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Xenophon's Ghost covers military history and wargaming from the ancient period to modern times.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bolt Action Test Game #1 - Envelopment

Ryan and I tried out my Axis & Allies minis-based Bolt Action lists in a game.  We used Scenario 1: Envelopment.  Both of us chose the tank option for the lists.  Ryan defended as the Americans, and I tried to bully my way across the field as a Wehrmacht platoon.  The going was rough.

Five Minute Buildings

Lacking urban terrain, I raided the recycling bin for cardboard, sketching out four buildings free hand.
Two bombed out buildings
Our Village Center
After a few minutes of work with scissors, hobby knife, and tape, we had four buildings for our village.   Using my other terrain, the dining table was transformed into a battlefield relatively quickly.

Initial American set-up


HMG on Hill / Tank Trap nearby
The attackers entered from the south.  Ryan held his Bazooka team and M4 Sherman in reserve.  He placed a Heavy MG on a hill, and the unit ended up earning its keep.  The Sherman made it onto the field on Turn 2, but the bazooka failed its order test.  The unit finally joined the fight at the end of Turn 3, and more than earned its keep.  

US Rifle Squad and Officer in building
He also moved infantry into both the woods on his right and the building on his left. 

I deployed the mortar, Panzer IV, and sniper on my left flank. I placed the two infantry squads, MG42 MMG, and officer on the right.  My plan of attack was to move the infantry forward, using cover, try to defeat one US unit in the building, and finish the envelopment on my right flank. I intended to use the other units as pinning/distracting forces.
Game Highlights

Turn 1  - German Sniper killed by HMG, partially attributable to a misunderstanding of the rules on the Penetration bonus. We applied the bonus to the "Hit" roll, not the "Damage" roll.

Turn 2- Germans advance from building to building, with one Wehrmacht squad and the MG42 in the second intact building on the left.  The other squad and officer was in the first damaged building.  Panzer IV in position to support assault.  M4 Sherman enters the field, but stays behind hill. No kills, but one Wermacht squad suffers pin.  German Mortar shoots at HMG, but no luck.

Turn 3 - Panzer IV fires on US squad in building, causing pin with MMG.  Wehrmacht squad assaults the same unit, destroying it after two rounds of close quarters combat.  Only two Germans remains in action at end of combat.  US HMG kills one; Officer kills the other.  Second Wehrmacht squad fails order, thanks to double sixes, panics, and runs away.  German mortar dialing in HMG, but no luck with second shot.  Sherman begins moving to the American left flank.

Turn 3: Moments before Wehrmacht squad in center panics
Turn 4 - Preparing to make a run for it, German officer and MG42 move forward.  Sherman fires all weapons on panicked squad, nearly wiping it out.  German mortar destroyed by US HMG.  Panzer advances and destroys HMG.  Bazooka advances to window, successfully hits Panzer and stuns the crew.

Early Phase of Turn 4

Turn 5 - German MMG and officer advance into deployment zone to gain some victory points.  Both  are subsequently destroyed.  Panzer, with two pins, fails order test. Bazooka scores another hit on the tank, but fails to damage it.  Sherman advances past building and score massive damage on rear armor of Panzer.  Ryan rolled a five and gained eight bonus points (+6 penetration bonus and +2 rear armor), allowing him to roll two damage result die.  The first was a "stun" but the second knocked out the last German unit on the board.

Ryan's Americans - 14 Victory Points
David's Germans - 2 VP

After Action Report

In the spirit of an AAR, we discussed positive and negative aspects of the game.  Ryan provided two pluses and one minus:

-Plus:  The skirmish/small unit aspect of the game.
-Plus:  The order dice system.
-Minus: Tanks are overpowering compared to infantry.

From my point of view, the game went quite well.  It was slow going, at probably 1 1/2 hours for set-up and play, but I know it will speed up significantly in the future. I spent quite a bit of time flipping through the rulebooks for the basics, particularly when the situation dealt with buildings or vehicles..  By Turn 4,  we were playing fairly quickly. 

I am going to reach out on the Bolt Action forum and ask about the rule when firing from a building.   If a soldier is located in the center of a building, but has line of sight through a window, is firing permissible? Or, must the soldier be standing at the window or door?

Get Playing

Although I love the aesthetics of finished armies and beautiful terrain, I definitely prefer to test out games quickly, before the investment of painting time, with material on hand.  My foam core counter test of DBN last year, like my recent play tests of Blitzkrieg Commander II and Bolt Action, have helped me move forward with projects and stay motivated.

