of the other nations in Bolt Action. This can be any German unit, including horror units like Totenkorps.

Otherwise, a Turkish force can select a unit with rift tech provided the force includes a suitable German liaison unit that has the Rift Tech is Expensive special rule. This is a kind of tax on the Turks but as background means they have observers who can keep on eye on the political soundness and advise on the best use of the new weapons.

There are two German units in the Turkish list that have Rift Tech is Expensive rule, a liaison officer or an Überwachung Squad (observer squad).

Both units come with a little tweak. A liaison officer can come with translator, who then allows the German officer to use their snap to rule, increasing their effectiveness.

If the observer squad is selected as veterans they gain the Rift Tech is Expensive rule, and also provide access to vets in what is otherwise limited in vet choices for the Turks.

Available rift tech is a selection of vehicles including the Panzer X, Spinne Light and Thor Panzermechs, or armoured infantry.

A wordy post today, but I’m not far from painting so I hope to have something to show in the not too distant future.

Mission Rules

There are heaps of missions in Bolt Action including a dozen in the main rule book. Despite this choice missions can start to feel a bit stale. Tournaments especially carry this risk as organizers seem to focus on the most balanced of the missions. I understand why, but it can make things start to feel a bit same same.

A simple way to mix this up is to add a mission special rule. Some players hate this, as some random rule messes with their carefully crafted list. I’m not one of them. I like adding a little twist. Not too many. I don’t want too much extra to remember during a game. Here are a few ideas on adding a little something new to existing Bolt Action missions.

New officer: A new officer has arrived; he seems OK but he doesn’t know anyone’s name yet and it is causing some confusion.

The commanding officer begins the game with a pin.

O-Group: There is an O-Group meeting, and the old man is back at company HQ when the battle starts.

All officers (lieutenants, captains, etc.) must start the game in reserve and cannot be deployed on the table or come on as part of a first wave.

Supply problems: Supplies have been delayed causing fuel shortages.

After deployment but before turn one, roll for each vehicle in your list. On a 1 it gains the Fuel Shortage rule. Vehicles that start in reserve may re-roll the supply problem check.

Last day of the war. The war is nearly over, and nobody wants to be the last person to die. Even experienced troops are reluctant to press home attacks.

After deployment but before the first die is drawn roll for each unit in your list. On a 4+ it gains a pin. Vet and/or fanatics may re-roll. Units in reserve roll when they first move onto the table.

Dutch Courage A cache of liquor has been discovered and drunk. The unit is still under the influence when the battle starts.

To represent their drunk condition, a single unit receives both the Shirker and Fanatic special rules.

New Orders Local commanders can’t always see the big picture. Assets must be redeployed to a more critical mission.

A support asset is being reassigned. Randomly (and secretly) select one unit in your list from the following: tank, armoured car, or artillery. Following from turn 4 onwards it must be withdrawn from the battle by moving off the board from your table edge. If successfully withdrawn this unit is worth 1VP at the end of the game to the owning player.

What do you think? Are extra rules the road to tears and unnecessary complexity or can they help build a fun narrative?

Two houses, alike in dignity

I picked up two new games recently, both of which could be loosely described as skirmish games based on the dark ages. Lord of the Rings battle game from Games Workshop, and SAGA: The Viking Age, by Studio Tomahawk. Both are lovely games. The first editions of both were pretty simple, and I suspect (and hope) that the second editions will be even better, with those little wrinkles ironed out.

I haven’t played SAGA for a long time, but I remember it is the better game of the two. The challenge of managing your saga dice on the battle board is engaging and the opportunity (need) to use your abilities and dice every phase keeps you at the table.

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The King had not yet returned when I last played Lord of the Rings, whatever that year was. The new book looks pretty, but to be honest the length of the rules compared to SAGA means I haven’t really looked at that one yet. I bought this LotR on a whim, partly because I have some armies and partly because, being GW, it will be relatively easy to get a game in should I want.

So, not a review, as I’ve done no more than skim the books, and nor have I played any games yet. Consider this more a statement of intent.

