TGN Review of Bolt Action by Warlord Games

By Polar_Bear
In Historical
Sep 9th, 2012
74 Comments
1468 Views

We managed to snag a copy of Bolt Action’s rulebook from Warlord Games and have created a little review of it for you.
Also, you’ve got a chance to win the rulebook from us. Details at the bottom of the review.

Bolt Action, by Warlord Games, is the much-anticipated rules set for their rather extensive collection of WWII models. The book is quite a piece of work. There’s a lot inside the book to look over. The rules system is also rather unique, not fitting into particular categories in several respects. It shows that a lot of thought was put into making an experience that, while still a minis wargame, sets itself apart from the rest.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the extensive amount of stats for models in the back of the book. Just flipping through, there are pages upon pages of rules for the various units available to each faction. This is fitting, considering how extensive Warlord’s Bolt Action model line is. I’m sure they’ve still got 3-4 books worth of models stats they can make, even with all they put into this book. They do give you lots of options for the squads in the book, letting you decide how they are armed and what skill level the units are (more on that later). So you really can make a force that accurately represents a historical regiment, or just customize your force using exactly the models you want to use the most.

After this, I moved back to the first half of the book and started looking over the rules. Giving them a quick glance two main things stood out to me: the activation sequence for a turn and the “pinning” rules. I’ll discuss these two separately.

The first thing different about Bolt Action is how you resolve which units activate when. It’s not an IGOUGO or Alternating Activations system. Instead, count out how many units are in your army (infantry units, vehicles, artillery squads, etc) and then get an order die (or some other sort of token) for each one and place them into a cup (or hat or box or whatever). Your opponent does the same, putting their tokens in the same cup. Shake them up. Now, draw one. The player whose die/token is pulled out gets to activate one of their units and gives them an order. They’ll fully resolve that order before the next die is drawn out. In this way, one player could get several activations in a row before their opponent acts, but you never know. Plus, if one player keeps getting activations, sooner or later your opponent will more-than-likely end up with several activations in a row.
After a unit has activated, you leave the die/token next to them to note that they have already activated this turn. At the end of the round, after everyone has activated, you collect up all the dice and put them back in the hat for the next go.

The other thing unique is the combat system and “pinning” enemy units. Stats for models are equal across the board. Every shot hits on a 3+. Every veteran unit has a leadership value of 10. Every regular infantryman is damaged on a 4+. Etc. What modifies much of this through the game is being “pinned.” Whenever a unit is hit by an enemy they receive a Pin Token. This isn’t for each, individual hit, but every enemy unit that scores a hit will give a Pin Token. So it takes multiple units to get multiple tokens. When a model is activated by having a player’s die pulled out of the cup, they are given an order. To actually do the order, if they have any pin tokens on them, they must pass a leadership test with a cumulative -1 for each pin token on the unit. So a unit that has taken shots from many enemy units will have a harder time actually doing the order given to them. The exception to this is the “Down” order, in which the unit basically ducks for cover. Pin tokens also affect a unit’s shooting. As stated above, every shot hits on a 3+. However, much like leadership tests, an attack suffers a cumulative -1 for each pin token. So 2 pin tokens on a unit effectively means it’s a 5+ to hit an enemy.
There are two basic ways to remove pin tokens. The first is to pass a leadership test when given an order. This will remove 1 pin token as the unit gets themselves together as their squad leader gets the unit to do what he wants them to do. The other is that there is a specific Rally order (which you need to pass a Leadership test to do) that will remove D6 tokens (so effectively D6+1, since a successful Leadership Test to issue the order will also remove a Pin Token).

It’s these two rules that allow for the creation of such vast numbers of units in the game. In this way, you don’t have to worry about individualizing each unit’s stats specifically, they just allow the generic rules for every model do that, then change what a unit is armed with to make them unique. Bolt Action is a game of modifiers. There is not a lot to memorize for rules. Movement is much the same, in that every unit can move 6” with a regular advance. There is only a small chart that says what happens in different types of terrain for different types of units (infantry, artillery, tank, jeep, etc). It’s really the modifiers that matter, specifically Pin Tokens.

