Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish

It’s Bolt Action Jim but not as we know it.

Achtung Cthulhu is the twisted child of Modiphius Entertainment. H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937 so the setting is not ‘canon’ Cthulhu but the familiar overarching theme is bolted onto the World War 2 setting. Broadly there are British and Americans up against the Nazi Black Sun organisation (Cthulhu magic), loosely cooperating with the Nachtwolfe (alien tech) and Mythos creatures (tentacles). Shadows Over Normandie is a licensed boardgame series set in the same alternate universe. In the boardgame most counters are squads of about 5 ‘beings’, vehicles are individual counters, Cthulhu itself is a huge blob covering several game squares.

There is also a fan created Achtung Cthulhu Bolt Action mod called Bolt Achtung! The points values have not been tested to extremes but it includes the key models from the Modiphius range as well as spell casting (with the risk of the caster being lost in the attempt). It also models some larger Cthulhu creatures that are not in the Modiphus universe. Naturally all the regular Bolt Action and Konflikt 47 goodies can be shoveled in.

Returning to the official release; Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish is not a skirmish set of rules but is designed to play with several squad sized units on each side. A Cthulhu force could get away with monsters, possessed, summoners and the odd megalomaniac nut job but could equally well be built around a core of regular German troops. The Allies only have a handful of special units and will mostly comprise standard human troop models. There are no Soviet lists but the Allies could easily be fielded as Desert or Far East troops. The core German units could instead be Japanese or Chinese Warlord. This is excellent for the Bolt Action or Konflikt 47 player who will already have the nucleus of a playable army. The role playing types will not be so happy as they might be in possession of a few character models and an assortment of ‘gribblies’ but will need some serious assembling and painting to build a force for Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish.

The Skirmish rules are based on Dystopian Legions; a Victorian Science Fiction setting. Dystopian Legions is no longer officially supported but the rights are owned by Warcradle, a trademark of Wayland Games. The rules and army lists for Dystopian Legions are still available as free download PDFs. Unfortunately the cards which are a key but not essential element to game play are not available. The Achtung Cthulhu cards could be pressed into service as an alternative. An American Regular GI is 25 points in Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish, a British Regular lineman in Dystopian Legions is also 25 points and the stats of each are identical indicating that borrowing between the lists is feasible. The only vehicles each side has in Cthulhu is a truck, half track and a medium tank. The Dystopian Legions setting includes drones, armoured infantry and light tanks that might be a source of additional goodies for the Nachtwolfe.

Modiphius have released an alternate rules set Achtung Cthulhu Combat, also as free downloads. This is billed as a slightly simpler game system with the same units but a differing combat dice system and different point costs for models. Mechanics in Cthulhu Combat are more in common with the Bolt Action rules making it easier to adapt Bolt Action or Konflikt 47. Cthulhu Combat has no vehicles and less magic but more goodies for the Nachtwolfe. Ranges are different; a M1 Garand has a 24″ maximum range in Skirmish but 12″ short and unlimited long range in Combat (some weapons are penalised outside effective range but not the M1). They share the same Mythos theme in that deploying more Cthulhu-like units (by either side) will push up the Mythos level leading to an increased chance of bad things happening to random units. As the Mythos level rises there is also a chance of a mist rolling in which restricts visibility; to the benefit of the Black Sun player who has access to specialist close combat units. Players take turns activating units but in Skirmish melee only takes place after all activations. This means that several units can load into a single combat and a few troop types (vehicles and flyers) can run back out of it. The Bolt Action activation could easily be jammed in and some of the order dice effects map across to Achtung Cthulhu model conditions.

To try out the system the Skirmish rules will be used together with 3 scenarios from the Secret War Operations booklet which is a also a free download. Some of these scenarios use relatively few models and look to be more trouble setting up that the limited gameplay predicted. These 3 scenarios use a 4′ square board and the same terrain as both forces fight over a ruined monastery. The Black Sun here are Black Tree fallschirmjäger. The Americans Warlord Marines, the Commandos Warlord and Black Tree Paras. The gribblies, heroes and villains are Modiphius. The Modiphius models take some getting to the table as almost everyone has at least 1 part to glue onto the main body. The alien Mi Go have at least 5 pairs of limbs all of which need gluing on although as aliens one could leave some sets off or add a few more. In many of the non-human casts it is not too important exactly which bits go where as long as it all holds together. Some tweaking was required to fit the force layouts to the models available. The image below shows that for the human models Modiphius are close enough to other 28mms but are more slender.

Modiphius, Warlord, Modiphius, Black Tree

The first game has relatively small forces trying to control 2 objectives each within 1 of the central ruins. Here we see both sides deployed and ready for the off. The 2 sets of smoke are a Mythos effect and provide cover throughout the game. Even without these there is a good deal of cover which should give a benefit to the Cthulhu player as he relies more on close combat troops.

Both players rush forward. The Allies grasp both objectives but the Black Sun pile a unit of Servitors (tentacled possessed ex-humans) onto the rightmost objective. They were unable to wipe out the Allied defenders so that objective remained contested. An attempt to simultaneously overrun the other objective with Mythos ‘Deep Ones’ failed leaving the Black Sun a unit down and the Allies controlling 1 objective. The Servitors sorted out the remaining humans around the other objective leading to control on the following turn. Still with points gained for every turn of control the Allies kept to their early lead and pulled off a win.

Although the Black Sun had 2 spellcasters no spells were successfully cast. In retrospect command points could have been spent to increase the chance of spell casting. Most spells are of short range meaning that getting into position to cast spells means risking the expensive spell caster. Casting spells increases the chance of bad Mythos events occurring so a player could cast spells with no game effect beyond increasing Mythos events. This seemed bad form so was not taken advantage of.

The second game expands both forces. The Black Sun are trying to push forward into the Allied side of the table. The Allies are trying to destroy Black Sun units. Both sides have reinforcements that arrive on random turns. The Black Sun happened to draw more early doors units than the Allies. The Servitors move up making some use of cover.

They are now well past the centre point and taking some casualties but being already dead do not see this as a big problem.

The Servitors hug the hard cover for a while but eventually come out. That machine gun team is about to take an early bath. The real problem for the Allies are the purple worms mid screen. They burrow so avoid terrain are built hard and hit hard.

The Black Sun are through. The paras are tough but not that tough and the worms make a mess of them. Chaos hounds are also running up and the Black Sun commander can be seen just moving out of the ruins. It all seemed in the balance for a while but when the worms hit it all went to pot.

