Tips & Tricks to lose less at BA

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    Hey everyone,
    its great to see the forum got its long overdue reboot. I have been playing for some time now, 2nd edition exclusively, and managed to get to a point of playing BA rather successfully.
    All over the internet you read questions about the meta, how to become good/better at playing BA, how to turn force X into a successful one, rather than losing all the time. ‘what am I doing wrong’ is a common question it seems.

    So here, for anyone interested, a couple of insights on how to play this game more successfully – at least things that I learnt and continue to help me. Maybe they can help you turn those win-loss ratios green(‘ish).

    Everything I list here is strictly personal experience, so yours may differ at large.

    PSA: Lots of words! allergic to reading? skip this post!


    1.) More Order Dice:
    The number one most important key to the game is initiative. You quite literally dictate the pace of the game if you bring more order dice than the other player. having command (snap-to) majority will buff this further.

    2.) Faction Special Rules:
    Use them. Whatever is given your faction to set them apart – play into that and never ignore them, they are very powerful and often don’t cost anything.

    3.) Snap To It:
    Play your CO’s smart. Not only is snap-to a game-changing ability in basically every game, but more so the morale bonus, even from a 2nd Lt. is a massive boost – the less experienced your force, the more importance on the boost. activating unit X instead of failing and going down can make a huge difference. I run 2 CO’s almost all the time, usually of a 1st Lt and a 2nd Lt. configuration. Being German that gives me 5 extra activations for a total of (up to) 7 activations on my first 2 die… this means all important AT fire, ranging in, snipershots, and moving into cover after bad deployment can potentially be done before the opponent ever activates. And don’t forget: CO’s can snap-to each other making a long link of commands in a single activation (see FAQ/Errata)

    4.1.) Pick Your Targets:
    correctly asses enemy threats (especially armor) and corresponding counter measures. Many units in this game have a commanding presence on the table, they look all important, but try to take an outside, objective, perspective: how dangerous is this unit X in sight of A.) your own force composition, B.) your positioning on the board and C.) (most importantly) the mission really? A Tiger is scary, but if the mission is to hold X objectives across the table, which a Tiger cant, then ignoring this 400pt point-grave may be the best available option.

    4.2.) When To Shoot?:
    Try to avoid ‘wasting’ early-turn order dice. If a potential target unit has activated, it generally wont go anywhere anymore this turn, if your countermeasure is not at risk dying immediately, maybe postpone your reaction and instead deal with an un-activated enemy unit instead, as this unit undoubtedly will open fire when its turn comes.
    This way of picking targets you don’t just address something that is still gonna hurt you, but, in case you destroy a un-activated unit, you get to take an order die from the bag and tip the all-important initiative further in your favor. At the end of the turn make your mop-up moves. Shoot at activated units or move relocating units once enemy shooting is over and you don’t get pummeled in the open.

    5.) HE as AT:
    Consider using HE-weapons as versatile answer to enemy armor. My medium howitzer is the best AT I had for much of my gaming career, and to this day remains one of the most effective options.
    HE guns, while lacking penetration, in general have a number of benefits:
    – multiple pins rather than 1 from dedicated AT
    – HE can reliably fight any target (not just tanks)
    – most HE weapons can fire indirectly optionally
    – cost less at higher versatility than dedicated AT

    6.1.) Pins:
    More reliable impact than actually destroying enemy units. scoring a hit with 5-10 shots is much easier than actually killing something (anything really, in my case – ask my dice). However Pins accumulate and impact the game at large. have 2-3 enemy units go down per turn, that’s effectively ‘dead’ units that turn. I like many, many orders with many, many LMG’s, I don’t kill much per-se, but I will pin 2-3 crucial units out of the game (around 3 pins is all you need).

    6.2.) Pin vehicles:
    as mentioned before, HE as AT stacks pins on vehicles that don’t get killed. realize the impact of this, a tank with 3 pins is effectively useless, will go down half of the time and even if activating will hit most targets on 6+ or even 7+. this is huge.
    This goes more so for open tops (why I don’t like them), I just pin them out and dedicate a couple of small arms squads to pump them with pins and let them be. Someone opens his hatch? load him up on pins, either he rallies or spends the rest of the game severely handicapped – losing 1 turn at the very least.

