Bolt Action Home Guard In Halifax

Fancying running out something different I brought a ‘Dad’s Army’ force to the Bolt Action tournament at Penine Raiders in Halifax in May 2019.  The event required 3 forces, 500, 750 and 1,000 points all from the same army theatre but not true escalation.  Full escalation requires the 750 point list to be a subset of the 1,000 and the 500 a subset of the 750.  That makes for much more interesting list choices as a unit that might be ideal at 750 can be massively under-powered at 1,000.

The 500 point game was pegged at 1 hour and was in night fighting conditions.  Points were gained for destroyed units and prisoners.  When a unit lost a melee the surviving models from the loser were kept as prisoners who could in turn be freed by another melee or the shooting down of their guards.  This works for most forces but the fanatic players found that models were wiped out in the successive rounds of melee leaving very few left over to count as prisoners.

I faced up against Japanese with some un-charactaristically small squads.  The hill here had no effect as terrain.  Both sides have advanced on from their table edges.

My Home Guard militia unit get a shot off when they would have been better off running away.

The Japanese opposite banzai forwards, stripping their pin and take our lads to the cleaners.   In the centre of the picture our lads take a building but the wily Japs shoot them up at point blank range.

The Home Guard have 1 unit of veteran commandos.  They are on the look out for some Japanese to capture but the whole army is out maneuvered.  Some clever Japanese movement has given them local superiority on the other side of the table.

The Japanese shoot up our guys in the house with 1 unit then charge in and finish them off with another.   The only consolation is that the commandos catch up with the Japanese and free some prisoners from earlier.

Game 2 at 750 points looks like the jungle but sees our lads up against late war Germans in the demolition scenario.  The German tactic is to bull up the middle with a big tank and roll onto the objective.  This would have been my plan had I not gone with a ‘winning is overrated list’.  If both players had followed that list strategy a game would probably involve some dancing around of tanks with a win if 1 could knock the other out quickly enough.  Anticipating this plan my 25 pounder is sited well back to cover the objective.  The Home Guard militia are also close by with sticky bombs having some chance to charge and knockout the tank.  Giving the tank assault bonus to the commandos would be better as they have a higher moral but that goes against the spirit of this list.

The 25 pounder takes a 1/6 chance shot at indirect fire on the tank and misses.  If it gets 1st dice in the next turn it would try again with a 1/3 chance of a hit (it did not).  On the left flank our boys move towards the German objective.  It would not take a strategic genius to work out that I have an off-board flank attack penciled in over there.  The Germans are all over their own objective like a rash

Here they come, tank supported by a motor cycle combo.  Our off-board artillery strike gives the Germans in the back line a good mashing but not enough to destroy any units.  Centre board, a German jeep and its crew are sent off for an early bath.

Our flanking force comes on.  The German unit nearing them is racking up the pins but not enough to cause a (flight) morale check.

The key moment.  The 25 pounder shoots and needing a 4+ to hit then 4+ to kill misses completely.  A net 1/4 chance for a draw and probable win on points (that tank is a big point sink).  The other part of the anti-tank plan had been to assault the tank with the militia.  They had been drawn away by assaulting the motorcycle combo.  Their alternative being to go down or get hosed down under a hail of virtual lead.  The Home Guard commander could have contested and bought another turn (together with a possible 25 pounder shot) but the Panzer got him on the way in.

So after a chain of failures our boys find ourselves built up to 1,000 points against contemporary Belgians.   A lot of the Belgian army is veteran and they have some nifty tanks and carriers.  They run the French national rule of a free gun.   Both sides start with 750 points coming on turn 1 with an additional 250 points as an outflanking force rolling from turn 3.

In the first turns both sides move up to the cover close to the table centre.  Our 25 pounder ranges in on the Belgian gun opposite but despite numerous hits rolls a succession of 1s and takes a long time to wipe out the last crewman.  Our tank arrives from the flank but does minimal damage.  The Belgians come on at the opposite flank and our boys take hits.

The Belgian tank, despite its small size and being behind a building in this shot has armour 8, making it a mini Matilda 2.  It trades shots with our cardboard armoured A9.

The A9 is hit but only takes pins (hooray) then fails its morale and backs off (boo).  Its supporting infantry take out their Belgian opposite numbers (a veteran vs veteran face off decided by point blank SMG fire).  The pesky left flank gun is also taken out.  The Belgians, however, have done a better job of concentrating on the right flank and we lose a squad.  Game credit must, however be given to the Belgian sniper who took out his British equivalent and the HQ unit.  The clear tipping point to giving a Belgian victory other losses being relatively close.  Note Jones’ van hid behind a building brought as a possible transport for the commandos but mainly because it looks the part.

Net result our lads came bottom.  With a little luck they might have squeezed 7th (out of 8) as the kill point count of the next player up was not much greater.  I had hoped to not come last but win the ‘best theme’ army.  There turned out not to be a prize for that but there was a consolation prize for coming last.  Despite the obvious gaming problems the army held up reasonably well.  The forward observer was not allowed in the 500 point game (no free units for anyone) but came in with good effect in the other battles.  The veteran commandos did well, the inexperienced militia less well, picking up a shed load of pins from their green test in game 2.  We ran with a Vickers MkVI in game 2 and an A9 in game 3.  Both are armour 7 and both avoided destruction although that meant that they needed to be used cautiously.