Now, back to painting some shield maidens that arrived in the post …

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Bolt Action is a cracking little game and I think that is one reason why changes like the format rules (up to season 3 now) have been embraced by many players. It is a game that is almost there, it just feels like it needs a few tweaks to really make it sing, and the community of players are willing to invest the time in creating these changes. Now that edition 2 of the rules themselves are at the printers, if not already in warehouses waiting on H-Hour, any community changes are moot until we see what the authors themselves have in mind.

I’m looking forward to the new rules, although like most I could do without buying another rule book (and leaving the current one redundant). However, even without the format rules or a second edition, I would still happily play Bolt Action. I would love to see more LMG being fielded, and can see the merit of many of the suggested changes. I’ve written on that before. However, just taking LMG still works as a solution, between consenting adults, even if no changes are made.

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Another topic of conversation is tough fighters compared with other options like SMG.
My problem is not with tough fighter per se but with how they are routinely fielded. Tough fighter can be brutal, but I think it comes into play too often because units get a taxi service around the battlefield way to easily.

Units did not stay in trucks under fire. Trucks may have transported units to the battle space, but once there units had to walk (crouch, crawl, run). I think tough fighter would be less extreme if you had to use fire and manoeuvre more frequently to close with your enemy. To this end, I would like to see units receiving fire while embarked penalised even more than they are now. Pins, wounds and the risk of entanglement or cohesion (forced going down) could all come to play. There needs to be a signficant trade-off for arriving in a truck.

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Truck, for the Fallschirmjagers

I like trucks, but they appear too often, I think they are better used in specific scenarios over generic missions. Using a transport to outflank should come with risk of pins to reflect hazard elsewhere on the battlefield, and again to force a trade-off for outflanking in a vehicle. Outflank on foot by all means, your trusty sargeant has led the way.

This allows for the introduction of special rules, either for particular lists (say to represent a dominance of transports, say Normandy US or early Russian campaign Germans) or be mission specific. Flavour as well as crunch. It is also a chance to differentiate armoured personal carriers a bit, where armoured assault and a bit of protection from small arms fire was a thing (Germans put petrol in the Hanomags, they might finally get a run).

As I write this another post topic comes to mind: I don’t actually like army books very much. But boy, I do enjoy the theatre books.

cheers,
D.

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.

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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?

 

 

 

Zebra Cavalry, Lee Tanks and Imperial Rome

The wargames club I attended as a teen did WWII and not much else. Fair enough and good fun, but I never had enough terrain or tanks for decent battles at home.  What I were some boxes of Airfix plastics, a mix of WWII, black powder and ancients (both kinds: Romans and Britons!).  So my brother and I made do and lined up across the floor with a sort of colonial-fantasy hybrid where columns of muskets would try to keep out sword wielding hoards!  Rarely balanced, but throw in a wizard or two and things evened out. No cannons? Doesn’t matter, a fireball will sort out those pesky Commandos trying to sneak across the river!

I wish I had some photos: Lego towns, paper roads and a beloved Airfix Roman fort.
Hills were the classic books under a blanket.  We even tried our hands at conversions. I particularly remember soft plastic zoo animals pressed into service as cavalry mounts. I’m sure they were just a bit crap, but one day my Zebra riders took out a tank!
Wargamers live for moments like that.

Of course, rules that covered such diverse situations didn’t come straight out of the box. We used a home-brew of some WWII rules lifted from a magazine (Battle maybe?) and a little tome by one Gary Gygax, Swords and Spells:

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It is basically what is says on the cover – it is the D&D combat rules expanded to deal with big armies.  Forty years on I have to say that they are just a bit shit!  I think we even knew that at the time. It didn’t allow for panzers for one thing.

They do contain some really interesting ideas though. You don’t roll dice to work out combat. It acknowledges that with that many dice you are basically averaging things anyway, so it just calculates what the average would be and then applies that.  Needless to say, we largely ignored that bit and got on with the much more satisfying task of rolling dice.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I’ve never played a game of Warhammer Fantasy. By the time Warhammer came out I was roleplaying and when I started gaming again my friends were into 40K.

Never say never though.

What about you? What rule sets did you begin your gaming journey with?