The final game in the set of 3 uses less models but a higher points count as the Allies field a tank. Both sides are trying to inflict maximum damage on each other. There is more wiggle room in what to field and the Black Sun buy spells for augur (a die re-roll bonus) and a level 2 summoning. The summoning spell is a no-brainer as summoned creatures do not count as part of the player’s force size and could lead to a new unit every turn. Bought from the lists a unit of 3 Nightguants costs 105 points. A Black Sun Canon with a level 3 spell book costs 130 points, has a better than 50% chance of summoning Nightguants every turn and has several other useful command benefits on top. In a matched game the Allied player would want to deploy at least 1 sorcerer with the level 1 ‘sever control’ spell to stand any chance against summonings.

The tank rules work more logically. It can spew out a ton of firepower (which might well all miss). It can be attacked in close combat (and some of the Mythos beasts could chew it up) but not fight back. It can pull out of melee if not destroyed beforehand but keeping just out of enemy charge range is a good plan. Other friendly units can also hose down the melee attackers with firepower if they have not already activated. A much bigger danger to tanks are anti-tank weapons. In this game the Black Sun have panzerfausts and the tank wisely spends much of the game staying away from them.

The Black Sum move up using Mythos and summoned creatures to soak up the Allied firepower. Once the gribblies get into close combat Allied losses become unacceptable. The Black Sun troopers keep out of the blood bath and provide long range fire support.

The Black Sun commander is exposed and is hosed down by the tank. The tank is now close enough for the Black Sun troopers to move forward and light it up with their Panzerfausts. As the tank is a massive points sink this now pushes the game into a Black Sun victory.

The Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish system does work and at the price (free) it is hard to argue with. Some gameplay gripes should however be aired.

There is a good deal of randomness in the game (not necessarily a bad thing). In general 4+ is good on the dice but rolling a 6 may give a bonus. The mortar only killed 1 figure in 3 games and usually missed by a considerable distance due to the indirect fire deviation rules. Grenades use a similar deviation mechanism and due to the risk but possible high damage wherever they hit were not used in any of the games.

The command system which gives a bonus to units within range of a commander does work but is a layer of detail that can easily be forgotten. As it increases the potential of success spells are more likely to be cast, units are better in combat and morale failures less likely. This is all going to prolong the game. The morale rules have limited effect. It is fairly easy to fail morale and this affects shooting and melee. It is also relatively easy to regain morale levels at the end of a turn. Failing a morale test will add 1 and only 1 shaken result. A unit can have a greater chance of failing but will only lose the the 1 level in a single test. A unit of shaken 3 or greater will rout but because of the ability to recover this requires several independent morale tests in a single turn or bad recovery dice rolls. Routing is possible but no units routed in any of the 3 games as they tended to ‘get better’ before dropping to rout.

Bolt Action Spanish Civil War: Regulares vs Brigadista

Following on from a Chain of Command outing for the Regulares they move onto Bolt Action.  The aim was to keep the forces and scenario as similar as possible.  1,000 point Bolt Action forces are, however, slightly larger than Chain of Command.  Neither are there any main rule book scenarios played along the table width.  Being short of enough Regulares figures they will now be supported by some brave soldatos from La Legion.

There are no Warlord lists for the Spanish Civil War but unofficial lists do exist including a well produced Spanish campaign book.  In this case the Spanish book was used as a starting point but the special rules here are those of the French (Nationalist) and Italian (Government) official lists in the probably optimistic hope that these army rule sets are balanced.

For the French

  • If the 1st die drawn is French the opponent may force a re-draw.  We will use this to reflect the caution and planning of Franco.  Better to eliminate the enemy in the field than have to sort it all out later.
  • A free medium or light artillery piece.  It would be folly not to take the medium.  This reflects a Nationalist superiority in guns or at least their ability to supply them with suitable ammunition.
  • If fielding 3 or more conscript infantry squads a 4th may be fielded for free.  In geographical terms the Republic begin the war with the main population centres and industry.  They should have had more men available.  In reality Franco gained the manpower and material.  We see the additional troops as citizens who have joined the Falange units as a life saver, proof of their loyalty and who now find themselves on the front line.

For the Italians

  • In an attack and defense battle if the Italians are not the defender they can roll again to be the defender.  The Republic was in general on the defense.  Only half the main book battles are attack and defense so if scenarios are randomly rolled this option is not always going to show up.
    • Defending Italians gain 1D3 fortified positions.
    • Defending hidden units may be on Ambush.
    • When defending the attacker cannot run on turn 1.   This is particularly nasty for artillery units which can only move (even unlimbering moves) on a run.
  • If the Italians are 3 up on lost order dice all their units are up 2 on their basic morale.  If 3 down they are down 2 on basic morale.
  • Italians can re-roll on the artillery or smoke barrage table.  To make use of this they need a forward artillery observer at 100 points so it is not as tasty as might first appear.
  • The Brigadista infantry squads might take the non-testati rule.  They might go up to stubborn or down to shirkers.  Few of the Brigadistas had seen combat before the war and their initial equipment was haphazard and not always fit for purpose.  This rule will reflect their earlier combat encounters.

This is a good source on uniforms and potted biographies of the XV International Brigade.  It shows how there is considerable variety in equipment even towards the end of the war.

En la Plaza de mi Pueblo:  The peaceful pueblo before the battle.  Tracked vehicles can pass through hedges but not walls or buildings.  The river bank provides soft cover but only to infantry.

The following lists were used:

Brigadista Africanista
HQ (2nd reg + 1) 60 HQ (2nd reg + 1) 60
10 reg + LMG 140 6 vet stubborn LMG 132
10 reg + LMG 140 8 vet stubborn 112
10 reg + LMG 140 12 reg tough+ LMG 152
10 reg + LMG 140 12 reg tough 132
10 reg 100 12 reg tough 132
Sniper 50 Med Art + spotter 85
T26 105 PzI 70
UNL35 75 Bilbao 65
Lt Art 50 Mortar +spotter 60
Med Art 0
1000 992
10 dice 11 dice

The Brigadista force.

The Nationalist line up; guns are 155mm pieces but are standing in as medium artillery.

Defender deployment after the pre-game bombardment. A handful of pins and 1 figure removed but the Republican vehicles and light gun had been kept off table just in case.

