Bolt Action Battle Report

The Battle for Carenille Farm

This battle report presents a turn-by-turn, blow-by-blow account of an actual game between the Germans and the Americans. It gives a good overview of how to play Bolt Action as well as a few tactical tips! 

The players are Andrew Chesney – Bolt Action veteran – and Graham Davey – an experienced gamer but new to Bolt Action. Their armies are based around the contents of the Bolt Action Starter Set: D-Day Firefight, plus a selection of other models chosen using the ‘Requisition Points’ system from the rulebook to create evenly matched sides.

chesAndy: Having played Bolt Action from an early playtest stage there was a lot of pressure on me to show this young whipper snapper how we do things round here! I always enjoy putting armies together from what is at hand, and in true Old School Battle Report fashion I was happy to select from the expertly painted figures available in the studio.

I started by adding two more full units of Infantry with light machine guns (LMGs). The extra dice these weapons add to a fire fight could be invaluable. My command options were simple, a Lieutenant with his bodyguard, a Medic to keep all my infantry alive a little longer and a Forward Artillery Observer. He would be crucial if I wanted to stall the American advance. An MMG, a flamethrower, medium mortar and a howitzer light artillery piece added fire support. The whole thing was rounded off with an Sd.Kfz 251/10 Hanomag and a Panzer IV – one of the most iconic tanks of the period, and a pretty decent Sherman hunter.

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Graham: While I’ve played lots of 40K, Warhammer and other wargames, this is my first ever game of Bolt Action so I’m intrigued to see how it plays. It’s also cool to be trying out a World War II wargame – it’s a genre I’ve enjoyed on film, TV and video games but never on the table-top.

The first step was assembling my force of brave US troops. I included a good amount of infantry, with a Lieutenant to lead the army and specialist support such as heavy machine gun (HMG), mortar and bazooka teams. I also went for an M3A1 half-track to carry one of the infantry squads into action, a solid M4 Sherman tank and a 57mm anti-tank gun to take on enemy vehicles. Lastly I added an Air Force Forward Observer after Andy generously pointed out that these are particularly good in US armies (more on that later).

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Terrain

We were lucky to have a fantastically modelled board and beautifully painted terrain pieces to play over, including the ruined building from the starter set. We set everything up to represent a small farm with a few ruined out-buildings and surrounding woods. We also used sections of stone wall to mark out some roads leading up to and through the farm.

Scenario

We chose the first scenario from the Bolt Action rulebook, that involves one side trying to bypass and envelop the enemy by moving units across the table and off the far side of the board.

We quickly decided that the Americans should be doing the enveloping, imagining that our game was part of the historical Allied advance following the D-Day landings. The Germans would have the task of defending the fictitious Carenille Farm and resisting the US attack – their objective was simply to destroy as many enemy units as possible and prevent the American advance.

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Order Dice

Before starting we took one Order Dice for each of our units – choosing green dice for the Americans and grey for the Germans – and put them in the dice bag, and with that we were ready for battle.

Deployment

Following the instructions in the scenario, Andy set up half of the German defenders up to 12″ on to the board with the rest of his force waiting in reserve to enter the battle later. Not knowing where the weight of the US attack would fall, he spread out his forces and left his more mobile vehicles off the table.

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The entire American force remained off the table at the start, apart from the Air Force Forward Observer, whose special Hidden Set-up rules allowed Graham to deploy him already in position in the woods.

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Preparatory Bombardment

Graham was pleased to discover that the scenario allowed the attacking forces to call down a bombardment to soften up the defenders before the battle. After rolling the dice, a number of German units were inflicted with Pin Markers, including Andy’s mortar team up on the hill.

Pin Markers

In Bolt Action pin markers represent the suppressing effect of incoming fire, as troops fear for their lives and keep their heads down instead of doing what they’re told. The more pin markers a unit has, the less likely it is to follow orders! Pinning is a great way to keep an enemy unit from bothering your troops even if you can’t destroy it outright.

Turn 1

The players started to draw dice out of the dice bag, one at a time. Whichever side’s colour is drawn, that side gets to choose one of its unit and give it an order to do something like moving or shooting. This means that you never know who will get to act first or how the action will unfold!

As the US force had started off the table, almost all of Graham’s units were ordered to Run, to get them into a good position as fast as possible. The bulk of the force moved towards the crossroads where the fields of fire were more open, while Graham also sent two infantry squads advancing down the right flank where the buildings gave more cover. The Sherman tank was moving on a road, allowing it to go even faster and lead the advance.

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Andy’s German forces were also mainly still getting into position, and his Panzer IV tank and 251/10 both rumbled on from reserve to meet the threat of the American Sherman head-on.

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The German medium mortar team was already in a good spot so Andy gave it an order to fire. However, as the mortar had a pin marker from the preparatory bombardment, Andy first had to take an Order Test to get the unit to do what he wanted. Unfortunately, with a -1 penalty to his roll thanks to the pin marker, Andy failed the roll, and instead the mortar team went ‘Down’, too rattled to stick their heads up and fire their weapon!