We definitely plan some additional play tests in the future!  It will be hard to resist buying some figures if we keep the gaming going...I really want to finish painting the pile of lead that I already own...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bolt Action Germans

For my test games, I assembled Axis & Allies miniatures to form two squads of Germans, support units, and two options for vehicles.  Even though the list is similar to the American force, I chose different support units in order to learn the different rules. 

Here's the force:

Core Platoon

Officer - 1st Lieutenant  - (R)egular - 75 points

1st Wermacht Squad - R - five men - 56 points
-Rifles - 3
-Submachine guns - 2 

2nd Wermacht Squad - R - five men - 63 points
-Rifles only - 2
-Rifles + Panzerfaust - 2
-Submachine gun - 1

MG42 MMG - R - 50 points

Sniper - R - 50 points

Option A: Panzer!

Panzer IV - (I)nexperienced - 188 points
Lt Mortar Team - I - 24 Points

Option A Total Points: 506

Option B: Armored Vehicles

SdKfz 251 with 37mm A-T gun - R - 124
SdKfz 222 - Lt Auto-cannon and MMG - R - 95

Option B Total Points: 513

Ryan and I got one test game in today.  We made some chits for the two forces since I lack enough dice of different colors to use for the order selection.  We also cranked out some buildings in short order.  Watch for the AAR tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bolt Action Test Run - US Army List

Salerno Invasion 1943
Using my Axis & Allies miniatures, I cobbled together American and German 500 point armies for test games of Bolt Action.  The forces are a motley mix of nationalities; I don't have that many A&A minis.  I did ensure the small arms on each figure was accurate.

Even assembling the test armies reinforced my plan to use 28mm figures for this game.  Squinting to identify a submachine gun on smaller scale figs would not add to the gaming experience!

For both lists, I created a basic group of units with two options: a tank or lighter vehicles.  I tried to keep as many units as possible at the "regular" experience level.

Here are the Americans:

Core List:

Officer - 1st Lieutenant - R - 75 Points

1st Squad - R - five men - 53 points
-4 men - rifles
-1 man - submachine gun

2nd Squad - R - five men - 53 points
-4 men - rifles
-1 man - submachine gun

Bazooka Team - R - 60 points

Heavy MG Team - R - 70 points

Option A:  Halftracks

2 x M3 Halftracks - (I)nexperienced - 158 points
-Pintle-mounted Heavy Machine Gun

1 Jeep with MMG - R - 36 points
-No transport capacity

Option A Total: 505 Points

Option B: Sherman Tank

M4 Sherman - I - 188 points

Option B Total: 499 points

The infantry squads for the Germans are the same size, but I mixed up the support units and weaponry. More on that list tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bolt Action - First Impressions

I recently purchased the Bolt Action game rules and the United States army supplement.  Having read the rules several times now, I am impressed with the game mechanics.  Bolt Action has the scale and feel right for this level of warfare. There are several comprehensive reviews of the game on the web, so l will just recap the key concepts and focus on my first impressions.
  • The game is based on opposing reinforced platoons, using individually based figures.  
  • A squad of 5 to 10 infantry counts as one unit, as do heavy weapons and vehicles.
  • Command and control, and turn order, is controlled by selecting an order dice from a cup and using it to order one unit. The random order keeps the game dynamic.
  • Units under fire get "pinned down," affecting their motivation and combat effectiveness.
  • Forces are formed based on points, and the point allocation is consistent across all armies.  A medium tank with one coaxial MMG will cost the same for any nation.
  • The game includes off-table artillery and air strikes and fighting within buildings.
  • Each nation possess a few unique characteristics that effect gameplay, and the army supplements expands the number of unique characteristics.

A nice change

Having only played DBA, which is quite abstract, and horse & musket era rules, the game focus on a smaller unit size is a nice change. The rules are intuitive at this level of combat; I might be leaning on my personal experience in the service a bit. Squad level infantry tactics have not changed that much, frankly. With unit-based games such as Lasalle and DBA, the rules that deal with stand contact and the fixed shape of units are a bit abstract for me.  My first guess on how the rules will play are not always correct.  With Bolt Action, movement, actions, and reactions seem natural. I anticipate the fluid aspect of the squad formations, unlike fixed base units, will add an element of realism.  You also need to concentrate fire to be successful, a realistic tactic.

