Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bolt Action WW2 Reflections

Last Sunday afternoon I played a game of Chain of Command (CoC) with Adam Clark.  Adam is well versed in Chain of Command.  My previous attempts at playing CoC had met with dissatisfying results on my part.  There are of course aspects of CoC that I liked, but overall I had a hard time wanting to play CoC instead of Bolt Action.

The result of Sunday's game didn't change my take on CoC.  Admittedly I'm a beer a pretzels gamer and that is what best describes Bolt Action to me.  Certainly Bolt Action is not without fault, like any rule set, but my group has become adept at making the system work historically for us (based on force organization and scenarios that make sense rather than points and tournament style min-maxing which I think gives many decent rule sets a bad name).

That all being said, I do like certain aspects of CoC.  That got me thinking - so I decided I'd like to try a few house rules.  As with any house rules or modification, my intent isn't to complicate game play or make the games take longer - instead hold true to the simplicity of the core rules.

Anyways ... enough rambling from me ... there are all sorts of things I could discuss here, but at the end of the day all the matters is the rules I'd like to try out.  Clearly these house rules are based on the same rules that exist in CoC.

So, for my next Bolt Action WW2 game I'm going to give them a try.

Bolt Action WW2 House Rules (Draft)

Tactical Advance – After moving a unit using an Advance order (even if crossing terrain), if the unit does not fire, it may immediately go Down.  This represents the unit taking the best advantage of the surrounding terrain for cover.

Section Tactics – When ordering an infantry section with an NCO the player can decide to split the section into two teams provided there is a minimum of 4 models remaining in the section (minimum of 2 figures per team, which includes the NCO who is assign to one or the other).  The section continues to be ordered using a single dice, however each team can execute a separate order (mark separately using an extra off colour dice that is not included in the order dice pool).  Teams must remain within 12” of each other.  If the NCO is eliminated or if the remaining number of models in the section drops below 4, the unit must reform as a “normal” section during its next action that involves movement (moving as far as possible to regain normal unit coherency).

LMG ROF – Magazine-fed LMGs increase their ROF from 3 dice to 4 dice.  Belt-fed LMGs increase their ROF from 3 dice to 5 dice.

MMG ROF – All MMGs increase their ROF from 4 dice to 6 dice.

Firing Mortars – If a mortar has LOS to the target (or target point) the initial to-hit value is 5 instead of 6.

Force Morale – Each side in a battle has a starting force morale equal to their morale rating based on their troop quality (for the total force, per the normal rules for Bolt Action army building).  For each platoon fielded beyond the first (the second, third and so on), roll 1D3 and add that result to the total force morale.  Each time a unit is eliminated from the game that sides force morale drops.  When one sides force morale reaches 0 the game ends immediately.  Force morale drops based on the unit eliminated:
Each vehicle drops force morale by 3.
Each team (or single model) drops force morale by 2.
Each infantry section drops force morale by 4.

This should be interesting.  Given that all of our Bolt Action games are limited by a specific number of turns, the force morale may be unnecessary --- but, I've also seen desperate (and unrealistically aggressive) moves made in later game turns that are purely based on trying to win within a certain time span (turns).  By adding force morale hopefully that will provide a secondary strategic consideration for how aggressive (or not) a particular side will be when attempting to take an objective or similar.


  1. I'm a CoC fan, although I have nothing against BA as such, as you say it's a fun game. I think your house rules do go some way to enhancing the game too, so well done for that!

    The force morale idea should indeed force some thought as to consequences, but as you say its use in a game with limited turns is of questionable value.

    My own bugbear with BA is activation. The dice in the bag concept is something I do like in principle, but it does make co-ordinating your units difficult, as you have to hope for another one of your dice to come out on a consecutive turn. Obviously this makes things like infantry-armour tactics a matter of luck rather than planning.

    I appreciate elites have a lot of advantages as it is, some of which I feel are a step too far... but again one tangible advantage they do have in the real world is better 'team work', another thing the activation system robs them of.

