Struggling with play/stratagems

Home Forums Historical Bolt Action Struggling with play/stratagems

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • Author
  • #187587
    mr carl woodthorpe

    Hi guys, I’m looking for a bit of advice regards general play of bolt action.
    I’ve been playing since September of last year and probably have 20 or so games under my belt. Usually pretty good at strategy type games-I don’t believe I’m stupid (likely the issue though).
    That said, I’m struggling HARD with bolt action.
    I play Soviets and have redesigned my army 6 or 7 times as nothing I try seems to “work.”

    My usual opponents are Japanese, and unless I can mnaipulate their banzai and draw em into the ope I have a fairly miserable time. I’m struggling with the massively high attrition rate of units. I can’t seem to use any tactics beyond the immediate as units die so insanely fast!
    The CQC especially is BRUTAL, I had the pleasure of being charged inside 6 inches via banzai (I had pinned them four times) and having 6 out of 9 guys dead without being able to do a single thing to stop it.
    It was as if my battle hardened guys literally stood there and let the enemy stab them lol.
    I had team weapons last night x3 taken out in single shots by snipers, all units in sensible positions and in cover but that don’t matter….

    The order dice can really mess up your plans, with bad die rolls when you do get to go can act as a force multiplier for misery:)

    I’ve tried a lot of different methods and ways of building but with little to no success. I’m looking for ways to build a list to mitigate some of the chaos essentially.
    I’m thinking fanatics is near mandatory to enable units to keep in the fight due to being constantly hit-even with cover.
    I’m also thinking going smaller units (sub 10 men) so they are arder to get los too, and more order dice and more pins output.
    Ditching team weapons entirey, what’s the point of points investment if they can be gone in one hit? They don’t do enough to warrant the points! Mortar hit rates are abysmal unless zeroed in, and they go poof! in one shot…
    Machine guns need to hit most of the time else they are costly for a one shot loss…
    I was thinking about multi platoon to get more officers so I can snap to! more often and try to influence the order dice flow a bit, recover from a bad run etc
    I’m toying with engineers for my Russians, being wounded on a 6 surely would give them more staying power….

    I’ve looked at USA with the whole fire and move thing, to be more flexible or Partisans with their national rule to try a bit more positionl control.

    I’m at a loss, as currently I’m enjoying the social aspect of the group I’m in but the rules are really making me feel frustrated asI feel my input is mitaigated by the chaos!
    I go home annoyed at myself (for getting frustrated) and feeling frustrated. Might be worth mentioning I have Aspergers also, and sometimes my un derstanding may be “off.”

    Does anyone have any helpful advice? Be brutal if you need to.

    Steven Gusky


    try Chain Of Command or my favorite “Battlegroup”

    in all seriousness you may find hard to find players for these games because majority of what I see with Bolt action now are the 40 K crowd that wanna win at all cost and tweak their list

    I have to mitt we are older and don’t play tournaments or kill or less we try to keep it historical sometimes we throw points out and just throw a platoon or two down to try it out

    I agree with you on team weapons the German medium machine gun should be something feared but in Bolt Action you can charge it with no Problems

    so stick to historical opponents i.e. theater lists

    try smaller games until you get your mojo back

    and look at other rule systems doesn’t mean you have to stop playing Bolt Action but there are more details set out there more historically based

    but the key is if you’re not having fun find somebody you’re having fun with

    I haven’t played in over a year and we’re gonna try a small 500 point game soon to see what we think if you want to get back into it

    that being said we’re having a blast with Battlegroup and all that that provides

    there is no one answer to defeat one list or another but I really like playing historical theater list matchups

    I just see Bolt action become another 40 K mixup of 1940 Germans facing late war Russians and tournaments and things and it just frost my cookies as expression goes off



    Gordon L. Allen


    I can identify with your struggles against Japanese opponents. I have had a similar situation with frustration; only I was playing U.S. Infantry forces at the time.

    In terms of my opponent in question, he liked to play Chaos Space Marines when playing Warhammer 40K, and therefore chose (you guessed it) Japanese when selecting an army for Bolt Action. His whole strategy is to have fast-moving infantry squads (along with cavalry and bicycle squads) that can get up on you and close in hand-to-hand combat before you have a chance to do anything about it. It’s predictable. Also using units like snipers against you to mitigate special weapons teams, etc. is also very standard tactics. I haven’t played one-on-one with him in a while, but one of the last times I did in our local gaming store, when deciding which table we were going to play on – he scanned them all and made a bee-line for the table that had (you guessed it) roads on it… Was kind of irritating when I realized that he was trying to stack everything in his favor in advance.