Finally in Turn 1, Graham’s Air Force Forward Observer radioed for an airstrike. This is a special kind of Fire order, and meant that a warplane might appear at the start of a subsequent turn…

Orders

FIRE: The models in the unit do not move, instead they open up with their weapons at their chosen target at full effect.

ADVANCE: The unit can move and then fire its weapons. The unit’s shots will be less accurate than if it chooses to remain stationary, and some of its weapons may not be able to fire at all.

RUN: The unit moves at double speed, but cannot fire any of its weapons.

Turn 2

The US airstrike promptly arrived at the start of Turn 2, in the form of a strafing Allied fighter plane flying in low over the farm buildings. It targeted the German infantry defending the farm building. The pilot’s poor aim (Graham’s bad dice roll) meant that there were only a few casualties but the squad was severely alarmed by the sudden attack and took 2 more pin markers, giving it 3 in total.

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Next, the opposing forces started to exchange fire as both players issued Fire orders and Advance orders to various units. The Sherman’s machine gun killed two of the German howitzer’s crew but the remaining crewman meant it would stay operational. The Panzer IV moved to get line of sight to the Sherman – its shot was accurate but failed to do any damage. Infantry squads and machine guns exchanged fire resulting in various casualties and pin markers for either side.

The German medium mortar once again failed its Order Test to fire and stayed Down!

Knowing that his heavily pinned Infantry squad was even less likely to follow orders, Andy chose to give them a Rally order, allowing him to remove more of the pin markers and get them back into the fight.

Lastly, the German Forward Artillery Observer called in a bombardment. Just like the American airstrike, this would arrive in a later turn.

Orders

AMBUSH: The unit does not move or fire. Instead, the soldiers take up firing positions and wait for a target to present itself.

RALLY: The unit does not move or fire. Instead, the troops pause for breath, patch up the wounded, pass ammo around and regroup ready for the following turn.

DOWN: The unit does not move or fire. Instead, the troops hit the dirt and keep their heads down as far as possible, making maximum use of whatever cover is available.

Turn 3

Andy rolled for the arrival of his bombardment but the result was Delayed – he would have to roll again at the start of the next turn.

The battle was now really hotting up as the US forces surged forward. Leading the charge, the Sherman drove between the farm buildings to keep out of sight of the Panzer and straight through the German infantry squad taking cover there. This is worked out as a special Assault order, and quickly saw the German troops scattered (or crushed!) and removed from the table.*

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*Victory Points

Each scenario sets out how the victor of the battle is decided. In this case points are awarded for achieving objectives. You don’t have to add up victory points until the game finishes but it can be quite fun to keep a running total.

For this scenario, the Germans receive 2 points for each enemy unit removed from the table. The Americans receive only 1 point for destroying enemy units as that’s not their main goal. However, they get an extra 2 points for each US unit in the enemy deployment zone (the last 12″ of the table) at the end of the battle, and 3 points if a unit has moved right off the far side of the board.

Poor shooting meant that the Panzer IV was unable halt the advance of the US Halftrack, which then opened up with its machine gun on the German squad defending the crossroads. Its cargo of US infantrymen then leapt out and gunned down the remainder of the enemy squad at close range.*

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Andy in turn sped forward his Sd.Kfz 251/10 Hanomag from which disembarked a flamethrower team. The lethal weapon unleashed gouts of burning fuel into the US infantry, and though it only killed a single man, the horrible effects of the weapon inflicted 4 pin markers and a Morale Test. With the -4 penalty from the pinning, the unit failed the test and ran from the battle.*

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Elsewhere, the US anti-tank gun hit but failed to penetrate the Panzer IV’s armour, while on the other flank, Andy moved a Hanomag carrying his last infantry squad to counter the US advance through the garden into the courtyard.

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The US Mortar found its range and killed two of the German HMG team – the remaining crewman failed his Morale Test and the gun was out of the battle.* Andy groaned as his medium mortar yet again failed its order to fire, despite still having just 1 pin marker on it.

Finally Graham took advantage of the US Army’s special rule which allows its Air Observers to call in a second airstrike (as opposed to the normal one per battle). The team spent the rest of the battle cautiously advancing through the woods towards the German lines.

Army Special Rules

Each country in Bolt Action has a couple of unique special rules that apply to the army as a whole. For example, German armies have the Hitler’s Buzzsaw rule, reflecting their superior machine guns, while US armies have the Air Power rule giving them access to extra airstrikes.

Victory Points:

US – 3
Germany – 2

Turn 4

The delayed German bombardment arrived this turn, pinning the US mortar team and obliterating the 57mm Anti-tank gun. Meanwhile the US airstrike was also delayed.

