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Brian Sherry
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I picked up a copy of Warlord Games' new Bolt Action WWII rules at Historicon last weekend. I have read through the book several times now, and although I have not played the game yet I am going to give a quick overview of what is in the book, the basic mechanics, and my take on the game.

First, the book was written by Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestly. With that in mind, I think it is fair to say that the game is a mixture of Warhammer 40k mechanics along with some Warmaster-like mechanics, with some new mechanics added to the mix. The result is a system that is at once quite familiar yet different from its antecedents. A game figure scale is not stated anywhere that I could find, but it is obvious from the pictures that the rules are primarily intended for 28mm miniatures. I believe the rules would work fine for other scales although multi-based infantry figures would require casualty caps or the like.

The book's layout and presentation is superb. It is full color, hard bound, and weighs in at 216 pages. There are color plates and excellent photographs of well painted miniatures and great terrain throughout the book. The book's contents consist of the game rules, scenarios, and reasonably detailed late war army lists for the US, UK, Germany, and the Soviet Union. In general the rules are very well-written and easy to follow and understand. I had very few questions while reading and saw few, if any, typos.

So, how does it play? The game is played with a randomized alternating activation system. Both players place a single "order dice" in a cup for every unit in their army. Each player's dice should be a different color, for example Player A has Green Dice and Player B has Grey dice, etc. Order dice are drawn one at a time from the cup and the player whose dice it is gets to activate a unit. This continues until all order dice have been drawn, and then a new turn begins. On a side note Warlord games will be selling special order dice, of course, though normal dice can be used without problem.

When a unit is activated, the player then has a choice of six orders to issue. The orders are: Fire, Advance, Run, Ambush, Rally, or Down. Fire means shoot without moving. Advance allows for a move and fire (at a penalty), Run is a double move. Ambush is basically overwatch, allowing a unit to interrupt enemy movement to fire at the moving unit. Oddly, an ambushing unit cannot shoot first at a unit which fires on it. A Rally order is to remove Pin markers (discussed below) and Down is an order to take cover.

Movement is pretty simple: 6" for an advance and 12" for run for infantry. Vehicles are typically 9"/18". Weapon ranges are also very familiar: rifles are 24", machine guns 36", for example.

Combat resolution is very simple. For infantry, roll a die (d6) for every firing model. (Note there are assault weapons, etc, that get more that one die per model, usually at a reduced range.) A 3 or better causes a hit. Modifiers include a -1 for moving and shooting, for soft cover, for the target unit being "down" etc. Modifiers are cumulative. Take the number of hits and then roll for damage. The casualty roll is based on the target's troop rating of inexperienced, regular or veteran. In experienced troops are damaged on a 3 or better, regular on a 4 or better, and veterans on a 5 or better, somewhat like the Flames of War shooting system. There are no armor saves, only the roll to hit and the damage roll. The player on the receiving end of the shots chooses his casualties. One wrinkle is the "exceptional damage" rule, which holds that you re-roll any natural "6s" and if you get a further "6" you can pick the enemy squad's casualty. If a unit takes more than 50% of its current number as casualties, a morale check is made. A morale check is made on 2d6 against the unit's morale value. Inexperienced morale is 7 or less; regular, 8 or less; veteran 9 or less. A failed morale check will remove the unit from the table.

Against vehicles you make a die roll, adding a weapon's Penetration value, against the target's Armor value. For example, if shooting at a T-34 with a PzIV, you would roll a d6, adding +6 for a Heavy Anti-Tank Gun, against the T-34s' medium tank Armour value of 9+. If you rolled a total of 9 or more, you cause damage and roll on the damage table. A roll of exactly the needed number (9 in this case) would be "superficial damage" and you would roll with a -3 modifier on the table. The table is simple; a 4+ will knock out the vehicle, with lesser results causing havoc of one kind or another. Also, if an AT gun exceeds the score needed by 3 or more, then this is called "massive damage" and two rolls are made on the table.

Close combat is handled very simply, as well. If a unit is within Run distance (usually 12") it can assault. The enemy unit gets defensive fire if they have not previously activated that turn, unless the charge is started from within 6". The enemy unit fire at full effect. Surviving attackers are piled in along with all enemies, meaning that usually all the models in both units will fight. There are no hit rolls, only damage rolls. Attackers strike first. Remaining defenders attack back. The side that causes the most casualties wins, and the loser is destroyed.

Regarding morale, as stated above in shooting and close combat the penalty for failing a morale check or losing a close combat is the destruction of the unit. However, units which take hits but do not need to test for morale take "pin markers" for every casualty instead. Vehicles also get pin markers from being hit by heavy weapons. Pin markers count as a negative modifier against activations. For example, if you draw an order dice and choose to activate a unit with two pin markers, you must make an "order test" at -2 to activate. If you fail, the unit does not activate and instead goes "down". If an order test is passed, the unit acts and also removes a pin marker. If the order test roll is a natural 12 on two dice, a "FUBAR" roll is made with 1-2 being "Friendly Fire" and 3-6 "Panic". Both are very unpleasant.

