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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

hmortar

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

ZIS

JAP75

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.

ba64

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.

uCarrier

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.

t28

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Bolt Action US Marines

I have armies for all the major Bolt Action nations except for the USA so inevitably I am taking the plunge.  I went for USMC rather than the other USA flavours because I have a Japanese army (used twice) for them to play with.  Warlord have a New Guinea campaign book and the USMC were at Bougainville island, part of the Territory of New Guinea.   The new USA formations in that book are, however, army rather than marines.  There is some revised USMC material in the Empires in Flames book.  There are 2 relevant lists in the original armies of USA book. This article is an attempt at the 1944-45 list keeping to the book restrictions, trying to make the force relatively historical, yet hoping for something that has some hope of winning.

Osprey have a number of books on the USMC and their campaigns in WW2. For the more thrifty there is a fine selection of official USMC WW2 documents on-line.  These were originally aimed at marines and prospective marines.  There is some discussion of small unit encounters and the images although small are useful.  Take note that the text indicates the sentiments of the times and does not favour the Japanese viewpoint.

By the latter part of the war a full strength marine squad was of 13 men with 3 BARs, able to spilt into 3 fire teams of 4 with a BAR in each and an overall commander.  The commander was supposed to command and direct rather than shoot except when all out firepower was required.   The USMC list allows this, at regular with 3 BARs and 1 SMG (to identify the NCO) costing 148 points.  Run 3 of these for a full platoon with a commander and assistant at 504 points.  Double that, drop a man and you have a 2 platoon army at 1,000 points.  Neither is a great solution as 3 platoons is too few and 6 rules out any support and pays the HQ tax twice.  The full strength platoon is an option that can be done straight from the USMC army box as that has 42 men, leaving 2 for officers and 1 to observe for the mortar that also comes in the box.  If going with the (30 man) platoon box, 2 will be needed to make up enough marines and BARs.

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There should be a 13 man squad here with 3 BARs but another guy snuck into the shot

You cannot have a marine infantry squad below 7 in number with this list (the earlier marine raiders unit does) so splitting into individual fire teams is not going to work.  Even if it did units of 4 are very vulnerable to 50% losses and failing morale checks.  The 3 full strength squads could be deployed as 13, 9 (1 team detached), 9 and 8 (2 detached squads operating together).  Each of these after the 1st would have 2 BARs.  Another BAR could be squeezed in under Bolt Action list rules but 3 BARs in a squad of 8 would be against doctrine plus would reduce the ratio of ‘redshirts’ required to keep the BARs operating.  Squads of 13 veterans are a big points sink so running an understrength squad of 8 with 2 BARS and a SMG on the NCO runs to 117 points.  Any marine can carry a pistol in addition to other weapons for 1 point.  This confers assault and tough fighter.  It is a good way to soak up 9 or less left over points in an army.  It is a bonus best given to the BAR men as they are less likely to be chosen as casualties and it makes some sense that a BAR might be an encumbrance in hand to hand.

The USMC army list uses the army engineers squad which does not work out for the marine organisation.  Marines did have assault or demolition squads but these should include a bazooka and a flamethrower but have no BARs.  The best the list can do is the option to add a flamethrower and the anti-tank and minefield gear that is probably not needed.  It is a means to add another 7 men to the army without breaking force organisation rules.  A fair choice at veteran but 7 regulars is quite flimsy.  93 points at regular (with 1 SMG) with the flame guy saving the 50 for a standalone team and a slight points saving overall (93-50=43 for 5 shooting regulars).  A mortar with spotter is always a good buy in any army.  If the marines were to do a beach assault the same problem will crop up as in the real assaults.  In many cases the mortar will be too close to target the enemy you want to be hitting.  The MMG options come in the army box, historically they are a good supply of firepower for a small investment in manpower.  If running with a full company and sticking to the organisation they are a good buy.  If running with a looser army, perhaps 2 platoons below strength acting together more regular squad boots are the way to go.