Unable to run the Nationalist advance is cautious on turn 1 except for a Legion LMG section who advanced inside the Bilbao armoured car and deploy into the Church courtyard.

Turn 2 sees the T26 come on and block the bridge. 1 Nationalist gun comes on the other fails it’s entry morale.

Turn 2, the Republican sniper is mortared out of game. The Nationalist armour dodges their Republican counterparts.

Turn 3 another good HE roll sees a Republican squad mashed but still in-play. The T26 gets a clear shot on the Bilbao but misses. Not wanting to be left out the Republican gun has a go and also misses. The UNL35 ties up a squad of Regulares by the Church. The Nationalist infantry is closing in.

Turn 4 and more Republican losses put them 3 dice down and with all base morale at -2 it becomes almost impossible to do anything bar rally. On the bright side the remains of the Legion LMG squad is assaulted and wiped out.

Turn 5 sees the Nationalist firmly in control of 1 objective but still some way from getting infantry onto a 2nd.   The Republic could block off the central objective with their vehicles making the predicted result a draw but with the Nationalists having lost 1 unit to the Republic’s 4 and the Republic morale going down the tubes.

The Nationalist success is at least in part due to the luck of their medium artillery and mortar all of which achieved rounds on target with good aiming dice rolls.  To pull off a win they would have needed to change targets and take out the T26 which could block off any 1 objective from the Nationalist infantry (excepting a very risky tank assault)

The Republican defensive bunkers were of little use against all that artillery as they offer no protection against indirect fire.  The buildings were also potential shell traps.  Artillery is not always to be relied on as the crew are vulnerable, the mortars can be sniped out with 1 shot.  On average it should take 3 turns to hit anything by indirect fire but mobile units will simply move out of the way.  An alternative set of special rules is on the Wargaming3D site.  Together with the faction special rules the Republic may field a free 4th Inexperienced squad (80 points at 10 men) if they pay for 3 Inexperienced squads.  The Nationalist may field a light anti-tank gun or light autocannon for free (a saving of 50 points).

Spanish Civil War Improvised Armour – Tiznaos

Tiznaos (note that a tiznao is also a sort of fish stew) are the various armoured lorries of the Spanish Civil War.  Contemporary photographs illustrate a range of models with designs ranging from from entirely haphazard to streamlined planning.  The slogans illustrate that the vast majority belong to the Republic.  The majority of builds are unique and relying on the number of different models shown in photographs there must have been several dozen tiznao in use during the Spanish Civil War.  They have more of a role in the initial stages of the conflict with columns attempting to establish areas of control or in pacification actions behind the lines.  Their limited armour and mobility probably made them a liability to aircraft attack as the war intensified.  There is a scene in the Nationalist colour film Defenders of the Faith (about 48 minutes in) that shows a knocked out and burnt AAC-37 (with T26 turret, best guess based on lack of additional road wheels) or Ba6.  Nevertheless Bilbao armoured cars were still in service in Spain after the war.  The tiznao concept could be seen as the origins of the UNL35 and AAC-37 armoured cars; a mix of commercial chassis and Soviet armoured car design.  A column of UNL35s was amongst the Republican force that sought refuge in France as the war drew to a close.  These vehicles saw service in the French and later the German armies.

The film ‘Libertarias‘ illustrates a plausible use of a tiznao in street fighting; with mixed end results.  It does show the problem of getting a tiznao into combat.  On flat good roads it might make good going but with a road blocked, trenches and bridges blown moving the tiznao past an existing front line to exploit a breakthrough is not an easy task.

Vehiculos blindados de la guerra civil is a good starting point for details on tiznaos including a page hosting videos where some vehicles are shown in motion.  While the clips are original not reconstructions many are sourced from recent documentaries so the context of the use of the vehicles cannot be completely trusted.  Even contemporary newsreels would use stock footage if they could get away with it.  The key aspect is what can be deduced from the scene in which vehicles appear not any shots from immediately prior or afterwards?  Complete contemporary films are available on YouTube.  A good start is to search for ‘AGUILUCHOS DE LA FAI POR TIERRAS DE ARAGÓN’ one of a series of films by SUEP (Sindicato Único de Espectáculos Públicos).  In part 1 we see the Durruti column with a varied selection of transport including 2 civilian tractors (with the pair hitched up to pull a corporation bus off-road) and a tiznao.  The tiznao moves off-road under its own power and is parked perpendicular to the carriageway to protect the road.

For those with a modelling bent there are some card Tiznao plans that could be adapted or used ‘as is’.  This project attempted to re-size the card model around a Lledo truck.

It proved easier to start from scratch but salvage some of the cardboard outlines such as the doors.

Empress have a number of models in 28mm but tacking some card (or better still modelling clay painted as mattresses) to the sides and front of a Ledo truck would be a workable solution.

Wargaming3D is working up to be a ‘go to’ source for 3D printing images for gaming.  The difficulty is that these are images only and need access to a printer.  The images are not for commercial use so the people who deal in printed 3D models won’t print them up for you.  Your author had a spot of luck and convinced a fellow at a local club to run some off.

The Constructora field car is the recommended choice for first to print.  It is a beast of a model, bigger than most tanks.  The streamlined body shell is easy to clean up with the 3D ridges from printing scrubbing down to a gradual curve.  Gentle sanding with the dremel at low speed and a thin smoothing of liquid green stuff doing the job.  There were several real-world variants of this model.  Not all boast the gun turret but with the model being hollow this would not be easy to remove from the finished item.  Someone with knowledge of the printing files could probably remove it from the original.

Their tiznao is harder work to build up.  There is a chassis, platform and armoured load as 3 separate pieces as well as wheels and gun.  The platform needs shaving to get the load seated level and some decisions need to be made about what detail to shave off in an area of the model that will hardly be seen when it is assembled.

The Bilbao armoured car is not strictly a tiznao, having been commercially produced before the war.  The front of this model needs a fair bit of work to clear the area behind the front wheels.  The riveted construction is perfectly accurate but hinders shaving down the model to minimise 3D print ridges along the vehicle sides.  The front radiator grill might also be better ‘dug out’ but at a risk of damaging the grill itself.

Reiver are now part of Northumbrian Painting Service.  Their VBCW range has some vehicles that might do as tiznaos.  The ‘Tyneside armoured car’  is a big block of resin but easy to put together.  Stick the wheels on, add the gun and you are done.  The VBCW infantry are nice but notably smaller that Empress or Warlord.  They do, however, have some very nice carts and a limber at a very fair price.

