Saga v2: An Overview

What follows is a run through of the 2nd edition of Saga.  Your author is probably and possibly one of the worst Saga players on the planet but some attempt will be made to emphasise what makes this different to 1st edition.

Second edition Saga is published as a rules book with no battle boards or army guidelines included.  There is an image of the Viking board, so although lacking the berserker rules a Viking army could be played out of the book.  The separate Age of Vikings book contains force rules and battle boards for 12 forces based on the previous dark age books.  Some old armies have been absorbed, together with just about all of their old rules and tactics.  The Strathclyde Welsh for example are now just a Welsh army with all units except levies mounted, they do not have their own board.  There are currently no rules for off-board units so all the old Strathclyde abilities of shooting from off-board and moving on units during the game are lost.  Although the 12 new boards replace existing boards any serious Saga gamer should consider picking up the old expansion boards while these are still around for some potential game variety.

The existing Cross and Crescent and Aetius and Arthur boards are still valid.  Cross and Crescent is being discontinued but the new core rules do include an image of part of a Crusader era board so something must be in the works.  The Studio Tomahawk Saga 2 launch day publicity included a Tuetonic Knight against Prussian game.  These could be new factions or existing forces re-worked.   The final clue is that the ‘Age of Vikings’ supplement includes rules to use the Moors board from ‘Age of Crusades’.  Aetius and Arthur is not sold with rules so might remain in print as it is.  There is, however, a change in the way that dice work which could force the remaining original boards to the sidelines.

Each nation still has 8 dice, so no need to buy or sticker any more.  Dice can now be kept on a board between activation rolls and these do not count against the dice generation cap.  So if 2 dice are kept on a battle board and the army generates 6 dice in a turn, it can keep the 2 and roll the remaining 6 dice.  One caveat is for abilties that require 2 dice, both dice must be placed and kept on the ability.  It is not possible to place 1 die down and hope for the other to come up later.  All of the 12 new boards except Carolingians have a basic Saga ability to take a 6 face score, discard this and roll 2 more unused dice.   A similar ability does exist on some of the old boards but it is now specifically clarified.  The 6 face is put to 1 side, it will not be rolled again that orders phase.  The 2 replacement dice come from amongst those not originally generated by units on the board.   The Carolignians have other dice re-roll powers and will not be bothered about lacking this ability.  Some nations’ abilities do allow a rolled dice to be specifically rolled again or set to another face without rolling.  Note there is no 6 order dice rolling cap.   A force can roll all 8 dice, if it can generate them.  A levy unit of at least 6 figures or a warrior of at least  4 generates an order dice, hearthguard units and warlords another 1 die each so generating 8 or more dice from an army is quite possible but no more than 8 dice will be rolled.   The effect of these dice generation and re-rolling factors on the existing boards will be hard to judge.  The aim seems to be to keep the dice moving around.  A force generating a small number of dice can build up powers by keeping dice on the board, assuming the opposition gives them a chance to do that.

All units become exhausted after 3 fatigues, any fatigue in excess of 3 is ignored.  Fatigue can be spent to aid or hinder movement or combat.  In combat it can be used to increase or decrease armour multiple times within a minimum of 2 and maximum of 6.  Fatigue and abilities are spent in strict IGO, YUGO sequence each player in turn.   An example consequence would be the Viking Loki ability.  This can only be triggered once but forces a hefty penalty on the opponent if they use enemy fatigue or their own abilities in a combat.  It can make even an exhausted unit hard to beat but should be triggered at the beginning of combat as it will not retroactively effect any fatigue spent or abilities already activated.  Exhaustion is not a massive deal, -1 on attacking to hit rolls and being unable to activate except to rest.  So activate to rest, lose 1 fatigue and lose exhaustion.  Then activate to move, as the 1st non-rest activation this will not generate another fatigue.

The Saga book contains only a basic scenario with none in the Age of Vikings book.   A battle book is promised.  It can only be hoped that the scenarios in that are more than the usual, ‘kill the warlord’, ‘rescue the captives’, ‘escort the baggage’ affairs.  All games are better where some thought beyond ‘fastest with the mostest’ needs to go into winning.  The single scenario provided has some variety in terrain set up and starting areas but otherwise is a simple ‘line them up and go for it’ appraoch.

Here the Vikings take on the Anglo-Saxons, a relatively historical match up, some of the clothing and shield designs may be off-piste.  These are probably 2 of the simplest factions to play the aim being to get into the rules rather than explore sophisticated ability interactions.  The Vikings have some good combat abilities.  The Saxons rely on bonuses they receive from large units.  The Viking plan is to build up a bank of good combat effects then roll forward and use them.  The Saxon plan being to get in quick while their own units are still big and before the Viking can optimise their battle board.  The terrain is the minimum allowed by the scenario set up rules.  The rear 1′ section is out of play as this is a 4’x3′ game on a 4’x4′ mat.  The Vikings have deployed well back except for a big levy unit in the woods, hoping to buy time to optimise their stored dice.  The Saxons are as far forward as they can be aiming to get stuck in.  The house is a ruin, the official rules for houses have yet to be published.  The tiny blocks of woods are the required ‘small’ size, 6 figures might squish in, 8 at a push.  The effect of these small terrain pieces is not their inherant cover but to slow units by forcing them to go round.  All moves are in straight lines in Saga, no bending round the edge of poor terrain.

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The Vikings are starting with a hefy 7 dice pool, hoping to get some good combat combinations.  The downside of having a lot of units is that it is hard to move them all.  The Saxons have 5 activation dice, relying in part on the occasional 6 score to roll additional dice into the activation pool.  Having a small unit count did not prove a major problem.  An army gets 2 free activations, the warlord and 1 unit within short of the warlord.  A clarification to the Viking board says that a warlord is always within short of himself so until someone erratas it the warlord could activate twice without spending dice.  The second could cause fatigue so that would not always be the best plan.

The Vikings start the show, throwing just 3 dice as first player.  All rubbish but put on combat abilities just in case.  The Saxons manage to get a unit of 12 warriors into the Viking levy in the woods hoping to eliminate them and have the Viking drop a dice.  The maths was not thought through.  All things being equal the warriors will hit levy on a 4, rolling 12 dice they might expect to hit 6.  The levy close ranks, dropping half their own attacks but saving hits on a 4 (3 if missile armed), so half the hits get through, the levy lose 3 figures.  It will take 4 turns at this rate to plough through a unit of levy which itself has a limited offensive ability.  These calculations proved true in practice the 12 warriors (1 1/2 points) took all game to plough through a 1 point levy unit that was itself a limited offensive threat.

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The centre saw the Viking berserkers plough into the 8 strong Saxon hearthgaurd but were unable to wipe them out, 1 figure remained throughout the game (and stayed out of the way after that).  The Saxon warlord finished off the berserker unit.  The Viking warlord then tried to finish off the Saxon warlord.  Warlords do generate 8 attacks but have good armour, can take hits as fatigue (until they are exhausted) and pass another to a friendly hearthguard unit within short.  This means that the average warlord on warlord combat is not going to be conclusive unless significant activation or fatigue effects are in play.

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The second unit of Saxon warriors charge in and are able to remove the Viking warlord who is not within short of a friendly unit.  Losing the 2 free activations for the warlord and the die for the warlord himself severley hampers the Viking player.  For the rest of the game the Vikings try to shuffle forward but do not have the activation dice to get into combat.  The Saxons finally destroy the pesky levy they have been hunting all game.  A clear Saxon win.  Note that several Viking warrior units took no part in the battle beyond generating activation dice.  The Saxon levy was also left out of battle but as a levy unit that would be the best place for it.