On an organisational front the tourney started and ended on time and there were no major hissy fits over the rules.  I learnt some new game pointers and noted some rules that one opponent had steadfastly got wrong but these would not have swung the game and at the bottom line it is all just playing with toy soldiers.

Saga Age of Magic Playthrough

Thank you to Gripping Beast who provided ‘Age of Magic’ gratis  for review and refunded your author’s original payment for it.

‘Age of Magic’ is an expansion for Saga and does require the base Saga rules to play.  Special rules from the main rulebook are referenced but not detailed in this supplement.  The ‘Age of Magic’ dedicated spell cards and dice are not required.  Designs to make substitutes are available from Studio Tomahawk.  It is recommended to re-jig historical armies as the ‘Age of Magic’ lists rather than run their original boards although there is nothing in the rules system to stop the use of boards from other books.

‘Age of Magic’ introduces 6 new factions ‘The Otherworld’ (demons), ‘Masters of the Underearth’, ‘The Horde’, ‘The Lords of the Wild’, ‘The Undead Legions’ and ‘The Great Kingdoms’ (medieval society).  The existing Saga troop types are joined by warmachines, creatures (big), monsters (bigger), the lieutenant (a mini warlord) and sorcerers.

Each faction has its own battleboard and can choose spells from 2 of the 6 schools of magic.  There is an overlap in the magic schools available to the factions and some sharing of common troop types such as hearthguard and sorcerers but beyond that there is considerable difference in the load out available to the various factions.  This will please habitual list builders but also requires some thought into what to use to model each faction.

Each faction has a variant of the lieutenant class, as well as another unique troop variant and heroic units specific to that list.  There are also 2 sub lists of each faction with a restricted choice of troop types from within the parent faction but new specific abilities.  Some, possibly all, of these specialist units are identifiable as existing fantasy models.  ‘The Incredible and Extraordinary Machine’ is a Steam Tank, ‘Destruction Teams’ could be a Goblin Doom Diver.  ‘The Horde’ have a chariot that fits into the Orc or Goblin chariots.

With the rules only recently released many players will be looking to see how the models they already have fit into the existing factions.  ‘The Undead Legions’ are the simplest approach, models should reflect the concept of ‘undeadness’.     The other factions could be modeled by just about any fantasy trope as long as there is a consistent theme.   The restrictions are troop load out and battle board rather than setting related.

Consider a Games Workshop Lizardman force.  They have a back story of swamps and forest so ought to fit with ‘The Lords of the Wild’.  They certainly could be run as that faction but the related battleboard has 3 abilities linked to models with ranged weapons.  The Workshop Lizardmen are not modeled with bows and although spears and swords are legal as warriors or hearthguard in the ‘The Lords of the Wild’ list the army would be missing out on these 3 shooting key abilities.  The smaller Workshop skink figures have javelins so can run as levy or the blowpipe models could work as bow armed warriors (although a bit wimpy for warriors).  The various Lizardmen big models would easily fit in as creatures and monsters so the list can run but is it the optimal gaming choice?  Looking at the other boards the Lizardmen could easily fit in as ‘The Horde’ or as ‘The Otherworld’.  In a world where just about anything can be a demon, scales claws and teeth are a popular choice.  ‘The Otherworld’ does, however, have an option to make the entire army able to fly which the Lizardmen could only partly make use of, only a small proportion of their models being winged.

Fielding existing models in ‘Age Of Magic’ should not be a major issue.  The rules do state recommended base sizes but these ranges are quite generous and most Games Workshop type basing should fit in with no adjustments.   Apart from the rules, dice and troops each faction will need a specialist piece of terrain.  This does not count when working how much terrain has been selected when setting up a game but can be moved as part of the set up process.  Each piece of specialist terrain has some game effect.  Some examples will have limited influence on the game as they depend on one or both sides being close to the terrain.  The most useful piece is possibly the tunnel system of the ‘Masters of the Underearth’.  This faction alone has 2 pieces of special terrain.  Models can move from within VS of 1 piece to VS of the other and then cannot be activated again that turn.

To run the game out 2 armies based on Games Workshop Empire and Lizardmen armies were drawn up.  It might be best described as a game between 2 experienced but inexpert players.

The Great Kingdoms Empire
Warlord 0 points
Sorcerer 1 point
Incredible and Extraordinary Machine 2 points
Levy 1 point
2* Warrior 2 point
2*Hearthguard 2 points 6 models
Paladin Bought with 2 hearthguard figures
The Horde Lizardmen
Warlord 0 points
Sorcerer 1 point
Monster 1 point
Levy 1 point
2*Creatures 2 points, 1 extra model from removed Warrior models
2* Warriors 2 points, 12 figures
Hearthguard 1 point

We diced for deployment order then diced for sides so the Lizard special terrain ended up in the Empire zone (good) and the Empire terrain in the Lizard zone (bad).  The mound towards the centre of the table is ‘low uneven’ the other mound is a wood (the trees are a clue).