The game, overall, is pretty deadly. There are several ways that units can be entirely wiped out without having to specifically kill each model. If a unit has more Pin Tokens than there are guys currently in the squad, then they’ll be destroyed. In an Assault, the unit that suffers more casualties, even if there are guys left, is wiped out, assuming that those left are taken prisoner or ran away or somesuch.

I don’t actually have any models to review, specifically, but I have seen enough over my time here at TGN to know one thing about Warlord Games’ modelers: they care about the models they’re making. Whenever I am sent a new release by Paul Sawyer over at WG, the page always has both a picture of the new model and a period photo of the squad or vehicle that the model is based off of. And you can tell that whomever made the model was using that particular photo (and more, of course) and the photographer tried to line it up so the model and photo looked as close as possible. A lot of care obviously goes into the making of the models. For those WWII enthusiasts that like to make sure they know the model they’ve got has all the rivets in the right place, Warlord Games does their best to make sure everything is right.

Overall, Bolt Action is a quick and deadly game that doesn’t rely heavily on a lot of rules, but instead gives a set of generic rules that are adapted based on in-game situations. Modifiers play a large part of how the game operates, with Pinning Tokens being the major modifier-giver. There is a huge supply of models out there available and you can use some of the most iconic units of WWII easily in your force. The rulebook has several scenarios you can play along with rules for air strikes and artillery bombardments as well.

I’m a touch concerned with the “pull a die, activate a unit” format, especially in relation to the Pinning Tokens. In situations, a player can get several turns in a row, getting to pin down a key enemy unit with multiple hits, making it really hard for that enemy unit to do much of anything when it does finally get around to activating. There could also be problems with one player taking lots of small units that aren’t really meant to do anything more than just provide dice in the dice cup so there’s more chances to pull the right color, allowing a more-important unit to activate more reliably earlier in a turn. More work with that system in actual table-top experiences is critical for that.

So that brings us to the contest section of things. It’s pretty simple. We’ve got 2 copies of the rulebook (to be fair, one’s got a slight tear on the cover, but it’s otherwise unharmed) that we want to give away. If you’d like your name in the hat, simply comment below with your thoughts on the review. We’ll pick two at random and they’ll get the book sent their way.

Thanks for reading.

About "" Has 25865 Posts

I was born at a very young age. I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
  • phoenixman

    nice review, sums up the game quite nicely.

    however i think one thing that needs clarifying is that a unit is removed if the pinned markers equal their starting morale not how many men are left in the squad at any given time.

    as far as i know a single man left from a 5 man squad can have four pin markers on it and as long as when he is ‘activated’ he passes a morale check, you remove a marker and he can perform an action.

    this is going to be THE rules release of 2012 in my opinion

  • Hollander

    Your concern about taking lots of small units and abuse of the “pull a die” system will only be a problem with a player who plays the game to win and to win only.
    So the rules may not be the best for competetive and tournament games. So what? There are still a lot of players out there who play friendly games for fun.They like to win but not at all costs and certainly not by abusing the system.
    If the rules are flexible and detailed enough to differ between various troops and vehicles then these rules may be perfect for playing a scenario..
    Other players who will not like this system are the players who want total control. The “pull a die” system will add the chaos of war. We ‘ve seen similar systems in board games and yes that can be unfair..be happy it’s only a game. Good luck have fun .

    • Toyznthehood

      The dice-turn system shouldn’t be an issue. There’s a Platoon Organisation that means if someone is going to play with a lot of small units they’re likely to be the weaker ones.

      The great thing about that system is that you have to plan ahead i.e. I might get two or three units all in a row and be able to rush forward but what if i don’t?

    • guges

      The problem with relying on a casual player style to make a game work is that this isn’t how an overwhelming majority of people play tabletop games any more. While you still have some casual players, most people even play non-tournament games to win.

      The hallmark of any miniature game should be balance but it’s even more important in today’s post magic competitive gaming environment than it’s ever been.