    I was thinking of maybe adding some dice of a third colour to the bag, as 'wild dice' elites could use as if one of their own had been drawn. It increases the odds in their favour, but does not make activation a sure thing either.

    1. Interesting ideas. I do think CoC is a good platoon level game. I also not trying to say it is a bad game and Bolt Action is the best ... for my pace of rules Bolt Action works (especially for convention games with 7-8 players). I'd struggle to get 7-8 players at a convention playing CoC, but that just isn't what it is targeted at. There are some excellent elements of CoC for sure. You've made some good points here ... need to mull on it :-) Thanks!

    2. No worries, people play what they play for their own reasons and that's how it should be. I don't like wargaming snobs looking down their noses because somebody plays something different to them. :-)

    3. lol, yup, agree 100% :-) I try to tell people, play what makes you happy and is fun for you.

    4. Hey Jay,

      We play CoC and BA! Both have their place. For example, here was a game of BA we played that was a large multi player action - seems to work in our group when it’s a bit 'looser' on the hard history and just a good get together and 'have to!'


      ...then again, we love hard history as well. Jim and I collaborated on developing CoC-Espana which has produced no end of cracking games like this form our friend Scrivs...


      Both have their place and your interesting mix of ideas and Jim's thoughts go some way to 'fixing' a few BA aspects that don't ring true about BA..particularly the intercommunication of modern forces vis-a-vis the random dice roll pull in BA and unit coordination.

      One method I used in my BA Soviet-Afgahn War variant (told you I played it!) was to allow a special rule for the Afghan Resistance force. it went like this;

      “Of The Land” - any Mujahideen unit starting the game Hidden (as per p117) may start the game already in ambush. If you decide to do so, set one of your order dice in place next to them, as if you had ordered them to Ambush.

      In addition, to account for their familiarity with the area they fight in, one Mujahideen command dice is replaced with another distinct colored one. When it is drawn, any unit, even one that has acted already, can do so again if it passes a morale test (this also counting as the test if required of the Irregulars trait). All orders are available except a unit may not fire twice in a turn; take its existing dice and assign it to another unit without an order dice, placing it with the order shown as Down – it may not act this turn. If it fails its morale test or chooses otherwise, select any unit that has not yet acted, allocating the command dice as normal.

      There might the something there that can be reinterpreted for better quality and communicating Western forces vs lesser insurgents.

      For all BA's bits that are 'wrong' there is plenty that is 'right' - we play both as the group dynamic or fancy takes us...

      ..Great stuff you are doing here and I hope we some some Musket & Tomahawks stuff in the future too ;-)



    5. Hey Rolf! First off --- checked out the blog --- beautiful stuff!! I need to find a way to follow it (I don't have any Wordpress stuff going on) ... is there a follow by email sort of thing for Wordpress? Humm.

      Great ideas here ... man, you've given me lots to think about. I do like the "Of The Land" rule ... the wheels are turning!

      On the M&T front - yes, I've been wanting to play a game so will be pulling that out soon.

    6. Hi Jay,

      Thanks...comments appreciated. I have a 'follow' tab on the website and I think you need only click on that to Follow…no matter whether you are a Wordpress or Blogger type….did you try that?

      Anyway, I’ve sent a ‘direct’ invitation and hope that works.

      I’ve got a fair old conversion of rate Sovs in Afghanistan…i must get it to you as I;m sure it’d be useful.

      M&T - hope to see your FIW stuff back in action...I always enjoy reading your FIW stuff.



    7. Thanks! I clicked the follow button but it wants me to register for Wordpess (which means I'd have to check that to see updates) ... humm ... will try to figure it out :-) You emailed the direct invite? Haven't seen anything yet.

    8. It should be easier than this!

      I just resent it to your 'sotek' private email....it should have come though...let me know.

    9. Argh, still no sign of it and not in my spam folder ... perhaps I'll just sign up and make it easy :-)

  2. Interesting review Jay - like you we have played a number of Bolt Action games in the VBCW & Pulp period. They allow for fast and fun play.