There is no one Bolt Action interpretation for tiznaos.  In the Spanish language Bolt Action lists a Tiznao is treated like a FT17 with the option of 1 or more machine guns and the possibility of acting as a transport.  This interpretation is more than generous.  Wargaming 3D have point-outs for their models.  As a fall back treating the models as transport lorries with machine guns would work, ignoring their added armour.  Chain of Command has a reference for a range of tiznaos in the Espana book.  This is best used as a guide and the actual load out being based on each model.  In all cases the troop carrying capacity, even if overloaded in Chain of Command terms,  is much lower than could be carried in these vehicles.   An additional opportunity is to use the tiznao as a jump off point in Chain of Command or simply as a piece of terrain.  A poorly armoured box with limited exterior vision is probably not the best place to be when the going hots up.

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.

Bolt Action: Demolition, Soviet vs Japanese

A 750 point ‘Demolition’ scenario between Kwantung Japanese and Stalingrad Soviets.   The Kwantung list options do not include spearmen or Stuarts chock full of machine guns but they do get 2 nice shooty wheeled armoured cars.  The Soviets are almost in period as the Japanese army in Manchuria was not at the front of the weapons issue queue so all this might have happened in 1942.  A strength of the Stalingrad list is that the free rifle squad gets to be fanatic (also for free).

To win at demolition a unit must be adjacent to the enemy objective at the end of a turn.  At 1,000 points it is usually a slug fest ending in a draw as neither side can fight through the other.  At 750 points there is less stuff on the table so holding your own objective and threatening the enemy’s is tricky.  The 2 approaches are to hammer down the centre or outflank.  An objective will usually be in the middle rear field, 36″ from each side.   To outflank a unit cannot come on until turn 3 (at the centre of an edge) and infantry can run 12″ at best.  On subsequent turns an outflanking unit can come on further down the board edge.  Even so the maths is against an infantry outflanker making the objective, any terrain in the path will properly scuttle the plan.   Vehicles especially wheeled vehicles are the ‘go to’ outflanking choice.  In this game the 2 Japanese armoured cars have been sent to outflank.  The exact edge of arrival is written down on set up.  The Soviet knows the units are outflanking or in reserve but not to which side (or if they will use their friendly rear edge).

The Soviet scouts and Japanese tank hunters have forward deploy, everyone else is 12″ in from their rear edge.  That Ba10 at bottom left is awfully exposed without infantry support. On this board the woods and ruins are dense terrain, units cannot see through them from one side to the other.

Both sides move up aggressively.  Unusually the Japanese do not banzai but advance and shoot.  The Japanese squads here are without LMGs.  We must assume that the LMG teams are operating the guns in the armoured cars (10 shooting dice each).

The Ba10 is down to a suicide tank hunter.  It moved away from 1 team and tried to shoot the other down but whiffed it. In the centre massive Soviet fire has created a hole in the Japanese line.  If the Japanese go down they cannot banzai forward so have to take it on the chin.  The Soviet scouts are out of it but they took a stack of Japanese with them.

Looking across the table we see both objectives and a definite lack of boots on the ground.  The Japanese armoured cars both come on.  One to protect their own objective the other to take the Soviet.  The Soviet squad near the Japanese objective are the fanatical conscripts who have gone up to regular morale.

The conscripts are shot again and fail their leadership on activation going down.  An advance would have put them on the Japanese objective and won the game this turn.  The armoured car by the Soviet objective is having difficulty moving past the Soviet troops.  It has been shot at at point blank over 2 turns but only hit twice and passed leadership to activate normally each time.

A lone Japanese survivor clears a path for the armoured car and it drives onto the Soviet objective.  At the other side of the field the conscripts are all over the Japanese objective.  A clear draw.

Chain of Command – España

The brave Requetés take on the Godless Brigadistas in our first Chain of Command outing somewhere in the hills South of Granada but North of Malaga and Almería which remain in the hands of the Rojos. This is the patrol scenario with each side having only 1 support point.  The Requetés upgraded a Junior Leader to Senior and the Brigadistas took a mortar for one of their mortar teams.  The other team and indeed everybody else was stuck with rifles.

Among the rules mistakes we used 4 command dice per side instead of 5.  There are some actions tied to a turn end and with 4 command dice this never occurred.  3 or more 6s on the command dice roll are needed to trigger the turn end.  With 4 dice; needing exactly 3 6s would be 1/6*1/6*1/6*5/6 = 5/1296 , that ‘not 6’ could be the 1st, 2nd 3rd or 4th dice so there are 4 paths to success 20/1296 (.0015) .  An extra dice factors in another 5/6 for the dice not rolling a 6; 5/1296 * 5/6 = 25/7776 each ‘not 6’ could be in 1 of 5 positions but they cannot both be in the same position, using NCR we have 10 combinations of ordering 3 things from 5 so 250/7776 = 0.032.  These calculations do not include the odds of rolling 4 or 5 6’s nor of rolling enough 5’s to generate a command point and end the turn.  Short summary with 4 rather than 5 command dice we had no turn ends and no collecting enough 5s to buy the turn end or do any other fancy command point stuff.

On with the game, both players started their patrol markers on a long board edge but the patrol phase swerved the markers leading to Rojos in the West and Requetés to the East.  There is a Rojos jump off point hidden behind a hedge at about 12:00 on the image below.

The Rojos rolled a slew of 3s and used 3 junior leaders to deploy the bulk of his forces, 2 big blobs of infantry and a mortar squad.  The ‘mortarless’ squad having been broken up and distributed amongst the other infantry.  Only a senior leader and friend remained off board.  Chain of Command emphasises creeping up,keeping troops back and manipulating the jump off points.  In hindsight slamming it all down makes a lot of sense if you have the dice to do it.   The Requetés deploy cautiously and advance a squad towards the enemy mortar hoping to first get within its minimum range then destroy it and capture the jump off point.

Troops have to deploy within 6″ of friendly jump off points so the Rojos spent some time sorting themselves out into neat firing lines to avoid shooting through their own troops.  Green markers are shock.  Both sides are aggressive, ignoring the 1st shock result so shock was not a major factor in the game.

The Requetés run flat out towards the mortar,rolling miserably so do not get far and take a point of shock for their troubles.  The mortar should be a small 2-man job not this big model but no more suitable set was to hand.