    Now – moving on from there…

    The thing is with Japanese Army force players – They have brutal hand-to-hand units that you’re just not going to win against if you get in h-t-h with them… ESPECIALLY if the attacking unit is full strength. They are, however, susceptible to small-arms fire, just like any other infantry unit. It’s not enough to just give them multiple pins, because don’t they have a rule that allows them to ignore pins when trying to execute a charge order? So, that’s out… What you need to do is nail them with multiple units to whittle them way down before they ever get to you. The best way to do that is to just make sure you keep moving your infantry units back out of his charge range (make sure you know exactly what that is on the given board at the time… or things will not go well for you) and fire at him, and move back away from him, etc.

    Just think through the math of this with me – if he has a full 12-man infantry squad that is rapidly advancing on you to close in h-t-h and you shoot at him with ONE of your squads, he’ll suffer casualties… but it won’t be enough to keep him from just massacring you when he gets there. If you shoot at that same unit with TWO of your infantry squads… he’s going to be whittled down pretty well… you may even win the hand-to-hand when he gets there, but your targeted squad (if it even survives) will be decimated. Now… if you shoot at him THREE times, he probably has very little left in the way of men from that squad; and that’s when you go in to action and polish him off… Try to bait him and keep moving; shoot with the squad and then move back (so what if you have a -1 to hit for movement… you have to accept that). Then the other partner squad of yours is standing there shooting at the approaching enemy as well…

    I’m going to help clarify this a bit more by relating an orally told battle report that someone else played versus this same opponent, that was played right after that last time I played him one-on-one:

    My other friend had put together a U.S. Marines force. When I had related my frustrations to him, he said “Yeah, that’s what a Japanese force is good at, and the U.S. Marines and Japanese armies are basically both geared to fight each other effectively…” So, he said “I knew exactly what he was going to do… I knew he was going to run his bicycle squad over, and then also run everything he could down roads so he could quickly get in charge range. So, I used the board in such a way as to bait him and I just kept moving away from him and I slaughtered him… Then he said ‘I really don’t like this game and don’t want to play anymore…'”…

    All armies are good armies, and there is certainly nothing wrong with the Bolt Action Russian army. You need to have a good idea of your army’s strengths. It is also appropriate\not wrong to want to change up your army composition to see what works better in a given situation. One of the good things about the Russian army is that you can get lots and lots of cheap Infantry squads. Isn’t one of your national characteristics that you get to bring a FREE inexperienced\green squad? Additionally (and this is a big one) isn’t there a rule (can’t remember the name of the rule) that lets you bring inexperienced (can’t remember if it’s inexperienced or something else) squads for a cheaper points value, and then the first time they take fire you role a dice to see what kind of squad it turns out to be – inexperienced, regular, veteran, etc.? This is huge, and a strength that is perfectly suited for playing an opponent like the Japanese. If your squads that are like that wind up being green or inexperienced, you don’t care… they are for dying… just keep an officer and commissar nearby to help with orders\morale tests. They are for SHOOTING the opponent…

    Look at it like this – if HE’S going to bring a hand-to-hand army that will munch yours in hand-to-hand and go “Ha! Ha! I won the game…” then YOU bring an army that spams Infantry squads that are way more than he can deal with, and you have way more order dice than he can deal with… and shoot the crap out of his and then you go “Ha! Ha! I won the game…”

    Good Luck and hang in there!




    Ideas /suggestions for how to deal with Japanese with Russians…

    1) heavy tanks – I like the IS2 or the ISU-152 – those high PEN HE templates will thin out the IJA quickly
    2) protect the tanks by taking out the suicide guys… if you lose a unit to kill them – oh well pleanty more of them else where
    3) green inexp rifle squads sat near a Politruk (Stalingrad book) who’s out of LoS – this gives you the order die required for the next point….
    4) Tank riders and /or assault engineers as Vets with body armour – yes expensive (21 ppm) but he needs 6s to kill in combat :p and your armed with SMGs…
    5) ignore the FAQ that says Fanatics dont test when hit by a flamethrower & take several….
    6) HE templates….PEN works on infantry…. so regular mortars out of LoS with a spotter, light howitzer (dont need to take it as a Zis 3 if taking a tank & a couple of panzer fausts)
    7) small arms (ie sniper rifles) cant exceptional artillery.
    8)dont be afraid to charge first… or stand in cover so you are fighting simulataniously … plus charges are limited to 6″ if crossing terrain.
    9) Banzai is against the closest enemy unit... so run that tank (see points 1 &2) up to 1.1″ away from him :p as10 you can MG /small arms the unit without worrying about close target
    10) 3 for 1 AT Teams – 3 x 2 man smg forward deploying pairs sat off to one side IN COVER making him waste time charging them in the opposite direction and losing 0-4 guys so he can BANZAI your main force… or risk you running behind him plinking off the occassional model….