The USA ‘secret powers’ are firing without the penalty for moving, the ability to call in 2 airstrikes and to bring on reserves without the -1 roll.  The first and last are OK but not up to the standard of the British, French and Soviet free units.  The airstrike rule is useful but you have to buy the observer, obvious sniper bait.  Airstrikes stick with units and move with them so need to be landed on a unit that has moved or is unlikely to move.  Otherwise units close by the target scatter and the target may even rush your own lines to try to share out the pins.  Driving off airstrikes is also relatively easy in v2 providing some sort of pintle weapon is to hand.  Even so having watched ‘Flying Leathernecks’ and seen references to air and naval gun support it is tempting not to include an air observer with a marine list.  Having paid for this a sniper is a clear buy as some way to counteract possible enemy snipers.  Other USMC sniper bait that should be bought include the Bazooka, a hefty 60 points but a mobile anti-tank asset and the war dog.  At 18 points the dog is a very cheap dice.

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Bazooka and sniper teams

Several scenarios have hidden set up and the ability to remove this while staying out of sight oneself is valuable.   EasyArmy could be clearer but on checking the book the dog is a weapon for the handler not a separate model.  You can’t take a hit on the handler and leave the dog.

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Dog, observers and HQ. The pooch is from Crooked Dice

Throw in the 37mm gun and 3 regular squads with flamer engineer squad, observer, mortar, war dog and veteran sniper comes to 937 points.

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Mortar and 37mm ATG

A MMG and mate for the observer or stack of pistols would round off under 1,000 points.  To get a bit more flexibility will require dropping some infantry as 63 points (1,000 – 937) does not buy much.

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Warlord 30 Cals, the standing guy with the MMG would make a good Sgt Rock

The USMC can choose a jeep or White scout car as recce but the scout car is really an early or mid war solution.  There were plenty of jeeps so running one with a MMG is reasonable.  This could be seen as an adapted jeep or a MMG team who jump out or fire over the side.  At 36 points this is a lot less than the team alone (50 points) and unlike the raw team would be hard to snipe away.  The only downside is that 1 shot could knock out the jeep (hit, followed by 6, followed by 4+ damage roll) but 3 (hits followed by 5+ for regulars) would be needed for the team.

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This Matchbox jeep has been cut modded for 3 different armies but never used on the table

Stoking up to 1250 points allows some armour choice.  The tank selection has several flame tank options.  These are historical but are often banned in competitive play so best not go there.  Of the Stuarts there are some wrecked M3A1s on Guadacanal and The Solomons that probably date from 1943.  The M3A3 would be ending its useful life and some USMC units were issued with the M5A1.  The Bolt Action list includes the M8 Scott.  This is a cavalry howitzer support vehicle, although it was used in the Pacific it is probably best confined to the army.   The M7 Priest was used by the USMC in 1945 and being open topped saves a few points over buying a tank.  Marine armour was most likely to be Shermans.  The M4A2 or early M4A3 version is best including the howitzer variant.  The later 76mm versions were not used by the Marines in order to minimise different ammunition issue.  Those versions have a different turret and bigger gun so are not the tanks you want.  There are various M3 half track variants in the armour list but some will require modding up a vanilla M3.  There are some nice period images of WW2 armour in the Pacific on this Sherman tank site.  This does include a M8 Scott but the caption does not make it clear if it is in use with the army or the marines.  Rather more fun but not available on the list are the LVT supports that had all sorts of stuff welded on including a rocket launcher version.

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LVT-2 and Sherman

The LVT route is worth going down if only for period feel.  A LVTA2 with 2MMGs is 116 points but a M3 comes out at 114.  A slight tax for the amphibious rule that is unlikely ever to be called into play.  The tank versions LVTA1 or LVTA4 look the part but were best used as fire support parked just off the beach in the surf so are less common inland.  The transports could show up either crossing small bodies of water or moving through swampy ground.  Transports are a poor buy in Bolt Action, better to have another squad and make them all walk but do add colour and the pintle guns are handy if your own planes come in on them.  You can put 18 men in a LVT2 and 30 in the LVT4 enough for a squad, a flame team and maybe a commander.   The original LVT is a soft-skin, massively over-costed at 98 points and not likely to be a popular choice in the combat role by this time in the war.