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Bolt Action: Sino Japanese Conflict

First a big thank you to Battlefront UK who provided this Flames of War battlemat to our club (Blackshaw Gaming Club) at no cost.  It is a double sided, fertile/desert rubber mat.  Here it is standing in as rolling flatlands in Northern China for a Bolt Action game and  showcasing the Chinese deployment.   The brown hills are dense soft cover, the ruins dense hard cover.  The craters (marshy dips) are soft cover, the railway line has no effect on the game apart from marking the 4 quarters of the table.  The train is not going anywhere soon but rates as hard cover.

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The scenario here is sectors.  The table is divided into 4 with the armies deploying in opposite quarters.  3 points are awarded per unit in the enemy sector at game end, 1 point per unit in a neutral sector and 1 for a destroyed enemy unit.

The Chinese list was very similar to the 8th Army list from the blog’s Chinese army post.   It would have been identical if I had not forgotten to pack it and instead had to re-point it from memory.  With 3 units of guerillas and 3 of tank hunters all able to forward deploy the Chinese have the abilty to deploy in their own half of the table including the neutral sector opposite the Japanese home sector.   The free sparrow tactics move after deploymemt also allows the Chinese to really dominate the board early on.  On the minus side getting close up to full strength Japanese squads is not always a good thing and the Chinese have precious little anti-tank in their list.  As this is an early war match up the Zis2 and captured Japanese tank units are not going to be available.

The Japanese list is from the Manchuria setting, unlike many Japanese lists there are no spearmen or tank hunters but fear not there is still a pile of infantry.  The Japanese have a light tank and armoured car that wisely stay out of the way of the pre-game bombardment.  The Japanese have deployed 2 squads well up front hoping for some easy assaults and blocking some of the avenues of possible sparrow tactic advances.

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2 Chinese guerilla units get some early shots off on the Japanese but are rolled over by banzai attacks.  With 3 squads coming in (the 4th is on the hill) there is no stopping all of them.  Japanese big squads can be beaten but need to be ground down first.  Getting units on ambush in cover will ensure point blank shots on the way in and both sides rolling for assault at the same time.  The Japanese will probably still win but should be sufficiently weakened to stop a squad rolling over a fresh enemy unit each turn.  Another tactic is to move back shooting while keeping out of assault range.

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The Japanese squad by the train is looking puny but the one to the front of the shot below is still good and yes, there is another squad behind it.  The die ‘5’ shows a mortar trying to range in.

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Turn 2 and the Japanese vehicles show up.  The Crossley is from the  Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company.  It has factory issue solid tyres which might have been replaced by pneumatic tyres, the British certainly did so in India.  With 2 MMGs it is good value bang for bucks.   The date and theatre vehicle optimal choice would probably be a Wolseley Armoured Car.

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Period postcard ‘our tank group in Manchuria’

The Ha-Go has a 1 man turret so needs an order test to advance (not fire or run).  The only advance it did this game was when it came on when it thankfully managed to take out the Chinese light gun.  The Chinese best, but still slight, chance of harming the Japanese armour.

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The Chinese move up regardless.  If that infantry squad at the left of the line had anti-tank grenades they would not have whiffed their attempt to assault the Crossley.

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A late turn dice pull puts a Chinese anti-tank guy within 6″ of the Crossley.  A first die pull of the next turn would give him a chance to assault it if he passed tank fear (at -3) but the Crossley took the 1st dice.

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With plenty of points to be had for being in the Japanese quarter the remaining Chinese go for it.

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The Crossley is diverted to thin them out a bit.  Off-camera the Ha-Go deals with the Chinese heavy mortar.

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Removing the Chinese commander from the Japanese home quarter would cost the Chinese 3 points.  The Japanese failed to do this not that it would overly dint their victory point lead.  The Japanese medium howitzer (proxied here by a 75mm field gun) moves from behind cover to fire over open sights.  With a minimum range of 30″ firing indirect the remaining Chinese are too close.

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The isolated Chinese unit scores 1 point for being in a neutral sector but would be unlikely to get an assault in on the Japanese armour.

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The big peasant unit goes down from withering fire and a failed morale check caused by the last remaining Japanese infantry squad, seen in the foreground below.

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The game ends as a massive Japanese victory, although there are precious few units left on either side.  Losing infantry squads on game turn 1 to banzai assaults knocked the Chinese advantage in numbers.  By late game both sides were pulling the same total of dice each turn.  The 2 vehicles could almost guarantee 6 Japanese victory points by sauntering into the Chinese home quarter and staying there.  Dealing with vehicles uisng a force that has no anti-tank on board will always be filed under ‘advanced Bolt Action tactics’.

Bolt Action Chinese Armies

The WW2 Chinese armies do not have their own book but they take up a hefty slice of the Empires in Flames campaign book.  There are 3 variants of Chinese, KMT, Communist and Warlord but the same figures could be worked up into any of these.  The chance of encountering a historical opponent is slim.  There are Japanese in China lists in the Armies of Japan, Ostfront and Empires in Flames book.  The Soviet Nomohan army could be faced in a border skirmish battle and possibly late Free French or Commonwealth as incidents between local guerillas and returning colonial forces, Korean War actions are alson on the cards.  To be fair the chance of a historical match up (both dates and campaigns) in any Bolt Action pick-up game is unlikely.

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Eight Route Army in Shanxi (Public Domain, copyright expired, China 50 year rule)

The first obstacle is finding a manufacturer of the right stuff in the right scale.  As the period covered could go from at least the Japanese annexation of Manchuria in 1931 to the Chinese Civil War hotting up in 1946 there is some variation in what fits in where.  Reiver Castings do a dedicated range of large 28mms.

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The second figure from left is a Copplestone.  The other 3 are Reiver.  All much the same size but the Reiver slightly less detailed.  Painting the eyes and eyebrows on a Copplestone is relatively easy but it is difficult to achieve much above a slit on the Reiver.   The Reiver arms also are a little awkward.

Copplestone are another option also of large 28mms although their Back of Beyond range is more properly set in the 1920s.  This Copplestone towers above a plastic Warlord figure.

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The major uniform update for the 1930s on the Copplestones being a replacement of the peaked flat hat with with a simpler cap like a German ski cap.  Failing these options any figure with long puttees such as Japanese, Dutch or French would do for the bottom part of the figure.  Replacement heads would need to be made or swapped with the Chinese cap,  Brodie helmet (think WW1 UK) or German WW2 M35 helmet. One of the closest not-Chinese nations would be Finns, even the grey uniform colour could work.  The major sticking point would be the long boots worn by the Finns, not unknown in China but unlikely to be worn by the whole of their rank and file. A workable get by is to use Warlord plastic Japanese bodies but German rifles and heads.  This requires 1 German early war sprue to 2 Japanese sprues.  The parts match is reasonably good.  Some filler may be needed but the arms, heads and bodies all stay in proportion.  A cheaper approach is to stick with eary war Germans alone and convert the boots to puttees.  This could be achieved by winding thin strips of tape or modeling putty around the boots.  These are German-Japanese plastic hybrids gunning for the Chinese army.

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At this scale rifles all look much the same.  The common LMG would be a Czech design similar to the British (Czech) Bren, not the German MG the guys above are carrying. Copplestone only have Lewis gunners in their back of beyond range ruling out any simple LMG conversions.  Reiver do several LMGs, MMGs and mortars in their range.  Unfortunately they do not do a Boys ATG.

