We’re wrapping up the NY/NJ Bolt Action Escalation League with our 1250 point round. Time to break out all the cool toys! The league is my first experience with playing regularly with another ‘meta’, I’ve played for several years at ToyWiz and we’ve pretty much settled down on plain vanilla ‘meta’ of paying lip service to historically accurate lists and not swinging to any extremes. With the change to the Down order it has become viable to take multiple Veteran squads and go Down when getting shot. Now this isn’t all that cheesy, but it does bog the game down and frankly it’s not a style I enjoy playing or playing against. Too many of the scenarios in the base Bolt Action system require you to move across the board, something you can’t do if you’re always going Down. None of the lists I’ve faced from the upstate guys have been overly cheesy (or cheesy at all for the most part) and are at least as historical as what I’m used to. I’m just not used to vet squads going down non-stop and not dying to overwhelming firepower, I’ve struggled to find a way to deal with them like I’ve normally dealt with opponents. Until this game that is…
We met at Proctors Theater for the Schenectady Wargaming Association’s monthly Game-A-Thon once again. We had a modest showing of six people, several of our regulars had to work and one was off doing Boy Scout activities. I faced off against Zach and his early war veteran French colonials. He had a three veteran squads in armored cars, two medium howitzers, an AT gun and a Char B(?) facing off against my three late war German regular squads, two medium mortars, medium howitzer, Wespe, Wirblewind, a veteran engineer squad and a truck for some mobility. I’ve wanted to keep the Panzer Grenadier theme going for my list but I had to dial it back a bit to fit on the mortars and the howitzer, which were key to my tactics. Before I’ve used two trucks and one or more Stummels which can (probably do to a type on the rule book) hold 8 men in addition to the light howitzer it carries.
I liked Zach’s list, its the French version of the list I’d like to play, if I thought I could make it work against the ‘downed vets’ tactic. It’s historical, has no cheese in it and he played it well I think.
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The battle was being fought around a farm, three objective markers were placed on my half of the table and Zach had to come get them. The difference between this scenario and Point Defense is that in order to win you need to have more objectives than your opponent, not two out of the three. Obviously I wanted to hold all three objectives but my fallback strategy was to hold the rear most objective and contest the other two, eeking out a victory on technical grounds. We lined up across the deployment zone, which actually stretched diagonal across the board from corner to corner. Zach put out his howitzers and a squad and held his armored cars in reserve, pushing his Char B up as far as possible. I had a squad in the grey roofed horse stall, a mortar behind it and my Wespe, Wirblewind and howitzer in position to hopefully take out the Char first turn! I quickly realized that the Wirblewind could do nothing to the Char B, and took a pot shot at the Char early turn one, nailing it but failing to do any real damage aside from jamming the turret. Zack’s howitzers tried ranging in on my howitzer and Wespe, but failed along with my own howitzer and mortar to find their targets. I learned the hard way that spotters are now considered to be always down unless they are given another order, one of the subtle changes that I had failed to notice. Zach’s howitzers were hidden safely behind several pieces of line of sight blocking terrain and the only way to deal with them would be to murder their spotters with overwhelming amounts of lead. Unfortunately this would only happen turns later as I had to go to extremes to get it done do to the added -2 from the assumed Down order.Turn two started with a great hit on my Wespe buy Zach’s howitzer which failed to kill it but immobilized it and added four pins to it, ensuring it’s death on turn 3. My truck full of panzerfaust wielding grenadier’s failed to come on the table, allowing his Char B to fire on a couple of my units and spread some pins around. Zach failed a roll to bring on an APC full of veterans so I guess it evened out. Reinforcements were brought onto the table by both sides. My flamethower wielding engineers ran from the board directly into a building. The fact that they didn’t hang around in plain sight would cause an upset later in the game. Things weren’t looking good for me on turn two. My Wespe was obviously going to die. I had spent the first two turns trying to take out Zach’s spotters, especially after one had ranged in on the Wespe. But first fulls of dice from the Wirblewind, multiple rounds from mortars and the howitzer all failed to find their mark and the spotter lived!
Turn three started off with Zach nailing my Wespe, as expected and taking out a LT in the process. My Howitzer had to move to not only get a better line of sight but to shake the second howitzer’s ranging in. Three turns and my howitzer had done nothing! Zach’s other howitzer scored a hit on the Wirblewind, taking it out before it could do anything effective. It would only play a roll as providing cover for my troops behind it. Zachs’s troops were moving up into position by this point, coming up to the red barn trying to take one objective and position themselves to assault the grey horse barn.