The USMC army box partly matches the army plan above.  It is one of the more expensive army boxes but these items are often discounted and may be a better buy than getting the parts separately.  It has enough infantry for the correct BAR ratio, the mortar is always useful and for an infantry only army the 37mm anti-tank gun is more use than the pack howitzer.  The 2 MMG teams are overkill, taking 1 is a luxury although they do give a correct if expensive firepower to boots on the ground ratio.  The M3 half track is the odd man out.  The marines did have M3s but no dedicated mechanised infantry units.  The M3s would be more likely used in a HQ or support role rather than a troop transport.  As some consolation M3s do show up in a couple of episodes of HBO’s The Pacific.  With some modelling and a spare 75mm howitzer (ideally the French 75mm as that was the basis of the gun used) the M3 GMC could be built as this is in the Bolt Action lists and was used by the marines in the Pacific.  Alternately Company B have a ready made one in their range.  The later version of the M3 GMC has a box canopy over the gun, it would only offer limited protection but in Bolt Action terms the vehicle loses open topped.

The M3 was probably chosen to put in the army box as it is a plastic kit and a better item to profit from in volume that a resin model.  A Sherman would have been a good choice but Warlord issued that with the US Army box and may not have wished to duplicate their efforts.  If repackaged now the best choice from amongst the Warlord plastic models available would have been the M3A1 Stuart.

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The whole army awaiting allotment to billets

 

Bolt Action – Operation Nachteule

Another trip to Leeds Night Owls where 16 players took part in an escalation Bolt Action tournament.  500, 750 then 1,000 points with the same pool of units being used for all the games.  I took the same list as at Operation Chillstorm and cut it down for the 750 and 500 point games.

The 500 point games were played in a 1-hour slot including set up so could have been a push to finish.  I played against Italian colonials featuring a lot of inferior tough fighters including a unit of cavalry.  I kept a mortar and the quad maxim truck but otherwise went all infantry

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There were 3 objectives to hold in a line like a capital ‘I’ across the centre of the table running between the 2 long edges.  To hold an objective you had to be touching it at the game end or had to be close by to contest.  The inferior Italians did not do well against the quad maxim and my regular fire kept them back.  The cavalry did charge in but despite being tough fighters still lost the assault.  We played about 3 turns with my Soviets controlling 2 objectives to 0 Italians plus the Italians were running out of units.  If the game had continued the result would probably have been the same.

For the 750 point game I dropped the Zis gun, flamethrower and some infantry to face Germans.  The Germans had a wheeled thing with a big gun seen in the woods plus a quad AAA on a big half track.  His infantry was all regular with the odd panzerfaust and assault rifle but not maxed out with either.  The game was fought with 5 objectives set out like a capital ‘N” as seen on the image.  A unit had to be within 3″ of an objective to hold or contest.  Set up was across the diagonal of the board.

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The wheeled thing (all I know is that it is not a Puma and had a big anti-tank gun) made short work of the infantry unit.  I had hoped to draw an early dice and assault it before it moved (it was open topped).  The German quad AAA hung around the woods at the top of the image.  It got one good shot off on my inferior squad but I caught it with a mortar round and 2 turns of bombardment saw it take an early bath.  This game ended as a draw with similar losses on both sides.

For the final game I fought British commandos, a veteran force except for a regular Churchill tank.  There were 7 objectives, 3 across the centre line and 2 staggered back 1′ in from each side’s base edge.  In this game objectives were controlled by the last player to get within 3″ of them.  It was not necessary to keep a unit by each objective and unlike the other games vehicles could take objectives.

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The British player took 2 off board forward observers.  I destroyed one in melee before he did any harm the other got a bombardment off that hit my scouts  and flamethrower team (who survived with a pile of pins).  I lost my sniper to a 1st turn sniper duel having failed to snipe off a forward observer.

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The British had 1 big squad that put out 20+ dice of firepower and a Churchill tank that caused took out my faithful BA10.  The rest of his army was of relatively small units which had difficulty covering enough ground to take many objectives.  Given time he might have been able to cut through my forces one unit at a time.  As time ending was called we worked out that the key shot would be the British sniper knocking a Soviet squad member off and leaving the others not within 3″ of an objective so it could be controlled by the British not contested.  The sniper had lost his mate, needed a 4+ and whiffed it.  A narrow win for my Soviets.

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In conclusion a nice session with 3 pleasant games and no serious rules issues.  We did need to look up some rules conflicts but that is the only way to really get to know the rules and there were no tears.  My most valuable unit was the scouts again.  They took a lot of incoming that allowed the rest of the army to get on with its job.