In a similar miscalculation of force needed to get anything done the Rojos head for an empty Requeté jump off point only to see it spawn Requeté infantry who promptly shoot up the Rojos.

The Requetés head for the mortar but are taking losses and shock.  A junior leader heads off to encourage them on.

Things do not look good for the few Requetés left behind.

The Rojos charge in, take some losses but 2 squads (teams in España), already badly shot up, are wiped out and the jump off point is overrun.

The Requetés have to decide to reinforce failure by sending troops towards the lost jump off point or even the odds by rolling over the exposed Rojos jump off points to the North of the board.

The Rojos detach men to take out the exposed Junior Leader, another Requeté moral loss and they are now down to an almost useless 3 command dice (we possibly rolled on the wrong lines of the force morale table but the writing was definitely on the wall).

If the Requetés run troops to take over enemy jump off points they are going to pile up shock, even without being shot at.  The best they can hope to do is to use 2 Senior Leader actions, 1 to run a squad flat out and another to remove the resulting shock.  That all depends on at least one 4 on the remaining 3 command dice.

If enough command dice had been used the a game turn would have ended by now seeing the loss of the captured Requeté jump off point and their morale crashing out.  Brigadista morale had yet to drop as they do not break and no Rojos unit had been wiped out.

We forgot the Requeté special rule allowing rolls of 1 against them in cover to be re-rolled (taking cover not being a manly thing).  The Brigadistas keep running until rallied but the Requetés are liable to be removed from the game when broken.  The force morale of each side drops when bad things happen so you will be unlikely to fight on until the last man.  As breaking is a ‘bad thing’ this rule made it harder to inflict bad things on the Brigadistas.

A debriefing for Bolt Action readers.  Shooting has no maximum range but apart from the dice activation systems the mechanisms for infantry combat are much the same.  Shock has a lot in common with Bolt Action pins.  Enough shock and you are pinned which pretty much freezes a units firing and moving.  Only Leaders can remove shock.  Movement is based on a roll of 1 to 3 D6s and even moving D6 will halve a unit’s firepower so there will be somewhat less successful movement and shooting than in Bolt Action.

The 2 base forces here were fixed not selected from a points budget.  There are set unit sizes but individual models can be split off.  The problem with small units is that they swiftly accumulate shock equal to their unit size which pins them or double that which breaks them. In this game each side had 2 big section units plus some command and support.  When squads were split off from the sections they only continued to activate on a ‘1’ unless a Leader was sent off to get them, leaving the rest of the section hard to shift.  Although big infantry units do crop up in Bolt Action these full sections are 15 and 18 men so it would be a more competitive model in Bolt Action to field them as 2 units, 1 with the LMG when Regulars or the full 15 or 18 as Inexperienced.  The Chain of Command model assumes full sections but the possibility of whole sections missing in the platoon.  In Bolt Action squads are often under strength but there is an activation bonus if they are at full strength so the model would be more smaller squads for the same number of models.

To summarise Chain of Command is more of an experience, in a role play sort of way.  Bolt Action tends towards a numbers game but both are games and there is enough similarity in the two to borrow mechanisms from each other.

Bolt Action – Spanish Civil War – Requetés

Por Dios, La Patria, Los Fueros y el Rey.

Inspired by essentially finding a Brigadista Internacional army in the garage, it made some sense to round up some opposition.  As usual your author did minimal research sent off for the figures from Empress, had them painted and based within 2 weeks of pressing ‘pay now’ then did some more reading.  There are only 4 packs of Requetés in the Empress range which is spreading the figure variation pretty thin even with a Bolt Action army.  The line up below are all Empress.  They are all very smartly turned out so might be from later in the war but before the Requeté and Falangist army units were merged.

Adding an almost equal number of army types in gorillo hats pads out the range but more detailed investigation reveals that almost all Requetés would wear the red beret.  There are plenty of contemporary pictures on it is all in Spanish but easy to follow.  Be warned that it lays the party message on pretty thickly.  Only a handful of subjects sport gorillos.  These could be combat specialists, soldatos attached from other units or the odd example of someone preferring not to adopt the beret.  As the troops might provide their own beret (although the smarter examples are probably issued centrally) lack of stores can’t be blamed for a shortage of berets.  The gorillo with its tassel may look snazzy but is not the best protection from sun or cold; if a soldier is allowed the choice of headgear.   A reliable source of colours is the 1938 Nationalist film ‘Defenders of the Faith‘.  The version is one of the better resolution public domain prints but this is the Spanish version and significant colour fading is seen.  It is still a massive step up from back and white and the variety of colours can be seen in Nationalist and Republican forces.  There are no obvious Requeté images although the moors and International Brigade get a good showing.  Several subjects do, however, sport red berets.

As some consolation these guys just might be Requetés but could be attached peninsular infantry or even part of La Legion.  La Legion troops ought to be in a paler green and are allowed to sport beards and  shirts open at the collar but with the expansion of the original rebel forces equipment issue would have been stretched.

In some images  Requetés are seen to sport the chambergo, a military wide brimmed hat.  Helmets are perfectly feasible but only 4 of the Empress Nationalist infantry models sport helmets a bugle blower adds another option but he comes in the flag bearer pack.

These are Burns miniatures from Templar miniatures, including an LMG team which is not in the Empress line.  They are not up to the standard of Empress and when including postage are much the same price.  Given the choice Empress are the way to go although the Burns figures do provide some variety in poses.

The ‘spare no expense’ solution would be to buy separate helmet heads or to file down some gorillos, build up with green stuff and hope for the best.  Having tried out a couple of gorillo carve ups the result is middling at best. Here we have 2 converted Empress figures and a Burns Carlist.

The Nationalist artillery park includes a Pak36, 10.5cm IeFH18 and 82mm mortar.  The 10.5cm (a medium howitzer in Bolt Action) is modeled without its crew for possible use with early war Germans.

The Empress Carlists have no LMG. This base is from La Legion, the beards being the giveaway. Here they pose with some flag bearers and a Holy Icon.

These Panzer I Negrillos are 3D prints from the tank factory.  The ‘Defenders of the Faith’ film has them in a mixed colour scheme not unlike Late WW2 Germans.

