Tuesday 17 March 2015

Vaincre les envahisseurs! Bolt Action AAR

The post title comes from Google Translate, so it's not my fault if it's actually gibberish.

As advertised in my previous post, I used my French for the first time in Bolt Action at the weekend, against Pete's Germans. There was a lot at stake, since Pete (and Kieron in fact) had been gleefully informing me that I'd be surrendering a lot since I first started buying French models, so I needed to deliver some poetic justice.

Since I only had 500 points' worth painted, that was how many we played, on a 4'x3' table.

The scenario, rolled for randomly, was demolition. We would each need to reach a point in the opposite deployment area, and have a model there at the end of a turn, to win. We represented these bases with ploughed fields - which as it turned out made more sense at Pete's end of the table than mine, since it resulted in a ploughed field which extended across a road. Maybe something had been buried there.
We played lengthwise, and banned outflanking (since with a narrow table that would allow outflanking units a big advantage). Otherwise, we stuck to all the normal rules.

My force was slightly unusual, but at least contained enough infantry units to be vaguely viable:

2nd Lieutenant
8 man squad with LMG and VB launcher
8 man squad with LMG and VB launcher
8 man squad with LMG and VB launcher
Forward Artillery Observer
Light howitzer (free!)

If I had more painted, I don't think I'd have tied up 100 points in a single model for the artillery observer, but that was what was available.

From memory I think Pete had:

2nd Lieutenant
7 man squad with LMG and SMG
7 man squad with LMG and SMG
7 man squad with LMG and SMG
6 man SS squad with some SMGs
Medium Mortar

I was surprised to discover that the Germans aren't allowed to take snipers in the Battle of France selector. That was a relief for me, as I'd been concerned that my artillery observer would be unlikely to survive long enough to call in a barrage, and had been trying to figure out where I could place him and have him be safe from sniping. As it was, he was able to lounge in the upper floor of a building and wait for a target.

The howitzer takes careful aim at Pete
Since the demolition scenario allows you to deploy only half of your force (with the rest in reserve), I put the observer in his building, the howitzer guarding my objective and looking down the road, and a squad behind a wall, ready to move up towards the observer's building.

French infantry bravely hide behind a wall
Pete had his MMG covering the road, his mortar on the objective off on one side with his SS, and another squad on the other flank.

The first die drawn was Pete's, and he began an artillery duel between his mortar and my howitzer as each tried to range in on the other. His machine gun also opened up on the howitzer, and his infantry ran forwards while keeping out of sight behind the buildings.

I astounded myself with the realisation that in stringing themselves behind a wall, my unit had engineered a situation where they'd get further advancing (as they could hop the wall) than by running (as they'd have to reach a gate). So they did that, getting into the open in front of the building and firing ineffectually at one of the running German units.
The observer decided that he was so lucky to still be alive at this juncture, he'd better celebrate by requesting an artillery mission, and picked a point between the German MMG and mortar.

On the next turn my squad ran into the building, and the shootout between the howitzer, mortar and MMG continued to no effect.
Reserves arrive, and position themselves
where they can actually get forward this time
The artillery barrage didn't appear, so the SS squad ran from it and assaulted the troops in the building - wiping them out but being reduced to only 2 men themselves. As my reserves started to arrive, I sent a unit to plug the gap from the assault, moving them first behind the wall and then into the open, merrily blazing away at the building. This didn't achieve much, but the return fire from the two SS troopers was clearly a bit much for the French to take, and they spent the next three turns pinned down and taking casualties, unable to move up to the building.

Sneaky Germans advance through the woods and behind a building
Plucky French reserves run from cover to cover

My remaining reserves arrived on the other flank, where Pete's advancing squads were in danger of reaching their objective unopposed. This left the French in the open when the first of Pete's squads came round the corner of the building and opened up on them at point blank range, and I lost half the squad. They returned fire but didn't do too much damage, and the Germans then tried their luck in assault. This went badly for Pete - he failed to cause a single casualty and his squad was wiped out, and the French squad moved around the building they'd just been attacked from.

An extremely close range firefight
Here, they were able to gun down the German lieutenant, who had crept up to the building and looked like he would make a run for the objective from the other side.

I forgot to take photos for a while, but here's a mortar
that's been so heavily pinned, it's turned blurry.
In the meantime, my artillery barrage hit home, pinning the German mortar and seeing off the machine gun team. This left the howitzer able to switch targets and maul one of Pete's reserve squads as it moved up, with the remnants now pinned and facing the remnants of my advancing squad. With his job done, the artillery observer attempted to leave the building, only to be killed by the two SS men on the ground floor.

Sensing he was needed, the French lieutenant ran across to join the squad facing off against the SS, and finally convinced them to press home an assault into the face of the SMGs. The French managed to take the building - but with only the LMG gunner left standing. The lieutenant, evidently not good with the sight of blood, sidestepped the building and ran around to the other side of it.

The last German reserve squad, which had taken until turn 5 to stop arguing about where the battle was supposed to be, finally arrived, and ran up the road in a confident fashion, at which point they were blown to smithereens by the howitzer.

The howitzer crew watch for any more juicy targets
Surviving troops edge forward
The lone survivor of the building assault creeps out
This left just 4 Germans cowering behind a wall, at point blank range from 4 Frenchmen... with neither side able to hit the other. The Germans, heavily pinned, tried to move away to try to stop the French lieutenant from reaching the objective, but couldn't pass the orders test. The howitzer, just to confirm that it was the best 0 points I'd ever spent, hit the squad and wiped them out. With all the Germans now dealt with, the lieutenant was able to reach the objective and so achieve the mission.

The lieutenant appears at the end to grab all the glory

My first run out with the French had resulted in victory!

More blurriness. It got a bit emotional.
This was especially good news as it meant I was able to hand Pete the card I'd prepared earlier.

Sympathy cards aren't normally used for revenge, but it works for me.

I did take a couple of lessons from this game. First, one I already knew really - bigger infantry squads are just better! Had Pete's SS squad been 8 men instead of 6, for example, I'm not sure I'd have got through them in the end. Having 8 men to Pete's 7 gave me an edge on the other side of the board too.

Second, don't forget direct fire for artillery! It occurred to me after the game that I could probably have hit Pete's machine gun with the howitzer on the first turn, rather than trying to range in on the mortar for 3 turns.

I'm still painting and building on this force, so expect more games, if I can find an opponent after this that is...