The event was well organised with prizes for everyone.  We all picked some Warlord sprues and at the end the prizes were set on a table with players coming up in turn (1st, best painted, 2nd and so on) to choose a prize.  The winner took home a nice battle mat having brought a Japanese army with maxed out squads, 2 of whom were bamboo fighters together with a Stuart bristling with guns and a dinky little tank.  I think the last player picked up some VBCW/LDV/Civilian 28mms, I already have some of these models and can attend them as a nice prize.  I picked up another Hanomag for my rarely used Germans.

Bolt Action: On the Beaches of Kent

This is the second campaign scenario from the Sea Lion book, following on from the Brandenburger raid.  The game was played at 1,000 points with about 200 points out of each side’s allowance used for special features.  The British force has a pill box/bunker, 2 6″ square minefields and 3 sections of barbed wire,  No one dared go through the minefields to find out what they did.  The barbed wire acted as an obstacle to infantry.  Most of the British were infantry.  They did have 3 universal carriers as reserves.  1 was the recce choice the others transports with a 5 man squad riding along.  The game did give a choice of whacky home defence weapons such as the Smith gun.  I did not have models for these and looking at the stats buying solid regular infantry seemed a better choice.

The Germans had to buy boats to come on.  4 assault craft at 25 points each that held up to 6 figures and 1 barge at 100 points with a much larger capacity.  The German force had to be chosen to fit in the boats so there were 3 squads of 6 and a mortar, anti-tank rifle and the HQ fitting in the small boats.  In reality the boat with the mortar and its ammo would probably be seriously overloaded.  The barge included 2 large squads, 1 of pioneers with a flamethrower and a howitzer.  Only 1 unit can debark from the barge each turn restricting its use as an invasion node.  The Germans also had a ‘swimming tank’, a PzIII in the book but I used as Pz38.  This runs along the sea bed and might turn up or might sink.  Luckily for some it showed up on turn 2.  I umpired the game with a novice player taking the Germans, the British player did not cut him many breaks.

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To win the Germans need to get off the beach (the brown strip) for 2 points per unit or off board for 3 points.  The British get points for destroying German units.  The Germans start to land. Only 2 British combat units and the HQ were deployed on the board.  The German pre-game bombardment only handed out a few pins.

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The Germans land over a wide front but avoid the bunker and minefields.  They begin to take losses from the universal carriers which they can only pin.

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On the other flank the tank shows up, which the British cannot destroy.  The crater model represents a landing barge.  It has disgorged a unit of pioneers and a howitzer.  The British on the nearby dune are in trouble.

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Meanwhile the other Germans are under heavy fire.

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More infantry land from the barge.  The pioneers have taken losses and FUBAR’d.  The howitzer and tank are poorly positioned.

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Withering fire sees the German flank collapse and British victory points soar.

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The British unit on the dunes is wiped out.  The HQ moves to a safer distance.

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The German tries to overrun the British HQ with the tank but they pass their morale and dodge out of the way.

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With the tank distracted a carrier moves out of hiding beyond the dunes and causes more German casualties.

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The German could of run an infantry unit and the tank off board for another 2 points but the game had timed out and it was clear that a German breakthrough was not on the cards, casualties being too high on the beaches.  The German attack is heavily constrained by their boats in this scenario.  To get ashore quickly they need the tiny assault boats.  The British can afford to concentrate fire on the 6 man units coming out of the boats.  Even with veteran status these will soon shrink to a size where they throw out minimal firepower.  A better German plan might of been to cram landing units into as tight an area as possible to prevent the British taking them out piecemeal.  Even so the classic ratio for a successful attack is 3:1 not the 1:1 of a standard Bolt Action game.

Operation Chillstorm

I dug my Russians out and headed to Chapeltown near Sheffield for Operation Chillstorm at Chillcon 2017.  Chapeltown is relatively near to Blackshaw Head, only £15 return on the train but taking 2 1/2 hours due to the train stopping at almost every station in the 2 counties.