    7.) Dedicated Combat Roles:
    Don’t pair long and short range weapons. A Grenadier squad with 2 LMG’s has no need for AR’s or SMG’s. They put 10 shots down range 36″. stand still, use this firepower, hardly anyone can compete. don’t waste (high) points in rifle upgrades that wont fire all game. And if you start moving a squad with 2LMG’s, why get them in first place, firing so poorly on the move? Try to specialize (infantry-)units for their task; have dedicated attack squads in transports (tough fighters (eg SMG-squads), veterans, fanatics, flamethrowers, British Cheeseeaters, cavalry) and/or firing squads in the rear-field laying down serious power with mortars and MG’s.

    8.) Rally In Transports:
    How often have I seen people go down in pinned transports. Go rally, always. no need to disembark with 4 pins, just rally every turn the transported units remain embarked.

    9.) Save Your Tank:
    Your tank is in front of a big, unfriendly gun and so pinned it cant do anything about it? if the position & terrain allow making an advance is better than rallying. Why, it cant shoot effectively anyhow with 4pins? well, say you activate: move into cover/away from danger and maybe even throw machine guns at a soft target and maybe get lucky – once away from large gun you can rally. you fail = you run away and go down, nearly equally valid outcome, as you now can back up behind something enhancing your survivability from where you can rally. Just don’t stand still and rally (worse yet: stand still and try to fire), it will work, yes, but then you face another hit from a med/heavy/superheavy AT gun, that may as well knock out your tank entirely.

    10.) Veterans or Not?
    This question seems to be a mainstay of many forums and reddit’s I’ve read. The one universal answer, however not saying much is here: whatever you prefer.
    How I see the choice:
    – Veterans will give you more staying power in objective based missions, an overall more reliable unit (higher toughness and morale) that will be way more able to sustain close combat situation. Also to be noted is that many elite formations and units MUST be veteran, or that certain veteran units have more access to specialty weaponry.
    Downfall will be smaller numbers, less toys and more so: fewer order dice.
    – Regulars on the other hand enable you to outnumber the enemy. as stated before, this, for me, is of major importance. your guys will die when hit, but you get more toys and then activate them before others do.
    Downfall being, again, easy-to-kill units and often less guns per squad.
    – In sight of my importance put to pinning targets (ergo to HIT targets) I don’t use inexperienced troops. However they definitely are viable choices for some forms of CloseCombat- and HE-spam lists, however these are often somewhat frown upon and considered powerplaying.

    11.) Experience For Tanks:
    Never go inexperienced (outside of friendly/scenario play), anything will pin you, you cant shoot properly and its an (still expensive) nightmare.
    Regular are usually the Go-To, as Veteran just cost WAY to many points. Being American and having gun-special rule may be of interest on select vehicles. but name of the game, for me, would be regular vehicles.

    12.) Go Down Off Board:
    Got reserves and don’t want to activate any of your field units yet? don’t forget to go down with reserves first (unless you will need them this turn). This should be self-explanatory, but sometimes you just want the opponent to do something first, you got unlucky and drew first, don’t give away your strategy, go down off board and wait.


    Very nice and explained, i think very usefull for everybody, for “Green” generals and the experienced ones

    Nice work


    This is some good advice, and it does a good job explaining about why something is a good or a bad idea which is important.

    Anyway, I would like to add just a few general psychological things to the mix, that I have found helpful at making me a better war gamer in both Bolt Action and other systems.

    1) Keep your chin up. to quote my favorite line from Rocky,
    “Its not about how hard you can hit. Its about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forwards”
    Players have a tendency to shut down when they start losing a game, or perceive ourselves to be losing a game. We emotionally throw in the towel, we get frustrated with our opponent, we make excuses for why its not our fault we are doing poorly, sometimes we even surrender the game prematurely! Most importantly though, we stop thinking through our actions and that causes us to make more mistakes. The truth is, very seldom is a game completely out of reach, and oftentimes even if your opponent has exceptional luck early on in the game, you can frequently get back in and pull off a comeback. I have lost games to plucky opponents who came back from behind because they didn’t let an early loss get to them, and made a few key plays. We are seldom as far behind as we think we are, and its important to not lose focus.

