Tuesday 24 June 2014

Russian Into Battle

We've taken to playing 500 point games of Bolt Action recently in order to all be able to get games in and to really get to grips with the rules.

Due to the small game size we've been playing without army special rules as we've found that they can be unbalancing in smaller games

This week my newly finished Russians went up against Matt's partisans that double as Volkssturm when fighting Allied forces.

My Soviets:
2nd Lt & 1 man (SMGs)
12 Regulars (rifles + LMG)
8 Veterans (rifles, 2 SMGs, tough fighters)
3 Tank Hunters (rifles, panzerfaust)
Anti-Tank Rifle team
Sniper Team
45mm Anti-Tank Gun

Matt's Partisans (this might be wrong)
Officer & 1 man (SMGs)
12 Regulars (rifles)
12 inexperienced  (mix of rifles and pistols)
6 Veterans (SMGs)
MMG team
Inexperienced Captured Puma

I began with my sniper in the big hotel on the left and the tank hunters lurking around the centre of the table. I brought on my anti tank teams in the centre to threaten the road and hopefully tame the Puma. Meanwhile my veterans went up the left whilst the regulars and officer went up the right.

One element of the game I was pleased with was my use of 'kill zones'. The threat of the sniper made Matt bring all of his infantry on the right, bunching them together, whilst the Puma used it's Recce move to avoid the first shot from the AT Gun and never came out from behind the house in the centre for the rest of the game. 

Meanwhile, Matt used his MMG to control the ground between and beyond the houses in the centre. This effectively divided my force later in the game.

In the picture above the advance of Matt's regulars caused my tank hunters to retreat to the ruin by the road, but were countered by a devastating charge from my veterans, which destroyed the partisans, but left the vets hemmed in by the MMG.

Meanwhile, despite a brief exchange of fire, the right side of the table was tensely poised. My regulars were stranded in the woods, but being on ambush meant the the first of the partisans to appear would get a face full of lead. The inexperienced unit were in the larger ruined house, with the veterans and officer behind it.

To break the stalemate I advanced the AT rifle into a vulnerable position in the ruin and the inexperienced unit duly took the bait and assaulted. Despite being successful, the casualties they took (along with some earlier in the game) meant that the inexperienced unit was somewhat weakened.

Then came the exchange. Matt got the run of the order dice but was let down by his rolling to wound as the partisan officer and veterans advanced to pour fire in to the wood, and the inexperienced unit assaulted from the ruin.

However, when the dust had settled, the Russians were still standing and began to pin the partisan veterans into oblivion. Matt fired his MMG into the maelstrom, which allowed my veterans to finally cross the road and add their weight to proceedings.

By this point the battle was won, but it's worth a brief note about my tank hunters. They'd lurked, hidden, retreated, advanced and finally found themselves within striking range of their target, the Puma. The only problem was that attacking it would expose them to both the Puma and the MMG if they missed.

But they had a panzerfaust and weren't afraid to use it. The tank hunters advanced into the open, fired and...missed. The Puma's MMG spat fire at point blank range, but also missed. The tank hunters prepared to assault but then noticed the MMG in the cornfield turning in their direction. I imagine that the expressions bore a startling similarity to those of Richard Attenborough and Gordon Jackson at the end of The Great Escape...

Overall, I was pleased with how the game went and generally things went according to plan. Matt was unlucky in the exchange of fire on the right. For the first time I made extensive use of the ambush order in a game and it served me well, controlling fields of fire and making my opponent consider their moves carefully.

Playing amongst the buildings was a cagey and brutal affair and my tough veterans were fearsome. I was pleased with the durability of my big unit of regulars, and I was particularly happy with the effect that my AT gun had even though it didn't fire. However, I'm not all that sure of the effectiveness of the tank hunters.

I'm now considering whether to change my set up for next week when I'll be up against Americans or Germans.

Saturday 21 June 2014

The Quantity of Dubious Quality

I've been putting off this post for a few months. Since last year I've been working (on and off) on my Soviets for Bolt Action.