I did consider running a Lend Lease Kursk list relying on a Soviet Lee and White armoured car with 2 MMGs and 1 HMGs.  This is a serious infantry shredding combination but at a cost of roughly 330 points.  The White is also prevented from shooting all 3 of its guns at the same target due to their arcs of fire.  Instead I fell back on a list similar to that I trotted over to Leeds Night Owls.  I dropped the tank hunters as they could never go fast enough to catch any tanks.  I put up a flamethrower although on retrospect these guys are a bullet magnet.  I upped my sniper to veteran.  Sniper duels are quite frequent and in general a veteran sniper will take out any opposing regular sniper.  I also upped squads to full strength where possible.  Full strength allows a re-roll on order tests.  Especially useful when coming in from reserve.   Here is my Chillcon list for the curious.

There were only 6 of us playing and almost everyone was a Soviet.  Oddly the v1 flavour of choice was veteran commando/paras/Gurkhas with lots of SMGs.  Also strange not to come across a German list with the world’s supply of panzerfausts and a panzer just big enough to cause tank fear.  Eventually I came half way up the field at 3rd and pulled off best painted so a good day out.  There seemed to be a strong trade showing but I managed to avoid any excessive purchasing.

On with the games, first off I faced a Japanese force in the Sectors scenario.

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The board is divided into 4 quarters with both forces in opposing quadrants.  Points are gained for putting units in the empty quadrants and bonus points for being in the enemy set up quadrant.  Having bought scouts I had the advantage of forward deploy to get that unit in one empty quadrant at set up.  I also rolled well on the pre-game bombardment.  This can only kill on a 6 and will only damage 1 model.  The Japanese player had deployed a jeep with a flamethrower team in it on board.  This took a 6, destroying the jeep.  The linked D6 hits on the crew took out the flamethrower team as well.  There is a lesson in deployment here children.

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Our boys did well with a clear win and impressive kill ratio, note the lack of Nips in the end game picture above.  The Japanese infantry did a lot of Banzai runs, stripping a pin as they moved towards me.  I had enough firepower to destroy the units (a quad AAA never does any harm) before they got close while also moving in on the Japanese quarters.

Game 2 was the Demolition game against Soviets.  We discussed this before starting and agreed that it is a hard scenario to win.  A unit must begin a turn adjacent to the opponent’s objective (we used the vehicles on the centre of the table edges).  This requires some very gutsy moving up the centre and taking a lot of lumps on the way down.  The other approach is the longer path down the side with a possible flank march. Any flank attack is going to need to wait until turn 4 to come in deep enough and would have to run for 2 turns to even touch an objective or rely on a vehicle.  My opponent came up the centre with his T34/85.  I had a BA10, Zis and inexperienced squad that might have taken it out.  I did get a pin (maybe 2) on it and the tank failed one order test, going back and buying me more time.

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The white dice by the Zis is the opposition’s heavy mortar ranging in on me.  I took 1 more ranging in attempt (a miss) then shifted the gun.

Our boys did OK on the left flank but we worked out that the game would not run to turn 6 or 7.  In a last ditch to break through I ran the scouts at the opposition’s inexperienced squad but they were mown down by ambush fire.  We called the game on points, a draw but I had destroyed more units by about 10 points.

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Things were looking up but it all went pear shaped on the last game.  This was the Manhunt mission and I had not thought the scenario out enough.  I picked the defender (1st lesson you need to be the attacker).  The defending units are set up in a 12″ diameter circle based on the centre of the table.  One of these units is the commander.  If he is captured through losing in hand to hand combat the game is lost.  It is won by keeping him alive or having him destroyed by shooting.  This scenario cannot generate a draw.  I lost on turn 2  and believe that another player had a similar lesson.

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I played against Soviets again, unfortunately these pictures did not come out well.  I did not fully understand the reinforcement rules here and paid the price.  On turn 1 units can come on from their home board edge only.  On subsequent turns units can enter from any board edge that an opposition unit has not used that turn.  So if you drew the 1st 4 dice a unit could be brought on from each of the 4 edges keeping all opposing off board units out of the game that turn.  I initially placed my HQ 2′ and a bit from the opposing edge.  My opponent ran on units including 1 that entered a building.  The next turn he ran out of the building and assaulted my HQ.  Moving within a building between turns being free. We carried on the game for fun leading to several other situations where my HQ might have been assaulted.

