Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bolt Action-Opening day of Operation Epsom

Bolt Action has an active following in the Twin Cities. A Facebook group started over the summer quickly grew to 50+ members with multiple posts a day.  The energy and excitement of this group nudged Hugh and I to finally give it a go.  Hugh drew up a scenario based on the fight for St Manieu in Normandy using the book Over the Battlefield - Operation Epsom as inspiration. With low altitude battlefield pictures taken by Spitfires, it's ideal for designing scenarios.   
Hugh used the BA 'Point Defense' scenario for the basic structure and added an OOB of 1000 points per side. It featured the untested 15th Scottish infantry vs. the heavily depleted 12th SS HitlerJügend. The Scots got a flame throwing Crocodile (historically commanded by a LT Harvey) and the HJ got a Pz IV and some Panzerfausts. 

How did our first foray into BA go? Splendidly!  The table was gorgeous as were Hugh's figures. BA is simple enough that I picked up the basics our first time out and we were able to play two games in just over 5 hours.  The British preparatory bombardment was effective, leaving most of my German units pinned.  However, their veteran status allowed them to recover from pinned status fairly quickly.  

In the early game, Hugh was very effective in pushing up the middle and seizing the ruined house. The Crocodile is a heavy tank so it was slow in approaching my position. Thank goodness for that as I was in fear of its flamethrower.

Hugh was making good progress when his Forward Observer called in artillery strike that went awry. It dropped onto his right wing traversing a farm field.  The results were devastating, taking two squads out of the game.  The loss of momentum on this wing doomed the offensive.

My Panzer IV couldn't damage or slow the Crocodile.  When hit by the flamethrower, the crew panicked and were useless the rest of the game. At games end, the Scots failed to capture the 3 objectives. First victory was notched by the Germans.

In the second game, our fortunes were dramatically reversed.  The Allied preparatory bombardment was effective as was their follow-up artillery strikes, taking out my 2nd Lieutenant.   This loss meant my units had difficulty rallying up. My pinned units were much less effective in holding up the British advance.  

The Croc's first blast of flame took out most of my squad covering the road, with only my squad leader surviving.  In one of the more memorable moments of the game, Hugh sent in a 7 man squad to finish off my squad leader and clear the building. Against all odds, he inflicted more hits on the British squad and the Scots were destroyed. Apparently, Sgt. Steiner was in that house! Despite this temporary setback, Hugh secured 2 of the 3 objectives and quickly sealed a victory.  

Bolt Action gets a big thumbs up from both of us.  It's a fast and fun gaming experience.   The dice draw for activating units shatters "IGOUGO" in a brilliant way and leads to many tense moments in the game.  Bolt Action and Chain of Command give you two very different takes on WW II skirmish combat.  Bolt Action is first and foremost a game, easy to pick up and play. Chain of Command has more complexity and depth with an emphasis on simulating command friction.  They each have much to recommend and give you two different gaming experiences.  Trailape's Wargame blog has a fabulous side by side comparison of these two systems you can read here. Click and read it now!

Historically, the opening day of Epsom, June 26, 1944, was a rough one for both sides. Rifle companies were reduced to weak platoons lead by NCOs and junior lieutenants.  It ended poorly for the Scots as well as LT Harvey. His Croc burst through a high wall during the attack only to be knocked out by a Panzerfaust on the other side.  Taken prisoner, the crew was not seen alive again. Their sad fate was never far from my mind during our game.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mustering the Byzantines!

My big accomplishment this summer was painting a Byzantine warband for SAGA. The best part of the project was using a bright palette with a Dark Ages army.  That, plus I painted these for myself.

Byzantines are a challenging faction to run in SAGA.  Their battleboard rewards tight deployment and thoughtful interaction between each part of your warband. Levy skirmishers shield the main line. Warriors shield the bowmen, who have the unique in game ability to shoot over their own troops and into melee. Mounted hearthguard are held back until they can charge and recoil from the enemy at a critical moment.  I painted up Steppe Tribes for another option as well!
Warriors (Kontaratoi):  The banners are printouts of Byzantine-inspired iconography. They matched my color scheme and the Little Big Man Studio shield transfers quite nicely!

Bow armed Warriors (Toxotai): These fellows punch well above their weight.  There are a number of plays on the Byzantine battleboard to keep them safe and to shoot into combat or support of combat.  If you're successful at shielding them properly, it'll be a maddening game for your opponent.
Javelin-armed Levy: Thanks to a battleboard ability that allows them to activate more than once in a turn without fatigue, they'll be more than a nuisance to the enemy.
Steppe Tribe:  Treated as levies, they too can activate more than once a turn without generating fatigue and that makes them a great one-two punch with javelin-armed levy. The downside is they generate no SAGA dice. With two units of levy, you'll have to make up your SAGA dice elsewhere in this warband.

These Foundry's Scythians are Perry Bros sculpts. They're stupendous sculpts with loads of detail.  I was looking for an excuse to paint these ever since I acquired them last year.  Once I confirmed Scythians served in Byzantine army, I put them on the table for this warband.  By 700- 900 AD,
Scythian fashion was surely changed from whats portrayed here but I'm using them anyway. Eventually, I'll paint up something more historically accurate to replace them.  For now, they're quite lovely and annoying to my opponents as they race in to shoot, shoot again and then race away.
Hearthguard (Kavallaroi):  Though few in number, they're critically important for delivering a knockout blow. The KONTOS ability allows them to roll a die for each figure ending a turn in melee. For each die roll of 4 or more, they dish out an extra hit.  And that's before you roll your melee dice!  

Greek Fire turn counter:  This was just a nice bit of fun and a way to put these nice figures to work in SAGA.  Great figures, Gripping Beast,  and this turn counter helps me keep track of the turn!

Warlord (Strategos): I fumbled this one a bit.  The detail on the horse's armor was very shallow so I used thinned base colors.  When I hit them with a wash, it settled into the grooves and gummed up the detail completely.  From gaming distance, its not noticeable. Close up, its a mess. Ah well, onward and upward!
Surprising everyone, the Byzantines are unbeaten in our summer SAGA campaign. I'd like to say it's due to my brilliant generalship but that would be a fib.  All my games were close, with the Byzantines getting hot down the final stretch.  Heads up to all Byzantines're required to shout "For Basileus!" before throwing your dice during critical moments.  It's worked for me all summer long!