Friday 6 September 2019

Bolt Action - Battle of St Vith

I know, I know this is 40k addict and this is clearly not 40k. But Ben and Otty are fans of Bolt Action, have all the stuff and a deep interest in the history of WWII. I had told them I'm not investing in another system, which they'd reassured me was unnecessary as they had sufficient  and wanted as all to have a go to see if we liked it. Not having gamed for a while and with no financial risk I was totally up for it. Otty was gaming with a new friend who'd just got back into the hobby while I was against Liam with Ben teaching us the rules.

I was the Americans, Liam the Germans. As you can see St Vith was replicated using Otty's winter Citadel Realm of Battle Board but full of his own WWII terrain. The scenario had some specific rules in that all terrain was treated as difficult [which meant reduced movement] and there was poor visibility which meant you had to roll each turn to determine how far you could see/target. Unfortunately it was bad from the very beginning and we had only 14" range. The mission was for Liam's force to exit off my board edge within 6 turns, scoring points for each unit. My goal was to score points for every unit still alive in my deployment zone in turns 3 and 6. We'll come on to the fairness of this scenario at the end...

I set up spread across the battlefield, I also had a hidden minefield alongside the church, just next to the crossroads. Another 'known' minefield was in front of my dug out at the top of the pic, while  my howitzer on the hill had good field of fire - except for only seeing 14" in front of it! I had my tank parked up in the middle next to a burnt out tank.

Liam proudly announced he would be sticking to one side of the board and try to puncture a hole through it and then set up on my left. The game plays with order dice for each unit in a bag. You blindly pick out a dice and the owner gets to choose whichever order on a facing and apply it to any unit. Therefore each player gets to activate units as and when they draw their dice. The turn ends when all dice have been drawn. Liam drew a lot of dice first and got to move his half track up with a Lieutenant and infantry squad, disembarking behind this house, I think this was the end of the second turn. Regardless they could move around unmolested because visibility was so poor.

Another squad moved up the roads - which did avoid the movement restrictions but Liam had opted not to use it to fast track his tanks because he rightly figured I'd mined the road at some point. At every opportunity I move my own units from the right flank towards the left, which prompted streams of protest from Liam because he said I was only doing that because he'd told me what his plan was. I pointed out that my allied forces had intercepted his plan using our Enigma machine - so served him right! 😝

By the second turn his Panzer tank had made it into shooting range of my own tank. However, mine was a light armoured reconnaissance tank which meant when fired upon I had the option to move out of the way. I think chose not to, suddenly convinced that the various modifiers to hit for moving and the weather would cause the Panzer to miss, which it surely did. I on the other hand got to fire back, point blank  needing two successive 6's to cause damage but then fluffing the effect to just making the crew stunned. The Lego. These can be removed if you spend a turn rallying, or remove one by passing another order test at the beginning of your go. The Panzer took 2 pins and the red marker is where my Howitzer was indirect firing [which would get more accurate in successive turns].

My units on the right continued to hoof it over to my left flank, annoyingly my Bazooka unit was shot and killed at the now maximum visible range of 22" by the German machine gun squad that had moved off the road into the cemetery opposite the church.

Another squad with my flamethrower moved out of the church to my left flank.

My light tank moved and shot point blank but was unable to damage the Panzer. Liam's flanking squad managed to get their flamethrower into the building on the left - incinerating the entire squad inside. Subsequently I would return the favour with my own flamethrower unit. Down to just two men they would then cut down the left side of this building and roast another unit too.

Sadly no more pictures but as the game progressed a number of things became evident. The 'difficult terrain' rules for the scenario made the German goal of leaving the battlefield almost unachievable. Liam would have had to drive right down the central road or not stopping at any point with his tanks. Perhaps if he'd not disembarked the half track and just carried on going the Germans would have broke through my line.

Me scoring in both turns 3 and 6 meant Liam had little chance to score points. With so few casualties due to the fog I already had a double figure lead by the middle of the game. Lastly, Liam's dice rolling was shockingly bad, while mine was significantly better than it should have been. It became a joke by the end and although I would normally feel sympathetic to his plight the usual mate's banter meant I had far too much fun laughing at his appalling luck to let him off lightly 😂

My conclusion was that I liked the game, thankfully not enough to invest in, not that I need to. I like the narrative missions and it's clear the battle report pics all look truly cinematic. Those image almost look like stills from Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan, something which is much harder to capture with 40k I think. However, the scenario was fundamentally flawed, now that might be to replicate the historical context but it's no fun if you're on the road to a loss from the get go. Ben did say that there was some historical mirroring of what happened in our game, I'm not sure which, I think the Germans had figured it would be an easy break through but somehow the outgunned Americans managed to hold them back for longer than planned...

Anyway, a lot of fun and great to see the guys again.


  1. You're going to buy some....ya know you will. ;-p

    1. One might assume that but I'm far more disciplined than you might think. There are plenty of things I'd rather buy instead but can't justify and the guys really do have enough for me not to invest for the amount we'll play. Liam on the other hand was straight away looking at tanks, until he played, was rubbish and then might have convinced himself to hold off... Now he may well crack! 😂

  2. Bolt Action is too close to the real thing for me to ever want to play it. My folks had a front row seat at the battle of Arhnem.

  3. Marc I know what you mean it is a little strange re-enacting real events as an enjoyable fun game, I do feel a little uneasy taking figures off the board.

    1. Maybe I am just getting soft in my old age ;-) I get the same feeling from movies like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. They were great to watch (important to watch, I think), but I can't imagine sitting through them over and over again for the fun of it.

  4. Dave you forgot to mention that Ben was suppose to be teaching use the rules and the umpire, but took great delight in making sure you kicked my ass while laughing hysterically lol ;)