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There is no place for (armoured) vehicles and fliers in a 28mm skirmish game?

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This topic contains 58 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  limburger 1 week ago.

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    Cult of Games Member

    So … Warlord games announced a big shiny new tank for Bolt-Action.
    And I found myself having several conflicting opinions :
    (1) it is a nice sexy piece of kit … I want it
    (2) there is no way in hell this thing is going to be fun for anyone in the actual game
    (3) I feel I’d be forcing my opponent to buy an equivalent counter (if there isn’t one in his current list)

    As such I wonder if 28mm skirmish games in general would be better if we ditched the (big armoured) vehicles and focused more on infantry with a bit of support.

    The WW1 ‘Blood & Valor’ game was the first game (that I know of) where tanks were more like objectives within scenarios and less like actual units to select for your army.
    To me that shouldn’t only apply to WW1, but to all games across all genres.

    I suppose it would suck for GW and other companies that live by making us buy ‘bigger guns’ every time they release new shiny, but I think the overall experience would improve.

    Questions that need answering :

    1. Do you agree or disagree ? (and why ?)
    2. What do you think would be needed to change the situation in a way to not needlessly antagonize people ?


    That is one of the reasons why we ditched completely Bolt Action for WWII actions: half the pieces on the table (and the most effective ones) should not be there in the first place. It can be a nice game, if you hae the right opponent, but it is not a wargame and does not give  you the right feeling for WWII.
    We also found that the order dice mechanic, while entertaining, is basically flawed: an elite force will surely be outnumbered, and therefore have less order dice than an inexperienced one. This means that the more inexperienced force will have the tactical initiative, while it should be the other way round.
    I don’t think there is a way, nor the desire on Warlord part, to address these issues: their target audience is basically tournament oriented and they are happy with a 40k style game using WWII models, which is what Bolt Action is.


    Cult of Games Member

    I’d argue that the fun in most games is down to your opponent having the same interpretation of the rules as you.
    However that is not the question being asked.

    I also think that we shouldn’t rely on companies for any of this, because there rarely is any reason for them to do so.
    Fact is that shiny sexy models sell …

    The moment we buy into a game system we own the rules and we should be able to change them as much or as little as we like.

    As such the question kind of is : what does it take to make vehicles objectives for a scenario instead of parts of an army list ?

    I think @torros had a good point in the discord channel : rules rarely reflect the disadvantages of vehicles in urban combat and ambush situations.
    As a result tank is next to impossible to counter even if the terrain is the equivalent of WW2 era Stalingrad or Berlin.

    There is a good reason why molotov cocktails and even basic smoke grenades were (and still are?) recommended weapons against tanks in ambush situations.
    Game mechanics dont’ reflect that.

    Heck … in movies you sometimes see a brave soldier jump on top of a tank and throw a grenade inside.
    I don’t know how a scene like that could be replicated in Bolt-Action (or 40k or Starwars Legion).


    Cult of Games Member

    I think it also depends a bit on how you define a skirmish game. You can do a skirmish battle between powerful vehicles (just look at X-Wing. 4 – 6 ships in total is a skirmish in my book, or Tanks) or a skirmish with small units and light vehicles (Star Wars Legion 500 point skirmish mode, nobody in their right mind would field a pointsink like a tank) and skirmish on a “hero” level. Like frostgrave: one or two powerful characters and some canon fodder folk.

    So if you play skirmish on platoon size like FoW a monster of a unit is bad for the overall playability. But then it can be very restrictive for the one fielding it. You need to pay the point costs, you only have so much unit on the table with that monster and the enemy can run circles around you. Depending of what the scenario you play, big tanks will not help much. (Example: in Legion you need soldiers on foot (aka troopers) to secure objectives, you can’t do that with a tank or walker.) If FoW has similar restrictions that tank is less and less useless.

    In my experience plunking a big point sink monster on the table is never a guaranteed win. At best it’s distraction. It comes down to balancing. Yes, that thing can kill your troop with one hit but it has no turret so it needs to turn and in the whole theatre of WW II there where only X units produced so you can only field a maximum of Y. (Advantage historical games here because we know the rough numbers of actual fighting vehicles and can adjust the game with the help of rules. “at no time more then X vehicles of type Y on the same battlefield”.

    What needed to change was the “lust for the new shiny”. And that will never do. Simply because we gamers want the new shiny and companies need it to stay floating.



    Well, during WWII (and to a great extent even today) tanks would not go anywhere terrain where enemy infantry might hide without having infantry support of their own: they would have been a charred wreck in a matter of minutes. This is not modelled in any way in the game, since the mechanics are geared towards tank vs tank and do not model all the many ways infantry could attack a tank by swarming it and using explosives, improvised devices or simply shooting through visor ports. Also there is nothing to portray the fact that a tank buttoned up, as it surely would be when infantry is around, has its field of vision severely restricted: this is another consequence of the “three hundred feet general syndrome” which is especially evident in the case of WWII games, where very rarely you find modeled that “empty battlefield” that has been told many times by veterans



    Cult of Games Member

    So it’s not the model itself that is “bad” but the rules don’t keep up with depicting reality? That then means: the rules need to be reworked.