      Making a game where someone has to drop $200 on an army in the typical GW throw balance to the wind attitude, is going to end up making a game which is unplayable in the long term. 6th Ed 40k is the perfect example of this and GW is losing 40k players like crazy because they made the game even less tournament friendly than it already is.

    • kalamadea

      Here’s the thing though, it only takes that one guy in a gaming group to ruin a game like that. It’s fine if EVERYONE is on the same page, but if just one guy goes super competative then your choice is: lose every game, game the system to keep up, or not play with one of your friends. None of those are good options. You could house rule it, or try and covince them to tone it down, but that’s a lot of work to fix a problem that should have been dealt with in playtesting.

      I never understood the argument that poorly written rules are fun for casual games. Fun is not having any arguments about rules. Fun is being able to quickly and easily look in a rulebook and see the answer to a question, so you can keep on playing without interupting the flow. You can play a competative game for fun, but it’s much harder to play these “casual” games at higher levels without rewriting a lot of stuff.

  • surprize

    I’ve got faith in Rick that the power of cheap units to boost the order pool will be balanced properly, certainly with the random nature of activation the spam tactic would only really work if ALL the units were cheap, otherwise you are reducing the chances of your own specialist units activating early in the turn.

    A feature of a lot of the rules Rick (and Alessio) have written over the past few years has been combined arms being the key, so I will be interested to see if this ethos is present and if so how they’ve managed it in a squad based game.

    The only thing that would potentially spoil it for me is the need to have specific tokens for each unit – I can’t see how you can tell between specific units with dice? So looks like most games of BA will be played with scraps of paper in a coffee mug, which seems a shame.

    • Polar_Bear

      It’s not a token for a specific unit, but just that there is the same number of tokens and units. So when you pull a die, it’s just that player that gets to pick one of their units to give an order to, not that “Well, I pulled the T-34 token, so it goes.”

    • guges

      Not sure why you have faith in Rick and Alessio making a balanced rule set. Neither of them ever made a balanced set of rules when they worked for GW.

  • I found the rules incredibly generic and bland. It seems this has been the popular trend the past several years. For example, they sure don’t capture Soviet tactics at all. Then again, how many people really care about how troops really fought? “I don’t have much time to learn real tactics,” people proclaim. “I just want to play!” If you like simplistic, then these rules will be fine. it will appeal to the current 40K, FUBAR,a and ADHD crowd just fine.

  • perplexiti

    Thanks for the great review guys, I’ve got a bit of faith in Misters Priestly and Cavatore. I’m sure the thought of people spamming small units crossed their minds.

  • Binx

    Been looking forward to this since seeing it at Salute, hastily painting up some Germans in anticipation.

    I think your review sums up what I saw pretty well and having played some more complicated rules sets, I think this is going to be the one for me.

  • syr8766

    Very interesting. Would love to try it out…

  • cegorach

    Very curious to give the rules a try but I am wondering if there are any aspects other than the veteran/regular break that differentiates unit types? Any particular abilities that make units quite distinct?

    • Toyznthehood

      There are various special rules for Green troops, tough fighters, fantatics, shirkers, etc. The equipment options are different for each unit type and army which also provides a lot of variety. Each army also has it’s own special rules as well.

      • cegorach

        Awesome, thanks!

  • barret30

    Thanks for the review. Ive been trying to decide between getting into either Bolt Action or Flames of War. I have been leaning towards Bolt Action because I’m not a 15mm fan but there just hasn’t been a lot out there cuase its so new. I think your review has pushed me further towards Bolt Action.

  • Marauder

    Thanks for posting a review. Its been a while since I read a review for “rules” at TGN (maybe I’m just not paying attention?). I really have collected far more rules than I’ve played, so getting to hear about some different rules mechanics gets me excited!

    Now you mention that troops all have very similar stats – I assume morale is at least different for them? What kind of stats to vehicles and anti-vehicle weapons have? What about other anti-infantry weapons like heavy machine guns?

    Or heck maybe i win a copy and can answer these questions myself!

    -Tim

  • DoctorDH

    Well done with the review. I agree that the rules system could be abused and manipulated by super competitive power players but the game was never meant to be ultra competitive.

