Is this the golden age of miniature wargaming or what?
I had hoped to get in a campaign game of Maurice last night, but unfortunately, my opponent ended up getting slammed at work, and had to back out. Instead, I managed to talk my way into a demo game of Bolt Action, hosted by Nick the Lemming. A few guys at the club have been toying around with this in both 28mm and 15mm, and since I have a pile of extra Russians kicking around, I brought them along. Nick was kind enough to help me work out a simple list (three maxed squads, two verteran and a conscript), and I set out to teach ernieR's Americans a thing or two about historical materialism and class struggle.
Nick set up the table, with a good mix of buildings, hills, forests, and rough ground. We determined the scenario (the title of which I forget), which basically called for victory through annihilation; whichever player wiped out more of the opponent's units would win. It many ways, it was a good illustrative match up. Ernie had lots of small units, which gave him extra activation dice (meaning he got to act more frequently in the turn), but it also meant his units were more fragile, and he had more potential victory points to give up, compared to my small number of chunky (heroic!) units.
In the first turn, ernieR's yanks predictably got in a few moves before my lads got on the table. His rangers led the way, taking up residence in the building at the centre of the table, with the rest of his units moving up to support or provide covering fire. I sent both my veteran squads to the ruined factory on my left, with their lieutenant close by, and my raw recruits took up position in the forest on my right.
We spent the first couple of turns trading fire. ErnieR concentrated on one of the veteran squads holed up in the factory, while I worked on hammering the rifle squads he'd moved up into the open ground on the factory approach. Over a couple of turns, he managed to kill off some of the heroic defenders of the people's factory, while I wiped out one of his exposed squads.
Suppressing fire is a key mechanic in BA. While you can take out models ("kills", and ernieR did), any fire that generates hits place a pin marker on a unit for each unit that has scored hits against it. This was one of the other advantages ernieR's MSU build gave him, in that he had more opportunities to place hits on me. On the other hand, my boys were snugged into a solid building, had good morale as veterans, and had the numbers to soak kills. The down side was that the pins ernieR scored against me acted as a penalty whenever I tried to do something. My boys were weathering the storm, but keeping their heads down.
While we traded fire on the left, my recruits worked their way into a firing position on the right, and began to pepper the Rangers and supporting units with covering fire of my own.
It was around this point that ernieR started to even things up. Although I'd taken out a second rifle squad, he managed a rather glorious round of shooting that forced a morale check on the veterans who'd been taking fire in the factory (if you take half or more casualties from shooting from a single firing unit, it forces a morale check). My boys had enough, and high-tailed it.
In the process however, ernieR had established that it was less than six inches from the Ranger's house to the factory. In other words, a unit on the right side of the factory could assault across the gap. I pushed my conscripts forward in a bid to support the impending charge by my remaining veterans . . .
Who worked their way over, and then swept in on the rangers.
My veterans were armed with SMGs, which gave them extra dice in close assault, and outnumbered the Rangers almost 2-1. Although the Rangers got a chance to fight back (combat was simultaneous as they were defending a building), I still managed to wipe them out.
I moved the recruits up to support the veterans, but ernieR responded by shifting teams around to concentrate fire. Recruits in soft cover proved to be far less resilient than veterans in hard cover, and it didn't take long before the rookies were looking a little thin on the ground. Despite some heroic morale rolls, the young pups just could stand under fire, and eventually high-tailed it.
This, however, brought more of ernieR's squads into assault distance of my remaining veterans, who took predictable advantage of the opportunity.
With the turn clock running down, I cleaned up the remaining available squads. ErnieR pulled a gutsy move, assaulting my lieutenant and his adc with his own command group, wiping my command unit at the cost of two of his men, but then pulled the rest of his remaining units out the the way of my vengeance-hungry vets, who moved back into the "ranger" house for cover.
The game was called, and while we were probably about even for casualties, ernieR had lost several more units than I, giving me the win (for the scenario). It was actually a nice bit of balancing. In-game, he'd traded enhanced pinning ability and flexible activation for scenario vulnerability, and sheer Russian stubbornness and ferocity had won the day.
While I grant you, I've played all of one game, my first impressions of BA are excellent. It's a good scale (reinforced platoon), making it infantry based but allowing for some "toys" in bigger games. The mechanics are generally clean, and the few oddities we uncovered were readily dealt with via house rules. It's quick, decisive, and fun to play. You could get in a biggish game, or two smaller games, in an evening with little trouble. The 15mm figures seem to work well (firing ranges seem reasonable), and there's a low cost of entry (a couple of Battlefront blisters would cover most formations). I'm going to have to paint up some of my Russians for dedicated use. My veterans earned their paint.