Toy Tanks for Bolt Action

The 1/56 models made by Warlord and the rest are pretty good but most of the toy WW2 vehicles are out and out rubbish with no concept of scale.  Still several brands have come up with models that are quite acceptable for the table top.  The key initiative is price, if they are significantly cheaper than the 1/56 gaming models and they have a role on the table top they are worth a look.


Lledo produced their ‘days gone by’ range with a limited variety of car, truck and horse drawn models but a vast number of different paint jobs.  The paint jobs were part of the marketing campaign.  Frequently there will be a 1940s vehicle advertising 1990s tea or chocolate.  This is not an issue as they are going to be repainted.  The major exception is Cpl Jones’ van from Dad’s Army.  No one is going to repaint that.  This was a very popular model so may cost a little more than a regular truck but should still be much cheaper than a resin wargaming model.  The Hodges’ greengrocer van is however a relatively rare find. At eBay prices it often costs more to post the Lledo vehicles out  (£3) than to buy them (£2) so the best approach is to look for a batch or job lot.  They also sometime show up on market stalls for about £1 to £2.

They don’t like it up them

The toys are box scale so are ‘sort of’ made to fit the box but some fill the box more than others.  The best match for 1/56 are the lorries.  The cars represent a smaller original in the same box so are a slightly larger scale.  Oddly the horse drawn transports are also small models but at a smaller scale than the lorries.  Another scale issue is that most of the models are the same width.  There must be some manufacturing economy behind this.  It can mean that a vehicle is in scale for the length but not the width or vice versa.  Sticking with the lorries the best come with an open top and a load such as barrels or milk churns.  These pop off easily and although not a great casting are in effect a free bonus terrain item with each model.

Lledo truck next to Warlord


Dinky have been going for years but the models to look out for were made from the mid 1930s to the 1970s.  Some are obviously rare and command good prices.  The vehicles that we are after had been in production for decades so prices should be low.  Many sellers have no idea of price or are trying their luck.  A fair price for any of these models would be £6 including postage.  The model scale is ‘sort of’ O gauge as the ancestry of the line is model train sets in the 1930s.  There is also an element of box scale and reusing what is to hand.  The Daimler Dingo model uses a driver that is common to several other models and would be about 1/60.  It is clear from the seats cast into that model that the driver is too small a scale for the vehicle and seats have been moulded to ‘big him up’.  When buying look out for good tyres.  New tyres can be bought but at a similar cost to buying another vehicle.  The early toys had smooth tyres and the later productions tougher looking ribbed tyres.  It is quite possible to see both types of tyre on the same model as running repairs have been made over the decades.  Also check for snapped or very badly bent barrels, these are not worth thinking about repairing.  The best way to search for a Dinky is by model number.  Some models are similar but the model number tells them apart.  For example there is a useful Daimler Dingo (673) and a similar Ferret armoured car (no number, labelled FERRETT) that dates from after the war.

Dinky 673 Daimler Dingo length 70mm, real length 3.18 m, scale 1/45.

Dinky 670 Daimler armoured car length 70mm, real length 4m,  scale 1/57 (result)

Dinky 688 Morris C8 tractor length 70mm, length 4.5m, scale 1/64.

If you were paying attention earlier you will know why they are all the same length.

673 670 688


Another company where the name has remained the same but the production base has changed.  There is a decent range of 1/50 commemorative WW2 vehicles that can be used.  Due to the ‘collector’ rather than toy market these can be pricey now.  The Sdfkz 7 below is 135mm long, real length 6.85m, scale 1/51.

Quad AAA with Warlord crew

Another model from Corgi aimed at the toy market is the Hanomag Stuka.  This is a very good match for the Warlord Hanomags.  The tyres are cast on but models are often seen without the tracks.  New tracks can be bought but with patience a tracked model at the right price will show up.  I bought one, thought better, sold it, then changed my mind and bought another for less (both under £10).  I cut off the toy triggers to the missile racks.  Removing the whole assembly would require drilling out some business like rivets.