This would become deadly ground of the french colonials, as several squads and APCs would be finished off here by three of my squads. An APC moved up on turn two, unable to dismount it’s troops due to running. On turn three they were joined by a second squad that ran into the barn itself hoping to fire into the horse stall next turn. Somehow Zach had missed that the veteran squad I had in there carried a flamethrower. I was talking to a buddy about the force before the game and I though Zach knew. The next activation they opened up. The flamethrower killed three men and added four pins to the squad. The rest of the guns failed to do anything and the colonials managed to not route off of the table. The dice started rolling in my favor on turn three though. My mortars were ranging in and getting lucky 6’s. This trend of high explosive death would continue all the way through turn 7. My howitzer spun around and nailed a squad hiding in the building. The recent changes to HE meant that it was easier for me to hit the building than a squad. Zach went down to minimize the damage and I rolled the 5 I needed, decimating the squad, killing 4 out of the 7 and dealing 3 pins to it. except I actually needed a 6 to hit. I followed that up with a mortar hit that killed 2 guys and added a single pin. A consolation prize at least. My truck full of panzer grenadiers came onto the board and almost made it into range to kill the Char B, but at least they poured fire into the spotter and missed! The tide was turning!Turn four was where my tactics started to shine, with a heaping load of luck. Zach advanced his Char B into range to shoot my men and the truck they came on on, missing all of the rolls needed to hit and damage. They returned fire nailing it with the panzerfausts he had forgotten they had, dealing massive damage with one and blowing the tank up. They also murdered the spotter directly in front of them. Standing still had taken the to hit roll down from 6+6 to straight 6’s and plenty of German rounds found their mark. A Squad of men advanced up and nailed an APC with panzerfausts. They needed 6’s to hit, movement and a pin from Zach’s sniper. Two sixes! Blown up APC. The veteran squad inside comes out and goes down. The flame-throwed squad of Zach’s failed it’s activation check with boxcars! no FUBAR for me, but they fled away along with jokes of toasted baguettes. The turn ended with the tide turned in my favor.
Turn five saw Zach’s sniper finally move into a position to fire again, after a couple of turns of firing on the only squad they could see Zach blocked their line of sight with various APCs and squads. The last fresh squad of veteran colonials advanced out and killed the now panzerfaust-less to a man, they simply couldn’t withstand the withering point blank fire. Zach had maneuvered up this squad and we both had thought was relatively safe. But my recently re-positioned howitzer was able to take a long shot, through two buildings and rolled a 5, hitting them with the 3 inch template. I can’t remember if they were all killed or failed the morale test after 50% casualties but they disappeared. The engineer squad advanced out and flamed the APC which moved them up and it failed the morale test after the attack, routing it. Some re-positioning on both of our parts moved units into line of sight, setting up some killing for the turn six. The last activation of the turn was one of my medium mortars. I had only one shot, drawing line of sight from a spotter to what was left of a colonial squad. I couldn’t re-position to a better spot so I just tossed my die, which landed on at least the third first shot 6 for my mortars. The squad was bunched up and the 2 inch template hit all four, killing them all. Eliminating the last of the French infantry squads and securing two of the three objectives for me. It also left an empty APC with no friendly troops close.Turn six and seven left only mopping up. A sniper was hiding on a corner of a building, an LT was close enough to contest an objective that I still needed to take and Zach still had two howitzers and an AT gun left that were slowly re-positioning. My engineers murdered the sniper with hot fire and continued the steak of not running out of fuel, six games so far! although plenty flame throwers have died to snipers, close assaults, mass fire and other calamities. In an effort to win with all three objectives I advanced out of buildings to kill the LT on the objective. I loaded a squad into my truck and chanced the run past an AT gun on ambush, and lost! Truck blown up with surprisingly little damage on the squad inside. They jumped out in perfect position to assault, but it was turn 7 so they would never get the chance.
My strategy going in was to exploit the Down order in my favor. Several times over the course of the game after Zach went down in response to fire or HE I responded by firing a mortar at him. Indirect HE is not modified by cover or range, it starts at a 6 to hit and gets better as long as the firing unit AND the target don’t move. My first activation for the next round would be the same mortar, hitting several times (often times rolling a six, adding insult to injury). Several times my mortars hit first turn, once on an APC. In addition the HE has a penetration modifier, reducing the target number to wound from 5 to 3 or even 2. I honestly can’t recall my small arms doing more than one casualty per activation, if any. 95% of the casualties I caused were due to one heavy weapon or another. In addition the first time Zach ran a squad into a building I hit it with HE, not only ignoring the cover bonus but also the extra protection that buildings give to infantry. I got lucky with 3 first turn hits from mortars, but odds were on my side with two medium mortars and two medium howitzers. Once a unit went down I would have at least one chance on a 6 and another on a 5 in the following turn, more if both mortars could fire. The medium mortars and the flame thrower were punching far above their weights, killing several times their points costs and making no part of the board safe except complete line of sight blocking cover, which was hard with spotters. Zach’s careful movement into cover and down orders were hugely successful against my small arms, but offered no protection to steel rain and gouts of flame! My vehicles were taken out before they could do much in the game but my real AT solution worked, panzerfausts in every squad. The flame thrower even scored a vehicle kill!
This was a great game, at least for me. I’ve been practicing with some version of this list for the entire league and it finally came together successfully. Zach played well, but my poor luck in the first half of the game turned around and what seemed like hundreds of sixes were thrown in rapid succession.