Minor gripes

I like rules that include photos of figures for inspiration and instruction. However, Bolt Action is chockfull of them. It might be too much, really.  There are repeats of photos in the core rules and the supplement. I lost count of the number of Sherman tank photos, and I would have preferred to see some shots of other vehicles and units that are less common to help me learn more about the weaponry.

The US supplement does not adjust the basic list for a reinforced platoon to reflect national characteristics. The standard reinforced platoon, for all nations, can select 0 to 1 medium machine guns.  For the Americans, there is an extra selection rule allowing up to three medium machine guns. The basic and theatre selector lists in the supplement still note the 0-1 MMG limit. 

Theatre Selectors

The supplements provide tailored lists of available units for specific theaters and timeframes, as well as additional unit types. For the Americans, there are four categories:

-North Africa (four lists)
-Western Europe 1943-45 (nine lists)
-The Fall of the Third Reich 1945 (two lists)
-Pacific - 1942-1945 (two USMC lists)

Having recently read great accounts of the US Army in North Africa and Italy, I was impressed with the coverage of both North Africa and Western Europe. The lists seem to get the balance right, and I wish I had bought the German supplement for comparison sake.

I am pleased to see coverage of the Pacific campaign, although I was disappointed that the US Army is not covered at all. US Army operations in the Pacific do not get much coverage in the history books, either. I hope the Commonwealth supplement covers Australian Army operations in the Pacific.

Some of the added weapons options are interesting in the supplement. I need to play a few games to understand the benefits of some options.  For instance, late war Marines can add a pistol to their weapons for a few points.  An element can only fire one weapon in a round, and it isn’t clear to me when you would want to fire a pistol instead of a rifle.  I didn’t see any rules that addressed restricted movements in close quarters that penalized riflemen.  Pistols do get two shots in close combat, though.

Bolt Action or BKC II?

Readers of my blog know that I recently purchased the Blitzkrieg Commander II rules, so I have two WW II choices in front of me. Bolt Action will be my next project, and I have settled on 28mm figures after looking at the various scale options. I’m interested in trying my hand at painting the larger figures, and the figure count is not high. I worked up a few 1000 points armies, and you only need about 30-35 figures and a few vehicles to play a this standard level. I might still jump into BKC II later, probably focused on North Africa and using either 10mm or 6mm figures.  

For Bolt Action, I’m leaning seriously toward the Pacific campaign, but Europe would also be fun to model and play. For the Pacific, I need to look at the available figures more. Warlord Games sells Marine Infantry, but I'm not sure if the support units and heavy weapons are available as Marines.

 I’ll break out my Axis & Allies minis for a few test games, but I will delay buying figures until I finish my current DBN project (I hope!).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Austrians Walk into a Bar

Finishing up my posts on the batch of Napoleonic figures, I'll show off an Austrian Grenzer and Jager unit today.  I painted up only two bases for DBN.  I eventually need a few battalions of Grenz units and three more Jager bases for Lasalle.

Because I started the painting effort with plans to mount these figures in single rows, I ended up with extra figures.  I used them for two Lasalle skirmish markers.

To maximize reuse, I will use a Lasalle based Jager unit in DBN.  If I have remaining figures when my other painting is done, I may create a standard DBN element consisting of only two or four figures.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Confederation of the Rhine Cavalry

 Wurzburg Cavalry trotting forward

These figures represent Confederation of the Rhine Cavalry.  I'm working on a Cavalry Brigade for Lasalle as a supporting unit for a French Infantry Division.  The figures are Battle Honors, advertised as "Chasseur and Wurzburg Cheveaulegers"  As you can see the headgear, saddlery, and rifle placement differs.

My basic reference book for Napoleonic uniforms lacked any information on CoR Cavalry, so I turned to a great French language website:


The Lasalle Army list suggests that the Light Cavalry could refer to Baden Light Dragoons, Nassau mounted jagers, or the Hessen-Darmstadt cheveaulegers.  I found uniform references for the Baden, Hessen-Darmstadt, and Wurzburg units.

Curiously, the headgear does not match the Wurzburg reference images, but the uniform is pretty close.  The helmets, in particular, look closer to Austrian cavalry than any of the Confederation of the Rhine units.   In any case, I painted these guys up in the green and red of Wurzburg.  I will use them as French cavalry for DBN, too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

French Infantry

You can't fight a battle (very successfully) with just artillery.  I finished six French Infantry bases save the flag.  I will mount the paper flag after sealing the figures with clear coat.

