Thursday, 14 May 2015

Bolt Action Tank War - Bagration!

August 1944, Central Poland, in a sandy forest laager near Sandomierz. You are sitting in the turret of your command tank, enjoying the cooling shade and tantalising scents of the dense Polish pine forests. A short respite from the pace and horror of the previous day’s action and weary night road convoys. Your driver hands you a steaming cup of…well, whatever it is, at least it’s hot and wet and presented with a grin. Around you your men have taken the opportunity to conduct some light maintenance, tightening tracks, greasing and lubricating, reloading and restowing ammunition. But every now and then their clangour fades, allowing the buzzing of the insects to rise again, bring a reminder of happier days camping out in woods in the youth summer camps that seem a lifetime ago now, but in truth were less than a decade ago…
Come to think of it, the buzzing of those pesky midges is getting louder…no, it’s a motor cycle – despatches for you no doubt….

Yesterday at the Uni we trialled playing Bolt Action Tank War using 1/72nd scale models, but keeping the original ground scale, designed for 1/56th scale. This would should give a grand, and sweeping game, best suited to a large table....
3 Objectives: village, bridge, and rail crossing.
The Scenario:
Ground              Western Poland - Heavily wooded undulating terrain, some crop fields and small villages. Key North South road, crosses a minor tributary of the Vistula river by stone bridge (Any fording move counts as Rough Ground – ‘Run’ order, but only single move.

Situation      Sandomierz Bridgehead, Poland, 29 August 1944. Operation BAGRATION has been unleashed on Army Group Centre. The Russians have broken through and are racing deep into the rear. A German mobile force has been tasked to set up a hasty defence on the river line. The Germans must hold the bridge, and the two other objectives, as a bridgehead for any counter attack.

Mission        Capture/Hold all 3 objectives per BA Scenario 3: Point Defence (BA, p.112) (Objectives are captured by having a friendly AFV within 6” and no enemy units within 6”.)

Execution     The intention is to play 8 or 9 moves, no. of turns extended to account for larger table size. The German defenders may hide all their on table vehicles per BA page 117. The Soviet attackers get a preliminary bombardment per BA page 118. Dice for each on-table German unit: 1 – no effect, 2 or 3 – 1 pin marker, 4 or 5 - 2 pin marker, 6 – 2 pin markers + Top Armour strike of +3 penetration.

Before the start we diced for teams and then they selected their choice of force, all approximately equal in BA points values:

German. All Experienced.
16. Panzer Division - 6 Panthers, OR
501 Schwere Panzer Abteilung - 5 Tiger II, OR
291st Infantry Division – 2 JagdPanther, 5 Stug.

Soviet.  9 Mechanised Corps – Inexperienced. 10 T34-85, 4 SU-85, OR
12 Guards Tank Corps – Veteran. 2 IS-2, 7 T34-85.
For the first game the German team selected the 5 Tiger IIs, Konigstigers (Bengal Tiger). Well, you would, wouldn't you! The Russians selected the larger, untrained hordes of T34s and SU-85s, hoping that quantity would have a quality all of its own, as uncle Joe Stalin cogently observed.
The Germans opted to keep half their Tigers off table to escape the Russian preliminary bombardment, which whilst no doubt a wise move, meant that they were fighting in penny packets, and duly got swamped in a fast and bloody game...
For the second game, a little wiser, both sides followed the other's example, the Germans going for the larger number of Panthers, the Russians this time selecting the smaller Guards formation. This actually made for a slower, but tactically richer game, although we ran out of time so didn't achieve a clear result...

So what did we think of Bolt Action Tank War in 1/72nd scale? Well my inner megalomaniac enjoyed the spectacle of massed tanks, which you can't really get away with their  larger scale brothers. But that said I do like my 1/56 toys, and would prefer to keep this ruleset reserved for them, and stick to Battle Group rules for this intermediate scale. However, for a fast but large evening game, they do the job. And we had fun, and I had a bit of light relief from the Waterloo 200 preps!


  1. bolt action,not my cup of tea,but 1/72.tanks ,big table,whats not to like,

    1. "bolt action,not my cup of tea"

      We had tea as well, because we're a very cultured group of gamers. Mostly because half of us weren't actually born here in Australia :-D

  2. Thanks Dave. Yes, Bolt Action has been described as the game of the movie, rather than the battle! But its simplistic approach does let you get lots of toys out on the table and play at least one game out in an evening, with novice players (and a novice umpire, if I'm honest!)

    1. Two novice umpires - the 'Less than nine' of one being trumped by the 'That's an automatic KILL!' of the other.

      By the way, you got the title wrong. What we said after the first game was 'Buggeration!' not 'Bagration' :)

  3. Nice looking game, lovely table and tanks!

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    1. Thanks for putting on a very fun evening of armoured mayhem. Beautiful presentation, as ever!

      I like Bolt Action for its simple, no nonsense approach to WW2. While it can well be said be the game of the movie, I find that very entertaining, and ironically I get more time to think of tactics than weapon modifiers, unlike so called more "realistic" WW2 systems. Bolt Action Tanks is no exception, though I do love the challenges and asymmetry of taking on a lone tank or two with a platoon of infantry.

  5. Thanks Caesar, very kind, and for your great tactical thinking in the second game - shame we ran out of time!