    From it’s inception, Bolt Action, was going to be a set of fast and fun wargames rules that took advantage of the extensive Warlord Games miniatures range.

    I enjoyed reading the review and I am looking forward to the next TGN review.

  • 4tonmantis

    I’d like to toss my name in the hat.
    The review is pretty good but I’d like to have been able to sink my teeth into the gameplay a bit more.
    The method for activating units seems like it will be skewed deeper into battle.. almost like once you start winning it’s almost impossible to stop..

  • pbeccas

    I have played a game. Liked it. Fair and balanced sort of game. Straight forward rules. Tank rules are dead simple, a lot of other similar level games fall down when armour is added. I liked the game. Will play again many times. Does it beat my favourite WWII game system Disposable Heroes? no. But I will play and support both systems.

    • 4tonmantis

      This is a question for anyone who’s played the game.. would the rules support 1:72 (and much larger scale battles) or are you best off using the original scale?

      • pbeccas

        You can play in any scale. I saw a review where some guys played in 15mm. They kept all the measurements the same.

        • trajan

          Some of our club members did this too. There were no problems with regard to scale. They were using FOW infantry bases and had to place markers on the stands to denote casualties.

          I’m with you on the DH front. It isn’t going to replace those for me. (Big Al)

  • Mooniac

    The figs look great. I would love a free look at the rules. Also, there seem to be a lot of rules at this scale for this period. Has anyone done a comparison chart anywhere?

  • fear_the_squirrels

    Liked the review, though it felt more preview than review.

    I don’t think spamming cheap units will be a big issue for the most part. You’d have to really load up on them to make a significant difference in the odds. And if the unit is that great, its probably a little higher to begin with making your force a little smaller (And hence less activation chances anyways).

  • drew274

    Could not get past the first part of the review where you talked about all the things they could do with expansions. Fixated on wondering what that would be and when it will be. Not a bad thing, just was in my head for the whole review.

    Well written and has me more interested than prior to the review.

  • lochmoigh

    Nice eview, a little long, maybe a sum up of the high points and then the detailed review. Thank you taking time to wrie it up.

  • I’ve had a look at the rules too and was immediately impressed with the production quality and the sheer volume of game-related information in it. 200+ pages of rules, scenarios, unit stats and history – no fiction, no hobby guides, no unnecessary padding. The model shots throughout the book are very well done and the terrain is excellent. Plus there are loads of great images from Osprey’s extensive library.

    Thanks for the review. It echoes some of my thoughts about the lethality of close combat – if you can get close enough to assault a defended position, make sure you definitely pin the enemy first, and take enough buddies with you to finish the job.

    The random activation technique sounds strange at first, but once you play it a few times you’ll see that it balances out nicely. Sometimes one side gets a load of activations in a row and can really make mincemeat of the opposition. But then the other player gets all of their activations one after the other and can counter attack.

    I really like the game as a fun set of rules for my 28mm foot sloggers, plus a few vehicles. I have yet to attempt to recreate a historical action with it though, but I think it would be able to handle it pretty well.

  • relmbob

    I’m curious about how tanks are handled in the rules. Also, are weapon ranges realistic for the scale or are they reduced to 12 or 16″?

  • mrborges

    Obligatory “great review!” 🙂

    But seriously, I have been looking forward to this release since they announced it over at WG. I have a number of WWII models that I have collected over the past couple of years, but have been waiting for a set of WWII rules to go with them. I think that Bolt Action might be it! And now I have an excuse to finally buy their plastic infantry kits, too!

    The activation in this game is very wargamey, and I mean ‘old school’ hex-and-counter board wargames. It is an interesting concept, and it’ll be neat to see it in a minis game.

    Fingers crossed for this contest, so I can move “WWII skirmish game” up my list of future projects 🙂

  • Definitely made me want to start collecting WW2 miniatures again.

  • alqadim

    Good Coverage of the Warlord line, I’ve been specifically looking for a 28mm WWII game to play and reviews like this help me make up my mind! Woot!