When Pete's mithering caused me to eventually relent and buy in to Bolt Action, I followed my natural instincts and looked for the cheapest option possible. I managed to pick up a box of plastic Russians, a T-34 and an Anti-Tank Gun for the princely sum of £30. Some glueing and swearing later I had three squads, an officer, a sniper and an Anti-Tank rifle team to go with the tank and gun.

I later discovered that my emphasis on rifles rather than SMGs, including LMGs, only having one AT Rifle and lacking artillery of any sort is apparently 'not optimal'. However, one of the pleasures of the Cheaphammer creed is that just like real commanders, you end up fighting with what you can get your hands on, not what the internet thinks is best.

I set out to be quick and dirty with the painting in order to get through the mass of resin, plastic and metal as quickly as possible and I painted a LMG squad, the officer, the sniper the AT rifle and the tank quite quickly. I was able to get games in using my BUF units from my VBCW force (which are made from WF plastic Russians) to make up the numbers.

Having a useable force combined with laziness and butterfly syndrome and I didn't pick up the paintbrush again until February when I got all systematic and ploughed through the rest of my infantry and the AT Gun. I'd also accidentally on purpose bought a pack of Artizan Designs Russians which added a second sniper and a few more SMGs to the force (the second sniper is allowed if you use the Battle of Kursk theatre selector).

The final step was to sort out the bases, and over this I procrastinated. However, a bout of illness kept me off work and largely immobile, and so I made use if the time and finally got them finished.

There are still a couple of things to finish off, but the army is pretty much battle ready.

First up, the command team. Obviously, there's a flag that still needs sorting, and is proving more problematic than you'd think. The chap in the trench coat currently serves as part of a sniper team, but I'm considering a little bit of a repaint and conversion to make him into a commissar.

LMG Squad 1. I've not sorted out a way of distinguishing squads on the tabletop yet, so currently I've put all the 'chargy' models in one unit...

...and all the 'waity' models in the other. LMG Squad 2.

Veteran Squad. These are really just the leftovers of what doesn't fit elsewhere. Smaller numbers, more SMGs and the Tough Fighters upgrade make them my assault unit.

Free Inexperienced Rifle Squad. I was looking for a way to add points to the army at my FLGS, but when I went in the only Soviet item they had was a blist pack of LMGs. However, my eye settled on the Copplestone Castings Back of Beyond range and the Bolshevik Partisans jumped out at me.

I'd wanted to do some partisans for a bit of variation, but I couldn't see myself ever wanting to field two inexperienced units in one force. However, I realised that these chaps (with a couple of Artizan partisans to make up the numbers) would work well as my free unit of cannon fodder, freeing up the other models I'd painted to add another 100 points to the army.

Sniper Teams. The two standing models are both due to serve double duty. The chap with the binoculars (the extra crewman from the AT gun) is currently being used as my Forward Artillery Observer (which is why the 'commissar' is in the sniper team). The standing sniper is also destined to spend some games as part of a Scout squad I've bought but not painted.

Anti-Tank Units. A 45mm Anti-Tank Gun, a PTRD Anti-Tank Rifle team, and Tank Hunter team complete with Panzerfaust and Molotov Cocktails.

The Tank Hunters were done on a whim to get more points together and because of their handy deployment rules. When I get my scouts done, these chaps might find themselves folded back into the Veteran squad.

Finally, my trusty T-34. I'm glad that this is the tank that came with my eBay purchase because it is the iconic Russian tank. It may not be the best in terms of the game, but it's the most appropriate support for a bog standard platoon somewhere in the Ukraine.

It's still in need of decals, a little bit of highlighting (maybe even weathering), and you might notice that I forgot to add the searchlight, but it's table-ready.

And so there we have it. I've just bought some Artizan SMGs and Scouts to begin the process of adding some choice to my army selection, but I have a workable 1000 point army, painted, based and (in my opinion) fairly historically appropriate for 1943.

This is the first 28mm army I've painted in quite some time. In terms if cost, it's come in at about £50, which isn't bad. I do think that there are cheaper armies out there, and I'm already tempted to do more than one of them.

Is it going to win tournaments? No, but I'm not planning on going to any. Can it match Pete's tank-happy Germans, Matt's mad-bomber Partisans or Wes' first-ever-army Americans? Well that remains to be seen...