Of the bad kind. Having played Bloodbowl for almost a decade my reputation as being damned unlucky with dice has become something of local legend. I have had players gift me casino balanced dice to try to turn my luck. All up, I usually take it on the chin. However, a combination of bad luck and good dice rolls playing Bolt Action recently got under my skin.
Now I admit, I took some risks in this game because I wanted to test out how a small, elite force would go in a tournament. Here’s the force I drew up.
Two squads of SS-Panzergrenediers with 2x LMGs each, a Puma, a Panther, a Sniper and a half track. I did not know in advance what I would be playing but the plan was simple. Use the Puma to take out or lure targets, keep as much in reserve and deploy where needed to achieve the mission (also not determined up front).
As it turned out I would be up against British Paratroopers with a Cromwell. No changes to the plan, however when I checked the players pack for the up-coming tourney, super heavy AT guns were not permitted. So, even though my Panther is a medium tank, because it has an 88mm which is a Super Heavy AT gun, I wouldn’t be able to take it. So, a quick substitution was made. Fortunately there is a 10 point difference between an Inexperienced Panther and a Veteran Stug IV. Too easy.
The table was set up as below, and the mission “Sectors”. I picked the corner with the chateau with the intent of hiding my sniper there.
Keeping the Stug, half track, and one of the Panzergrenediers squads in reserve I deployed the sniper as planned, countered a paratrooper deployment with Panzergrenediers, and put the Puma out in the open as a lure to the artillery. The plan; hold back until the free British artillery drops, then ambush the Cromwell with the Stug and bring the Panzergrenediers in the half track to counter the main British attack.
Opening turn was mostly a bit of moving, some exchange of fire between Panzergrenediers and paratroopers. The Puma was fired at by the on table artillery, and used the recce rule to get out of sight. So far, so good.
The Cromwell moves up and fires at the sniper. Now, I don’t think it would come as a surprise to any local players that Bolt Action isn’t one of my favorite rule sets, but it’s what everyone is playing. Why is this relevant? Well, turns out a sniper hiding in a building makes absolutely no difference to it’s chance of being hit. In fact, it turns out he was easier to hit in the building than if he had been in the open!! Hiding usually significantly increases the penalty to hit, making it nearly impossible to hit, but as the Cromwell was shooting the building, and that’s it’s a large target in the open.
OK, so that one is on me. I should know the rules, and that was part of the learning process I wanted to get out of this game, and going into a a tourney. I would have thought it would work similar to Flames of War where the sniper couldn’t be targeted until it opens fire. Apparently not. I don’t like it, but if that’ the rules so be it. Sniper team dies.
Turn 2 the free artillery rains down. Pin markers abound but the Puma takes a direct hit and is immobilised. Annoying but not a disaster. The fastest thing I have is now a pillbox. Such is life, and it was sort of covering a quarter, so Ambush orders for the rest of the game seemed likely.
With the Cromwell in the open the Stug passed it’s orders test to come on, take a shot, and take out the Cromwell. All going to plan!
Panzergrenediers in the half track pile in. This in itself raised a question of how does that work? Do the Panzergrenediers have to take an orders test to board the half track while off table? Otherwise, if they come on the table in the half track they have effectively by-passed the test to come on as reserves. On the other hand, if they can’t be on the transport, then what really is the point of having one at all? Something to look up later. We retrospectively roll some dice and determine that it’s appropriate they be on table. Some fire is exchanged with the closing squad of paratroopers, whittling down their numbers and making them think twice about assaulting.
Then, it all goes wrong. I get the first dice out of the bag for the 3rd turn, pretty much what I need to hammer the paratroopers before they get to act and before reinforcements turn up. However, the Panzergrenediers have a single pin marker so have to pass an orders test. Double six comes up.
Ordinarily I’d be happy with more than a 3 on a dice but in this instance that means a failed test, and what’s more, a FUBAR result. I roll on the chart, and get a 2. They shoot the nearest unit… the nearest friendly unit. Again, great results on the dice mean I hammer the unit, but in this case it’s a bad result. The unit takes more than 50% casualties and has to take a moral test. They fail and are destroyed.
Had this been a tourney I would have thrown in the towel and conceded. However, in the interests of an evenings entertainment, I push on. A win is still possible as I have all my armour, but unlikely.
Long story short, the remaining Panzergrenediers get charged by the reinforcements and wiped out. The half track is removed at the end of the turn under the transport rules. The commander takes an assault and rolls a 1 but amazingly pulls a draw as none of the paratroopers managed to score a hit! The following round he is killed, again rolling a 1. The Stug is immobilised and then destroyed by the PIAT. The Puma withstands attempted assaults thanks to failed paratrooper nerve meaning they hold back, but ultimately falls to an assault.
So, a test game taught me about the rules, but also put a significant dent in my enthusiasm to play in the tourney. Even though the Panther would have been inexperienced, easily pinned down, and probably less useful than the Stug, I was taking it for aesthetics and expecting those kind of results. Like the Stug the plan would be to expose it only when I needed to. The no super heavy AT guns pretty much rules out every iconic and late war heavy tank in the German arsenal including the Tiger I. At the same time few Allied tanks are affected including the 122mm IS-1 as it’s a heavy AT gun with special rules.
Ultimately though my biggest gripe comes down to the sniper being able to be targeted despite being Hidden. You really only need to have seen the first 45 seconds of the Band of Brothers – Battle for Carentan to see how impossible it is to see troops actively concealing themselves, even at close range. At least the game models the dangers of being in a building when HE artillery hits it.
As it turns out the tourney got cancelled due to low numbers, so I didn’t have to make any decisions around whether or not I’d be attending, or what to take.