After a long hiatus and rescheduling due to illness, convalescence, and assorted other evils, we finally got together this afternoon for a Bolt Action game set in North Africa. Phil Bardsley had an idea for a scenario he wanted to try, so we carted in our toys and set up a game.
Dick Larsen and I were the British, Phil and Bill Stewart were the Axis. The figures used in the game were Phil's DAK infantry and tanks and his Italian M13/40; Bill's DAK infantry, sandbags, and craters; and my British infantry, tanks, and French Foreign Legion infantry (Les Kepis Blancs). Dick supplied the "gerbils" or "dust bunnies," "tribbles," etc. that represent the dust clouds raised by moving vehicles in the desert.
The Axis mustered the following:
- 4 x DAK infantry squad
- 1 x Italian infantry squad (dug in)
- 1 x DAK MMG
- 1 x DAK mortar
- 1 x DAK command squad
- 2 x Pz III (long 50mm gun)
- 1 x Pz IV (long 75mm gun)
- 1 x Pz IV (short 75mm gun)
- 1 x self-propelled sIG 33 (Pz II chassis)
- 1 x M13/40
The British Mustered the following:
- 3 x British infantry squad
- 1 x Foreign Legion squad
- 1 x British command squad
- 1 x British MMG
- 1 x British mortar
- 1 x 2 pdr AT gun (w/Bren carrier transport)
- 1 x M3 Grant (75mm/37mm)
- 1 x Crusader tank (2 pdr)
- 1 x Valentine tank (2 pdr)
- 1 x "Honey" tank (37mm)
The scenario is set in the aftermath of a sandstorm that's scattered everyone. An Italian group is laagered in on a small rise (with a bit of support from their German friends). The remaining troops from both sides are converging on the Italian position with the objective being possession of the Italian position at game end. The converging troops enter the board on turn one using random placement.
|The Italians all snug in their laager|
Phil moved his panzers (which came in across the board from him) against the British armor, which all came in on the far end of the table.
|Dragging a "gerbil" through the desert|
In the next turn, my 2 pdr, fresh from knocking out the sIG 33, managed a long-range shot against the rear of Phil's M13/40 and knocked it out.
|Getting warmer in the laager|
|Half a league, half a league, half a league onward|
|Men against tanks|
Phil turned his infantry against my infantry, joining in with Bill. Bill moved his other tank forward with the intention of joining in the fight against our tanks.
|Bill advances past the burning wreckage|
I didn't succeed; nor did I expect to (though I hoped). Dick tried another attack on Bill's other tank, which by now had turned around to machine-gun him, but failed the check to go in. Bill soon gave me another burst from his tanks MGs and I was left with two intrepid survivors for my squad.
|Fewer men against tanks|
Our tanks were outclassed and outnumbered to start with, but more so now. Phil managed to knock out the Crusader on the last turn, leaving only the Valentine standing alone.
|Endkampf im Wusten|
It had been so long since we played that we had to recall, dimly, what all the Bolt Action rules were. We've all been playing war-games for so long that we have rattling through the empty corridors of our brains a lot of rules that are like (or we think are like) the rules we're using. Whenever a question arose, there was much quotation about this rule and that, which could have been from Bolt Action, but more likely from On to Richmond! or Column, Line, and Square.
We tried a new method of activation for this game. Instead of activating one unit at a time, we activated groups of unit. For example, my three infantry squads were one activation. Each could receive orders on it's own independently and took hits, morale, order tests, etc. separately, but activated on a single cube.
My appreciation of this method is mixed, though I remain pretty much a skeptic. On the one hand, it seems to move the game along because you have fewer activations, but you still have as many orders. In effect, the method just elongates a single activation. We only played three full turns, I think, and it took us more than two hours. If we really want faster-moving games, we should use fewer units.
I also think that basically it skews the sense of how the rules are intended to work. Activations by pulling order cubes out of a bag is to randomize the order of units doing things. If you make larger groups of units, you get less randomization and can overwhelm a single unit by shooting at it with several units at once before it has a chance to do anything. That may happen anyway in a game if all your units get an activation cube before the other unit does. But, the probability of having three activations before the opponent gets one is low, but it's an even chance with this method.
In the post-game retail moment, I picked up some more Beyond the Gates of Antares figures. I've already completed 2 regular Algoryn AI squads, 1 AI assault squad, 1 MAG support gun, and 1 command team. I have a third regular AI squad in the works.
The figures I picked up were an AI infiltration squad, an X-launcher, and a pod of targeting drones. I've been making good progress on the figures I've done so far, so I expect to get these done in time for a first game (maybe) later this month.