Artizan designs do French Foreign Legion with the correct sort of LMG.  They are a close match to the Copplestone figure in the middle below.  The Artizan pack comes with 3 LMG men and a rifleman.   The jacket and hat are OK for Chinese,  3 of the Artizan figures have long scarves.  These could be tricky to file off so have been painted in the same pale brown as their puttees here to pick up some contrast.

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Mortars and smaller field guns are also similar between nations, just the crews need to be sourced.  Interestingly the Copplestone Chinese generic gun does seem to be the same  leFK16 field gun as in the Warlord list.  The model and real gun do have a gun shield but the list IeFK16 does not, a saving of 5 points.

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The heavy mortar is going to need a mover.  This mule limber should do the job.

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There is no Copplestone medium or light mortar.  Japanese knee mortars can be assigned as lights.  Crusader have 2 Dragon Portes medium mortars (60 and 80mm).  The Adrian helmet here is unusual in China but not unknown.  The jackets are also rather fancy especially around the cuff but this pack is a servicable stand in.  A major bonus is that Copplestone, Crusader and Artizan are all supplied by North Star so only 1 set of postage is charged.

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Armour and heavy weapons supply is tricky as between the invastion of Manchuria in 1931, the capture of Shanghai in 1937 and Pearl Harbour in 1941 the Japanese gradually nailed down all routes of external supply to China.  German and Italian vehicle supply and other miltary aid stopped in 1937.  The Soviet Union shipped tanks to China, the railway being in the hands of the Japanese, but this source dried up in 1939 after the Soviet-Japanese non-agression pact.  Any supply from French Indo China stopped in 1941 and the Burma Road was only active between 1940 and 1942.  That would leave the caravan trails from Russia East of Mongolia to Xinjiang province; itself under the control of the Warlord Sheng Shicai.  A possibility as the Soviets invaded Xinjiang with tanks in 1934 and although technically losing maintaining an influence in the region.

At the scale of Bolt Action the KMT have access to a few vehicles representing early war forces or old stock still running, coincidentally also matching up well with the Finnish early war list.  The Communists only have use of captured Japanese tanks, an option that is probably not worth taking up.  Warlord armies are basically a cut down KMT force but requiring a captain or major as a compulsory choice.

The Ba10 is hard to source but this Ba6 will have to do the job.  The major difference being that the Ba10 has a rounded turret not the same as the T26 turret here.  The T26 is cheaper than the Ba10 but loses recce and only has a single MMG in the co-ax position so it cannot be fired alongside the main gun.  The Ba10 has an additional LMG in the bow.  The T26 could be a Vickers 6-Ton tank, almost identical in size and function at this scale but available to the KMT a few years earlier than the Soviet supplied T26s.   No insignia here as these vehicles might get drafted back to serve with a Soviet Bolt Action force.

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Reiver do a Carden-Loyd carrier, here next to a Reiver trumpeter.  The scale matches up to true 1/56.  Compared to the Empress Carden Loyd there is a noticeble lack of detail, the inside view of the tracks for example is not carved but the top does come off and there are seats modelled inside.  On the plus side the Reiver model is just over half the price and as a viable Bolt Action vehicle the Carden Loyd would never be first choice to put on the table.

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Having sourced figures there is the issue of what colour to paint them.   Hues of pale blue touching on pure grey is the colour choice that really shouts Chinese (who else could they be?).  It would be the best choice for earlier KMT forces, Warlords and for the poorly supplied Communists up until late in the war.   Greeny yellow is the best match for loyal KMT especially the German equipped units who should also be issued with German helmets.  A choice that would be unlikely to be common in Communist units and preventing any hope of using the same German influenced models for KMT, Communist and Warlord lists. Buff or khaki could be used anywhere but in particular those forces supplied from India and Burma or indirectly by deserters from Japanese collaboration troops.   Communist guerillas in Malaya were in the majority Chinese and a khaki paint scheme would cover them with the interesting option of fighting Indian collaborationist troops under Japanese command.  Late in the war KMT troops will look very similar to USA infantry because of the stocks of surplus equipment received from Uncle Sam.  There are a great many Chinese films and TV series set in the period and the stock solution is grey Communists, green KMT and brown Japanese, easy for the viewer to tell apart.

These Copplestone flat caps have been ground down with a Dremel.  Results are mixed but only really show up when painted.  In retrospect a little more rounding of the top of the cap would be in order.

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Here are the Copplestone infantry in fur hats.  A good to go choice as the issue Winter hat did have fur flaps that drop down plus some non-issue Winter wear would not be unreasonable.  Having 2 sorts of headwear allows easy distinguishing between regular and Guerilla squads.  In this theatre Guerillas would derive no benefit from being in military or civilian attire, no hiding from reprisals nor expectation of ‘honours of war’.

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Assault troops with SMGs are useful as NCOs or in the dedicated scout unit.  The head swap at the end looks a bit of a pin head in ‘real’ life but in this photo shows up OK.

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Both the KMT and Communists can field a 3-man scout unit and Guerilla squads of up to 9.  Both options have forward set up and outflanking bonuses making the scout option less flexcible at the same equivalent points cost.  A 3-man unit is OK for taking out small teams but bigger squad is much more survivable with better tactical options.  Considering the lack of anti-tank all round the Communists would do well to give Guerilla units anti-tank grenades.

Copplestone big sword lads, a genuine option for the period.  The KMT and Warlord lists allow a full squad of these at Veteran status but a horrific points sting.  They act like a Japanese squad in homing into close combat.  They should be armed with rifles as well, there were 3 separate sheathed swords in the pack of 10 infantry that can be used to give riflemen a big sword and help mark the big swords as all having rifles.  Another use for the unit is as pistol armed guerillas.

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The guy at the end has been given an additional pack to act as an anti-tank suicide guy.  The Chinese armies have 3 of these just like the Japanese.  They are a cheap dice source but of limited use.  They need to pass a tank terror test to attack enclosed armoured vehicles and then have to survive any fire on the way in.  To have good odds of passing the tank test at morale -3 they want to be Veteran (7 up to go in). Regulars might do it and inexperienced would need to be very lucky.   Having 2 or 3 of these ready to go ensures that when the 1st takes an early bath the target has pulled its die in defensive fire giving the 2nd man in a better chance of success.  Open topped vehicles are easy meat for them especially those tracked contraptions with a big gun on the top that sit out on the back field and pound away.

A Chinese army includes a free unit of 14 inexperienced infantry.  The Copplestone packs of 10 bandits and 4 bandit command set fit the bill, unlike the other Copplestone infantry packs every single figure is different.  These could be seen as criminal bandits hoovered up to support the cause.  The only drawback is that some are barefoot in army that is broadly Winter themed.

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A less successful endeavour is this attempt to convert Perry ACW cavalry to become mounted Chinese.  The Warlord arms fit the Perry bodies and bits of WW2 kit have been added.  The real problem was the faces look too European and converting the ACW kepis to Chinese hats had mixed success.  These figures are not finished, the next stage would be a wash then highlights and basing.

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Rather than reinforce failure they went for lengthening of the jackets with  modelling putty and head swaps to Japanese.  An improvement but still not even close to proper models such as the Copplestone cavalry that are almost zero effort to put together and only twice the price.

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This 1,000 point 1938 KMT list is a vanilla early war army.  The big sword figures are working as pistol armed guerillas to cut back on points and fit in as much infantry as possible while running the 2 vehicles.   The Shanghai list options are similar but with a few more variations.  The only Chinese special rule made use of being the free levy squad although the guerillas can foward deploy and ignore terrain on turn 1.  Adding a 2nd platoon with 2 more light vehicles but dropping some infantry would make a viable 1,250 list.