Center Companies and Light Infantry

The six bases will form the core of a DBN army with two Elite and four Regular units.  They can also be used for 1 1/2 Lasalle battalions which use four bases.  I need eight battalions for Lasalle, so there is a lot of painting ahead!
Center Companies and Grenadiers

Friday, February 15, 2013

French Artillery

I finished basing a batch of Napoleonic figures, focused on building up to DBN armies and eventually fielding large enough forces for Lasalle.  I still need to spray them with a flat clear varnish.  Here's a look at four French artillery bases.

The shadows are stark since I took these photos near dusk.  In the background is the Han River and our sister hi-rise apartments. The four elements are all medium and heavy cannon, and will provide plenty of artillery for DBN and meet the needs of a Lasalle French Infantry Division.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two DBA Duels

Ryan and I met Jeff today and played two DBA 2.2 games.  As he works on his painting, Ryan has assembled a Thessalian army from my Spartans and extra Macedonian figures.

Late Thessalians (II/5d) versus Galatians (II/30a)

Thessalians on the Left: Psiloi supporting Hoplites

Ryan played the first game against Jeff's recently painted Galatians.  This matchup turned into a slug fest between the two infantry lines.  Jeff had sore luck with the dice.

Jeff moved a Cavalry around Ryan's flank, placing the supporting Psiloi in its Zone of Control (ZOC).  This move prevented it from moving forward in the contact with the Warband line.

Jeff opened up the attacks on his right flank, using a Scythed Chariot to turn a Thessalian Cavalry element.  He lost the bout.

After the lines met, Ryan used his cavalry to flank a Warband, killing it.

The game quickly ended as the Spears outmatched the Warbands, resulting in four elements lost in the first round of melee.

Final Result: 4 Galatian Losses to 0 Thessalians

Demetrios Early Successor (II/16b) versus New Kingdom Egyptians (I//22)

I have not had any luck with my Macedonian Morph army yet.  I continue to under-utilize my Pike.  For this game, I decided to try a list with an Artillery element.  Jeff, always the good sport, tipped me to several weaknesses in my initial deployment that could have cost me the game right away.  I still made a few key mistakes as the game progressed.  Two elements were often out of command range, and my artillery "pinched" my line, preventing me from using my Knight (Gen) and Elephant.

I pivoted my artillery in order to fire on the line, but the placement along a waterway resulted in a bunching up of units.  I also placed my Pikes are risk of recoiling into the Elephant.  Fortunately, I had a millimeter to spare in the recoil, which happened right away thanks to accurate Bow shooting by the Egyptians.

We fought several rounds of melee between the Pikes and the Egyptian line, composed of Blades and Bows.  Units would recoil or lock, but it was slow going in terms of kills.

I didn't get photos of the action on my right flank, but Jeff effectively kept my LH and one Aux tied up with a Bow element and supporting Cavalry.  The Bow continued to force the Light Horse to recoil.

I rolled low PIPs many times.  During the last round, I moved my artillery forward to shoot at two Cavalry lurking back near the camp.  Moving too far forward, the artillery was killed in close combat by the Cav in the next turn.  Jeff finally killed one of my Cav that covered the Pike's right flank.  Soon after, he turned my flank and took out three Pike elements.

Result: Five Demetrian Losses to 0 NKE Losses. Ouch!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Austrian Infantry

I finally placed flags on two Austrian infantry battalions today.  I painted the battalions over a year ago for Lasalle. I will also use them for DBN.  Both units are composed of six bases and one skirmisher marker.  The figures are 15mm Battle Honors miniatures.

Two Austrian Battalions

One battalion is based on the German Infantry Regiment #4; the soldiers are wearing helmets.

The second battalion represents Hungarian Infantry Regiment #2, wearing shakos.

The all white uniforms are a bit tricky, especially for a new painter like me.  I did find some tips on the web about using light gray for the shading and varying the white color.

I also made progress on my batch of French units, gluing sand to the bases.  I should have the units finished up in a few days, save the final spray of clear coat.  With the cold weather here, I do plan on waiting until it warms above freezing before attempting any spray paint work.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Storage & Transport

As my miniatures collection grows, I am starting to worry about safe storage and transport.  We are a mobile family, so I must ensure the figs survive overseas moves every few years.  I am also interested in developing a way to store the figs with minimal use of space.  Right now, I have them in all sorts of plastic and wooden boxes.

My first thought is to go with magnetic bottoms applied to the Litko bases. I could find shallow plastic containers for storage.

Another option would be foam protection.  East Gate market in Seoul has low cost foam, so I could cut out my own foam trays.