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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 16 September 2012

Bolt Action

Bolt Action is a new set of WW2 rules published by Osprey and Warlord, primarily for 28mm figures. My copy arrived yesterday and I played my first game today.

Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules
A typical force is a reinforced platoon made up of three or more squads with a tank and support weapons. Artillery and air support are delivered by attached spotters and observers. 

The basic game system is very straightforward and quickly learned. Each unit has a special dice and the order of movement is selected by the simple expedient of picking the dice out of a cup. In the early stages units generally do what you want. But as they come under fire and suffer pinning points, you have to pass morale checks to get them moving and firing. Firing and assaults are also fairly straightforward with a couple of simple charts and only limited modifiers. While the game system is simple it has a subtlety of play that makes you use the tactics of the period.

The hardback rulebook has high production values, clearly laid out with plenty of eye candy. Some irritations though. No index, something I find inexcusable from a professional publishing house. It also needs an order of play sheet, FoG style. That's because there are several important add on rules in different chapters, like the effect of headquarters and medics that you are likely to forget. There are four army lists with the rules and it is pretty easy to adapt these to your existing armies. But the inevitable supplements are on the way.

My test game had three squads of Tito's partisans attacking two squads of Italians in a mill with woods and gentle hills around. Just MMG and mortars for support to keep it simple. The inexperienced partisans started well, but quickly found it difficult to keep moving once they started to take casualties and the attack petered out after 4 turns.

Despite the irritations I think Warlord are on to a winner with these. They won't please the purists as too much detail is abstracted. But as someone who likes to play different games, that suits me fine. I can see me using these for VBCW as my recent games with A World Aflame have been less than satisfactory. The quirky use of every dice in the box, coupled with old style long lists of modifiers, was entertaining retro the first time, but now simply bores. I have been planning a new project on the partisan war in Yugoslavia and these rules are just the incentive I need. Recommended.


  1. Spooky, just posted my thoughts on BA, very similar to what you've said here. What do you think of the vehicle rules?

    1. Havent tried those yet. Wanted to keep the first game simple. Plus dont have many in 28mm. A T26 that is staring at me on the painting bench!

  2. Good enough to make you switch from Great War rules Dave?