Thinking back on the game I should have deployed my HQ about 32″ from the enemy edge and placed the scouts (who with ‘forward deploy’  do not need to deploy in the central circle) behind my HQ towards my own edge.  If the enemy came on from my edge on turn 2 they would need to assault through the scouts.  If they came from their own edge on turn 1 they could not get to my HQ on turn 2.  Both side edges would also be out of reach.  This should guarantee survival to turn 3 from when things will firm up a bit as there will be less troops left to come on.

Manhunt is a mission best played if rolled randomly as with prior knowledge there are several list choices that could help out.  Maxing out the HQ size to boss and 2 friends might help a little.  Having more units will mean more dice and a better chance of an early dice draw and closing off a board edge even if some of those units are of minimal combat use.  A defender could bring on a transport, load up the HQ then run back and forth.  Running vehicles cannot be assaulted and if the vehicle is shot at the HQ might be destroyed, winning the game.  The only defence would be to hope to pick a dice and assault before the vehicle gets to run.

Bolt Action Brandenburger Coastal Raid

This is the first scenario in the Sea Lion campaign book.  It is a patrol scenario designed for forces of around 500 points preferably made up of small size squads.  The forces here are approximately 500 points and just about equal but not exact for a number of reasons.  The book had just arrived and I had it to hand not the German or British army books.  I failed to find the minefield points as these are buried in the text not together with the minefield summary charts.  I also missed putting on a 2nd British HQ, paid for German SMGs that I did not use and used a British carrier that as armour should not have been in the scenario.

The British are all Home Guard and inexperienced apart from the carrier and the single unit holding the crucial communications hub (telephone box).  The infantry are in units of 8 or 10 giving some chance of inexperienced troops staying around but resulting in only 5 combat, 1 command and 1 vehicle dice.

The Germans are veterans, 3 combat units of 5 or 6 men, 2 demolition squads of 2 men, a single Abwehr agent and the commander.  7 combat units but the boats had to be paid for adding another 4 dice for a total of 11.  This worked out rather well as the few large Home Guard squads stayed in the game but being unable to split attacks had limited firepower.  The more numerous Germans were more manoevrable but suscepatble to losses and multiple pins.  There was not quite enough boat space so the Abwehr agent met up with the boats on the beach.  Boats moved onto the beach with their activation, a further dice would move the Germans out of each boats.  The British did take a punt at one boat as it came ashore and before it debouched its passengers but this fire had no effect.  The demolition squad members had a satchel charge each as did the Abwehr agent.  Any of these could blow up the communications centre if they began their activations adjacent to the sandbagged area and rolled a 5+.

The British start with 2 infantry units and the command on the table.  Only 1 unit can be within 6″ of the objective so this is where the best troops are.  The British do not know where the Germans will land but do have 2 minefields, discretely marked with pine trees, on the board.  The brown raised areas are sand dunes, blocking soft cover.  The British get no forward observer.  Their special rule is rapid fire, useless for inexperienced troops.  They also gain +1 on morale tests taken when a unit is in cover.  I misread this rule and instead gave the British an extra +1 on being shot at while in cover.

Germans are ashore.  The pin dials mark where the boats would be if I had brought boat models.

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Turns 2 and 3 are uneventful.  The Germans move up, a few shots are fired handing out some pins all round.  None of the Britsh reinforcements make it onto the table.

This is turn 4.  The on-table dice are order dice as I only brought 1 set of Bolt Action order dice.  Dice in wheels indicate pins, shown by the wheel not the die face.  2 British units have come on table including the carrier which the Germans could only destroy by assualting or wasting a satchel charge.  They could however pin it with firepower.

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Turn 5 and the Germans close in, taking losses and pins but most of the satchel charge models are still in the game.

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End of turn 5.  The Germans had got 3 bombers adjacent to the objective whose garrison are pinned.  The Germans got the 1st 2 dice of turn 6 and pulled the satchel pins but neither device did any significant damage.  With no hope of a win the Germans pull back.

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More Germans are cut down on the retreat back to the boats.  As some consolation the British commander is cut down in one of the last shots of the game.

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The game took 1 1/2 hours.  My opponent took the Germans and although primarily a 40K man ran through the actions quickly enough.  There was less for the British to do.  Being inexperienced, ‘take activation test’,  ‘fail’ was a common action.  Several mistakes were made with the scenario rules and the points costing but the core game idea was robust enough to stand up to it.