This Commmunist 8th Route Army 1000 point list relies on a pile of infantry as its anti-tank options are severely limited. Indirect fire units sit at the back and hope to range in.  There is no place for a sniper here.  With a forward deploy strategy putting guerilla units to the fore he would be lucky to get enough useful clear targets to pay back his cost.  The tank hunters are veteran in the hope that they will survive and get into contact.  Expanding this list to 1,250 would be challenging as adding more infantry might lead to bunching and units blocking each others’ line of sight.  Upgrading part of the army to veteran might be an option.  China Fights Back is a1938 account of the 8th Route Army by an American observer.

Communist infantry (including their small teams and cavalry) have a 9″ move after deployment but before the 1st turn.  This is in addition to the forward deployment of guerillas and tank hunters plus the ability of guerilla units to treat terrain and obstacles as open on the first turn.  In theory a guerilla unit could set up adjacent to the table centre line, deploy a further 9″ then move another 12″ on its first turn.  Both these moves have no terrain penalty so the unit could end up 3″ from the enemy board edge.  This would be a particular threat to units at risk from infantry assault such as snipers and artillery.  Sending a single unit in like that might knock out a 50 point unit but leave the 100+ point guerilla unit vulnerable to enemy units moving to point blank and hosing it down.   Consider threatening to do the same with 3 or more guerilla units or sending 1 in to assault while others remain nearby on ambush to protect it.  This type of action would not be recommended against units that want to get into close combat such as big Japanese squads.  Another option is to deploy up front forcing the enemy to stay well to their rear then infiltrate back to the friendly board edge having had the enemy waste their first move by deploying defensively and spending early dice on ambush orders.  With 2 armies both having a large number of forward deploy units, options available to Chinese, Japanese and Australian Papuan units the whole deployment system starts to break down.  These tactics only work if there are troops on the table at the start of the game.  There are 12 scenarios in the basic book, 3 begin with no units from one side on the table and 3 more with no units of either force in play as the game begins.

Pulp Terrain: Playing with Dolls

This mini dollhouse furniture is relatively easy to track down.  It has no exact scale but is often marketed as quarter scale dollhouse miniatures.  There may be a slight discount if buying all 5 packs although that does result in a possible surplus of chairs.  These are destined as props for Pulp type games or general scatter terrain.  Prices vary but are about what would be expected for a similar haul of resin scatter terrain; doubtless the factory knocks them out for next to nothing.

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The models are cheap plastic and detailed on one side only, the backs are crude at best.

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Tables and chairs are the best to use as scale exemplars.  Something like a clock could be a model of a big or small clock.  A tiny or huge chair would look wrong.  Here we see a Copplestone ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ agent (largish 28mm) and Warlord plastic Japanese soldier.

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Hasslefree Fred Jones from Scooby Doo and Black Tree 3rd Doctor.

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More tea vicar?  Wargames Foundry Home Guard knock the scale on the head.

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These Mantic Walking Dead dudes are a little on the large side for the furniture but their built up bases are partly to blame.

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Another use is as stowage.  A grandfather clock and kitchen sink is a step above some old tarp and stowage boxes.

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Getting Started In Bolt Action

A brief guide for those thinking of taking the plunge.  This is not a review of the rules but a discussion of what would be needed to start gaming with them.

The only absolutely essential buy is the rules.  Make sure that these are 2nd Edition.  2nd is not a major change to 1st but there have been improvements that are generally for the better.  The move from multiple dice hits on area effect weapons to templates at a time when 40K went the other way, dropping templates, being the significant backward step.  The early printings of 2nd edition had some errors which have been corrected in later runs.  There are still several errors and changes making getting hold of the FAQ from Warlord essential.  Chancing on a new copy of the 1st printing of 2nd edition is unlikely as it quickly sold out.  The edition within the most recent starter sets(Band of Brothers and Tank Wars) has the same content as the stand alone rules but is soft backed, slightly smaller and as such harder to read.

Konflikt 47 shares many of the same rules as Bolt Action 2nd but not all of them.  It can be best described at Bolt Action 1.5.  The army lists included can be used against regular Bolt Action armies.  The forces add some bigger, stronger options but are not wildly out of the way from standard WW2 fare.  There is no magic for example and ‘monsters’ are relatively minor mutations.  Beyond the Gates of Antares is the full science fiction variant that is based on Bolt Action.  There is quite a diversion from the base rules and D10s are used for the chance element instead of D6s.  This does offer more finesse in the roll of a single die but lacks the bell curve of 2D6.  A Bolt Action army could just about be jammed into Antares as Freeborn but apart from that only the order dice are of any use in WW2 games, even the templates are different.  Amongst the unofficial, probably v1 specific but could still work are Cthulhu, Mars Attacks, Spanish Civil War and Modern variants.

Order dice are needed to play Bolt Action and the official dice come in packs of 12, enough for the average 1,000 point army.  The current dice have rounded corners but the original production runs had hard corners making it easy to tell the 2 formats apart by feel.  As picking dice blind is a key part of game play any new player needs to stick with the more common rounded corner dice.  It is not necessary to buy the official dice. Any 2 sets of dice of the same size and shape but different colour will do.  The dice faces represent the orders given to units but only the ‘Ambush’ and ‘Down’ conditions matter once an order has been enacted.  This can be shown by D6s left on their 1 or 6 side.  Just make sure that D6s used as orders are quite distinct from those used for chance rolls.

The basic Bolt Action rules include lists for Germany, USA, Britain, Russia and Japan but only with statistics for a limited number of models.  There is quite a collection of force books, none of which are required.  Almost everything in the books is available electronically at Easy Army.   What is missing are the special rules for each nation which will need to be hunted down on the Internet.  There is nothing wrong with getting the force books but there are so many of them, they overlap and much of the content is Osprey filler.  Consider a Soviet army, 1st choice would be the Armies of the Soviet Union.  Some units are missing but are in Ostfront.  There are a few more Russians in Empires in Flames and although no new units Road to Berlin has some Soviet based scenarios.  All the major armies are thus spread over several books making them an all or nothing choice.  Even buying a campaign book will not give all options for the specific campaign but references back other volumes.  For Japanese in New Guinea the campaign book and Armies of Japan are needed.  It is all on Easy Army which builds lists from all the books.

A good start is to work out 2 historically opposing 1,000 point lists, regardless of any intention of actually buying any models.  Depending on the units chosen and how the game goes that would be 2-3 hours playing.  Cut down each list to 750 points for a shorter (1 1/2 – 2 hour) game but using the same troops.  A vanilla Bolt Action army would be 40 infantry (4 squads of 10 or 5 of 8), a mortar, field gun, armoured car and a small tank.  Another 5 ‘fancy’ infantry to use as officers, spotters, snipers or whatever would be useful.  The Warlord build an army deals all fall into this pattern to some degree.  It is not a good starting plan to buy big tanks.  They are a points sink and will be lucky to destroy enough enemy units in an average game to earn their points back.  In tank terms a Panzer III is OK, IV pushing it and a Panther over the top. Small. light and historically useless tanks such as the Panzer II, punch above their weight in Bolt Action as heavy armour is rare.  There is even some benefit to outclassed designs such as the T28 and A9 as these mount a stack of machine guns and pose a significant threat to infantry, against a real tank they are as mutton.  A force can get by without any tanks but still needs some way to deal with them.  Even if none are destroyed the threat of losing perhaps 1/4 of an army in a single model to 1 attack will make armoured units cautious.  Without that threat they will drive up to close range and make a real mess of any targets that they come across. Most infantry can be bought anti-tank grenades at 2 points a model.  Cheap enough to do a whole army for less than the price of a tank.  The grenades are only of minimal use as the squad with them has to pass a moral test to start, avoid any lead from the tank on the way in and if the tank is going slow enough to catch it, hope to inflict enough hits to damage it.

