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Bolt Action (Second Edition): Initial Thoughts

Last weekend, I participated in a Bolt Action (2nd Edition) tournament. These tournament games were my first in 2nd Edition. Overall, I liked the changes that were made to the system. Below is a summary of my thoughts on the new system (having come from a background of 1st Edition).

At first, I thought that these changes could be published as a PDF update, similar to what BoltAction.Net was doing every year unofficially. After playing the game, I can attest that the changes make a deceivingly large difference to the game. Many sites have already gone over these changes and Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy put out an excellent article this month on the topic, so I will be focusing on my opinions on some of the changes.

In the first edition, I typically ran platoons with many small teams and squads. It was very common for me to fit 14 dice (or more) into a 1000 point list because I was using a lot of 5-man squads, cheap transports and special weapons teams. With this plethora of units, I relied on stopping and eliminating opponents through the power of pins. My army packs a lot of SMGs, so the basic meta of my army in first edition was to spray the targets with LMG fire from the carrier as my 5 man “kill teams” approached and then jump out of the transports, spend a round of shooting before assaulting the target with 8 assault dice. With the rules changes in 2nd Edition Bolt Action, this is no longer a viable strategy.

Warlord Games

My 600 point army features many small teams and transports, so it brings 9 Order Dice to the table at a very low cost.

Pins got a little bit of a “Nerf” for 2nd Edition in that they are now easier to clear off. Units that Rally no longer include the penalty for pins received in the roll. This means that it is much easier for a pinned squad to rally back. There are also ways to clear more pins at once in the new Edition. Units that go and stay down now clear more pins than before and if double ones are rolled on a command check, then that unit gets to clear D6+1 pins.

Assault weapons also got “Nerfed.” In First Edition, Assault Weapons gave 2 attack dice in Close Quarter Combat (CQC). Now, Assault dice only give a second attack if the first hits. This means that my 5 man squads with 3 SMGs who consistently got 8 attack dice in CQC for First Edition now receive only 5 attack dice in CQC and up to 8 if they are lucky. Likewise, I run my First Lieutenant and his helper with SMGs. Previously, they received 4 attack dice in CQC. Now they get 2, and up to 4 if they are lucky. This is a huge difference and it changes the meta for my army quite a bit.

One change that benefited my army is that transports can now fire if they don’t have passengers. Once the passengers leave, they may fire any one weapon on their turn. This is a big change from First Edition where empty transports could not provide fire support. My Carriers each have two LMGs. These LMGs also got a buff in that they now shoot 36″ (rather than 30″) and fire an extra shot a round. These changes make armed transports much more useful as Armoured Machine Gun Teams.

The change that I think is the coolest, is that officers get the “Snap to Action” rule. This allows a commander to activate a number of units on the same dice draw as their own. I think this is a great rule change and it really adds some good reasons to take higher level commanders into your armies.

HE also got a huge buff and a huge “Nerf.” The Nerf is that templates are now used to determine how many soldiers are hit in the open. This seems to be good for the smaller HE weapons, which are now guaranteed to hit at least two figures in a unit, but not as good for the larger blast weapons. I couldn’t imagine getting 18 guys under a 4″ template. The deadliest buff for HE is when firing over the sites at a building. That shot now hits on a 3+ as you aim at the floor a unit is on rather than at a figure in the squad (which usually hit on something between 5+ or double 6’s). When a shell hits the building in Second Edition, the rules switch to the old abstract xD6 roll to determine how many figures take a hit. These units then receive no extra protection from the building when rolling for damage. Buildings also became a little more fragile as the threshold to destroy a building through HE has been reduced. These changes to how HE interacts with buildings makes Howitzers extremely dangerous to infantry in buildings.

A final change that I would like to mention in this article is that the number of missions / scenarios in the book has gone from six to twelve. Twelve separate scenarios in the base game, that is awesome! I played two of the new ones in the tournament I just attended. These missions add a lot to the game.

Overall, I like the Second Edition of Bolt Action and believe the book is well worth a buy. I don’t like that the effectiveness of pins has been reduced, but I am a fan of most of the other rule changes. Although the “Nerf” to assault weapons negatively affects my army, I like that change. The changes to commanders, LMGs and Transports are all great and help make those units more appealing to take to the table. I like that HE now uses templates, but feel that Howitzers are overly powerful against units in buildings.

There are also plenty of other changes in this book that I did not mention here. Please feel free to leave a comment as to your thoughts on the Second Edition of Bolt Action.

To end off, I would like to describe how I envision Second Edition changing the army list I play. Being that Pins are now less effective, I believe that I will be taking larger blocks of infantry to give more staying power. Gone are the days when I could rely on Pins to take out a unit. I will also take more HE weapons. I don’t know if I would go so far as a Heavy Howitzer, but I would definitely now pack more HE Weapons into my army (a 6-Pounder and Sherman Gun at a minimum). The PIAT did get a small Buff, but it still remains fairly useless due to range restrictions; however, I will likely continue to take that team as it is something uniquely “British.” I may still take a Universal Carrier and a 5-man unit, but I am now unlikely to take two or three of them.

How has the new edition changed your Gaming Meta? Are you happy with the changes? I personally like the changes and plan to play all of my upcoming Bolt Action games in either 2nd Edition or with the Konflikt ’47 Rules.

Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Just played a smallish (about 8 players) event this weekend and it was a joy. I think the tough fighter changes were welcome change.

    I think you are misinterpreting the HE when aiming over open sights against units in buildings. The chapter title was corrected in the errata as "Shooting at units in buildings", as you never target the environment in BA, you always target a unit (artillery being an exception). The line about, 'you are literally targeting the floor the unit occupies', or something like that, was proceeded by how to resolve line of sight and range to a unit in a building.

    Once units are in buildings in BA their position becomes abstract – the book even states you may remove them from the table. This is why in BA 2.0 we don't use templates once a unit is in a building and consult a table to determine HE hits for units in buildings.

    The only modifier that HE ignores while units are in buildings is cover – which is huge. HE also ignores the building extra protection rule (and gun shield for that matter). This last tournament I waited until a unit used their command dice that was hunkered inside a building. At this time I drove my tank right up to the building and shot a howitzer point blank into the building. The unit couldn't go Down, no cover, point blank – the shot was 2+ to hit!

    1. jacobstauttener

      I will have to double check the HE rule. Hitting on a 2+ vs units that are supposed to be hunkered down safely in a building I'd extremely deadly. 🙂

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