There are obviously many other rules in the book, covering issues like HQ units, Artillery, Airstrikes, terrain effects, etc. I will not go into all of them here. Suffice it to say they are generally handled in a very simple and fast manner akin to the procedures for shooting, etc. described above. There are also rules for transport vehicles, fighting in buildings, and other special situations.

The book includes 6 basic scenarios to play competitive games of Bolt Action. These are rather standard fare. They include some special rules for hidden units, reserves, etc.
Finally, the book includes rules for force selection and army lists. Typical games of Bolt Action appear to be played with points-based armies using a 1,000 point army as the default. A force must comprise one or more reinforced platoons. Each reinforced platoon must take a minimum of one officer and two infantry squads. Each reinforced platoon can also have a number of support elements, such as 0-1 tank, 0-1 sniper team, 0-1 armored car, etc. You can take multiple reinforced platoons. As 10-man infantry squads costs about 100 points, it appears by my rough calculations that a 1000 point army would likely have 3-4 squads with a vehicle or two in support along with a few other support elements such as MGs, mortars, etc. There are four lists for the late war for Germans, US, UK, and Soviets. There are a good number of infantry and vehicle entries for each army, though Special Rules for particular vehicles and infantry exist, they are at a minimum. Each nationality does get two special rules covering their force. For example, the Germans get "Initiative Training" allowing a new NCO to be appointed on a roll of 4+ if an NCO is squad's killed. They also get "Hitler's Buzzsaw" which gives German MG units an additional shot.

The book ends with two appendices, one providing a brief timeline overview of WWII and some end notes, the other a series of useful game charts summarizing the basic rule. There is no index, alas, although the table of contents at the beginning is fairly comprehensive.

In conclusion, the book is very well written, has superb production values, and is very clear. As I stated above, I have not played the game, but there are very few questions in my mind as to how it plays. Shooting seems very similar to Rogue Trader 40k minus the Ballistic Skill chart and the armor saving rolls. Vehicle shooting is very similar to 3-5th edition 40k but there is only one rather unforgiving chart. Close combat is very deadly but an effective charge looks very difficult to pull off outside of 6" or absent extreme numerical superiority. Perhaps that's as it should be. All of the special rules for artillery, air, etc. are present and tend to be resolved very easily. The main goal of the game appears to be to create a highly streamlined WWII 28mm combat system. It is far less detailed than "Disposable Heroes" for example, but will obviously play much faster. Although it comes with points values and competitive scenarios, there is no reason to my mind that the rules would not work very well for Skirmish Campaigns or other scenario-based gaming options.

I think players looking for an easy, very fast WWII skirmish game will like this rules set. Players looking for a lot of detail, unit differentiation, and charts will likely find it too simplistic for their tastes. More detail may be added by the publication of the dedicated army books for each army starting in the fall, although those who hate the idea of "codexes" for a WWII game will likely not be amused.

For my part, I think the game is going to be a lot of fun. The rules are very easy to learn and remember, provide enough detail to keep me interested, and are playable as designed without neither too many infantry models nor hordes of expensive 28mm vehicles required. I am looking forward to playing very soon. Provisional Grade: B+
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Dave Ross
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This is a great preview of what's to come. Thanks a lot for doing it! There's so little information out on this game right now.
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Aaron Day
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That pinning system sounds similar to the one used in Epic:Armageddon. It really is a GW hodge podge.

Quick question, do vehicles have one armor value or a different armor value for each side?

Is there different ammunition types for the various guns? (forex AP, HE, HVAP, HEAT, etc)
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Barry Doyle
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I picked this up at Historicon -- I thought it looked interesting, and I can't wait to give it a try.

After getting a chance to peruse the book, though, I thought the descriptive paragraph on the back of the book seemed oddly familiar...

http://www.valorandvictory.com/vv_about.htm

Hmmmm...
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Norris Darrall
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Will look forward to trying this one at a convention. Looks very good. At reading of two different reviews, I can almost see simo-move as in Johnny Reb. Have been looking for a WWII set of rules that would match my eccentric
traits.
 
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James Farquharson
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Does anyone know what army lists are in the book? Just that I've seen on the Osprey website a German 'Army Book' for it coming out.
 
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Barry Doyle
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James409 wrote:
Does anyone know what army lists are in the book? Just that I've seen on the Osprey website a German 'Army Book' for it coming out.


Hello James,

The book has basic army lists for Germany, the US, Britain and Russia. They seem to be fairly complete for "starter" lists.

-Barry
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Steven Kline
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Hedgehobbit wrote:
That pinning system sounds similar to the one used in Epic:Armageddon. It really is a GW hodge podge.

Quick question, do vehicles have one armor value or a different armor value for each side?

Is there different ammunition types for the various guns? (forex AP, HE, HVAP, HEAT, etc)


I've only perused the book once at our LGS but from memory I'll try to answer.