Corgi and Warlord Hanomags


Matcbox jeeps are a good size fit for 1/56 but decent models without all sorts of fancy cut outs are hard to find. Chinese models of the Cars Sarge car are quite common. The metal part is the canopy, the body is plastic.  This makes cutting the top off a serious job as either the industrial rivet or metal canopy has to be cut through.

2 Chinese Sarge jeeps with a Matchbox in the centre


Bolt Action Battle of Tempe Gorge

The enjoyment of a game probably depends more on the set up and the scenario than the system itself.  It helps to have a vanilla ‘throw it all down’ game format available when time is limited but the option to do more than get there ‘fastest with the mostest’ does enhance a game.  Bolt Action has 12 scenarios in the v2 rulebook and the various campaign books offer more.  To be honest none of these scenarios are especially inspiring, I would cite the Flames Of War scenarios as a better set of game play options.

Tempe Gorge is in the Duel in the Sun book, 1 of 5 in the book that feature British against Germans.  I dare not repeat the entire scenario here as that would conflict with copyright issues but will describe enough to make some sense of it.  The Germans have twice the points of the British (New Zealanders if you want to be picky).  The board is played lengthwise with a river half way across (roughly 36″ in).  A road follows the length of the table with a bridge and 2 fords where tracked vehicles can cross but wheeled vehicles cannot cross the river anywhere. Infantry can wade across counting as in hard cover but picking up a pin in crossing.  The British can set the terrain, rough rocky ground is recommended although on looking at modern photos of the area small farms, shrubs and trees abound.  The clue is in the river.  If you have a flowing river in Southern Europe you are going to get undergrowth.  The British set up first, all on table but have no vehicles.  They can be hidden (double any terrain bonuses so no point being hidden in the open).  Any units within 3″ of the river also begin dug in, offering the benefits of down without needing a down order.  So the British will be taking at least -4 to hit (-2 down, -2 hard cover) up to -6 for hidden.  The effect will be that most incoming will be hitting on a 6 followed by a 6, 1/36 the worst you can get in Bolt Action.  If the Germans get close enough (12″ for infantry) or the British shoot the hidden status goes just leaving the dug in.  To hit with a 6 needs a base of 2 on 4+, only possible at within 6″ so until the Germans get within 6″ of the British they will be unlikely to get any hits.

The Germans get a free air observer but that can only target units that are not hidden as well as  a pre-game bombardment.  In version 2 the bombardment is most likely to only produce 1 or 2 pins per British unit, easily shaken off.  The British do not get their off -board artillery observer and can’t buy a new one either nor do they get any vehicles or MMGs.  They do get doubled range for their light mortar but are not allowed to use indirect fire.  As mortars can only use indirect fire someone has not thought this through.  Considering that the Germans need to move forward the British might as well be allowed indirect fire as there will be few stationary targets to zoom in on.

The Germans get 1 point per British unit destroyed, 1 for crossing the river and 3 for getting off the far table edge.  The British get 4 points per German unit destroyed.  The game will probably last 7 turns (50% chance of an 8th), time to turn the maths on.  Most of the table is rough and infantry move 6″ in rough.  Plodding that way will take 6 turns to get the 36″ where they are in a position to cross the river.  Running up the road is 12″ a pop so 3 turns to the river (with no cover from British units firing to their front).  So breakout some vehicles, in this scenario a wheeled unit can only double (to 48″) its run rate on the road if it rolls a 4+ so that cannot be relied upon.  In a truck we can go 24″ on turn 1, then drop the passengers for an additional 6″ and maybe a hit on a 6 on the enemy but at least a good position for turn 3 (the truck turns and goes back down the road).  The truck could run on turn 1 (24″) advance on turn 2 (6″) then drop the passenger (36″ in) but that is putting it in harms way  for longer.  It would be very tempting for the British to open up on the truck on turn 1 or 2 with a fair chance of knocking it out (hit then roll a 6 for rifles, heavier weapons are better still) and banking 4 victory points.  One alternative is the Hanomag, much better under v2 as it can fire one MMG without any passengers.  In that case the distances are based on a run of 18″ and an advance of 9″ with another 6″ to deploy the passengers.  Hanomags cost more than trucks but are immune to small arms fire (89 vs 39 but they still stack up pins).  The German needs enough transport to slide up most of his force close to the river and has to hope that he can get the flimsy stuff back to the rear when empty.  There is space for a tank in the German list and it would be a shame not to take it.  This is the only vehicle that has a realistic chance of getting off the far table edge but may be better employed giving close range fire support close to the river.