    2) Play aggressively. As a general rule its better to be the aggressor than it is to be a defender. In any game you play, whether that is Bolt Action, Star Craft, or whatever. On a fundamental level this is because it is because the player attacking can choose the weakest point in a defensive line to attack, whereas a player focusing on building a defensive barrier must defend all areas equally which is much more difficult. It also plays into the point I made earlier, where an early aggressive play goes well, it can often tilt an opponent to make compounding bad decisions going forwards. Raw aggression won’t win you a major tournament, but it goes a long way to make up for skill, and you can win more games then you lose on pure aggression alone.

    Aggressive play works well primarily because it forces you to be an active player instead of a reactive player– instead of worrying about what your opponent is going to do, and counter punching from there, you are thinking about how you can most effectively hit the opponent. On a very fundamental level, this helps facilitate better overall strategy, because you are taking things into your own plans and coming up with plans independent of what your opponent does. This is doubly important in an objective based game like many of Bolt Action’s scenarios where it is hugely beneficial to be working towards accomplishing the objectives right from the get go. Furthermore, an aggressive play can put your opponent on the back foot right from the get go, and a big enough hit can stagger them and make them forget about what they need to do to actually win the game. I cannot count how many times I have watched an opponent lose a game because they get distracted by a firefight and commit infantry that should be claiming objectives to trying to fend off an attack that is ultimately not as important as securing that objective would be.

    Its not about being stupid. Like rushing infantry forwards outside of cover in front of a medium howitzer. But the aggressive player will be thinking about things like- putting pins on the howitzer to make sure it is more likely to miss before committing the infantry to an advance. Its about coming up with a plan and coordinating your support fire to deliver a hammer blow.

    What happens if two players take a hyper aggressive approach to the game you ask? Well… all of the absolute best and most memorable games of any wargame I’ve played are when both players go at each other swinging for the fences with every play. Its the most fun you can have with dice, and win or lose you will remember that game for years.


    Thank you Alister!

    Great input Akaean, thanks.

    I too agree that being the aggressor is always best, goes very well with having a snap-to and order advantage. having to put out fires all over the map is much harder than lighting them!

    Also come-backs work surprisingly well in this game, if you manage to shake the devastating blow to morale losing the game by numbers.

    Another tip for tournament play when applicable, as many seem to look for advice leading up to big events:
    In objective based missions get onto the objectives. More often than not games don’t make it past 4/5 turns, often getting bogged down with bloodthirsty but pointless fire fights. try to get a big blob onto an objective as your last action that turn (so not the whole enemy army opens up on them while showing a ‘run/advance’ order) – then just go down and have everything in the rear light them up. I cant tell how many times this simple and foolish sounding strategy actually worked. also the pressure on the opponent will let him make errors, like starting to run EVERYTHING he got against that, numerically pretty unimportant unit that is down in hopefully hard cover… which is a terrible waste of resources trying to spend turn after turn hitting on 7+ or diverting all your indirect weapons away from the enemies hard hitting units that really would need attention.
    A truck and some vets work magic for this. 😉


    Two other suggestions:

    1. Examine the composition of your opponent’s army. It is important to know what you can do, but it is equally important to know what your opponent can do.

    2. Know the national characteristics of both your army and your opponent’s. Build your army and play to the strengths of your national characteristics. For example, keep the American infantry moving by firing while advancing (without penalty).


    Thank you Highlander! Agreed, your, if you play with ‘open’ lists study it or let it briefly be broken down to you (what everyone usually does by default).
    make sure to remember his reserves and moreover what is outflanking, if applicable – 9/10 times it is very easy to predict where them units will be coming in from.

    the other point you made I also incorporated in my initial post.

    tas 1812

    As mentioned with the objectives…

    Know you scenario – even with a fixed/tournament list you can often figure out how best to win the game (or at least make it difficult for your opponent) by knowing what will attempt to do what in the game(take/hold objectives, hammer stuff, threaten/cover areas of the board with HE/AT fire etc)

    What you don’t loose can be just as important too – that tank or unit that didn’t fire say more than a shot/single round of shooting can potentially have an impact just by keeping enemy out of areas within its sight. The added bonus is if it ain’t dead your dice count is still up which can be game winning.

    I really don’t care who wins or looses in a game of BA, just learn from your losses so you don’t repeat the same mistakes 😀



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