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 Following from turn 4 onwards it must be withdrawn from the battle by moving off the board from your table edge. If successfully withdrawn this unit is worth 1VP at the end of the game to the owning player.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?

Will the real dave please stand up?

There is a new kid on the blogging block: Soul Marmalade. Another project from me, and is intended to create an online presence for a hobby that is mostly not-online. Soul Marmalade has no paint brushes. It is dedicated to words and my efforts as a poet! This is probably the last time I will mention it here at Faith and Steel, which is dedicated to gaming and miniatures.

But, I’m a wee bit excited because I have just released my first book of poems, published by the Melbourne Poets Union as part of their Red Bellied Poets series.

this is a proof copy; the actual books are like this but even more beautiful

You can get copies by emailing mpu editor-in-chief: tinagiannoukos AT gmail.com
or contact me because I still have some author copies.

Normal services will now resume.

what’s out your window?

Everyone loves a little internet challenge and I have been enjoying this one started by Borganwald to show people the view from their windows.

My place is set in bushland in central Victoria, in Australia. It feels a bit like bragging, but it is not a bad place to be if you need to isolate. I’m certainly not stuck indoors, and being laid off work (like so many others) I have plenty of time to plant more trees and maybe even get a bit of hobby done.

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A shout out to some of the other blogs I’ve seen in my feed: The Imperfect Modeller, Just Needs Varnish, Pat’s. Be sure to check out some of their other posts too. Talented hobbyists all.

Cheers,
D.

 

Korean Reading

The Korean War often comes with a tagline The Forgotten War, but this doesn’t seem quite right to me. The Korean War is remembered, although the details are certainly hazy. ANZAC Day here in Australia acknowledges the conflict, but I don’t recall Kapyong or Maryang San called out separately in speeches unlike the major battles of the world wars. My own understanding was (is!) equally hazy. But I knew enough to think it probably had some rewarding gaming potential. So, in addition to picking up Bolt Action Korea, I have been doing some reading.

Like most Bolt Action books, BAK has a lot of history in it. I made some observations on the gaming part here (which not surprisingly is most of the content). The history chapter is a good introduction to the conflict. It is a tough gig presenting a summary of such of varied and complex war, and authors Steven Urquhart Smith and Jon Russell have written an accessible overview that goes to some effort to place the war is a larger historical context. Those with a bit more history probably skip this section anyway and head straight to the gaming content. I normally do. But those that do this chapter are rewarded with a history that starts in the mid-7th century, an amount of context not found in most overviews.

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Anyone interested in more detail will quickly reach for other books. The Men-at-Arms series from Osprey is a common first (or at least early) choice among wargamers starting a new conflict. For those who have already read BAK (or other introductions), there may be little new in The Korean War 1950-53. It comes with the usual colour plates, which were the main reason I picked this one up. I also enjoyed the snippets on Ethiopia, Turkey, Thailand and some of the other smaller nations who made up the UN forces.

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My copy is print on demand, which makes sense for a publisher with such a large catalogue. The Korean War was first published in 1986, and so may otherwise be hard to get hold of. However, while the text is crisp, some of the pictures are not (yet) the same quality as the full off-set print runs. Side by side here is the same illustration, on the left in Bolt Action Korea, the left the print on demand Men-at-Arms. Not awful, and better than not having access at all, but a drop in quality can be seen.

Scorched Earth, Black Snow (2011) is written by a western journalist who lived in Korea. By focusing on just the initial period of the war, and just the Commonwealth Brigade the author has the opportunity to go into detail that more general narratives cannot. One of the strengths of this book is that includes information (where available) on the Chinese, ROK, and KPA, and acknowledges the terrible civilian toll (North and South).

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More focused again is The Last Call of the Bugle (1999), the story of 3RAR the first Australian battalion deployed. This is one of the source books referenced in Scorched Earth, Black Snow, and brings the action closer again, down from brigade and battalion to company level.

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Published by the Australian Army History Unit, the Australian Army Campaigns Series is a terrific line of studies. This is the only one in the series that covers Korea (so far), but is a concise and informative description of the engagement. If you are interested in a theater or war that includes Australian troops I recommend you check out this series.

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A shout-out to the Goldfields Library in central Victoria. It turns out they have an ace collection of Korean War books, larger than the Melbourne or State libraries. It is wonderful to have resources like this publicly available, especially in regional areas.

What about you? Are there any titles on the Korean War that you have found useful or interesting?

D.

Bolt Action Korea

Warlord Games have released supplement that covers the Korea War, extending the game for the first time into the post-war period. Bolt Action Korea is an ambitious book, covering army lists for the diverse belligerents on both sides, and history and scenarios all the way from the initial, frenetic North Korean invasion to the brutal trench-warfare that lasted until the armistice three years later.