  • oni.of.one

    I greatly appreciate the review as I have been eying the release. Would love to see a AAR. I get the impression they are trying to appeal to a large audience with this rule set. Gamers, WW2 enthusiasts, 15mm diehards, etc. hence the simplicity of the rules. Now I disagree with the “Gentleman’s Creed” being used to balance things but I am hopeful they were able to address issues for both casual play and tourney play without sacrificing much on either side of the line. God knows they have enough designer experience between them. Hopefully I can drag some friends into this without the kicking and screaming.

  • I’ve been waiting to hear something more about this game, like your review.

    It looks objective and fair, which is appreciated. Thanks!

  • KarnageKing

    I am looking forward to these rules and some Wargames factory models!

  • pigasuspig

    I’ve played a few games, and like it a lot. The dice pull system works well, and does not create a positive feedback loop. In particular, you don’t always want to go first.

    As for the question of many small units: in the scenarios, VP are awarded for units, not for point cost. A platoon broken into fire teams with a bunch of jeeps and cheap officers to give it 20 dice is going to be putting 20 VP right there on the table for the opponent, most of them easy to take. In my last game, in contrast, my wife managed to rescue her bedraggled Soviet conscripts (including one sole survivor of a whole squad), denying me 3 or 4 VP, and easily securing her win.

  • Londoncopper

    This a pretty good review, despite owning several WW2 rule sets I am tempted to buy these as the dice order system is something that appeals to me.
    I assume that as units are removed their die does not go back into the fresh dice pool?

    • That’s correct, as units are removed from play, so too are their dice.

  • Ambient Madman

    The production values sound great, the order system sounds interesting and while the price is not to bad, I’d like to hear from people who have actually played the game a few times before committing.
    I have friends who enjoy and play their other sets so that is some recommendation.

  • Blitz R

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays in comparison to either Rules of Engagement (by Great Escape Games) and Victory Decision (by AD Publishing), both of which are fantastic rule sets that offer unique game mechanics.

  • Good review – short and covering the main impressions of the reviewer.

    It feels a bit like a ‘taster’ review (the main impressions) rather than a full blown ‘in-depth’ review (using highlights of a couple of test games and section by section account of the book) you see on blogs around the web.

    I like both kinds of review and if TGN only have the time/resources to produce more taster reviews then that’d be great as they wet the appetite.

    I wasn’t planning on picking this up but those mechanics do sound really interesting… I want to play it now.

  • trajan

    For me the jury is still out. There are a couple of things I am not happy about, but a few more games will either change my mind about them or ditch them.

    With regard to drawing dice from the bag, I think that what is missing is a Turn Over dice. One thing that proved contentious with this system is when you use transports. When a unit is in a transport everything is fine, but when it dismounts, you need to add another die to the pool for the transport. Some may say that isn’t what you do, but if you don’t how can you activate the transport to get it away from the danger area? Or, if the unit advances, how do you get the transport to move up in order to pick up that unit when necessary? The additional dice in the pot make it a lot more likely that your side will activate first or more frequently. This happened in my last game where we had a British Carrier platoon with 6 carriers on the table. Our dice pool almost doubled! One solution could be to use transport dice of the same colour but with different coloured spots and allocate those to the transports only.

  • technokat

    Would love to win a copy of the rules. I have been interested in a good 28mm style ww2 game for a while now. It does sound like they have a good balance going with the rules, and the chit thing sounds interesting as a mechanic. Bring on the tanks!

  • lannessubotei

    I’d like to toss my name in the hat.

    Very nice review

  • captain_hook

    Very good review.

    I haven’t looked at these rules yet, but I’ve played other “card” activated systems, and have found that it adds a positive “fog of war” aspect to the game. I could see where someone could load the deck in a tournament game, but I’m not a tournament player and speak to that.

    I’m still a big Disposable Hero’s fan, so it would take a lot for me to switch over, but I have quite a collection of rules, and one more set wouldn’t break the bank. 🙂

  • staxer

    Interesting review, in it to win it!

  • TomasT

    Nice review. Would like a good system for WWII.