    EDIT –
    11) IJA arent that much better than anyone else at combat…outside of the Banazi rule and free fanatic they have they are slight worse as they are very limited on tough fighter (max of 3 smgs in a squad… and only officers get if for free for being modeled with a sword)
    12) talking of tough fighters…. you can take every Russian squad in your army with tough fighter @1 ppm if you dont wish to give them SMGs…. (guards, vets, naval bde, paratroopers, siberians.. I’m sure a few more)

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by Nat.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by Nat.
    Paul Nettle

    My best advice is to find a wargaming club where members know fun is more important than winning.  BTW we have a club rule that stops snipers killing teams – snipers can only kill humans.  If they kill the whole team then that is fine, but Exceptional damage can’t kill the equipment the team are using.  We have quite a few other club rules too, which we find makes the game better for BOTH opponents.


    (1) Play to the strengths of the army you are using. What are the Russians good at? How can you make the most of the edges only they get? As others have said the Russians have everything you need, from really heavy stuff to cheap convicts. You can expand them to give yourself more options; I play Japanese a lot , for example, and don’t usually bother with machine guns much as my men are so cheap and want to get stuck in as soon a possible to make the most use of their national skills. With Germans, I maximise the use of LMGs to get those extra dice.

    (2) Play to their weakness of our opponent, assuming you know what they have ahead of time. Japanese are kind of weak unless they can get close, so don’t close in on them. Their fanaticism makes putting pins on them is not as effective as on some nations. You need to take ’em out with heavy stuff. I fear playing them against the USMC for that reason.

    (3) Make sure you know all the details of the scenario: it is critical.

    (4) Someone suggest Chain of Command: I disagree, especially  if you are someone frustrated by games with random outcomes. For me, the essence of BA  captures the tension of close combat well, Chain of command is more like playing Snap hoping you draw the right card. And don”t get me started on its 1980s-style tables of factors… I will leave it there or I risk angering the cult members who will brand me a heretic.












    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by SteveT.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by SteveT.

    @SteveT – I always have a bone of contention when people come in to a game specific group /page/ forum and then say play a different game instead…

    I mean I’m here because I play/ want to play X game so lets talk about X instead of telling me the Y is better!


    Exactly, Nat, exactly.


    As a Japanese player, can I please point out, they are VERY hard to win with. The options available are very limited, no heavy armour, no decent affordable AT etc…

    Infantry are the way to go with Japs, and personally I tend to pick less but Vets, harder to kill from range and also H-T-H.

    I’ve changed my style dramatically with them over the years and really enjoy playing them, however, if the opposition has anything heavy or lots of automatic weapons it is so difficult unless the scenario means your opponent cannot hang back.

    Playing against the Russians is my favourite. They have low quality infantry and most Russian players seem to think that a charge backed up by a couple of Maxims is all that is required. However, when I play against OT-34 flame tank or KV2, I can do very little if it is screened by infantry… The tournament challenge here is you won’t know what nations you’ll face off against so people tend to be fairly conservative and go for more order dice.


    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Vs. Japanese infantry, you’ll likely want to put your own squads in terrain and on Ambush, as no matter how close they are you’ll still get to shoot as they come in.   wait to shoot point-blank on your Ambush to up your hit chance and take as many out as possible before melee, THEN the melee will be simultaneous due to the terrain which will give you a fighting chance.  As Soviets you can go toe to toe pretty well with SMG equipped troops, and body armour will help you as well.</p>
    Also, vs any opponent, lay on the HE thick as you can.

    Additionally, exploit his Bonzai limitation to charging the closest unit by sticking a non-vital unit closer to them and forcing them to charge something small/useless so you can hammer them.  If they decline to blindly charge, they’ll have to roll vs whatever pins you’ve been stacking on them to do anything else but charge that useless bait you put in their face.

    Donald Linn

    We have a club rule that snipers can’t take out 3 man teams in one shot. It’s fair enough to kill an At or light mortar team, shoot an officer or the lmg man , but not an MMG or mortar.

    Tanks usually work well against the Japanese, if you use snipers to take out the suicide men!


    Snipers can hit the mortar tube and disable it or the MG’s receiver and disable it.  I just look at it that way plus the odds of a sniper actually doing that in a game depends entirely on the quality of the MMG or Mortar team in question.  I mean against a veteran MMG team he needs a 3+ at least to hit, and a 5+ to kill.  Changing this ability means they’re pretty pointless for their points and might as well just ban snipers altogether.

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.