7TV Rumble in the Railyard

7TV 2nd Edition is available as a free download from Crooked Dice or as a boxed set of rules, cards and markers.  It is set in the late 1960s but includes details for just about any period covering much the same ground as Pulp Alley.  7TV involves a little less detail than Pulp Alley so will require a few more figures.  A typical Pulp Alley league might be 4 to 6 models.  The 7TV starter sets are of 8 models rated as 30 points with a 50 point game suggested as a medium size.  While comparing both systems consider what you get for your nothing in each case.  The Pulp Alley demo set has all the basic cards and most rules but only 2 leagues.  Additional leagues can be found around the Internet and the missing rules can be easily worked out.  7TV includes all the rules and cards including vehicles and squad weapons, you need another book for that in Pulp Alley.  Various 7TV paid expansions do add more model types and rules.  There are also some free expansion 7TV PDFs if you poke around the Crooked Dice download engine (Gumroad), at the time of writing Scooby Doo, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Star Wars cards.

It is difficult to play either game with just the computer files.  Printing the rules and cards using a cheap black and white laser printer is a minimum.  The Pulp Alley style is largely black and white and all printed acceptably.  The 7TV basic rules are clearly laid out for printing but the cards use spot colour making some parts,including the essential defence rating hard to see in monochrome.  A case for a colour printer (shudder), inking in the dark bits or making your own unit summaries.

The core of the game system are plot points, a name that has a completely different meaning here than in Pulp Alley.  In 7TV a plot point is an activation point.  Players get 2 per heroic star, 1 per co-star and 1 per 2 extras.  The unit types relate to their cost and abilities.  It costs 1 plot point to activate 1 model.  An activation allows 2 actions but in general only 1 can involve a combat action.  2 actions can be used for moving, other actions include using special abilities and solving clues.  Unless a force is made up entirely of heroic stars and co stars there will not be enough points to activate every unit independently.  Luckily some models are leaders and can activate other close by models for free.  Plot points are also spent to activate the more useful special actions (such as invisibility) and to add to combat.  Shooting and hand to hand involves the defender rolling a dice and adding to their defence value.  The attacker then rolls a dice and adds that to a combat value, winning if the defender’s score is equalled or beaten.  The twist is that for each plot point spent an additional die is rolled.  The final score is the base value plus the value of the highest dice rolled plus an additional 1 for each other dice than the 1st which scored 4 or more.  The defender will be allocating additional dice before he knows what the attacker will roll and the attacker knows the defender’s final score before deciding to commit additional dice to the combat.

Cards are used to mark the game progress.  There are 3 decks each of increasing severity but none strong enough to throw off the game.  The decks are of 15 cards each but the number used depends on the table size.  A 4′ by 4′ game uses 6 of each card.  Each player turn a card is turned over making a potential 9 double-turn game (18 cards).  Sometimes more cards will be used in a turn so this would be the maximum game length.  Possibly the oddest event is one that causes a piece of terrain to be moved or removed.  It might be sensible to mark terrain as moveable or not before the game for this purpose.  A car might be driven away, a pile of boxes collapse but a brick outhouse is unlikely to be going anywhere.  There are also gadget cards which are allocated at the beginning of the game.  The basic method is to draw 2 per heroic star or co star, examine the cards and keep half to use in the game, spending an action to do so.  A tweak might be to remove gadget cards that cannot possibly be used before the draw.  For example some affect machines or robots none of which might be present.

For a first attempt I chose figures that were close to hand facing off the villainous cultists against The Doctor, a scientist side kick, some Rozzers and a police car.  Although both sides had 30 points the police were clearly outclassed.  In retrospect some intellectual types and police armed with wooden sticks would be unlikely to do well against a bunch of rifle armed cultist nutters.  The police have the interesting ability to arrest characters.  they did eventually beat down the cultist stone golem and get it into the van but by then were all dropping to cultist rifle fire.  The police strength was further reduced by having to spend points to buy the police vehicle and setting someone aside to drive it.  The Doctor and scientist might have been good at sorting out robots and machinery but were not up to a straight fight.  Basic hand weapons inflict 0 damage but can stun the enemy, 2 stuns make a kill but you only get 1 attack each turn.  When stunned the opponent can spend a plot point to recover making any kind of fisticuffs long winded unless you can pile on at an advantage of numbers.  All this makes sense with the lesson being the forces selected need to reflect the opposition and the task involved, just picking 2 equal points teams and having it away may not work out.