The autocannon is missing from the Spanish lists but the forum has the following recommendation:

• Replace the 2 MMGs with a turret-mounted Breda 20mm light automatic cannon for +10pts

Here is some captured armour in the form of a UNL-35 from Empress and Warlord T26.  The UNL-35 is an all metal model but the inside of the shell is hollow.  Both would be best with Nationalist insignia but leaving this off opens the option of using them for either side or even trotting them out in Russia (the UNL-35 as a BA-20).

There is an impressive fan created book for Spanish Civil War Bolt Action.   It is in Spanish but the posts on do imply that it is free.  There are theatre lists of Nationalist, Republican and Italians for early war (July – October ’36), mid war (Nov ’36- June ’37), late war (July ’37 – March ’39) and Northern theatre (Nov ’36 – ‘Oct 37)

This is not the place for a full translation but the key special rules are translated below.  The slight problem with translation is that all the well known Bolt Action buzz words such as ‘DOWN’ have their Spanish equivalents (Cuerpo a Tierra).  Here are the Carlist special rules, note that not all of these rules are used in all theatres.

Nationalist rules:

When the NCO of a unit is lost; roll a die. On a result of 3+ another of the miniatures will replace the NCO.
A platoon cannot have more than two squads with the MAL EQUIPADOS rule armed with a LMG or more than four MAL EQUIPADOS units with submachine guns. A single squad with the MAL EQUIPADOS rule can be equipped with Antitank Grenades (or molotov or legionary cocktail) at a cost of + 2pts per model. The unit will use the Tank Hunters rule.
The National player can re-roll the preliminary bombardment die if he is the attacker and the scenario allows it. In addition, you can re-roll the roll on the Artillery Bombardment table. You should always keep the second result.
A single unit may replace a member of the squad by a Military Chaplain or a bearer of a Religious Icon in the form of a cross, standard, etc., for a cost of +25 points. This model will not be able to shoot or be a loader of the LMG. When the unit that carries it or any infantry unit, that is not of Regulares or of the Mehala, that is 12″ of him carries out a RALLY action, it can repeat the roll if this fails. In addition, if successful, it will roll 2 dice instead of the usual 1 and choose the highest roll to remove the pinned markers.
When the alféreces and tenientes of the Nationalist Army use the rule “Snap to action”, may draw an extra die (a teniente will draw two and a alférece will draw three). From the moment they draw an extra dice, they will continue to do so each time they use the action, but in turn they will not be able to receive the DOWN order and will go on to consider themselves as INEXPERIENCED when testing for wounds, but not Morale checks.

Republican rules:

A Republican army/column has a free Militia squad of up to 12 models armed with rifles and Inexperienced. If the column is of all of the same type of militia, it will be treated as a member of that same militia. This unit has the rule “A FALTA DE FUSILES, GRANADAS”.  Note this unit is not GREEN.
Any unit with this rule can exchange a miniature with a rifle for a miniature
with grenades. This miniature in melee obtains the “Assault” rule but cannot shoot.
A force composed only of squads of the same faction of militia may repeat morale checks that fail.
A Militia squad can replace a soldier with a Standard Bearer for 25 pts, who will carry the flag and can not carry any additional weapon other than pistol. Any squad that belongs to that same militia faction and is within 12″ can repeat a failed rally check. Also, if the rally is successful, it will roll two dice and will discard as many pins as the result of the highest dice roll. If the unit that carries the flag is DOWN or in AMBUSH, the flag has no effect.
In scenarios in which there is an attacker and a defender, if following the roll of dice the Republican player is not the defender the roll will (not may) be repeated, the second result stands.
If the Republican player is the defender, he will have the following advantages:
-During the first turn of the game, the enemy will not be able to give a RUN order to their units, since they are advancing cautiously towards the republican lines.
-The Republican player can re-roll the roll on the Artillery or Smoke Barrage chart.
As for the Nationalist
A force has a free EPR squad of 12 members armed with rifles, INEXPERIENCED and GREEN.
Any unit that is within 6″ of a Commissar may re-roll a failed command check, provided it is not a FUBAR.  If the 2nd roll is failed, the unit will retire 12″ towards its edge of the table.
Any T-26 or BA3/6/10 or FA-I that is VETERAN is considered to be manned by Soviet crew. These vehicles when entering from Reserve, not outflanking, do not have a -1 to their order check.
Any unit that is within 6″ of a commissar can repeat a failed activation check, provided it is not a FUBAR.
When there are units from different provinces within 12″or less of each other both will have -1 to the Orders checks. On the contrary, if all the platoons of the section are from the same province, they can repeat the Moral checks that fail. In addition:
• Basque squads (Euzko Gudarostea) are STUBBORN.
• The Asturian squads can choose squads of Dynamiters instead of squads of the Popular Army of the Republic, but they can not have more squads of VETERAN than REGULAR.
• The Santander squads, when traveling through Difficult Terrain, can run 12 “. This also applies to assaults.

A Carlist squad can be either early or late war.  An Early (EW, MW) squad is 6 to 17 INEXPERIENCED men (9 points each), may have an NCO with SMG and LMG with loader if of size 10 or more.  They are STUBBORN but may be FANATICS instead for +2 points per figure.  Also they are MAL EQUIPADOS, VIVA CRISTO REY and GREEN but if they go up to REGULAR on a further roll of 5 or 6 they become VETERAN. A Late squad (LW, N) (11 points each) may be REGULAR or VETERAN and is not GREEN.  They are not MAL EQUIPADOS but the other Carlist special rules remain.

A rough overview of the special rules suggests that the Republicans have the better deal with a free squad and a bonus to the defense. The Nationalists would need to buy a forward observer to make the most of their own special rules. As a whole these are not dissimilar to what the Germans are allocated but Nationalists do not get the buzz saw rule.

Konflikt ’47 WarMachine Meets Bolt Action

Konflikt ’47 is the alternate WW2 Bolt Action.  Due to a total lack of coordination Gates of Antares, Konflikt ’47 and Bolt Action v2 all came out from Warlord within a short time of each other sharing the same Bolt Action roots but diverging all over the place.  Gates of Antares uses a D10 rather than D6 chance system and in the fashion of science fiction has a multitude of differing weapon types all of which are much the same when it comes to using them.  Konflikt ’47 has some of the original Bolt Action rules and some new bits that are not in Bolt Action v2.  The notable change being a more intricate reaction system and more uses for the ‘Ambush’ order.  Recent Konflikt ’47 supplements have retro fitted some of the Bolt Action v2 changes; notably the increase in LMG dice to 4 and MMG to 5.  Konflikt ’47 still uses multiple dice for HE not templates and more reasonably has special rules that apply to the alternate universe it is set in.  This does pose a problem for the regular Bolt Action player.  How many of the alternate Konflikt ’47 rules to implement without fouling up one’s Bolt Action rules knowledge?  This game kept to the Bolt Action v2 rules except for multiple dice HE and ‘period’ specific special rules.  This generally worked except for fear inducing units who affect the Konflikt ’47 reaction mechanism, which does not exist in Bolt Action v2.