    I have only played CoC once and although I can see the merits in the rules (and are probably worthy of another go) I think BA will probably remain our preference.

    Have you tried playing Crossfire? A great set of rules that I used to play extensively with another group of chums.

    1. Thanks! Sounds like you are in the same boat as me. I can see the merits in CoC as well --- this last gmae was my "another go" (technically my third game) ;-) Still landed in the same place. Haven't tried Crossfire ... will have to check that out :-)

  3. Jay, I like the down rule and the LMG/MMG rule. Would Germans still add a die to these? The section rule seems over complicated, particularly as BA already lets you field two 5 man units which could represent teams within a section. The mortar rule is good in a no points game. Force Morale is simple enough, will be interesting to see how it changes player's approach. Did you consider adding Suppression Fire? Something like, Fire to Suppress, any unit firing 4 or more dice at a target can fire to suppress. Do not roll to hit or wound, rather the target suffers a -1 in shooting on it's next action.

    1. Hey Adam, thanks! Yes, still want to try the section rule with activation on a single die. Thought about suppression fire, but landed with pin markers providing the same results (thought about an "auto pin" marker as well, but that would be to overpowering).

  4. One other house rule we've used twice in big games is a mechanic to end the turn prematurely. We put 3 uniquely colored dice in the bag and once the third was drawn, ended the turn. We balanced this by playing 9 instead of 6 turns. It is especially impactful towards the end of a game when you are often really hunting for what to do with the last few dice - the turn often ends before that starts happening.

  5. Good post as always and some interesting ideas.

    I very much like Bolt Action and we also enjoy CoC. Long ago I learned to accept that BA is a WWII "Themed" game and not a simulation. Beer and pretzels is a good way to put it. The biggest reason I say this is that unlike "simulation" or more detail based war games there is no time or distance scale.

    Before discovering CoC I had started my own BA 2.0 house rules that not only fixed things I felt were in error without changing rules, but added things like dividing squads into teams and allowing them to move separately. I was then introduced to CoC which without getting to complicated is more of a "simulation" game. Some BA players won't try it because it is not tournament friendly and many of the big toys (mostly indirect fire weapons) are not on the table in CoC. At least you gave it a try.

    Now we started using the Bolt Action.net season rules which include many of the basic fixes we were contemplating in our house rules and are widely accepted at many events.

    The best part is you can use the same figures for both sets of rules as well as well as others.

    If you do come up with a good set of Bolt Action related home rules that work for you and your friends agree to play the more power to you.

    Last I checked the Warlord rules police are not making house calls. ;)

    1. Interesting. I certainly tend to shy away from simulations, but also understand there are many who love that aspect of wargaming. I have not seen the BA.net season rules -- going to have to go give them a read. LOL ... the Warlord police ... ever present in the shadows of the wargaming web :-) Thank god they are not like GW! :-)

  6. Ok - last one, promise ;)

    The Assault rules in BA are rubbish. You would get smashed running at machine guns and yet BA rewards you for it with strike first ability.

    I would propose changing this and making pins more meaningful.

    When assaulted, before removing pins, Defender takes a motivation check.

    -1 per pin
    +3 defending an obstacle

    Pass by 3 or more – Defender strikes first
    Pass – Simultaneous
    Fail – Attacker strikes first

    Obstacles still matter. Suppressing an enemy matters. WH40K combat feel removed.

    1. Oooo ... good point and great suggestion. Agree. Gonna have to try that out as well.

  7. We use a simple rule to reflect a kind of 'suppressive fire'. When a unit close assaulted it may have a reduced fighting ability due to excessive pins, the idea being you fire on an enemy unit to pin it enough that its firepower is reduced and its fighting ability is as well...rule is...

    Close Combat Pin Effect – a unit, when charged, that has pins when it is engaged in Close Combat which exceed its damage number (3+/4+/5+) suffers a -1 in when they strike when it is their turn to fight in Close Combat .

    ...some more ideas. This one is very simple and easy to administer during play ;-)

    1. Interesting! Will have to try that out - thanks! :-)