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.At 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?