The lists here are based on those from  EasyArmy so are not quite the same as in the original Konflikt ’47 rules booklet.  The choices are not far off the WW2 equivalents with the option to swap out an armoured car for a light walker and a tank for a heavy walker.  Amongst the  specialist infantry choices available the Germans have chosen a huge unit of undead (Cryx Mechanithralls) and a small unit of ‘werewolves’ (Cryx Bane Knights).  The Soviets have a unit of heavy infantry (Khador Winter Guard).  Both forces include a seriously heavy walker, the Soviet ‘Mammoth’ weighing in at 500 points.  To allow for these high pointers the game was played at 1,250 points.

Set up from the Soviet side shows a unit of heavy infantry at bottom right with scouts having forward deployed in advance of them.  The single massive unit of German undead occupies the gap at 11 o’ clock.  The Soviets kept both walkers off board.  The Germans only held back their light walker correctly calculating that even a direct hit from the pre-game bombardment would be unlikely to penetrate.  As it happened the bombardment came in for both sides but only scattered a few pins.  To keep with the apocalyptic theme the 40K scenery has been trotted out.  The building bases count as dense terrain so no units can see into the rubble and out the other side.


Here we see the German Thor walker laughing off 2 pins.  The Nebelwerfer did score 1 hit during the game so just about paid for itself.


The Germans are off.  The Warmachine Banes are standing in as shrekwulfen.  Its all charging and flashing sharp things so the match up is about right.  They sliced through the Zis 3 and the odd infantry figure then idled about for the rest of the game.  Loss of the Zis was a major blow to the Soviets as it could have taken the German walkers to the cleaners.  Set up here in ruin (rough) terrain it had some protection but could only turn  not move from its deployment position.


The Thor did a roaring trade in dropping HE on just about any Soviets in sight.  Here the ‘light’ Spinne comes into view of the Soviet Mammoth.  Both big walkers are basically HE generators.  At +4 HE they can barely affect each other (armour 10 but penetration +4 ) unless they drop shells with indirect fire (+5 penetration).


The German vampire commander (no rules for this but he fits the part) surveys the scene.  The Soviet Cossack walker strolls on and whiffs shooting at the shrekwulfen.


The Soviet Mammoth expends ‘mammoth’ amounts of HE to finally shred the German undead swarm who would otherwise have had the Soviet scouts for breakfast.


Things start to go poorly when despite turning attention to the regular German squads and the nearby panzershrek the Mammoth is unable to disable them before the panzerfausts and panzershrek come into range.


The Germans dominate three quarters of the board with the Cossack walker down and the green infantry squad hardly a threat.


The inevitable as a 500 point Mammoth goes down to less that 1/10th of its points in panzerfausts.  With no means to even scratch the Thor and rapidly running out of infantry the Soviets take an early bath.


Lessons learnt are that spending a silly amount of points on single units is not a good idea.  They are especially vulnerable to cheap anti-tank weapons.  The HE heavy walkers had the ability to dole out a lot of damage but in practice were less of a threat.  Usually hitting at 3 or 4 up they would miss 1/2 or 1/3 of all shots.  This encourages targeting multiple HE weapons at the same enemy to maximise the chance of a result.  If that target is put down with the first shot the remainder from the same firer are wasted.  The undead were well worth their points soaking up a considerable volume of fire that might have been better used elsewhere except that if the undead do close to combat it is not going to be a happy outcome.

Spanish Civil War Bolt Action

A Spanish Civil War campaign book may or may not be in the works and there are some Bolt Action interpretations about the web. Wargaming 3D have also worked up some suggested rules and lists.   Even without an official approach the Spanish Civil War makes use of the same equipment as existing armies and the general infantry layouts work for any nation.  For those wanting a gaming overview and force ideas ‘Too Fat Lardies’ provide, Espania, a PDF supplement for their Chain of Command rules.

Empress are probably the gold standard for SCW 28mms but many partisan and VBCW models can be repurposed. The problem with some VBCW figures is that they can drift towards the comic opera and the classic British helmet would be out of place. The images here show an early Brigadista or POUM force made up from figures already in the author’s Bolt Action army boxes. A command and the odd flag would fill it out. The temptation is to also make up a rebel force to take it on. Mixing too many of the faction options in a single Bolt Action army results in an implausible force. Carlists and regulars would make sense as the Carlists did have some training and did coordinate with rebel army units. There is an attraction in any movement that thought of Spain as insufficiently right wing and Catholic. For a more dastardly approach Foreign Legion and Moors make good bedfellows.

Here is a selection of suitable irregulars, mostly Footsore:

Another batch:

A 3rd:

And the final set but starting to push the envelope. Those guys in raincoats are Footsore IRA. The odd figure in each of these squads may have a shotgun but at arms length they should pass muster.

No LMGs so far: Lewis guns were supplied to the government. At right is a likely looking sniper from Black Tree. Many of the Black Tree partisans are just too Russian but a few fit in.

The challenge with Spanish Civil War armies is to create an approach that has some competitiveness and to decide how to allocate army rules. One would hope that army rules are balanced across all armies so completely transferring the rules and point variations in their entirely from one army to another should work. It is still unlikely that any new variant would keep up with top tier competition armies but we should be able to propose something that will hold its own in the mid field of army rankings.

To stick to period the potential armies would be:

  • Early War Nationalists or Republican militias.
  • African troops with veteran legion and regular or veteran moors.
  • Regular army, police and drilled militia fighting for either side. Popular army and International Brigade troops after the militia had been disbanded or integrated.
  • Italians fighting for the rebels (for government Italians use the International Brigade).   Except for the initial Italian force who were ‘not’ destined for Abyssinia the Italians fought in grey so could also be used in Greece or Albania but would not work for a desert force. Complete Italian armoured formations were present but limited to basic tankettes (the CV33) and obsolete armoured cars (the IZ).
  • French who could intervene across the border.
  • German, up to a point. The Condor legion was German but did not fight on the ground. An air observer or a single advisor on a command or gun stand would be the best to work with. The Germans could however have committed entire formations.  The Nationalists could also fight the Germans following disastrously failed negotiations for Germany to assault Gibraltar.