The British get far fewer options, less points to spend and less units to choose.  A big choice is where to set the terrain.  A nice open area to the front for a good field of fire with perhaps some blocking terrain close up to the German entry edge so they cannot get any artillery set up on turn 1 ready to fire on turn 2.  Hidden only works on cover so you cannot hide on the road but you could dig in, I imagine sandbags here rather than heavy mechanical diggers.  An anti-tank asset could cover the road but for how long?  The dug in bonus only applies close to the river but putting one unit further back could prevent a breakthrough to the board edge.  After deployment the only real choices are to open up on further away transports or not, target within half range is a good point to start. So sit still, shoot only when you have to or on the chance of an easy kill.

I have a pile of German stuff, early and late war but do not have all the toys I should really like for this scenario.  Lots of infantry everyone in Hanomags and a light tank would do the business and be suitably in period.  I have 1 Hanomag and chanced a truck for the additional lift, 1 squad will still have to run on behind.  The squads are built up to fit in the transport.  Small squads gets 2 in a vehicle.  With veteran troops I expect to take losses but pass morale tests.  1 sole survivor pinned into the ground is good enough to deny the British 4 points.  I do have a motorcycle squad and that will be up front.  There may be only limited fields of fire for artillery but I am taking a medium mortar.  Hoping for an indirect fire line on at least 1 target and losing 1 or 2 turns to set up still leaves 5 or 6 to home in then fire for effect.  A flamethrower will come in handy to weedle out the dug in squads, I have buried it into a pioneer squad.

Here is the German force.  All veteran infantry except for the mortar.  The vehicles and bike riders are regular. The FOO in this game is free.

The British set up after the pre-game bombardment.  No kills and only a smattering of pins.  An all regular force with a first lt in command.  The red markers are pins.  The terrain is largely open although it counts as rough for movement. There is an implied road right up the centre and across the bridge.

On turn 1 the Germans go straight up the road.  The truck gets hit and is immobilised.  There was a unit of bike riders in front of the truck but they took an early bath.

Turn 2 the bike riders are joined by one of the units from the truck in the dead pile, 4 points down already.  The Panzer 38 took a hit and was pinned.  It spends several turns failing morale checks and going back 6″.

Some good news, the air strike comes in. With the British so closely packed there are quite a few pins to go around.  My opponent forgot his order dice so we used red and green regular dice for orders.  Here the target of the air attack has pulled a down dice to 1/4 casualties (down + dug in).

The Hanomag throws out a pioneer squad, the commander and a MMG team.

In the back field. Another squad gets out of the truck but starts to rack up pins.  The squad just behind the truck got left out of the game so we warped it into play where it should have ended up.

At last the pioneers get in.  A Britsh squad is destroyed. The flamethrower with the pioneers was hit by a sniper while crossing the river.  The MMG is down to 1 man. Off camera the Britsh 25 pounder is finally knocked out by the German mortar.

Back field the Geman support are racking up pins.

The ATR goes down to the pioneers.

Not wanting to go down so they can assault more British squads the pioneers fall to intense rifle fire.  Having stopped running and found the forward gear the tank is across the river.  It is pin city in the rear echelons.  The Hanomag should be a little further back so as not to withdraw but that would not affect the game.

