This week we received some stunning pictures from Paul Delaney of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, of the huge Bolt Action game which he ran at this year’s ‘Cold Wars’ event, held at the Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Centre – Lancaster, PA from March 5th-8th.
Running a game at one of the 3 largest historical gaming conventions in the USA can be a daunting task. What do you do, where do you get the topic or scenario, and then how will the game be executed? And, who wins? – Paul was kind enough to share his notes with us…
Let me start by saying that we are a small group of friends and not an official club of any kind. There are 3 of us – Mike Fijalka, Raymond McClure and myself Paul Delaney. We then had a lot of help from some of our other friends to help assemble and paint kits, and to play test the game. These friends are priceless to us with all of the help – and I want to thank them.
For our game this year we chose to have our game based on a television documentary and books. There is a new series on the ‘American Hero’ Cable Television Channel about Raids. One of the Raids covered was on the “L Detachment” an SAS Raid on July, 26, 1942, in Fuka, Libya at the Sidi Haneish Airfield. This was the first raid by the SAS in which they used the jeep – in all, they had 18 jeeps and the raid was lead by David Stirling.
The raid is also covered in more than one Osprey Book. After viewing the television programme, we talked as a group and thought of ways to bring the scenario to life on the tabletop – so we hit the books (and some internet research) and read up on the subject some more.
With a little digging, we found out how large the airfield was and decided we could not fit over 100 aircraft on a table let alone the costs of the models or the time to build them. So, what we did was to find out how many aircraft were actually destroyed during the raid, and the types of aircraft. As you can imagine the numbers varied from source to source. So we estimated the number, taking into account historical accounts, and the amount of space we’d have available on the table.
We settled on having thirty aircraft – twelve Ju87 Stukas, four BF 109s, five JU52s, eight JU 88s, one Feisler observation plane and to have some even if off just a little we added a Bloham und Voss 38. This seemed within reason on paper! I assembled a spread sheet with assignments of who would be responsible for collecting which pieces, assembly and painting each piece.
We used the Bolt Action rules- however, given the specialist nature of the scenario, we had to figure out how to get the game to fit with the giant size of the table, the units involved, and the actual historical events!
We counted the airfield runway as a road – which doubled the movement for the jeeps to 24” with an advance order. We decided to keep all of the standard ranges and movement rates. We did need to address the fact that raid happened at night and decided that the darkness would count as light cover. The only other modifier we added was to add an additional +1 to hit for the driver when moving to represent the difficulty of hitting a moving target.
We split the force up, dividing the 18 jeeps into 3 jeeps each for 6 players – this would keep the game pace fast, and meant that they would not work together as Swiss time pieces. The SAS were run just as they are described in the Bolt Action British book.
Next up was the Germans. What to do? We decided to have them be preprogrammed and run by random numbers by the GMs. Mike Fijalka already had very nice DAK army painted which was perfect for the game. We stationed sentries around the table in spots, and had airfield anti aircraft defences set up as well. The anti aircraft gun crews and other defenders were stationed in various places marked on the table by little numbered tokens. All of the German forces would be regular and begin with 2 pin makers to reflect the shock of a surprise attack.
We had all of the SAS players move one Jeep on a single order die pull from the bag. This meant that we only had 3 SAS order dice in the bag reducing the time needed for each turn – and works really well for demo games and participation games. We began the game with only one German order die in the bag – representing the fact that all of the Germans were sleeping or not ready for combat aside from the few sentries. More German order dice were then added as the game progressed (representing the German garrison being awoken by the sound of gunfire and screeching tyres!)
The game used a 27’ by 5’ table. We had all 18 jeeps and over 30 1/48 scale German aircraft – it made for a fantastic sight! The planes all had the proper markings for that airfield with very few exceptions. The players ran the SAS, and the Germans are programmed to run randomly by the GMs. The game lasted 10 turns and was a major win this time out for the SAS. Victory was based upon a points system – with a point value assigned to every plane engine destroyed…
Planes are destroyed when all of their engines are destroyed in-game. Each engine counts as a soft skin. So a BF109 takes one kill and a JU52 3 kills to destroy.
The game went very well with a lot of cheering by the SAS after each plane went up. A crowd gathered to watch the action and got very excited watching the plane land and the Germans wake to the explosions of their aircraf – it made for a really cinematic experience!! First the crowd would see the plane and ask about it,and then they would see the figures around the plane and they all got very excited.
One person out the crowd realized that the Feilser observation plane was Field Marshall Rommel’s personal plane. Painted and marked correctly. The SAS missed getting the Desert Fox.
The game lasted 14 turns in 3 ½ hours with the loss of 4 jeeps and 6 SAS crewman. This was just slightly higher than in real life during the real raid. All but 4 planes were destroyed.
The SAS had a major victory on their hands!
Are you as inspired as we are by this FANTASTIC demo game?! – head over to the Warlord webstore and check-out the SAS forces available… they make for a characterful addition to any game – and Bolt Action is the perfect system to represent some of their daring raids…
…and of course, we have a whole host of WWII Warplanes on offer!