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.

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Sarissa 1/56 Horsa Glider for Bolt Action

Having built up a 28mm Bolt Action British Airborne force thoughts moved to getting them a glider to play with.  Warlord and Sarissa must of been of the same opinion releasing an almost 1/56 model in MDF.

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The model could be glued as 1 whole but is pretty wide and long so comes with twist fit nose and tail sections to reduce the storage space.  Coincidentally this also helps to model the glider having broken up on landing.

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The wings also should come off, held in place by the wheel assembly.  I elected to glue the wings and wheels onto the main body.  There was little real choice in the matter.  The  wings are built up as left and right with 2 thin struts and a cardboard outer holding the lot together.  The wheel attachment to the under wing relied on 2 slot assemblies one of which I had to drill out having probably assembled some indistinct wing part upside down.  Gluing the lot together gave much needed stability to the whole. The frontal shot below shows a gap between the wing top and hull top that would probably be hard to avoid even with better modelling skills than mine.

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MDF is by nature almost 2 dimensional and making it follow curves is fighting the laws of physics.  It is also strong in only 1 plane (no pun intended).  MDF does not make a good material for lugs to push into or through holes.  The best MDF model structures are nice square buildings.  The glider is not the most fiddly piece of work I have done.  That award would go to this paddle steamer.  The lower deck, upper deck and roof are separate and should hold together with lugs but forcing everything else into place resulted in the lugs and holes being out of line.  The wooden deck rail involved pushing MDF slots through holes in the deck posts.  I gave up by the 2nd deck and used metal rod which has rusted rather too authentically.

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The glider has the same problems but to a lesser extent.  The boat instructions were logical but for the glider the images made sense but did not tie in well with the text, some guesswork being required.

The curved glider body is achieved by wrapping card around an MDF core.  This is not unlike a real glider but canvas bends better than cardboard and the real glider has considerably more reinforcing struts.  I used masking tape to support the glue holding down the open ends of the cardboard skin.  I also gave the whole a coating of floor varnish before painting to strengthen the cardboard at some cost in glossiness.  The result was a fair effect for the general bodywork but not so good for the side and cockpit windows which are formed by cutouts in the cardboard.  The windows would definitely have benefitted from being moulded on MDF strips.

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This shows the glider with some 28mms.  The ramp doorway is about the right size for a jeep but I see no way to force it any lower.  The doorway is ‘fixed’ by MDF hinges, one of which broke soon after assembly.

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To deploy a Bolt Action force on board using Horsa gliders would need about 3 of them.  It would be possible to get away with 2 and scratch build some bits from tubes and cardboard sheet to do the 3rd as a wreck.  Having built this one up I would not be keen to  buy another.  Plastic 1/72 Horsas are available and given the greater resilience of plastic I  might have been better off going down that route.