Police Raid

I had another go in a 35 point game but kept to the unarmed police as the figures were out of the box and they do not get as much use on the table as they should.

Here is the set up representing a railway shunting yard.  The objective markers indicate the railway carriages that need to be searched.  There is no need to climb on top of them.

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Here are the Rozzers and their police van (I have had that a very long time).  The star (in front) has a pistol, everyone else has truncheons.  The girl is the co-star.  One policeman is the sergeant and can activate nearby flat foots at 1/2 a token per figure.  The red tokens are their starting plot points.

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The bad guys, a criminal mastermind, mad scientist, head thug and regular thugs.  Everyone but the scientist has a pistol.

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The Rozzers set up close to 2 objectives.  All the police standing around the van are actually riding in it.

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The bad guys begin close to 2 (out of 3) objectives.

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The police drive up, get out of the van and approach 1 objective.  The girl secures another.

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Our great detective secures the 3rd objective.

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The bad guys move up, secure 2 objectives and approach the 3rd.  Up to this point much use has been made of the cover provided by the rolling stock.

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Both sides inch around the passenger carriage.

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In a key game move a turn card allows 2 figures to swap places.  The mad scientist and girl swap exposing the young lady to charging from the thug gang.

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The police come round, too late to save their co-star but with the hope of securing the objective she was holding.

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Truncheons are not a match for pistols and things look bad for the forces of law and order (note there are less of them now).

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At the other side of the field the criminal mastermind and lead detective exchange pistol shots.

7tv13The mad scientist throws a nerve gas canister and weakens most of the police.  There was a rules error here as the canister should have been centred on the scientist rather than thrown (he is immune to the gas).

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A game card allows the scientist to retrieve the gas canister which would otherwise have been a one-use gadget.  Having read the rules he now walks up to the weakened police and pulls the plug.  Figures that suffer the same effect twice lose a life and these Bobbies have only 1 life to give.

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With over half their models lost the police fail their nerve test and the the show is over, halfway through act 2 (out of a possible 3).   Man of the match must be the mad scientist. He never engaged in any combat but drew the girl into the open and gassed the police not once but twice.

Hostage rescue

In any pulp type game the key to success is a believable scenario where there is a reason to do something other than run around and shoot things.  Both Pulp Alley and 7TV give their models statistics other than fight and run and the scenario should make use of these.  Statistic tests are built into the Pulp Alley game cards.  The 7TV ‘non-martial’ statistics are tested less often in the basic scenarios where the models run around and pick up victory locations by moving onto them.  The following game is based loosely on the scenario in the Scooby Doo 7TV download.

We have been tipped off by our contacts in the criminal underworld that the missing teenager is being held against her will by the notorious evil cult.  We have been observing their movements (the hooded robes are a subtle clue) and are sure that the hostage is being held at this location.  We cannot be exactly sure where she is but have identified the 6 most probable places.  We need to get in there and effect a rescue before the cult is able to react.

There are 6 objective tokens.  The cult do not receive any benefit from controlling them.  At the beginning of every cultist turn after their first they receive an additional ** if the forces of law and order have not gained a new objective in their previous turn.  When the opposition do gain an objective roll 1D6.  If the total is <= to the number of objectives previously secured then the hostage has been found.  Replace that objective with a bystander model representing the hostage.  The hostage is assumed to be restrained so a test based on FIGHT or MIND must be passed to free the hostage.  Extra dice may be spent on this task which requires a dedicated action.  When the hostage model is freed she can be activated for free by any adjacent model (cultist or law enforcement) if no model from the opposing faction is not also adjacent to the hostage.  No model from either side may use an attack with a range >0 that will pass at any point in its path within 1″ of the hostage base.

Victory is based on the standard victory conditions with the addition of:

+5 to the law and order team for getting the hostage off the table
+3 to the law and order team for being adjacent to the hostage
-3 to the cultists for being adjacent to the hostage
-3 to the cultists if the hostage is not found

To summarise the hostage must be found, freed and rescued. The cultists are able to grab the hostage back.  Neither side wants to risk injuring the hostage.  That would look bad for the rescuers and the cultists have other plans for her.