The handful of Soviet advisors would not qualify as entire Bolt Action units. A few figures would not look out of place although the helmet usually seen on 28mm figures was not that in use in 1936. Pushing the envelope a Spanish North African army could take on a French North African force. The Moorish part might even trot out as Vichy French and take on Commonwealth British in the Levant.

These British police in flat caps could be built up into an Asaltos squad:

The closest impression for a Spanish army from the existing official army lists would be to run a Finnish list. That list’s options include a T26 and Ba6 both supplied in significant numbers by the Soviets and captured by the rebels . The special army rule of having a unit go up in morale when at half strength could be used for experienced troops of high morale. A good fit would be as International Brigadistas or the best of the Popular Army at the beginning of the Ebro offensive or North African troops for the rebels. The infantry would be better bought as regular rather than veteran (except for the Legion) and the sniper special rule possibly chosen with caution although field-craft does fit well with Moors. The gun and mortar options could fit into any period ordinance piece.  The Finnish squad size is less than the Spanish establishment size which could be 15 men but many combat formations would be below that strength.

The Irregular miniatures gun below is supposed to be a 18 pounder but based on the Warlord 18/25 model is way too small. The mortar and crew are also Irregular but are good enough. The Footsore maxim is a perfect pose apart from the helmet on the team leader.

The anti tank rifle option present in most Early War lists should be dropped. The brief life span between general adoption of these weapons and their obsolescence had yet to arrive. Very few if any made it to Spain and if they had the limited use of tanks in the theatre did not fit in with their perceived role. Deployment of ‘diamenteros’ to assault tanks would be covered by anti-tank grenades issued to squads.

Of the other existing lists Italian special rules are a good fit for Early War armies on either side. Italians receive a bonus in defense. They also do better if they have a 3+ advantage in losses and worse at a -3 disadvantage. This reflects the enthusiasm for success which can turn on its head. The Italian Blackshirt infantry is also relevant as a unit that can unpredictably go up or down in effectiveness.

Although quite feasible to have a Spanish Civil War battle as Italian list versus Italian list only one would benefit from the Italian defense special rules.  As the Government would be likely to defend that would be the best Italian choice leaving the Nationalist side open.  The existing big players can be eliminated in terms of functionality or relevant flavour of their special rules:

  • Soviets and Chinese, no untrained hordes.
  • American, no move and fire.
  • German few MG34s and certainly no tiger fear.
  • French, no surplus of guns or conscript infantry.

So Franco must be British.  The free artillery observer fits with the Nationalists not being as short of shells as the Government.  Looking at the other British special rules ‘up and at ’em’ is the best fit.  Even the Home Guard option would work allowing some units to be Green militia.

From an equipment point of view the Bolt Action arsenal is wide enough to find what is needed although the weapon choices may not be in the same lists as the troops.  There is no specific armoured lorry but at its best anything with 7+ armour and a machine gun will do.  The Rolls Royce armoured car for example has a MMG, 7+ armour and is 56/70/84 points.   The Ba10 was not used in Spain but the older Ba6 was.  The Chevrolet M37 armoured Car was built in the government zones and used in anger.  Empress have a model; note that it is remarkably similar to the Ba10.

This shows a Ba6 and Ba10. The Ba10 (in Chinese service here) would not be in Spain but the M37 has a similar outline. It is even feasible to put a T26 turret on the M37.

With artillery and mortars Bolt Action lumps them all into a few categories and anything suitably antiquated would do on the tabletop even medium and heavy pieces which both sides had in service.  For those with an eye for detail many partisan infantry would not look out of place in Spain but manufacturers do tend to load them up with SMGs.  The ubiquitous German, Soviet and British SMGs often modeled on these figures were not available at the time.  The best match would be something that looks like and possibly is a Thompson.  A good outline of what was available to the Government is available on-line in Spanish.

These SMGs are close enough to see Spanish service as Thomson’s and the Labora-Fontbernat; surprisingly similar to the later German SMG. The figure at far right could be a spotter.

Fielding a force with at least some hope of success is more of a challenge.  As noted above the Finnish/Republican force with a T26 and Ba6 is a good start.  This is the Warlord T26, the version with the rounded turret is too late for this conflict.

Another approach is to build on the weak but cheap armour to field a 1 platoon list at 750 and 2 platoons at 1,000.  This sort of Early War force is not going to be happy at 1200+ points, the armour is not good enough to hold out against serious anti-tank and all the infantry filler will get in its own way.  A Ba6 is 120 and a T26 105 both at regular.  A basic HQ and 1 man unit is 60 (regular junior). So 285 spent, 50 on a gun/mortar/sniper, 335 and (750-335) leaves 415, 40 or so 10 point regulars less a few for LMGs.  Fielding 2 platoons at 1,000 points 570 points are tied up (285*2), 430 left, another 50 on the gun/mortar/sniper and 380 or 38ish squaddies.  Either side could field the Renault FT17 a seeming bargain at 35 points (regular) but a serious waste of a tank slot not least because it is too slow to keep up with the infantry.  Inexperienced infantry are 7 not 10 points that is 50 odd squaddies with the points left over at 1,000 but realistic or not an all inexperienced army without some sort of built in advantage (such as bamboo spears and banzai) is going to be tough going.

A Nationalist army could run the same 2 platoon solution as they acquired Government equipment and re-used the best of it.  From a tank choice there is the LV33 (60 at regular) and IZ (85) as the armoured car, both for the Italians or the German PzI (70 at regular).  Running the same maths would work at 235 (70+105+60) for a HQ and 2 vehicles.  The Nationalists are going to be buying more support and infantry weapons or possibly running cavalry or tough fighters (moors).  Players considering an 88 to sort out enemy armour options should note that although present it was not used as an anti-tank role at that time (if your army travels through time to 1941+ all bets are off).

To conclude; a reference to the concept in action.  Britcon 2017 saw our Soviets against a Nationalist force built around 2 infantry platoons each with their full share of armour.


Bolt Action 8.8cm and Artillery Options

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.