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It is a terrific addition to the Bolt Action family, extending the game beyond the second world war into a complex and challenging battle space. This is clearly a labour of love by the authors, play testers and the Warlord production team. There are some good podcast interviews about where you can hear from the authors on their thinking and challenges. I recommend both the official Warlord Podcast and SNAFU for a listen, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Including lists for all the major armies is a wise choice. There is list for everyone. Korea, North and South, have dedicated lists, as do the Chinese. The UN forces are represented by British Commonwealth and US lists. Five distinct lists in one book.

The US list allows for many of the other UN nations with smaller contingents like Turkey. The addition of the Korean embedded forces is a nice touch that makes the US list feel different to their (late) WWII counterparts.

The missions help tell the history, and also showcase some of the armies such as the hoard aspect of the Chinese army. The missions in the core rule book, and I suspect many in the existing campaign books, will still work fine too. I like that not all the scenarios seem to be totally balanced. In any game that purports to a historical bent, this totally makes sense to me.

I have a few niggles with the book. It suffers from the usual frustrations around editing. Deployment descriptions can be vague, and briefing maps are not always clear. Not enough to ruin the book, but I know this puts some people off. Rather than a complete how-to, I think BAK is more of a source-book for your own inspiration. I like this, but I know this puts some people off.

What makes Bolt Action Korea different to the WWII range? Well, I don’t know for sure because I haven’t played any games yet- I’m still painting. I think missions will be the key to bringing out any distinct flavour, but even just a chance to get some late war toys on the table (for British and US players), and three new armies to try out seems like a winner to me.

Bolt Action Korea is a terrific addition to the range.

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 …

Smash fascism (and the patriarchy)

The representation of women in wargaming is an ongoing discussion. That women of all ages, and children and older people (of all genders), have been victims of war is a fact that can only be disputed through a narrow interpretation of facts. However, gaming (overwhelmingly) focuses on the soldiers, the majority of who have been male.

Fantasy and science fiction have an easy fix available: create worlds where the patriarchy is consigned to the dustbin. Creations like this cannot be disputed for inaccuracy. That we do not is a reflection of our communities’ biases.

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Historical gaming has a genuine challenge here, since overwhelmingly combatants were (and are) male. There are companies that are seeking to shift this balance, and being companies I guess they are doing so in response to demand. Good on them. Bad Squiddo Games come to mind as doing a particularly good job of making women warriors available, consciously rejecting the pernicious sexualisation that mars so many female figures (Games Workshop is an easy source of examples, but are typical rather than especially poor in representing women).

Given there were only ever around 1500 tiger tanks produced and I suspect far more than this in service on wargame tables, I have no particular problem with female soldiers appearing more frequently than they did (or even stretching some of their roles). For WWII gaming, the Soviet Union and Partizan forces both provide historical basis for creating armies with female combatants.

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Black Tree Design

Konflikt 47 has a wonderful opportunity, being a fantasy (diesel-punk) extension to the second world war. The background story has nuclear weapons tearing strange holes in space though which the competing nations receive information about how to build new (and terrible) weapons. The new technology see the Germans hold the allies east and west, extending the war into 1947. Part of the story extends real world events and strains: the Soviet Union splits from the allies, making the war three-way in Europe and the Middle East.

A real world shift not emphasized in the story to date is the role of women in the war. In every country, women stepped into roles dominated by men: particularly in factories, on farms, transport and planning. The access to the new rift-tech still requires soldiers to wield the new weapons.

The trend in the Soviet Union was to include women, and with two potential new fronts (Japan and Iraq) and the ending of US Lend Lease, this trend will be accelerated.

The United Kingdom, except for possibly India, were under enormous pressure after six continuous years of war. Given the opportunities given to women in the quirky Operation Sealion expansion for Bolt Action, I think getting a few into khaki for K-47 makes sense.

The United States still had a lot of man-power, but the rising affluence (and influence) of women could plausibly see them not just building the tanks but operating them.

French women took up arms when they could to liberate their country. I think they would not shirk their duty given the chance in 1947.

The case for the axis is less clear. While Germany faced acute shortages of combat fit soldiers, the deeply dysfunctional and conservative regime seems to me to be unlikely to recruit women (outside of home defense units). Unlike the other nations, the role of women as mother and wife was central to the nazi regime’s view of itself. I think it is plausible that Osttruppen, Hitler Youth, and Volksturm could all include women. And armed BDM seem to be more likely than flying vampires.

The Italians have less opportunity given their lack of resources and constraints from allies, but I think for different reasons the rump of the fascists in the north (desperation), and the newly liberated nation of the south (revenge) would both allow women into their fighting units.

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Rocketeers from Eureka Minatures

New possibilities for armies, miniatures and expanding representation on the table top. I can see no downside here. So how about it Warlord?

 

I’m in a pod cast!

Not a lot of painting and just a bit of gaming in recent weeks.

However, I have now appeared in a podcast for the first time. Long-time friend Brad hosts LRDG II, a show about gaming in general and often Bolt Action in particular.

First half is a discussion about Games Workshop new one: Armageddon; I’m in the second half speaking with Leigh and Brad about a recent trial run for a Bolt Action tournament with a slight twist.

cheers,
D.