    Absolutely. Consider that in a platoon sized action that kind of vehicle (but also all the artillery and anything above a light mortar really) should be operating, given the scale of the table, from two rooms away approximately if not more.
    As I said, the rules are severly flawed in this respect if you want them to represent what happened during WWII.
    But my point is that they have not been conceived for this at all, they aim at a certain type of gamer which is not really interested in this but wants a competitive game where half the game is in the list building exercise (a luxury no commander ever had throughout all history) and, in this case, using WWII models rather than scifi or fantasy. The game itself is not made to give the actual feeling of WWII, you could use moodels from a totally different era, once you hae costed them in points, and the game would not be really any different.



    1. Yes. Skirmish games seem to get bloated as the companies want to seel you more, bigger, more expensive stuff.

    2. If you can play on larger tables, 8 or 12 by 4, then you can possibly offset some of the worst impacts of vehicles.



    This is why I play Chain of Command by Two Fat Lardies. We rarely have more than two vehicles in the game as they are very vulnerable and rarely last longer than a phase or two. Ground scale actually equates to 15mm scale but we play with 28mm. A 6×4 table has everything in range bar pistols and SMGs. This makes you act more circumspectly especially as you may not get something to move when you want it to. The patrol phase is an excellent innovation. It also rewards historical behaviour and tactics.

    In all it’s a game of WW2 rather than a game with WW2 figures.


    Cult of Games Member

    bigger tables definitely help, but they would also put infantry at an even bigger disadvantage as they provide more opportunity for the big boys to deal with the smaller threats.

    @sundancer in terms of Xwing you’d have to consider Xwings vs Vaders’ own ship or that  rebel transport ship that they made for Xwing …
    You’d need half the table just for the ship at which point you’d have to wonder why it’s guns failed to destroy the attackers and where the fighter screen was …

    When every unit on the table is more or less equal then the only problem left to be solved is movement, because everyone is dealing with similar problems and the extra work to represent ‘reality’ would only slow down the game.

    Which is why Tank War can sort of work, but moving those same tanks into Bolt-action itself shows the lack of rules to address the disadvantages such vehicles would have during that encounter.

    I think Legion has the advantage because it doesn’t have the amount of options that 40k has for vehicles.
    As a result the vehicles can have a cost that puts them into their place. This also allows for the rules to adjust/grow to ensure vehicles have proper advantage/disadvantage beyond point cost.

    40k games have already grown to point sizes where the vehicle cost isn’t the big factor it should be. Never mind the fact that standard ‘start collecting’ boxes feature at least one gigantic vehicle that doesn’t make sense in context of the box itself.
    Of course part of the problem here is that those boxes are meant to promote the models available as opposed to providing a viable starter force…



    This is why I play Chain of Command by Two Fat Lardies.

    That’s what I do myself and for the very same reasons you outlined so well.

    Which is why Tank War can sort of work, but moving those same tanks into Bolt-action itself shows the lack of rules to address the disadvantages such vehicles would have during that encounter.

    And that is because the rules are not supposed to recreate what happened during WWII but just to give a competitive environment without it being a simulation of sort. This is why I was saying that you could easily play Bolt Action with Space Marines or Giants rather than WWII models and the game would not be significantly different.
    And for this reason I was saying that Bolt Action, at the end of the day, is a game and not a wargame like Chain of Command.
    Of course people who like a competitive game, where going to tournaments is paramount and winning is mainly dependent on your list building abilities will still love a game like Bolt Action and dislike something like Chain of Command and Warlord is catering to these people.


    Cult of Games Member

    I think to be fair to warlord the Jagdtiger is actually an Italeri Kit probably with Warlords input, so its not just Warlord pushing a piece of plastic, I think they made it before in resin, in which case having a plastic version is going to be much more cost efficient once the moulds are produced. Equally I don’t think bolt action has ever been you must only use Warlord minis even in tournaments? Plenty of alternatives such as Rubicon etc. so I don’t really think this is a case of companies wanting to sell more and bigger stuff as much as have a complete range where possible in plastic.

    As for “Skirmish” games I think the term is used a bit generically these days, and basically seems to be anything not rank and file. @sundancer makes some good points above.

    Narratively I don’t have a problem with a Jagdtiger in a game of Bolt Action, units get split up, lost, break down, get overrun, or mixed up in the general chaos of warfare. Given the speed of allied advances late war and the reliability of complex German engineering in the same period it could quite simply have broken down, become split up from its unit and then get overrun as part of an allied advance before it could withdraw. Equally while theoretically these types of vehicles would prefer to have large engagement ranges, there’s plenty of examples especially in some of the brutal street to street fighting in German cities late war where this wasn’t the case.