The infantry assault the tank and the tank tries to roll over the infantry all with no effect. It may have better to shoot all 12 MMG dice at point blank range.

The game ran to turn 8 but with 6 German units destroyed they had no hope of a win.  From a maths point of view when the German takes 3 units lost, 12 points they have little chance of a win. At that point the Game can be reset and tried again.  The keen eyed viewer will note the lack of movement of the British units. There is no incentive to leave the cosy dug in positions.  The 3 points for getting a German unit off table is too low for a very high odds chance of success.  Wheeled units cannot cross the bridge.  A half track could run up 36″ in 2 turns, cross (rough going) in 3 then run off table (<36″) in 2 more.  The half track could hold 3 units at best (infantry + small team + command/medic/observer) for 4*3 = 12 points of victory.  Try that with 2 half tracks and you might pull it off.  Only the British gun and ATR can knock them out but the Hanomags are open topped so they are going to rack up pins making such an end run unlikely.

Man of the match would be the British commander.  He regularly drew 2 snap to action dice and gave out some serious shooting dice.  The German commander was hit by a sniper before he got going.

Looking at some way to balance this game, the dug in rules seem to need attention. They date from version 1 of Bolt Action.  Although some additional rules are in the new appendix the dug in rules have not been addressed.   Our next use will be with a +1 only for dug in but this will stack with terrain and down. To hit at normal range will then be +3 when dug in in hard cover so hitting on a 6.  This is 6 times better than hitting on a +4 on a base to hit number of 3.  Allowing more cover for the Germans would be good but the scenario does state the British get to set up the terrain, a rocky bowling pitch out front is the obvious choice for them.  The 3 points for getting Germans off board is too hard to get except with a lone tank that would be better used on board.  2 points for getting each German unit over the river is an improvement over the 1 given by the scenario rules.  My overall impression is that this scenario is playable but Warlord have not thought it through.


I do sell some of the armies that I buy.  I once built up a Safavid Perrsian army in 15mm then saw some figures that were so much better than those that I had used that I sold that army bought and painted up a new one.  I have also sold off armies from a lack of potential face to face opponents.  I sold Warhammer armies becausee there was no one to play against then soon afterwards found a local club and built up new Warhammer armies to replace those I had sold.

I usually sell armies to free up space to store more armies.  This is getting to be a problem as my armies increase in size.  In the 70s armies tended to be in 25mm, the few 15mms available were simply not very good.  As casting and moulding increased I moved to 15mm and then 6mm. A brief flirtation with 2mm did not last long.  My eyesight is not as it was and these smaller models are now little more than black blobs.  So I have been buying bigger figures.  I recently gave FIW in 15mm a go.  I bought and under coated Blue Moon 15mms then thought better.  I sold these off at a loss and went for Redoubt replacements.  Considerably more expensive and of course much bigger.  All this has stretched the storage space and solutions available to me.

A popular local option are Really Useful Boxes.  This is because there is a Hebden Bridge market stall that sells them at a pretty fair price every Thursday.  The boxes are a decent height for 2 layers of 15mm but a little high for 1 layer of 28mms.  They do stack really well if you keep to the same size of box and the colour coding can help identify what is where.


Good stacking


One use of the box is to fill it up with models wrapped in bubble wrap.  This is pretty much the only solution for GW beasties such as Tyranids that are all angles and spikes.  For more regularly shaped models the inserts that come with the boxes are OK but there will be a deal of sliding around without some sort of magnetic solution.  Charlie Foxtrot models do cutouts in MDF for 1p or 2p pieces.  These rely on the coins being ferrous and the use of strong magnets.  I rate the solution fair for metal models.  When built up with Basetex the coin bases do not fit that well.  For lighter plastic models where there is less weight strain on the magnet bond I would expect better results.


