In the last article I wrote an introduction about the Bolt Action miniatures game by Warlord Games. In this article we delve deeper into the core of the game, the rule book. I know I had a short description in the last article, but allow me to repeat myself. This book is gorgeous! It is written by two of the most well-known game creators, Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestly and published by Osprey Publishing. Based upon those names alone you know you are getting a great game. However, the first thought that came to my mind is how do you take the world’s greatest conflict that involved millions of people, their equipment and weapons and locales from around the globe and condense it into one book? Well obviously you have to make some historical concessions on individual items to make the game play fluid. Otherwise you would have tomes of books that would need to be on hand to be historically accurate.
This is not to say that Bolt Action’s rules are just thrown together, there was obvious thought put into them and their playability. It also should be said that there are further books dedicated to the individual countries and their armies. This allows for more historical representation and modeling. What this does is create a system that is easy to play and fluid without taking too much time to stop and continuously refer to a rulebook.
The book is hardcover and all the pictures, photographs, and diagrams within are in full colour. The pictures of the painted models and the scenes that they are placed in would be the envy of any modeller/gamer. I find myself wishing I had a game table that looked like some of those pictures.
The actual wording of the book makes it easy for any gamer to pick up the book and read through it and be able to understand the mechanics. You do not have to be knowledgeable in all things WW II which is a big bonus. I also feel that a gamer coming from another genre would be able to pick up this game and play it rather quickly because of this.
The book is broken down into twenty one sections ranging from the introduction through a rules summery that can be referred to during game play for quick reference of the needed tables. In actuality the first 104 pages are the game rules with the remaining pages dedicated to basic game scenarios and then force lists. This is a nice addition seeing as you can assemble the armies from the four major entities in World War II. You get lists for the Germans, United States, Great Britain and Commonwealths and finally Soviet Russia. While not all encompassing they provide a wealth of information to get a new player started in the game. They have also included a time line for each theatre of war and a small history of war gaming.
The rules as I’ve mentioned before are streamlined and easy to follow, and throughout the book you will find notes from the authors acknowledging that some of the rules are generic and all-encompassing when it comes to different tactics and equipment. I found myself, as I read further into the book, understanding the reasoning behind these decisions. This is a game for gamers based upon WWII and I am ok with that. It flows nicely and allows for a fast game (an hour or two). They go on further to acknowledge that there are unique characteristics to certain armies and their equipment and this is where the separate army supplement books come into play. You will also find the drawing of the order dice a nice change to the usual “I Go, You Go” routine. I believe this makes for more exciting game play as both players are consistently involved in the game and there is not much of one player waiting for the other to make their decisions and make their moves.
A sample turn would consist of an order die being drawn from the order cup and being handed to the appropriate player (the dice are of different colours to differentiate the armies). That player would have to decide on which order to give that unit (fire, advance, run, ambush, rally or down). This would continue until all the order dice have been drawn from the cup and that completes a turn. As you can see with each turn the activation of units can change and you as the player have to be able to adjust accordingly.
Now within all of this are rules regarding movement and the effects of terrain (pages 26 – 30 and in the quick reference guide on pages 211-212), shooting is covered on pages 32 through 42 and in the quick reference guide on pages 213 – 215. There are also rules dedicated to close quarters combat and weapons. All in all a quick read through the rule book and then having a quick reference guide handy (available HERE) means you can jump right into the action. Even if you don’t have any order dice they explain how to use regular D6 dice to play the game. Another important part of this game is the pinning of units during combat.
In Bolt Action every time a unit receives a hit it is given a pinned marker, this does not necessarily mean that the unit is ineffective and is limited in their actions. What does happen is the unit receives a die modifier for its roll and has to make an orders check to see of the unit can perform its assigned task. The game takes into effect units that may have an officer within command distance to add modifiers to its morale checks for orders or even a permanent -1 modifier if the target unit has lost its NCO. Once you have gotten a grasp on the rules the game flows nicely and you will find all the players thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Bolt Action is a fun and exciting game for anyone who is interested in miniature gaming based on World War II. It flows nicely and is easy to play and understand the rules. Is it the most historically accurate game available? No, it is not and I think those games are for a more limited audience. I picked up the Assault on Normandy set and with my two younger sons we started putting together the included figures and once we had approximately 10 figures each we played a small skirmish to see how we like the game. My sons are 11 and 14 and they were able to pick up the game rather quickly and neither are really experienced gamers. We had a lot of fun playing.
So what is Bolt Action? It is a 28mm miniatures World War II game that is geared more towards platoon level infantry with some mechanized and ancillary support that is quick and easy to play with a more dynamic playing style. Yes, you can adapt the game for big tank battles as there are downloadable scenarios and lists for that (can you imagine the table size you would need for an 8000 point tank battle?). In the limited time I have had with this game I have come to love playing it and find myself visiting the Bolt Action section at my favourite local game store when I make my regular visits. I would recommend this game to anyone and I have even gotten my brother to pick up an Assault on Normandy set (he’s a diehard 40K gamer) and I think you will like it too.
The next article we will explore the miniatures and some game play. Have fun with Bolt Action!
If you would like to write articles for Beasts of War then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.