A basic Bolt Action army has a single platoon and this restricts it to 1 armoured car and 1 tank.  The rules allow more than 1 platoon in any army.  An additional tax of a new HQ unit has to be bought for each platoon and no new bonus unit (such as the free Soviet conscript squad) is received.  This allows another armoured car and tank per platoon.  At higher points, 1250 plus, some very competitive armies can be built from multiple platoons.  At lower points a single platoon is a safer option to begin with as fewer mistakes can be made when buying stuff.  Another building route is the tank platoon.  This relies on the Tank Wars book.  A slim volume that in essence says buy all the tanks you like.  A force such as that can make a real mess of a standard 1 platoon infantry force.  For all armies there is a generic ‘reinforced platoon’ list and various theatre lists covering most major engagements of the war.  The generic list allows everything to be thrown in regardless of date and can result in an overpowered list.  On the other hand the theatre lists are an approximation and sometimes cover a wide geographical area and time span.  It is possible to create a more realistic list with the generic force than with the theatre specific choices.   A classic case of abuse of the list system would be the 6 Katyushka list that ran at Britcon 2017, a strategy based on hoping to roll lots of 6s before the opponent gets close up.

Some thoughts on which force to go for.  The Germans are the original baddies and will match up with most nations.  They boast some cool toys but at a price making German armies small or relying on rubbish to bulk them out.  Unfortunately they moved from a basic grey vehicle colour to yellow and then cammo in 42/43 meaning that a vehicle might be in service for most of the war but be in the wrong colour for part of it.  The infantry also moved from long to short boots although the long boots can be used late war as 2nd line troops.  The late Panzer IV with side skirts is the cheapest tank that grants the Panzer fear rule making it a worthwhile buy.  With Panzer fear any enemy unit that sees if and does not shoot at it must pass a morale test at -1 to do anything else.  If it fails it goes down and ends its activation.

Soviets are popular not only because they are quite good in the game but the uniforms and armour colours are much the same throughout the war.  Helmet styles should subtly change and rank badges move from collar to shoulder but at 28mm no one will care.  The Soviets get a free infantry squad of 12 so buy plenty of infantry and make sure that one squad is obviously distinct models from the others.

The British and their empire are not helpful on the uniform front.  For BEF and Home Guard the helmet is relatively flat and the gas mask bag prominent.   These early forces can be accompanied by various civilian types including the famous Warmington on Sea platoon.  They will also stretch to Very British Civil War games.  In other climes the 8th Army can stand in for early Burma and Malaya.  Later Far East forces will be in Jungle Green, in 44/45 Europe the helmet is more bowl shaped and Denison smocks come in.

Japanese are another army that can be used for most of the war with very few changes.  Getting the right one out of a confusing array of tanks all with similar names can be a problem.  Many of these tanks and tankettes are not readily available in 1/56 scale but thankfully the Japanese can get by without any tanks.  They are experts in close combat and their most useful unit is the maximum strength spear armed inexperienced squad.  Spamming these in a generic list can give a powerful army but is in reality poor form, the opposition needs to be given an even chance to win.

Americans come in various flavours but the main choice is Pacific or Europe.  Early war Pacific is not easy to source infantry for but Marines will do for Army or Marine troops throughout the mid to late Pacific period except in the Aleutians or as KMT in Manchuria where it is a trifle cold to go round in a flimsy shirt.  One of the American special rules is allowing an air observer to call in 2 air strikes per game compared to the 1 of every other nation.  They do however have to pay for the air observer (75 points) but the British get an artillery observer for free.

The Chinese do not come with a national army book but are in the Empires in Flames book, in brief they do what the Japanese do but not quite so well.  They are in 3 flavours, the Warlords require an expensive Warlord unit so are a poor choice.  The KMT are a fairly standard early war army with access to light tanks and armoured cars.  The communists are critically short of any anti- armour but their infantry have a turn 1 bonus move of 8″ that will give them some early game flexibility.

The game can be tried out without buying any models using the VASSAL engine.  The choice of model manufacturer is not too important, Warlord and the gaming community are only bothered that the models are a reasonable depiction of what they should be. Basing is also flexible, 2p coins weigh the model down and are magnetic.  Multiple bases do work but get a little squiffy when deciding who can get hit when under a template.  This is all in contrast to official Workshop, Warmachine, Batman and so foth games where only official miniatures may be used.  For the infantry the common scale is 28mm, the big choice is plastic or metal.  The plastic gives more variety in pose and is cheaper but it takes time to assemble a decent pose.  There are often ‘last turkey on the shelf’ figures made up of all the bits after the best ones have gone.  The earlier Warlord plastic sets including Soviets and US infantry had all the weapons separate to the arms.  Later sets such as US Marines have some loose weapons and others glued to pairs of arms considerably reducing the time required to put them together. Compare gluing a single part of 2 arms attached to a gun onto 2 shoulders to gluing 2 separate arms and a separate weapon all to the 2 shoulders and making a natural pose of it.

Perry plastics are a little smaller than Warlord so parts cannot be mixed between the 2.  They do however mix with the Perry metals and spare heads.  Possibly the cheapest plastics are from Plastic Soldier Company.  They only do Soviets and some of the poses are less than ideal.  They are also larger than the Warlord and have very few parts to assemble so are harder to convert.  Still the price is good as are the matching scale 45mm guns and infantry support weapons boxes.  Metal figures are usually a case of cleaning off the flash, undercoating then painting with minimal prior assembly.  Having different sized figures in different units looks OK at a distance but mixing within the same unit can look odd.  People do come in different sizes but infantry small arms do not.  Even head swaps between manufacturers can result in models with massively swollen or undersized pin heads.

For vehicles the true scale should be 1/56.  The major plastic suppliers are Warlord and Rubicon (from the Pastic Soldier Company amongst others).  The early Warlord plastics were Italieri sculpts and a nightmare to build.  The Warlord Puma has separate suspension for all of its 8 road wheels, none of which will be seen in a game.  The early Rubicon models like the Stug were simple kits that were easy to put on the table.  More recent Warlord models have become easier to build but Rubicon have moved to multiple variants and additional detail making them harder to put together.  Also note that more recent Rubicon kits are not in the usual modelling plastic meaning that regular polystyrene cement has a hard time gluing them.  Resin kits offer less detail but are easy to assemble and a wider choice of models is available.  Other possible scales for WW2 models inlcude 1/60, 1/50 and 1/48.  There is a noticable size difference between these and 1/43 are way too big.  If going for a different scale, keep to it or the difference will be immediately obvious.  Moving from 1/56 is most obvious for the smaller vehicles.  If tanks are big that is because they are tanks, a 1/48 jeep is worryingly large compared to infantry and 1/56 tanks.