Pulp colonials nestle in a MDF frame supported by magnets

A similar option is to magnetise the models to their movement trays and cram the trays into the box.  This works as long as the box bottom is full and there is no chance of the box turning sideways.


Redoubt 28mms nestle in Warhammer skirmish trays

The Really Useful Box is  not essential.  These Orks are in a box from a pair of boots. Be warned that cardboard will collapse if stacked high crushing their contents.


Plastic Orcs on KOW movement trays

Out of the foam tray options one of the best deals are KR Multicase.  The 4 tray 200 slot version is pretty good for Bolt Action. The size of my armies are largely governed by how much space is available in each box. Buying a new multicase is strongly linked to a major force expansion.  The trays lie on their side when the basic box is carried.  This may be OK for transporting a short distance but I can assert that carrying a army on its side through Manchester led to considerable miniature shuffling. This was with a metal Bolt Action army.  I would expect more secure transport if a plastic  army were involved. The tray slots are just about the right size for 28mms but there is some stress when fitting the bayonets in.    The custom trays are a better fit for models but at some increase in price.


Star Wars minis in a custom foam insert

For smaller minis my money is on biscuit tins.  The trick is to always use the same size tin so they stack well.


Tins and tins of them

These are mostly 15mms, the keen eye may guess that some contain Dr Who minis. The tins are already ferrous so the magnetic paper goes on the model base.  Many of the 15mm armies are DBM and have not moved out of their tins for years.  I will probably have to chip them out but at least the paint jobs are sound and completely knock proof.


A tin load of DBM Avars


Starting off with a brief rant on dice

Chance Dice

Size may not be everything but it is important.  Games such as 40K or Bolt Action rely on buckets of dice.  To get away with this a die must be large enough to see but not so large as to bodge everything else off the table.  I prefer a modest size die with a green background but clear pips so rolled dice blend in but are easy to see.  A dice tray or dice tower is best for rolling and I expect to be allowed enough time to check the dice before they are tidied up.  Some players roll the dice, declare the results and scoop them back up before there is time to see the results.  The GW preferred and darn fine protocol is to remove the failed dice and leave the successes for checking.


Some well behaved green dice sat in a dice tower

Most dice are labelled with numbers, usually as pips but Arabic, Roman or even Hindi (the old Arab style) make sense.  Alas there is a trend for special or commemorative dice to have 5 numbers and a symbol.  The symbol is usually on the 6 but may be on the 1.  An incidence of tournament cheating was linked to a player swapping between 1 specials and 6 specials as required to win rolls.  Even with the symbol probably being on the 6 it is usually  a single image that looks more like a 1 than a 6 confusing the unwary opponent.  It would be nice if gamers enforced dice of a reasonable size and clearly labelled 1 to 6 (only).

Is it a 1? No it’s a 6

Marker Dice

Here the dice is not a chance mechanism but used to mark orders or casualties.  It helps if the die is small and unobtrusive but dice than are too small can be knocked (changing their meaning) and are hard to see.  On the other hand a dice that is as big as the figure it is marking ruins the aesthetic effect of the game.

Some marker dice have text rather than numbers and these seem to be a nice little earner for the manufacturer.  Using self printed labels on adhesive paper gets over this at a modest cost.  Using self adhesive paper is a lot easier than regular paper and glue all over the shop.  This solution works fine for Saga where the dice symbol meaning is hard to guess.  Even worse in Saga a similar ‘shield’ symbol has a different meaning in the Norman dice to the Crusader dice.  Thankfully Saga produce templates of dice faces to print out.  In Bolt Action it could be possible to spend more on dice than figures.  This would be true of a Soviet army.  A dice is used to order a unit and the Soviets have the option to field a lot of units.  If an army is made from the relatively cheap Plastic Soldier Company army boxes it could easily cost less than the dice required.  It is some consolation that as Bolt Action has been around for a while enough orders dice are available on the secondary market to make some savings in dice outlay.