    I think the biggest point made here is that most rules systems don’t properly expose the vulnerability of vehicles to infantry in close quarters which is absolutely true, however you could say that this is some cases might be beneficial, though I lean on the side of the rules should be better.  You can make the rules more complex but you risk reducing you market by putting off a chunk of casual gamers, chain of command i think is a good example, compared to bolt action its rules are a typical lardy, a bit woolly in places and complex in others, though far more historically focused, that’s fantastic for a certain group of players but less so for those with less experience or exposure to wargaming.

    I don’t think bolt action does a great job with vehicles, though I think the points above about activations and points costs go a way to balancing the game out, while not historically accurate I think the activation systems works well in this regard, sink all your points into expensive elite units you risk being tactically limited as such a more balanced approach is needed, which falls into that tournament style of gameplay. Equally spending all your points of a bit metal box of death in its self reduces you tactically regardless of activation systems, you simply have to counter it and contain it, e.g. using anti tank guns to control where the vehicle can operate by posing a threat in certain areas of the board. I think to a large extent this applies to most games that are point based.

    I’d agree that fun in most games is down to your opponent having the same interpretation of the rules as you, that can also mean not sticking to points, and creating narratives rather than slugging matches, does it really matter that ever game has to be balanced?


    Back on the initial question, I think there is a place for vehicles in 28mm skirmish games.

    1.      It depends of the size of the skirmish game and the size of the board, but this is most down to making something that’s effective with rulesets.

    2.      It depends on how much you wan to be historically accurate, vs having a narrative vs balancing a points system

    3.      Fun, if it makes a game fun then why not (this is subjective), most people think vehicles are cool.

    4.      At the very least they make interesting terrain




    while not historically accurate I think the activation systems works well in this regard, sink all your points into expensive elite units you risk being tactically limited as such a more balanced approach is needed, which falls into that tournament style of gameplaywhile not historically accurate I think the activation systems works well in this regard, sink all your points into expensive elite units you risk being tactically limited as such a more balanced approach is needed, which falls into that tournament style of gameplay

    My point exactly: it is a game to play tournaments, not a WWII wargame. Actually, with the activation system, you are much better off taking swarms of cheaper troops which will have more firepower and more activation dice, given also that you are always guaranteed you will be able to activate all your troops. In reality an elite unit, where every member is well trained and can even act on his own initiative, will be much more flexible and would run circles around inexperienced troops, making up with quality their lack of numbers. In Bolt Action this is not true at all: they will be without initiative and the smaller numbers will mean they will be called to test morale more often, which means sooner or later they will fail a test. After all you get pinned just for being shot at, not for being killed and pins are more effective on small units.
    And of course we are not talking of the complete disregard of any real TOE here.
    As I said, the game would play absolutely the same with space marines instead of WWII models.


    Cult of Games Member

    All these games are abstractions, so any discussion of reality should be thrown out the windows.  Very rarely are battles fought against evenly matched opponents, with units who start at full strength on both sides.  That is why you have command level staff, to find the point where your opponent is weak and strike it with as much force as possible without exposing your weaker areas to your opponent.  I would argue also a game based on reality wouldn’t be much fun, since there are just way to many variables to remove the abstraction.

    So back to the original question.  Yes I believe the tanks should be there.  Why?  I am a big proponent of give me options to play the game I want to play, not be pigeonholed into a game the designers think I should play.  I will be happy to have a spirited debate on what subjectively is fun or not in a particular game.  In addition if the OP and I were to arrange a game, it would be more than fair to discuss and decide what type of game we wanted to play and put in limits between us.  The goal is an always to have fun, and since it is a shared experience, not just me but all parties have fun.

    Tournament Organizers do it all the time.  They change the rules of the game to make the tournament “fun” for the participants.  Being limiting unit types, changing point values, changing the build rules, etc.  For some people the fun in gaming the system…how do I build the best bag of units within these rules.

    While I take exception to the OPs argument should tanks be a part of bolt action, or similar games.  Note: not the part that the OP said that the set would not be fun to play, that is a subjective thing and completely valid.  At a certain point things do need to move from an in game unit to a set piece.  An Imperial II Stardestroyer in a game of X-Wing for example is a point where the thing becomes a set piece just because of scale differences.  An AT-AT in Legion would be very close to that edge, again in my subjective opinion.  I still think it would be fun to have rules for both though, since it opens game opportunities.  A coop version of X-Wing against a Stardestroyer might be fun.



    Cult of Games Member

    I think you can justify armour support in 28mm games, especially the larger sized battles.  However fliers become a little bit harder to justify in terms of models owing to the speed at which they would typically travel – they would effectively make a full pass of the table in less than a single turn.  More modern and futuristic games can justify helicopters and other VTOL type aircraft but actual fighter aircraft and bombers always felt silly to me.

    However I will caveat all of this with “I like purdy models” and that’s usually enough a a justification for anything

    Also, could someone explain how a specific method of activating units can be considered historically accurate or indeed inaccurate?  I wasn’t aware that real armies in real battles would activate their units in specific sequences governed by a set of rules






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