Terrain is a no-brainer if moving from something like 40K.  Even the intensely Gothic stuff is better than using sheets of paper or felt.  The cheapest starter for terrain is trees.  There are plenty of eBay sellers that market cheap trees that often start to fall apart even before they are unpacked.  Buildings did drop off in use when 2nd edition came out as a HE hit on a building meant curtains for most models inside.  So no one went into them and there was little point putting buildings on the table.  The latest FAQ allows penalties for small team and down to be applied to buildings making it worth going in them again.  There is a limited choice in plastic buildings all of which are pretty robust.  If trashed they can be glued back together.  The Berlin city apartments from Warlord are actually Italieri 1/72s, these and some other smaller scale buildings are good enough for 28mm.  MDF is the big growth area.  They are relatively cheap and can be built to come apart to put models inside.  On the downside they soak up paint like a sponge.  A cheap spray enamel can give fair results but it can take a lot of water based acrylic to get a good surface cover.  Bolt Action is usually fought on a 6′ x 4′ mat but other sizes will work.  If there is money in the budget and space to roll it out the mouse mat rubber backed ones are best.  Most of the photo reports on this site are on Tablewar mats.

Bolt Action 1941 Somewhere in Karelia

A historical themed game between Finns  and Soviets in either Finland or the Soviet Union, depending on your political point of view.  The scenario is ‘hold until relieved’ with the Soviets deploying 2 units on table to protect the objective.  The trees here represent outlines of clumps of dense woods.  So despite the bare outward appearance of the table there are very few lines of above 18″.

The Finnish special powers include a +1 to hit with rifles when shooting from ambush.   Unfortunately ambush works against a unit that moves not one that only shoots making the ability less useful when the Finns need to move such as here where they need to get onto the objective.  The Finnish sniper can move up to 6″ and go down on an ambush order making him a ‘go to’ choice.

finn1

A close up of our brave defenders.  The houses are plastic 1/72 from Pegasus.  The objecrtive to hold is the truck although for game purposes it offers no cover and does not block line of sight.

finn2

The Finn could set up all infantry (only) units at least 18″ from the objective.  This could include positions close to the Soviet entry edge although any units there would be exposed to early game Soviet swamping.  Instead the Finns went for a more conventional approach with a horseshoe deployment around the objective.  All these units are hugging the woods, getting the benefit of hidden deployment but reducing any possible 1st turn moves to 6″.

finn3

An early dice sees the Soviet T28 come on for some long distance shots at the Finns.  The T28 is a truely rubbish tank that can only penetrate armour of 7 or 8 (a medium tank like a Pz III is 9).  In this game it played up well as a howitzer and machine gun platform, staying at the back of the field and concentrating on the clump of Finnish infantry opposite.

finn5

Turn 2 sees more Soviets arrive to support the objective holding units as the Finns move up cautiously.

finn6

At the objective the 1st Soviet squad is taking heavy losses as a Finnish mortar homes in but 2 more squads and the Soviet commander have moved into the fray.

finn7

Turn 3 sees all the Finnish armour on table.  2 Soviet squads have yet to show.  The Finnish flamethrower is just about to dive out from behind the hedge.  The Zis gun fails its morale and legs it but the flamer runs out of juice and also heads for home.

finn8

The last of the Soviets arrive and action hots up by the objective.  The cloth capped Soviet squad are the free green unit (luckily upgraded to regular).  They are in 1 hut, the Soviet command are in the other.  The Finnish Ba10 is being ranged in on by the Soviet mortar and has taken a pin from the T28.  The Ba10 has shot at the Soviet squad in the hut but under the latest Bolt Action FAQ they can  go down for a -2 to hit the building and half casualties if they are hit.  2 separate Finnish squads make assault attacks on this unit.  The Soviets are down so there is no fire on the attcakers as they come in.  The building means that in an assault both units roll at the same time.  2 assaults (turns 4 and 5) the ex-green squad wins them both, destroying 2 Finnish squads.

finn10

Towards the rear more Soviets move up, the T28 keeps a safe distance.

finn9

The Finnish T26 is hit by the Soviet Ba10 and goes down.  The Soviet squad passes tank fear and goes in, gets only 1 hit (not enough to penetrate the T26) and rallies back behind the hedge.

finn11

More Soviets move up and they are running out of targets.  The Finnish Ba10 contests the objective but the Soviet shells are having difficulty making any headway against it.

finn12

End of turn 6 shows the position around the objective.  A gamey ploy might have been to drive the T26 over the hedge and assault the Soviet unit behind.  If they failed morale they would be off for an early bath.  This would still only contest the objective as vehicles cannot control in this scenario.  The only nearby Finnish infantry squad is looking decidedly ropey and is knee deep in Soviet infantry.  In ‘real life’ I would guess that the result of a T26 crossing a relatively thick hedge would be ‘hedge:1 T26:nil’.

finn13

So a final result of a draw.  If playing to a tournament the Soviets would take a winning draw having destroyed more Finnish units both in points and order dice.

 

7TV Ghostbusters

I ran out the Crooked Dice Ghostbuster figures against some Zombicide figures acting as ghosts in a 7TV game.  The gameboards are also from Zombicide.  The cars are a tiny bit small but are from the pound shop.  The Ghostbuster figures are from the new film and their cards for 7TV are in a free download not part of the 7TV paranormal deck.  The paranormal deck does however include rules for the original team, together with a generic, not so good, team member and new cards for ghosts, zombies and assorted monsters.  There is a fuller description of the game on an earlier 7TV post.

The Ghostbuster crew here has been accompanied by various vigilantes acting as a police squad.  They are lined up along the centre road as the squad sergeant allows close by squad members to activate at half cost.  The ghosts are all extras in 7TV, they have good stats but only generate half a plot point each.  In general it takes 1 plot point to activate a model plus the really useful ghost abilities of walking through walls and shrugging off damage each cost another plot point each to activate.  This resulted in only 1 or 2 ghosts doing really useful stuff during the game.  The others just hovered around much as ghosts might do.  The major spend on the ghost team points count was the Ghostbuster team member who could turn into a monster.  To prevent this the Ghostbuster player had to spend a plot point and 1 additional plot point each turn to keep this model human.  The Ghostbusters had a stack of gadget points which allowed them some useful bonuses, the ghosts had to rely on brute force and walking through walls.  The 2 different styles of play worked together rather well.

ghost1

The scenario was based on capturing objectives, black tokens, of which there were 5.  The doors (from TT Combat) required a player to spent an action opening them (unless they had already been opened).  The ghosts, being able to walk through walls could skip that bit and glide straight up, quickly threatening 4 of the 5 objectives.  Here a ghost had moved to the objective but lacking plot points to save itself went down in a hail of pistol and catapult shots.

ghost2

The ghosts could grab the objectives and get away again through the walls while the humans had to go the long way round.  In retrospect it might have been better to prevent ghosts with objectives from moving through walls.  The humans could have bene allowed to go through walls (shop windows) at some risk to themselves.

ghost3

The Ghostbuster special rules allowed a ghost to be captured if it could first be reduced to a state where it would not activate next turn.  This requires 2 shots from the Ghostbuster weapons and a Ghostbuster running up to trap the ghost.  The situation did get set up during the game but failed to inflict enough hits to make a capture possible.

ghost4

In the scene below the ghost has lost 1 but not 2 actions the following turn.  Note the ‘special’ Ghostbuster team member has finally turned into a monster.  The Ghostbusters spent 5 turns subduing him, leaving only 3 turns of mayhem before the game ended.  The game was set with a small set of turn cards based on the 7TV rules guidance for this table size.  As there was a lot of terrain the game would have been better set at a longer length, giving more time for back and forth and for the monster to do more harm

ghost5

Close to the end of the game our vigilantes shoot down a ghost and retrieve its objective.  The monster is still just out of range.

ghost6

Too late for the party, ‘Billy no mates’ surveys the Ghostbuster 3 objectives to 2 win.

ghost7

Another ghost driven off but not captured.

ghost8

The game lasted about 1 1/2 hours including sorting out the terrain.  The ghosts might have done better by attacking the Ghsotsbuster figures rather than concentrating on the objectives as victory only depended on casualties from star and co star models, which the ghosts were not.  The human form of the monster was partly controlled by leaving him at the back board edge.  A tweak could be to allow the ghost player to spend a plot point to move it him 1 action, keeping up with the game and generally getting in the way.

