Got in a long-anticipated second game of Bolt Action last night, my sons of the Soviet motherland against Foxlington's deluded fascists. He was running three identical squads of Volksgrenadiers with LMG and assault rifles, I had the following:
Veteran 1st Lt. and bullet catcher, SMGs
NCO + 10 conscripts, LMG, AT, Green (free)
NCO + 9 veterans, all SMG
NCO + 10 regulars, 5 SMG, LMG
M. Mortar, regular, spotter
We rolled a scenario randomly, and came up with Top Secret. In this one, there is an objective placed at the centre of the table. First unit to move into position gets a hold of the secret plans, etc., and has to get it off their table edge. The carrying unit can hand it off to another, and it can be dropped by breaking the unit, or wiping it out, or by beating the carrying unit in an assault.
I got there first, and set up the table with a little farmhouse, some fields, a road, and a tree line. Foxlington picked the side of the table with the house, and we set about play. While I've found the little camera that could (it was stuck in the mechanism of the Dadchair), I left it with my beloved for the day. She had taken Puddin' off to see the Bare Naked Ladies (Puddin' is a big fan of the "Big Bang Theory" theme song. Apparently, they are launching a new craft beer. Not only did I get in a game last night, I came home to cute pictures of my little girl and a killer brew (chocolate stout, and damn good!). As a consequence, however, it was Foxlington who once again took pictures of the game, so thanks and hat's off to him. All pics are from his side of the table.
The scenario calls for a variation of the reserves rule. Everything starts off table, and you have to make a reserves roll for each unit (with the usual -1 penalty) to bring them on. The difference is, you can start bringing them on turn 1. This actually gave me a bit of an advantage, as overall, my morale ratings are higher than Foxlingtons (his Green Volksgrenadiers start out effectively as inexperienced, through they have a chance to improve in game). This meant I had most of my stuff on the table turn 1, and all but my own rookies on by turn 2.
I made a dash for the objective (the massive barrel in the middle of the table) with my veterans (currently represented by a random assortment of unpainted silver - the plan is to pick up a pack of soviet scouts, but I'm holding off until the rest are painted). I figured the unit which grabbed the plans would be in for some heat, and my vets had the best chance of both surviving enemy fire and getting past the inevitable pin markers that accompany them.
Foxlington, in response, brought up his infantry, and unloaded on me at max range.
Now, here's the thing. While the Volksies may be green, they are toting a fair bit of firepower. Standard troopers are armed with assault rifles that can shoot twice out to 24", and they've got an LMG as well. This made for a hell of a lot of lead going downrange. His first squad took out a chunk of my vets, and his second salvo took out most of the rest.
It was enough to make my vets take a morale check, but stalwart defenders of the people that they are, they held on. They survived long enough for me to pull them back, behind the hedge line and out of sight of the Germans, buying a little time. The trade off was that they had to move into the ploughed field, which would slow down their run for the table edge.
Once the plans were out of the line of fire, I moved up my regulars (in their black, night-time camo), and opened fire, managing some fairly fearsome casualties of my own, including one shot that actually picked out the NCO of the front Volksgrenadiers squad. Germans have a special rule that gives them a chance to "promote" when they take a leader casualty, and sure enough, Foxlington made his roll to promote, but the squad had taken enough casualties to force a morale check, which he promptly failed. His squad fled the table in terror of the righteous revenge of the Soviet army their new NCO vainly trying to call them back.
Foxlinton's remaining squads then returned the favour, whittling down my regulars to one man (the LMG gunner), who, true patriot he was, held his ground.
AT this point, things were looking a little hairy. While I had the plans, I was still several turns move from the table edge (that damned russian mud!). Both my active squads were down to token numbers, and my raw recruits were refusing to come on the table from reserve (I managed to fail every single reserve roll I made for them!). In contrast, Foxlington had the bulk of his force intact, and a hell of a lot of fire power at his disposal.
At this point, we had one of the more cinematic moments in the game. My PTRD anti-tank rifle team, lurking in the back, managed a brilliant shot, that probably had some sort of horrific effect on the man hit (+2 pen on raw troops = instant kill). When he resolved the roll to determine the outcome of his green status (which is undetermined until after the unit takes it's first casualty), Foxlington rolled the worst result possible, not only staying as raw recruits for morale, but also accumulating several extra pins. With his low base morale, and his officer on the far side of the wheat field, out of range, the liklihood that unit was going anywhere soon was pretty low. Now, I had a real chance to win.
At this point, I had my remaining veterans move to hand off the plans to my lieutenant, and spray Foxlinton's own command team, which were sneaking their way up the flank. I picked off one man, but the other two were still in play. The game was now a race. Foxlington had two or possibly three turns to either wipe out my units, or seize the plans himself, to keep me from winning.
He moved up his not-terrified-by-the-horrors-of-war squad, closing in on the lone LMG-toting regular, while his officer and adjutant moved up the other side of the field. All he needed was to get some clean shots on my own command unit, and he had a good chance of pulling out at least a draw.
At this point, we had another rather cinematic moment. My lone LMGer went all Rambo on the advancing squad, shrugging off his own pins over two rounds of firing to lay down some hurt on the advancing Volksgren squad. He managed to get enough pins that at a crucial moment, they failed their morale test to activate, buying my escaping officer a reprieve. I could just see the lone, gritty, gunman, forcing the advancing enemy to dive for cover, and buying his comrades time to escape. Hero of the Soviet Union medal, or at least a paintjob, are in the works for this little fellow!
For Foxlington, it was down to his officer. One hit would drop a pin on my command unit, forcing the possibility of a failed morale check of my own. But before he could act, we drew another of my command dice, and I took a shot with my medium mortar. This unit hadn't done much all game. Mortars need to roll a 6 on the first turn they target something, and if the target moves, they start over again at a 6. In other words, they're great for hammering static defensive positions, but not so hot in the kind of fluid engagement we were playing. So far, I'd yet to hit anything all game. Imagine my delight, then, when a six turned up on my attempt to range in on Foxlington's officer.
A single medium mortar shot does d6 hits, and can cause additional pins. Against a target in the open, that can have pretty devastating results. More or less like this:
At the top of turn six, even though Foxlington was able to move up and get a few shots off on my brave lieutenant, he and his aide slipped away, giving me the win.
What a blast. I caught a few lucky breaks for sure, but some bad ones too (those damn recruits!). I think the changes I made to my list, adding a few weapons teams (and command dice) help out a fair bit. There were turns where Fox's smaller dice pool left him in an awkward spot. I did do my best to try and focus on the goals of the scenario, trading troops for position and time, especially once I had the secret plans in hand. I've also developed a healthy respect for the ability of VG squads to generate firepower. In a more defensive game, where I had to advance into that curtain of fire, things might have worked out differently.
I really enjoy this game. The scale of it feels "right", at least to someone who's first introduction to WWII was watching the Craftmatic Adjustable Bed sponsored Saturday Afternoon Movie with his dad. It's platoon focused; small enough that you can identify (and identify with) individual figures, but there's room for a few toys. At 1000 points I'm adding a Suka, and maybe some of the other things I'd never bother to take in a FoW game, along with a few more squads.
I'm definitely going to have to paint up that LMG gunner, along with the loader for the PTRD. As it happens, I somehow managed to swap him out for a standard rifleman when I painted that unit, so the two of them will get priority in the painting queue. I've also primed up a few test figures for the long-anticipated 15mm Napoleonic Russian force, so will be working on them as well. Until then, have fun, and happy gaming.