Alarmed by the potential for destruction displayed by the flamethrower in the previous turn, Graham was quick to target it before it could do any more damage – his heavy machine gun made short work of the 2-man team.*

Nearby, the German Lieutenant had been left exposed and was killed by the US infantry squad, who now had a firm control over the crossroads.*

The opposing commander, the US Lieutenant, mounted up into the half-track whose squad had now fled the battlefield. The vehicle followed the example of the Sherman and drove between the farm buildings into the courtyard to avoid the attentions of the German Panzer IV and Howitzer.

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In the alley behind the garden shed, a US infantry squad opened fire on the German infantry that had advanced to meet them. Four Germans were killed but Andy countered by giving his squad an Assault order, sending his men charging into close-quarters fighting with the American troops.

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Close-quarters assaults are brutal affairs as every attack hits without needing to roll! Striking first, the Germans killed 5 for the loss of just 1 of their own. The losers in an assault are automatically destroyed, so the few remaining US infantrymen fled and were remove from the battlefield.*

The winning unit gets to make a short move to reposition or get back into cover.

Victory Points:

US – 5

Germany – 6

Turn 5

The US airstrike was delayed once again, so Graham, remembering his objective, concentrated on pressing forward into the German lines, knowing that the game could end after Turn 6 – the more units that made it across the table, the more victory points they would earn.

The half-track carrying the US Lieutenant headed on out the far side of the courtyard, shooting one of the German mortar crewmen on the hill as it went. The US infantry squad that had been advancing down the far left flank assaulted the remaining mortar crew, who were quickly dispatched leaving the Americans’ route clear.*

Meanwhile the Sherman rounded the corner of the barn to come face to face with the Panzer IV and the Sd.Kfz 251/10. The three vehicles exchanged fire but despite the close range a flurry of poor dice rolls resulted in nothing but a single pin marker on the US tank.

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Victory Points:

US – 6

Germany – 6

Turn 6

The American airstrike finally arrived as a fighter-bomber (an RAF Typhoon called in from the American allies) screeched from the skies, targeting the hulking shape of the Panzer IV. Its rockets were well aimed and the impact left the tank crew stunned and unable to move or fire that turn.

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The Sherman took its chance to fire on the German tank and this time found its mark and penetrated the armoured skin of the enemy vehicle. The Panzer IV was reduced to a wreck!* The Sd’Kfz 251/10 Hanomag returned fire with its PaK 36 anti-tank gun, and it too scored a hit. The Sherman’s crew was temporarily stunned but the vehicle remained operational.

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The US infantry squad holding the crossroads were ordered to advance across the road to fire on the German howitzer, but they failed their Order Test and refused to carry out this blatantly foolish suggestion.

This left the howitzer able to shoot at the US heavy machine gun, and a powerful shot saw the crew wiped out.* The US mortar team met a similar fate as the remaining German infantry squad opened fire on them.*

However, despite these losses, the US Lieutenant sped off the board in his commandeered half-track, eager to push on the Allied advance.*

Following the scenario rules, at the end of Turn 6 the players rolled to see if there would be one more turn, but the dice result decided it was the end of the game and time to total up victory points.

Victory or Defeat?

Adding up the points for destroying enemy units left Germany in the lead, 10 points to 7. But of course the US army received extra points for reaching the enemy deployment zone, and with the Sherman and an infantry squad having made it, that was another 4 points. They also got 3 points for units that moved right off the far board edge, and the half-track and Lieutenant counted as two, so the Americans wound up with a whopping 17 points, securing a decisive victory for Uncle Sam and the Allies!

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Andy: Ach! The best laid plans of Fritz and Herman… I never felt as if I was being overwhelmed, but some of the crucial moments of the battle didn’t quite go my way.

Hitting but not destroying the Sherman was a big factor. Its high HE shell was very scary and I struggled to contain it. Graham made good use of the tank, assaulting the infantry squad that was vulnerable with pins from the first airstrike.

The flamethrower proved its worth, but was unsurprisingly targeted as soon as Graham could see it.

Overall I felt like I could have achieved victory by taking out the M3 Half-track early on as it proved crucial in getting a large number of Victory Points in the last turn. Next time Graham, next time!

Graham: A great game! And an unexpected victory thanks to some good luck and a few nice big farm buildings.

My Sherman was very fortunate to survive the whole game and eventually blow up the Panzer IV! The German tank’s first shot could easily have hit home, leaving it to rampage through the rest of my army.

Given the victory conditions, I knew that Andy had more to gain than me from a stand-up shooting match, so I took a detour through the courtyard, using the buildings to shield the Sherman from danger for a few turns (and run down that infantry squad while I was at it!). My Lieutenant followed suit in the Half-track, finding a safe path right through the German lines.

What I enjoyed most was all the infantry squads running forward, stalking through the hedgerows, taking cover behind walls and leaping from the half-track to unload their rifles at the Germans. It was extremely evocative and really reminded me of World War II films and series like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.

Now I can’t wait for a rematch to see if I can repeat me success!

Get started with your invasion:

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