Bolt Action – Berlin or Bust

Saturday 23rd September saw a 7-player Bolt Action tournament at Element Games in Stockport near Manchester.  I left my usual Soviet force at home and trotted out some late war Germans.  This is a less than perfect list but I fancied a change.  For some reason the ‘fausts in the shtraf squads cost 10 points but only 5 in the regular squads.  I could have jammed in an extra ‘faust by dropping the shtraf ‘faust and buying 2 regular ones.  There are 5 squads of 8 infantry, good for covering ground but 4 squads of 10 would have been more resilient.  The Stug is the howitzer version which did sterling service but at 200 points is 1/5 of the army in 1 lump.

All battles were won (3 points) by causing 200 more casualty points than being suffered, a 0-200 difference being a draw. (1 point)  Bonus points were gained for capturing objectives (1 point each, out of a possible 2).  All troops are set up on table, no outflanking, no reserves.

berlin1

Game 1 saw a fight against Soviets with 2 Stuart tanks, thankfully these were M3A1s not the early M3s that bristle with machine guns.  The 2 Stuarts spent most of the game duking it out with my Stug.  They might have been better off ignoring it and going for my infantry units.  The Nebelwerfer could control most of the board, although there were some tempting clumps of Soviets nothing was hit until turn 3 with a few pins and losses doled out but no whole units destroyed.

berlin2

The Germans are defending so the objectives are 12″ in from their edge.  The Soviets were driven off from this left objective but the other was contested.  Losses were about equal so we had a draw.  The ability of the Soviets to re-roll casualty tests for units that took 50% losses in 1 attack was a big leg up for them.

berlin3

Game 2 sees more Soviets showing up, this time spouting 2 quad maxim trucks.  These were parked in a nice lump which the Nebelwerfer managed some hits on.  As in the last game a steady trickle of pins but no units destroyed.  I did eventually get both trucks.  The only salvo they got off wiped out my Panzershrek launcher which had stupidly moved up to get a good shot.

berlin4

My Germans are attacking here, they made some progress but not enough to get onto the Soviet objectives in their player half.  Another draw but no bonus objective points for our boys.

berlin5

The final game faced off against US infantry, it began poorly and did not pick up.  I lost my sniper to the ubiquitous turn 1 sniper duel.  I also lost another squad to a 1st shot mortar attack where the few survivors failed their morale.  Another squad was mortared down to 1 man later in the game.  All the ruins on this board were counted as dense terrain making it hard to pick targets beyond short ranges, not good for my Neberwefer and LMGs.

berlin6

The objectives were along the table centre making it hard for the Nebelwerfer to get off shots without hitting friendly troops.  The few targeted shots it sent out all missed.  The Stug did well enough but the infantry support was ground down leading to a major points difference and a clear loss for our lads.

berlin7

By game end the only viable German units were the Stug and Nebelwerfer, another squad was just in the game but would not have lasted long.  I ended up as 4th German out of 7, just too low to get a prize.

 

Butlers Printed Models – A review

Although the discussion here focusses on Butlers Printed Models the underlying issues apply to any 3D printed historical gaming pieces.  The review models have been bought at full price.  I have no relationship to Butlers Printed Models beyond that of a customer.

I do not own a 3D printer but have bought some WW2 1/56 prints from Butlers Printed Models.  A 3D printer works by printing a thin stream of fluid that quickly hardens building up the desired shape with continuous passes of the print head.  This fluid could be anything with the right consistency and behaviour including an edible mix for fancy foods dishes but is usually some sort of plastic.  The quality of the final print will depend on the original plastic extruded and the width or resolution of each pass.  The lower these factors the more lines will be seen on the product where smooth curves or gradients should be expected.  The quality of the original virtual model is also a factor togther with the angle that the object is printed at.  Simple physics prevents the printing of a line in thin air such as would be required for an overhanging or unsupported edge for example the parts of a table not directly connected to the legs.  The simple solution here would be to print a model table the wrong way up, surface first then build up the legs.  Where there is no avoiding having to print on thin air the printer will build up a lattice of thin plastic as a base.  This can then be cut away after printing.  There is, however, some liklihood of overhanging and dripping that will remain on the model.

The Butlers models score as fair on all these counts.  They are quite good enough when seen at a distance but will not compare well with resin or metal models when seen close up.  My usual plan with larger models is to clean up, paint, wash, paint again then drybrush.  With 3D models the drybrushing stage will show up the lines made by the printer quite clearly.  Having found this out I have worked out some partial solutions.  First of all the printing lines can be ground down.  The fact that the plastic had to be melted at a relatively low temperature means that too vigorous a grind melts the plastic.  Maximum warp speed on the dremel with a metal grinder proved this.  A much better result was had with a lower speed and softer grinding tip.  The plastic used on the models is much harder than the polystyrene used on kits.  Carving away bits with a scalpel is hard work as is filing by hand.  The best results were achieved by grinding back the flat surfaces that would be most noticable when seen from the top.  Issues with the sides and especially underneath are best ignored.  The approach to drybrushing also needs to be modified.  Avoid drybrushing entire flat surfaces, this will only highlight detail that should not be there.  Instead drybrush to highlight natural lines such as edges, keeping the flat areas as block painted after dipping to hide any remaining printing lines.  With this approach and some use of spares from the bits box the results are perfectly acceptable.

3D printing can take a considerable time although the printing medium is cheap.  The printing time probably largely accounts for the larger models being considerably more expensive.  Many of Butlers models are not easily available elsewhere but when there is some commonality it is clear that the smaller prints are very much better value for money.  In the case of enclosed models cost is simply a case of purchase, slapping on  paint and getting them on the table, although adding some stowage or other additional features will improve their look.  For guns and open topped models the addition of crew needs to be considered.  When buying a cast model it is usually sold with crew and possibly stowage and transfers of unit insignia.  If these are going to be added to a 3D print their cost needs to be factored into the final cost compared to the equivalent cast models.

boxes

These barricade models are quite acceptable.  Some would make better barriers in the real world than others.  At the price they are going for it makes sense to add a few to any purchase.  A simple paint job and you are away.

hmortar

This heavy mortar is a no brainer, one piece, no work involved but crew will need to be allocated.

