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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.

Here are 2 more useful models.  The Sig 33B is a monster in Bolt Action.  A massive points sink but heavy armour, heavy howitzer and a bow machine gun to boot.  The Ba10 (here with a KMT emblem) is a good gun on a cheap chassis.  Bolt Action players usually use the less common Ba6 because Warlord do a Ba6 model.  The only alternate Ba10 is the JTFM model available through Empress Miniatures.  In both models stowage has been added to the base casting supplied by Butlers.


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.

Note that Butlers have now switched to an improved printing technique.  There are still layer lines but in some planes these have been considerably reduced.  The Sig33B above for a example has a clean flat top surface, some striping is still apparant on the surface (bonnet for lack of a better word) below the barrel.  The Sig33 road/track wheels have come out particularly well.