  • trajan

    Good review, though. Tells us most of what we need to know.

  • Attilla13

    It will be very interesting to see how everyone accepts the activation sequence. I remember some older fantasy games that had similar mechanics (using cards, not dice – red/black). This already looks like it will be the system for me, and I like the scale a lot better than the little guys (FOW). I know that the rules may not be exactly full of all of the detail that some WWII fans will want, but I have always though the “simple” or “bland” (using the phrases above) or beer and pretzel games were better at getting more people to actually PLAY the game. There are lots of rule sets out there that are awesome in scale, scope and detail. But they also tend to be played a LOT less….games can take months to plan and a couple of days to play. I’d rather get together and play lots of games over that time.
    One quick question for anyone who has played games….It definitely sounds like it will be pretty deadly – but does the game tend to bog down at the end, if everyone cannot get rid of pin markers, do you end up with a static, kinda “entrenched” affair, or is there enough ability to get out of the pin effects that this does not happen? Or are units being removed due to the pin affects (think first poster mentioned this) enough to clear it out and still leave enough “action”?

  • Veritas

    Good review overall from a rules perspective, but I would have liked a little more on the ins and outs of the individual forces.

  • guges

    Like anything made by GW (and let’s face it given who the authors are this is basically what GW’s version of WW2 would look like), this game seems like it would be fun to play once in a while, but isn’t balanced enough to be taken seriously.

    The activation system alone seems messy, uneccisarily complicated, and completely random to the point where it would wreck game balance. Combined with the pinning system it seems like a player could shut their opponent down just by getting lucky with their activation draw.

    It’s really quite a shame considering how beautiful the miniatures are. It makes me wonder if there’s a better 28mm WW2 game on the market or if there’s maybe a way to adapt Flames of War to this scale.

    • BurnDownTheSky

      With respect Guges, you are dead wrong in my opinion. The GW version of WWII has already been published. Twice actually. The first was called “Flames of War” and the second was called “Kampfgruppe Normandy”.

      This system is completely different. Is it “tournament friendly”? Probably not; I’m sure some tournament types will find lots of cheese in it somewhere to break the system. Which is fine by me. I don’t play tournaments very often, so naturally playing a game that leans more towards realistic and fun appeals to me.

      Not that I am claiming Bolt Action is even semi-realistic! But I am claiming that it is more realistic than FoW or Kampfgruppe Normandy. BA tries at least for some fog of war, which is always, always, always a good thing in rules design if you are trying for fun and realism. (Again, that is my bias and definition of fun).

      The activation system is actually quite simple to use in practice, and it is most definitely NOT completely random. You draw from a limited population without replacement, so mathematically it is quite predictable. Especially since the number of random samples drawn from the population equals the population! I find it surprising you are critical of this, when in 40K and WH rolling a dice for combat is much more random, since each individual die’s result is independently determined. If you were to roll a “6” twenty times in a row, the odds of rolling another six is…exactly the same as the first time. 1 in 6. Whereas in BA if I draw all twenty of my units from the cup in a row, the odds of drawing my opponent’s die is 100%.

      The pinning system works marvelously well, and again, reflects real life. When one is being shot at, one tends to hunker down and ignore what your corporal is shouting at you. Note “tends to”. The pinning system is NOT absolute, as explained in the review. That is, if you are pinned, your turn is over. Nope. You get a chance to try and remove the pin and down what you really need to do.

      The only thing I did not like about the rules (and yes, I’ve read them and yes, I’ve played them) was that units can very easily die to the last man. Which is stuff and nonsense. Unit cohesion would have been shattered long before.

      It is a fun, simple little fast play system. In my personal pantheon of company level games, I’d put this well ahead of FoW, but well behind “I Ain’t Been Shot Mum” and “Poor Bloody Infantry”. That said, I’d play it again.