Armored Vehicles have an armor rating for light, medium, heavy and super heavy (starting at 8 and going up to 11). Shots to the side and rear get a penetration bonus (+1/+2) rather than change the actual value of the armor. Some tanks will have slightly modified values (ex the Panther while a medium tank gets a higher rating to the front and the Hetzer taking a shot to the side takes the pentalty as if it were shot in the rear).

I do recall seeing HE mentioned but I dont' recall it being tied to any specific tank. I beleive it is a general rule. Tank guns have a rating which determines the strength of the gun vs armored targets. It is very similar to 40k in that you roll a d6 add the guns value. Hand held RPGs are in the 5/6 range. Tank guns can get an extra d2, d3, or d6 as well.

It is very much a WW2 light system designed for a quicker paced game than say Flames of War. There is some differentiation between nations but for some who value historical accuracy highly it may be a bit too generic. I for one am looking forward to it.


edit - the main rule book lists are late war, including things like the Persing. I recall them saying they will have supplimental books for each of the major naions. Those will cover that particular nation for the entire war. They will also have one 'minor' nations book for each side of the war.
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Greg S.
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Thanks for this review. I've been waiting for some good first-hand info on the game and you did not disappoint.
 
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David J Schaffner
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Nice review Brian!

I have a copy of Bolt Action now, and I'm looking forward to getting my 20mm Eastern Front figures onto the tabletop and into some gaming action with the rules soon. I think Bolt Action is going to end up being well received by my local gaming group, and for one, I know I'm already sold on the system.
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J Herbert

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If I read other sites correctly the MI Garand is he same as the 98 and Enfield and Mosin Nagant ? Nothing on semi fire ? What about the M1 carbine ? I see assault rifles are 2 dice. That really doesn't leave much wiggle room. I'm thinking the whole weapon chart needs a do over.
 
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David J Schaffner
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US rifle squads equipped with M1 Garands and BARs (and a sprinkling of Carbine and Thompsons too), enjoy the Army Special Rule: Fire And Manoeuvre in Bolt Action, which negates the usual (-1) hit penalty for shooting on the move. This is a simple but rules-elegant way of allowing US troops equipped with semi & automatic weapons to move & fire without a modifier deduction, thus utilizing "walking fire" as it was called at the time.
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Aaron Gelb
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I like that when activated you can elect to do anything with that squad. I'm so sick of 40k move, shoot, assault, repeat.

Can you activate a unit that has already been activated at the cost of possibly not being able to activate another squad? or perhaps at a fatigue penalty, etc?
 
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Walter Melnyk
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No - once a unit is activated it is done. The only exception is selecting "Ambush" which gives your unit the overwatch option when an enemy unit presents itself.

If you haven't activated a specific unit it can also be activated to "Down" if being targeted, making it harder to hit - but also burning up the unit's action for the turn.
 
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Dave Violago
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Thanks for the great review.

Our gaming group has been playing Bolt Action for a little while now, having had access to a preview copy. Seceral of us have since bought the book. It is now our latest "fave" set of rules.

Here is a batrep of a game re-creating part of the Dieppe Raid:
http://wpggamegeeks.blogspot.ca/2012/08/dieppe-game-report-b...

Some of the group are now translating the rules for various sci-fi backgrounds:
http://wpggamegeeks.blogspot.ca/2012/10/battle-report-binary...
 
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Matt Gordier
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So how much would it cost to get started up in this game generally?

I don't know which companies to go to for 28mm figs, but I'm not interested in having perfect sculpts but rather something that is affordable.

Also, is there any that sell them pre-painted?
 
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Walter Melnyk
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Hi. Just going to say that while the book is "designed" for 28mm - and the figures do look good - you can easily play this game using 20mm and 15mm collections.

I have run several games using my 15mm Normandy collection and they have worked well - so you do have less expensive options.

Also, you can get away with smaller forces than many other rule sets - say, 3 squads of 8-10 troops, a few MG and anti-tanks teams - and a handful of tanks is plenty.

Enjoy.
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tom brown
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I imagine if you really wanted to play on the cheap you could do individually based 1/72 soft plastics and revell/airfix tanks.

I have a small army of weird war 2 americans that I am hoping to use for this. I might have to use my mechs as count as tanks or armoured cars until I buy some proper ww2 stuff.
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Jeff Staff
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There are some great 1/72 figures by companies like Caeser, Plastic Soldier, Revell. Check out http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Index.aspx
I have tons of Roco 1/87? scale vehicles as well. They're close enough in scale. I think I'll pick this book up.
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Orcinius Orca
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Reading your review, one thing strikes me immediately.

"The book is very well written."

No, the layout of the rules is terrible! It is very hard to find what you want because the rule you are looking for could be almost anywhere. Rules, such as those to do with morale, are spread out in the various sections. The section on weaponry is useless and a space filler (as is the potted history of WW2). An index is desperately needed. Rules need to be repeated in different sections because many of those sections (such as orders and morale)overlap. That is, morale can effect whether or not an order is carried out and what happens to the unit if the ordered is failed.

The pictures are nice eye-candy, which seems mandatory for rules nowadays, but just add to the cost of the rules.

The game is fun to play but is hard work to understand the rules completely.
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