The Empire went first and rolled 3 very middling Saga dice results. Not wanting to get any closer to the Lizard horde the dice were spent on defensive abilities but no movement.

Off to a good start the Lizardmen cast a spell at maximum effect causing choking weeds from the nearby wood to exhaust the Empire hearthguard (mounted knights). The first of several spells to be ‘shot’ at maximum effect by both sides with no adverse result to either wizard. The rest of the Lizard horde advanced cautiously.

The Empire wizard tries to heal his hearthguard with a spell but only manages to strip 1 point of fatigue.  Foolishly the Empire did not allocate dice to rest the unit, hoping the wizard would do the job on his own.  The steam tank gets off a couple of shots.  It uses a levy die so has to share activation opportunities with the adjacent levy shot.  The ‘Great Kingdoms’ board has an advanced ability to shoot with 2 units but only if they are ‘M’ apart; spot the deployment error.  The Empire general uses a manoeuvre to  fly across the board to outside ‘L’ of the Lizard rear line.

The Lizard hearthguard come in and with good use of Saga abilities eliminate the Empire opposition at a loss of 1 of their own number.  The Lizard levy take a few useful shots and the rest of the army plods forward rather too slowly.

The Empire general charges the Lizard hearthguard but an error has been made.  Warlords have pride so he must charge the Lizard wizard instead.  The hearthguard combat is ‘rolled back’  there should be 1 more Lizard hearthguard on the table from now on but this did not affect the game.  The Lizard wizard was off for an early bath.  Elsewhere some shooting and a warrior on warrior melee knocks the Lizard warrior unit down a bit.

A clash of Warlords is up next; both started the combat equal in abilities and melee dice.  The Empire decided not to take chances and activated ‘Legendary Hero’ to become invulnerable but exhausted.  The Lizard warlord cannot win and recoils ‘S’ after the combat.  The Lizard army takes a chance and charges their warriors into the exhausted warlord although those warriors are coming in with 2 fatigue.  At this point the importance of resilience and fatigue comes in.  The Empire warlord has resilience 2.  If the warriors go straight to dice rolling they will need 1 hit to kill the Warlord but the Empire spends the warrior fatigue to make his armour 6.  Seven dice needing a 6 ought to do it.  Spending a warlord fatigue would mean seven dice needing 5s.  Not one 5 but three because the warlord can take two as a single fatigue (as he is now down to 2 fatigue not 3)and the third kills.  Not only have the odds of success dropped but each hit can be saved on a 5+ so needing more hits increases the chance of some being saved.  In the end the wrong choice was made, 1 hit got through which the warlord could now spend on a fatigue and stay in the game.  The Lizardmen warriors got a good thrashing for their pains, even exhausted a warlord packs a punch.

The Empire warriors polish off the Lizardmen warriors.  This clears a path for the human wizard to ride up and strip some of the fatigue off the Empire Warlord who is then able to polish off his Lizardman counterpart.

There are still lots of Lizardmen left but their advance has been broken up.  The creatures at the back have been forgotten and should at least have manoeuvred closer to the action.  An attack on the Empire warriors by the closer creature unit is beaten off.  The steam tank would have been a better target because yields only 1 die in melee.

The humans shuffle about, tidying up the line and remove what fatigue they can.  They get off a few ineffective shots.

Lizardmen charges have limited results, the fight is starting to go out of them although they are still rolling 5 Saga dice.

The Empire wizard flies over his own troops to charge and take out the Lizardmen hearthguard.  One of the Lizardmen levy archer units finally loses a figure to shooting.  A total of 2 more dice dropped by Team Lizard.

Another Lizardmen turn was possible but with most of Team Lizard back in the changing room the game was called as an Empire victory.

The important gaming experience of this battle was of resilience and as a result of that fatigue. In the historical lists only the warlord and the Russian wagon deal with resilience.  Here it also applies to monsters, creatures, warmachines, wizards and lieutenants.  As we found out you don’t want your own resilient units in combat with a high fatigue count.  Resilience can be used to take fatigue instead of losses so the more fatigue you are holding on to the more likely you are to take losses.  The creatures have some leeway as they have more than 1 model in a unit.  Wizards and warlords have the bodyguards rule but for other troop types 1 hit that cannot be cancelled by fatigue will be the end for it.  The direct consequence of this in the battle was a lot of resting and consequently slightly less moving around by the big hitting units.  The Empire brought spells that could cancel fatigue and also inflict fatigue on enemy units.  This was an important factor in their overall victory.

Although this was an 8 point game and the players started with 6 (Empire) and 8 (Lizardmen) Saga dice there did not seem enough good dice scores to go around.  Monsters are powerful but they share an activation box with levy and war machines.  This means that an army with a high proportion of these troop types will be hard to get going.  Monsters have the added disadvantage of being unable to activate with advanced Saga abilities.  This all points to the relative benefit of creatures who although not as powerful are multi model units and activate as warriors.   Both warlords were mounted on creatures giving them a bonus in combat dice but losing the ‘we obey’ rule making shifting bodies of troops even harder.