ZIS

JAP75

These 2 guns (Zis3 top, Japanese 75mm below) are good enough but did need a lot of printing-support-plastic removing before they were ready to paint.  The wheel rim, tyre and outer mud guards are pretty much painted on rather than moulded; the detail on the casting being very low.

ba64

The Ba64 here offers excellent bang for bucks.  Being small it is relatively cheap and can get away without any need for crew.  This is an early model Ba64, it would not convert to a later model with enclosed turret as that was built on a larger Gaz jeep body chassis.  It is unlikely to see much as action as it is pants in Bolt Action but is a nice vehicle to deploy in late war or cold war historical forces.

uCarrier

The Universal Carrier suffers from poor design.  The model does not come with crew nor does it have a recess in the front where the driver and gunner should sit.  There is a small hollow to the front with raised squares where the seats should be  instead.  It would not be worth drilling out a seating area as the plastic is hard and the volume below the moulded front section might be hollow.  This ‘feature’ is quite clear on the model description page so there is no element of deception.  I addressed the issue by cutting Warlord plastic infantry in half and modelling the tops of their legs with green stuff.  It is not easy to estimate where to make the cut.  The driver would probably look through the vision slit needing to also reach the pedals with his feet.  The gunner might raise his sitting position to get a better view and have more room for his arms to operate the bren.  The front bren gun here is a Japanese LMG, the pattern clearly having the same roots as the bren.

t28

This T28 is an excellent Bolt Action tank as it has a lot of firepower for a modest point cost.  In the real world even a medium early war tank would take it out.  The T28 should have prominent riveting, absent here.  A clothes line like radio airial and turrent LMG could be modelled to improve the appearance but that might not be worth the extra work.  The 2 front MG cupolas are both the same design.  It might be expected that a distinct left and right orientated cuploa would be used but on checking photographs of a real example in at least that case both cuplas are identical.  The MGs modelled should be a good deal thinner but from a gaming and robustness perspective a thicker barrel will do.

Butlers also produce a T35 tank.  A thoroughly rubbish tank in Bolt Action but a good looking beast and hard to get hold of from anywhere else in 1/56.

Since writing this I have had a communication from Butlers on how the models are designed:

Unless stated on the website all of the designs for the models are our own.  The electronic 3D design has been created from scratch by modelling it in a CAD package, we don’t scan other models or copy from them in any other way.  The copyright to the designs is our own and we would be unhappy if someone copied our designs.  There are a small number of products that we supply under licence but where this is the case it is clearly stated on the website.

 

Britcon 2017 Bolt Action

The 3 days of Britcon (11-13th August) saw 6 games (1 Friday, 3 Saturday, 2 Sunday) of Bolt Action at 1,200 points.  There should have been an additional game on Sunday but fire alarms on Saturday led to an overrun and Sunday began with another alarm.  6 games were quite enough.  In theory 2 1/4 hours were set aside for each game, I only completed 1 game in that time and some players ran substantially over with the organiser allowing the set timings to slip.  I pulled out the Soviets coming up joint 9th out of 23.  I used my standard list with the addition of a T34 and a few more infantry to push the points up to 1200.  I ran a Stalingrad variant with 2 snipers, rarely did both have good targets so I would have been better just fielding the 1 and looking for somewhere else to spend the points.

The lists were supposed to fit within historical guidelines, some did, others pushed the envelop.  The overall winner put down a Japanese force based on spear armed militia and multiple MMG Stuarts.  That is the early war M3 Stuart.  The Japanese certainly captured M3A1 Stuarts but maybe not the M3 and if they had would those tanks be running when the rest of their army had resorted to bamboo spears?  A more dubious army was of Katy rocket launchers and partisans.  While the Soviet high command did supply partisans where possible that would be unlikely to includes air dropping rocket launchers behind enemy lines.  The rocket launcher list is a boolean effort depending on rolling lots of 6s for fire and under 4 for reserves.  If they have no good line of sight, are off board or miss they are mutton to anything at close range.

On the Friday evening I faced Americans in double envelopment, both sides needing to get off the other’s board edge.  We stopped after 2 1/2 hours as I had to catch a train home.  Some of my reserves had yet to come on but the game was still anyone’s if there had been time to play it.  The USA air observer bombed himself and part of his own army which did not do my efforts any harm.  We scored that game a draw.

First game on Saturday was against more Americans, paratroopers.  The aim being to inflict most casualties.  The USA air observer went down in the pre-game bombardment (75 points up to me).  1 of my units still had not come on by the game end (counting as lost) but I still won with a kill excess of over 100 points.

After lunch on Saturday I played against early war Germans.  They were running as 2 platoons, 1 of infantry and the other armoured with 3 Pz38s.  He also managed to squeeze a motorcycle and side car into each platoon.  This was a variant of Top Secret but the objective could not be moved.  The aim was to control the V1 missile model at the centre of the table.

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This end game image shows that our lads lost.  I took out 1 panzer, 1 motorcycle combo and gave the other some serious pinning.  The other 2 panzers proved too much.  I had some more units out of shot on the flanks but my centre was shot apart.  The BA10 by the objective was a last ditch attempt to hold a draw for another turn.  The Panzer to the left was temptingly close to my tank assault inexperienced squad but they would have needed a pretty good morale roll to get in.  Even so that would not have affected the result.

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The 3rd Saturday game should have finished by 16:30 but with a fire alarm and other delays had barely started by then. I faced a British force from the SeaLion book.  This had 2 platoons including a number of ‘forester’ units who had a +1 bonus to combat and morale when in the woods.  This board must represent the botanic gardens at Eastbourne so should have been good for them.  The force also included an A9, a noted infantry shredder, and a Spitfire warplane.  This was envelopment with my attacking Soviets needing to get into the opposing deployment area and off the table.

The plane only showed on turn 2 and dished out some pins that were easily recovered.  It was due to come back on turn 4 but by then it was pretty much all over for the British.  His only anti-tank was destroyed, one commander had been sniped out and my Soviets were well forward.  The Scouts and T34 could have got off table next turn or helped round up what was left of the British army.  A win for the Soviets as the British conceded.

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Home then back early for the first game on Sunday, delayed after another fire alarm.  It had been planned to pay 3 games on Sunday but this was cut to 2, a wise choice given Saturday’s timings.  This is sectors.  Each army starts in opposite quarters of the table and needs to get units into the other 3.  My opponent ran a double platoon of BEF.  The 2 platoons were close to identical with 2 A9s, 2 25 pounders and most of the infantry as small units in Universal Carriers.  Below is the early game and looking good as the Soviets move up confidently.  One quarter was dominated by the A9s.  As some compensation my Scouts soaked up a lot of their 15 machine gun shots each before one drove up to close range to finish the last Scout off.  The British had paid for tows for the 25 pounders.  These were well hidden but drove into my quarter late in the game, together with his surviving carriers to really pound home his advantage in position and a Soviet loss.

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The final game after lunch was against a bespoke Spanish Civil War Nationalist army.  This force made a lot more sense than several of the ‘official list’ armies.  Victory was based on control of the central building.  Lacking any official instructions we played this as a ruin.

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We both fed units in, the objective changing hands as assault followed assault. Not surprisingly we ended up with a draw when time was called.

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1,000 points is my usual maximum although I can rope in quite a few more.  Much of this would be more Soviet infantry that will be hard to fit on a 6 by 4 board.  My general buying strategy is to go for more and different units or armies to provide variety in play. Britcon lessons are that to maximise effect at 1.250 points; 2 platoons are good while taking advantage of doubling up.  This explains how so many rocket launchers could fit into a single list.  The 2 A9s of the BEF army that I faced were a lot more effective than the single A9 and Spitfire of the other although the points count would be quite similar.  A more gamey Soviet list could have dropped some infantry and the T34.  Those points would then be directed to another BA10 and 2 rubbish tanks such as T26 or 1 and the ever popular Quad Maxim truck.    These would, however, be units that I would never use at 1,000 points or less.

My final thoughts are on how much victory in Bolt Action depends on good list building and how much on playing well.  A good list is not everything.  The Quad Maxim needs some care not to get blown up yet optimise targets.  A large Soviet army benefits from activating in the right order so as not to break line of sight.  On the other hand a good list will give anyone a leg up.