      • guges

        “This system is completely different. Is it “tournament friendly”? Probably not;”

        All” tournament friendly” means is that it’s well balanced. After playing GW games for years and then switching to better balanced games like FoW and Infinity, it’s hard to take a game like this seriously. Too many people have no idea what it means to play a well balanced, thoroughly playtested game, because too much of their tabletop experience has been GW product. Once you play a well balanced game, you realize that badly balanced games are terrible, even in casual play. The fact that you’ve played this game and still admit it isn’t balanced enough for tournament play, means that I would be miserable even playing it casually as I get swept off the table.

        Balance should be a pillar that any game should be firmly based on unless you’re going for something silly or satirical. If I’m spending $200 on an army, I want a balanced game that I don’t lose because I was unlucky drawing tokens out of a hat.

        I was kind of psyched about this game when I saw the minis, but now that people are bragging that it’s not “tournament friendly” has completely turned me off to it. I’m not a big tournament or WAAC player, but I am sick of games that can’t be consistently played well because of balancing issues.

        • Michaelsgellar

          If the game isn’t for you don’t play it.

          I think the random dice pulling is one of the aspects that makes the game interesting as you never know when you’ll get the go and therefore need to be strategic about how you activate your units.

          We’ve had a chance to play the game since my buddy picked up a book at Gencon and the game is incredibly balanced from a unit perspective since, for example a German elite unit is the same as Russian one from a stat perspective.

        • BurnDownTheSky

          Excellent point, and I hear you. You describe your idea of a game extremely well. You want to play something that – everything else being equal – you have an even chance of winning. And that winning is therefore a test of your skill.

          Whereas my views might just possibly be a reflection of my skills. 🙂

          For some odd reason, I often like unbalanced games. (And if you’re familiar with IABSM or PBI, you’ll understand why). For me, the fun is seeing my friends, bantering with them, enjoying the spectacle of well painted minis and terrain and seeing a story unfold. Which is why I really enjoy campaigns, because it does lead to unbalanced battles, but battles with a backstory.

          That being said, I think games that are unbalanced because some anorak has discovered a loophole in the rules, and there is no way imaginable you could win…yeah, that would be a terrible game.

          The nice thing about BA is that even if your opponent rolls appallingly well, or as you fear, draws dice like a statistically freakish monkey, it is quite fast playing. So, just set ‘er up again and try another battle! And note that such a win has nothing to with anorak types designing killer armies.

          No – just like a real battle, you try and stack the odds in your favour and keep your fingers crossed!

          And the figures really are quite nice aren’t they?

    • pbeccas

      In Wargames Illustrated 298 Rick Priestley says him and his mates (the Perry Twins) had a home brew set of WWII rules. Those rules eventually turned into 40K 3rd Edition.

  • Flipped through this at Gen Con and was truly interested, though WWII is not normally my thing. Your review makes me even more interested. Nice job!

  • Thadaleus

    Played through this ruleset a few times.. Loving it.
    Concerned with using Dice for drawing orders.. if they’re not identical in feel, can cause some shenanigans..
    Probably best to use different color tokens with the same size.. etc.
    Model range is amazing..

  • phoenixman

    re the dice size thing, the fact they are doing 4 coloured sets of dice should sort this, but most gamers carry enough different coloured amd sized dice to not make this an issue

    also for those like CPbelt who say the rules are bland i have to disagree entirely, i found them excellent to play and the fact they are easy to pick up is surely a good thing as more people will play and you end up with more opponents. too many rulesets get bogged down in paperwork and charts and i myself tend to start drifting off and lose interest in the game which isnt good for my opposing player(s).

    the random element of moving units is also a good thing IMHO as you never know when you are going to get to move a unit or more thanone if you get several dice after each other.

    small units may be fragile on numbers, but there are then more units to activate and shoot at your opponents big units of infantry and get more chances to pin / remove casualties or the unit itself. the big v small debate is valid but there are pluses for both as well as minuses.

    all in all, a very well balanced game, and if you are at Derby this year there will be a demo participation game to give it a try

  • Shaved Dwarf

    Thank you for this thorough review. That’s exactly what I’m looking for when a new rules book is published.
    Especially when there has been some kind of hype before …

  • Brandon

    Good to have some reviews to read again. Seems like an interesting ruleset, though some more details would have been great. Seems though that it would be easily adaptable to other genres.

