WWII: Review of Bolt Action Rules

BOLT ACTION World War II Wargames Rules
Authors: Alessio Cavatore & Rick Priestley
Illustrator: Peter Dennis
ISBN: 978-1-78096-086-9
Price in UK: £25.00

BOLT ACTION is a new set of World War II wargames rules for skirmish type games published jointly by Warlord Games and Osprey written by Alessio Cavatore & Rick Priestley.

Presentation throughout this considerable 216 page hardback is high as you would expect from a Warlord Games or Osprey production, with the usual high quality photos of figures from Warlord and colourful illustrations taken from a variety of existing Osprey publications. There are useful diagrams setting out some of the rules e.g. line of sight, angles of fire, firing around other units and indirect fire. Here are the main contents of the book:

Basic supplies
Conventions of War
The Turn
Close Quarters
Unit Special Rules
Playing a Game of Bolt Action
Force Selection
The Army lists
Rules Summary

The rules are written in a relaxed style and points values are given for all the units, heavy weapons and vehicles. So they are intended for points based tournament play but can be happily used for friendly games.

These rules are intended for skirmish types games. The minimum basic force in Bolt Action is a reinforced platoon of an officer, 2 to 5 infantry squads, support weapons and possibly a few vehicles including a tank and or an armoured car. A side can contain multiple reinforced platoons depending on the points limit used or the scenario design.

The rules include descriptions of 6 set scenarios called Envelopment, Maximum Attrition, Point of defence, Hold Until Relieved, Top Secret and Demolition. These give the set-up, objective, first turn, game duration and victory conditions.

The Army Lists - lists are included for 4 armies - Germany, USA, Britain and the Commonwealth and the Soviet Union. The lists are for the period 1944-45 and define the main types of squads, heavy equipment and vehicles for each of the nationalities including their points values. In addition for each nationality it gives an Army Special rule. The Germans get better initiative and superior machine guns, US infantry can shoot and fire with no penalty, British get better bombardments and a free FO, Soviets get to reroll a bad morale roll and a free squad of inexperienced infantry.

The rules are basically very simple, well written and well laid out. There is a single weapon chart, covering small arms and all heavy weapons - for each weapon it gives range, number of shots, penetration and special rules. The rules only use D6 and ranges/moves are measured in inches.

Units in Bolt Action are infantry squads including their intrinsic LMGs, support weapon teams, guns or vehicles. Initiative and command is done very simply. Each side puts a counter for each of its units into a cup and these are drawn blindly by a player or an umpire. The side drawn can then issue an order to one of its units. There are six types of order that can be issued to a unit.

Fire - fire at full effect without penalty.
Advance - Move and then fire.
Run - Move at double speed without firing. Also used for assaults.
Ambush - No move/fire, but wait for opportunity fire.
Rally - No move/fire, but lose D6 pin markers.
Down - No move/fire, but gain and extra -1 to be hit. Halves pins from indirect fire.

Orders are obeyed automatically unless a unit has any pins and then they must roll 2 D6 to obey their orders by scoring less than or equal to their morale rating less the number of any pin markers. If they fail the unit goes Down if infantry and weapons teams or simply does nothing if an AFV. If 12 is rolled then they FUBAR - very like a blunder in Black Powder and Hail Caesar - the unit then rolls gain and can fire on a nearby friend or panic and run to the rear.

At the end of the turn when all the units have been given orders and acted on them the counters are put back into cup and the next turn begins. Troops who are down or in ambush can carry over these orders into the next turn. Units that have not acted so far in a turn can go Down when under direct or indirect fire and this reduces the chance of them being hit - it also uses up their order.

Shooting is relatively simple - there are few shooting factors - once hits are scored you then roll a D6 applying any weapon modifiers to cause a casualty or penetrate a tanks armour. For example poor infantry are damaged on a 3+, good infantry on a 5+, light tanks e.g. M5 Stuart on a 8+ and a super-heavy tank e,g, Tiger II on a 11+. Heavier weapons can cause more than a single casualty on infantry and weapons crews.

Any time a unit takes hits from a firer it suffers a pin and each pin effects its shooting, ability to obey orders and morale tests. Heavier calibre weapons can cause more than 1 pin. There are only 5 armour classes for vehicles including soft vehicles and 4 classes of AT guns.

I have few reservations about the rules as written. The only significant ones relates to:
a) artillery and its effects on vehicles - these rules could have been written more clearly. The confusion here has been clarified by an errata covering these points in the Warlord website.

b) equipment - some Soviet equipment are rated as being only HE firing with no AT value - this includes the ZIS-3 field gun which was one of the main AT guns used by the Red Army. This has now been resolved with changes to the equipment included in the Soviet Supplement.

Overall with these very few minor reservations which have now been resolved  I think these are playable, easily understood and comprehensive rules with some very good features. We have now played many games using the rules and they have worked well and proved to be great fun.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Bill! What do you think about close quarters? Don't you think that they are to cruel?
    Get back to health!