Warlord have released a plastic version of the infamous 88 for Bolt Action. This is far from the only big gun for the infantry combat game played at a scale where such weaponry would easily fire across the table out of the window and into next door’s garden. Bolt Action is primarily a game and should be treated as such rather than worrying too much about the real world. There is some slight justification in picking a gun such as the 88 as it is an anti-tank monster in a game where big tanks could show up, albeit at ranges and densities of cover where they would rather be somewhere else.
The Warlord 8.8cm gun is a plastic kit with 7 metal crew. Warlord did produce a resin version which is probably now being retired. There is no significant saving in cost. By switching to plastic the gamer gets more bits and more work putting it together. The wheels, however, are no longer present so it can only be modelled as static not limbered or shooting with the wheels still on. Having seen the older metal Warlord 8.8 there is probably no more detail in the plastic as opposed to resin/metal model but the new design stretches (figuratively and logically) the plastic medium. In this assembly 1 tiny part broke while being cut off the sprue, 2 more fell off between undercoating and detailing the paint job. One of these is a box thing behind the gunner’s head the other the spare seat (the latter thankfully rescued from the garage floor and stuck back on). From looking at a web schematic the lost bit appears to be the ‘traverse direction indicator driver’, so some sort of dial not that the lost bit looked much like one. A design ‘feature’ is to allow the gun to raise and lower through 2 plastic pins that hook onto spurs moulded to the gun sides. These went into their snug fit tubes but would not pull back out far enough to attach to the rest of the gun. Short solution the gun has been glued to a set elevation. The thinness of these elevating pieces makes it unlikely that they would have survived much wear in gaming use or even continued to work after several layers of paint, varnish and drysbrushing.
The 8.8cm stands a good chance of knocking out any tank if it can hit (+7 penetration). It has the added bonus of being able to take a spotter and to fire as HE 3″. You can’t shoot through your own dudes in Bolt Action but the HE option allows shooting over their heads and with a spotter, line of sight to the gun is not required. On the minus side it is 160 points at regular and can’t move without a tow. Being unable to move it is susceptable to smoke (the spotter could keep up indirect fire) and if it does not start on the table it is never going to get on. A truck won’t shift it; AnyScale do a Maultier, this a Corgi Sdfkz7 (both 44 points regular) with a touch up to the toy shop paint job.
Many of the tracked big guns such as the Grille (160 points regular) would be a cheaper option and not much less shooty but they would fill up a tank rather than a gun slot on the army list.
Assembling all metal guns is often a problem due to lack of or imprecise instructions. The gun sight being an example of an easy to lose and hard to put in the right place component. Butlers do some useful 3-D printed guns although their range is far from complete and some tidying up is required. The cost of crew models should be considered in a purchase as this considerably ups the price. If building several guns some degree of crew sharing can be used as a gun can still function in Bolt Action when down to 1 crew and not all the guns in a collection will necessarily be in the same army list. To the front a Warlord metal Zis 3 with a Butlers 3-D print behind. The metal cast wins on all fronts except cost and needing to put it together.
Positioning of the crew around the gun has become relevant with template weapons. The crew need to be near the gun but if spaced too tightly will suffer more heavily from template losses. There can be a slight advantage in how the crew is modelled to cope with this although in many cases having got the gun built and onto the table is success enough. This Butlers 5.5″ 3-D print is good enough and is probably the only 1/56 model available. The size of the human figures in comparison to those by the Zis guns above shows what a beast this is, rated a medium howitzer in Bolt Action.
In most Bolt Action lists an army can field 1 gun, 1 mortar, 1 tank and 1 armoured car. Mortars are a useful tool but as team weapons can be destroyed by 1 shot from a sniper. The typical sniper target priority being; other sniper, spotter, mortar, machine gun, officer. Light guns are a better buy if points are tight. They cost the same as a medium mortar and can’t be sniped out with 1 shot. One disadvantage is that the minimum HE indirect fire range is greater on light howitzers (24″) than on medium mortars (12″). This Butlers Obr27 Soviet light howitzer is a cheap and cheerful choice where points are scarce for a Zis3 or in a Soviet list where a Zis is not an available choice.
On choosing a gun anti-tank or howitzer is a swings and roundabouts decision, only a few howitzers (such as the British 25 pounder) boast a spotter but 2″ of HE at open sights is not to be sniffed at. Together with the early game sniper duel the indirect fire roll off is not unknown. 2 indirect fire weapons targeting each other both hoping to get the first round on target. Heavy mortars pack a 3″ punch and as they are not guns can be moved without a tow but are more points than mediums to lose when sniped or HE’d out. Any gun that is not medium or light should be bought with a tow. The reduced cost of the gun and avoiding the tow penalty making medium guns an enticing prospect. The Chinese have access to the German SFH18 heavy howitzer but have the bonus of no motorised tows in their list and relying on 10 points of regular horse limber to shift it. Unfortunately this gun is not readily available in 1/56 although the Japanese equivalent the Type 4 (also drawn by a horse team in the Manchuria list) is made by Mad Bob. It could be used as a captured ‘counts as’, in reality the SFH18 outranged the Type 4. In game terms they both ought to have massive long ranges and on the table would be equally destructive.
This resin Type 4 from Mad Bob has been glued to an infantry skirmish MDF base. Not the most attractive when empty but crew can be added then removed as necessary. An addded bonus here is that that crew could be Japanese or Chinese.