  • xGIxJOKERx

    Looks cool. I’m looking forward to building a Commonwealth force.

  • rastamann

    Nice review. Would have been nicer with some bullet points, but I am really excited about this ruleset! Thanks for the coverage!

  • Drusus Geronimo Rat Esq

    Ok, so you can get more chances of a string of activations if you’ve got a lot of (small) units than a smaller number of (larger) units -assuming a roughly equal size of opposing armies overall.
    Since it seems that each unit can only inflict 1 Pin Token a turn, then for the side with the smaller number of larger units will be at a disadvantage, since although the larger units will have a greater chance of getting a Pin Token, if one is scored for a hit of 3+ then a 3 man unit should be optimum, and the smaller number of units side will soon find themselves finding it more difficult to activate – is there any advantage other than being more difficult to break for having a unit over 6 strong??
    Definitely would need to look at the game a bit more to crunch numbers, but at first read of the review this seems a little problematic.
    The other thing I’m none too sure about is the utterly random nature of the chances of getting an activation, with the totally player directed choice of which unit is activated when the activation comes. Not sure that this modelling of reality is what I’m after in a game.
    One thing regarding the review; what is the scale of the game? Is 1 model 1 man, or something bigger? How easy is it to translate historical scenarios to the table? A little more info would be have been useful. Hopefully I’ll get to see a game and have a look at the rules.
    Overall the rules look to be something I’d have a look at, but not something at first glance I’d promote to be my first rules of choice. Thought provoking though.

  • Spartan

    Nice review, i needed a reason to pull me into 28mm WW2 gaming.

  • tad

    Excellent review and makes me want to play it even more. Now to dust off the troops who have been boxed up way too long.

  • It’s quite rare that you’ll pull so many of the same side’s dice that a bad turn will result. Don’t forget – if for some reason that happens, then I know I’ll be getting several more of MY dice in a row as a consequence – and I can plan and take advantage of that. It works both ways. (That’s if it happens at all.)

    Love the unpredictability of the activation sequence. Love that fact that I can teach a friend how to play a good game in about 20 mins. I did this with a buddy on the weekend and he was impressed enough to order his own copy. Now we can both play the full ruleset at our next meeting.

    We also played with 15mm FoW models and it worked extremely well. That’s a plus, because we have tons of 15mm terrain. I can expand into DAK and buy a force for extremely little money.

    Regarding units fighting to the last man – if a unit takes casualties in an attack that eliminates 1/2 or more of his unit, that unit immediately makes a morale check to rout. You can see that a multi-pinned unit taking casualties will test to rout more often than fighting to the last.

    Brilliant ruleset in my opinion.

  • TabletopWarrior

    Thank you for the review. I have played several games. I enjoy how the activation system keeps both players in the game at all times. Because you always may be going next. I have suffered the string of dice being pulled by my opponent, but that just meant I ended up with a series of activations later. I like Bolt Action.

  • dafcook

    Nice review, thanks.
    been looking for an alternative to 40k, something i can get my kids interested in that has historical interest to get them away from call of duty on the xbox.
    the mechanics look as if they make for a simple to use system that the kids could get into.

  • Ben Price

    Noticed this is an old review and im trying my luck, but I liked it. gave a good understanding of the game and it’s plus points and negative point. Confirmed the decision for me as i am currently looking to pick up a new system with friends. Ben

    • Thanks. I’m glad you liked the review. “A good understanding of the game” is sort of what I try and go for with them. I want readers to feel almost as though they got a really quick, impromptu demo of the game, or something close to that, anyway.

      • Ben Price

        So does that mean I win a rule book? 😉

        • Only if I can dig up who originally won it, gave you their address, and you went over and picked it up from them. 😛 😉

  • Satyan Patel

    Never played the first version, but I like your review. I’ve wanted a ww2 skirmish game for quite sometime now so I preordered the 2nd edition hardback. I’ve got enough German and American models to try out the game and see, before I fully engulf on buying all the tanks and other items. Probably will do it anyways. 😉