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Why I Love Playing Bolt Action

Today I published a Review of Bolt Action over on the Bell of Lost Souls. I decided to do a similar but different between the sites, but keep the content in both original. In this post, I quickly discuss why I love Bolt Action.

The Rules

First off, I just Love the rules. They are simple yet fun!

If you have played other wargames, most of what is in Bolt Action will feel vary familiar. The rules are not difficult and there are many similarities in the game to other popular systems.

The Dice Draw Mechanic adds a lot of variety and variability to the game play. Unlike other games where you get to move all your forces at once, you anxiously draw dice in hopes that you get one of yours so you can pull off your awesome plan. Some times you may even sit there and hope your opponent gets the next die so you can see what they are doing first. Either way, I find that the dice draw mechanic adds a welcome element of luck not found in “I go, you go” games.

The changes from the first to second edition (I played both) were not earth shattering and I think the second edition is a good refinement on the first.

The Miniatures

28mm World War Two miniatures are beautiful (in my opinion). Warlord Games has a large and great looking selection of Bolt Action Miniatures. There are also plenty of other companies that also make WW2 miniatures (in case you don’t like the cost or aesthetics of the Warlord ones). Personally, I like the Warlord Games ones and am constantly watching their site for their new releases. I wish I could own them all!!!

Before starting in 28mm WW2 Gaming, I played in the world of 15mm. I prefer to paint 15mm figures, but I much prefer building 28mm soldiers. The reason for this is that with 28mm you can take a lot more liberties in assembling your models. I prefer assembly over painting, so 28mm is a good fit for me.   🙂

I honestly like the Bolt Action Minis so much that two out of the three miniatures that I use for avatars for this site are actually from Warlord Games Bolt Action Line. Below are some quick pictures of those two minis.

Bolt Action Major Avatar
This is one of the miniatures that I love using as an avatar for Must Contain Minis. He is a British Major by Warlord Games.
Bolt Action Captain
This is the second miniature from Warlord Games that I like to use as an avatar.

The Terrain

One of the things that I really love about Bolt Action is the terrain is recognizable to our modern world (yet it is not in our current time). There are plenty of great companies out there that make fantastic terrain that you can use for this game. Cigar Box Battle Mats, PlastCraft Games and XOLK are some of my current favourites. Of course, Warlord also sells terrain too that you can use for the game for some really stellar tables.

As a note to the side, I recently heard that a huge Bolt Action tournament in the UK had some truly dismal terrain. If that is true, I feel sorry for those who attended. Please don’t think of that type of terrain as typical for Bolt Action.

Below is just a small sampling from some of our Bolt Action tables that we have used at Must Contain Minis.

Bolt Action Terrain
A Bolt Action Table from one of my recent Battle Reports.
Bolt Action (2nd Edition by Warlord Games)
Special thanks goes out to Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing for putting out such an awesome game!!! Check out that table and the Battle Report.
Bolt Action Tank War Demo Battle Table
Dave and Randall set up this demo table of Bolt Action at Hotlead.
Bolt Action MDF Terrain
A Demo Bolt Action table ran by me full of XOLK Terrain. Battle Report still to come.
Cigar Box Battle Mat and Bolt Action
A Demo Bolt Action Table with lots of open fields ran by my buddy Dave.

The Local Players

I met a number of great people through wargaming and one of the things that keeps me coming back to Bolt Action is the local player base. Hopefully you can also find a great selection of people to play, but I have two great companies in my area that strongly support the game – Forbes Hobbies and Crucible Crush. Both companies run events (or provide space) where people can play Bolt Action. I do my best to attend when I can, but I also have a lot of demands on my time. I would love to get out more than I do.

Constant Releases

Both Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games heavily support Bolt Action through new releases. Every month I find myself checking out there websites to see what is coming up.

Wrapping it up…

Hopefully you enjoyed this quick post about why I love Bolt Action. If you want a full review of the core rules, be sure to check out my review on Bell of Lost Souls.

Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. BDub

    I concur, entirely.
    I love the dice draw mechanic – in addition to adding a bit of tactical unpredictability, the draw-odds shift with forces and the momentum of battle, in real-time.

    As far as the 2.0 version goes, the only real noticable thing for me was the shift in utility and importance of Officers. They are finally worth taking and can have a noticable impat on the game, and while vulnerable can be utilized to mitigat some of the dice-draw’s unpredicatability, when you need to make that push.

  2. Dead1

    The dice draw is interesting but ultimately a poor mechanic. It makes the whole thing purely random and promotes cheesy “dice loading” techniques (taking cheap units to ramp up number of dice).

    It also means that units operate on their own as opposed to in conjunction with others as you cannot rely on them to be supported.

    Games like Chain of Command or Battlegroup do the whole “friction” thing a lot better. They also do WW2 a lot better compared to BA which really doesn’t feel like a WWII game and promotes some really bizarre “tactics” and list choices.

    1. Jacob Stauttener

      A lot of the historical guys at one of the clubs I visit really enjoy Chain of Command. I tried it twice and did not enjoy it as much as Bolt Action. That said, everyone has their own opinion and that is one of the reasons I do not assign scores in my reviews.

      There is a possibility to load up the bag with more dice in Bolt Action, but, in so doing, you create weaker squads that are easier to kill. It is a trade off game for sure when you design your list.

      While I enjoy Bolt Action, I fully appreciate that others would prefer other games. Who knows, perhaps I will give Chain of Command or Battlegroup another go sometime. 🙂

      Thanks so much for the comment.

    2. Ralph Krebs

      “The dice draw is interesting but ultimately a poor mechanic. ”

      I’ll agree somewhat if you have 3 or more players per side. Then you risk having some people waiting too long. But good GMs can compensate for that to keep everyone engaged.

      “It makes the whole thing purely random….”

      No it doesn’t. You, as commander, still have to prioritize which units need to move and what actions they should perform. “Purely Random” is just hyperbole.

      “….promotes cheesy “dice loading” techniques (taking cheap units to ramp up number of dice).”

      I don’t think that is the case at all. This assumes an equally pointed out side with 8 dice is at a disadvantage to a side with 10 dice. That’s just not the case. Jacob also gives a good argument against this line of reasoning.

      “It also means that units operate on their own as opposed to in conjunction with others as you cannot rely on them to be supported.”

      Which of course didn’t always happen on the battlefield. The artillery barrage came late, or not at all. The air support never showed up. The tanks and the supporting ground troops couldn’t coordinate their advance properly. The bazooka teams could never get into the proper position to take out the Tiger Tank. I think real time commanders would dream of the unit coordination and cooperation that some table top warriors expect in their games.

      “Games like Chain of Command or Battlegroup do the whole “friction” thing a lot better. ”

      They do? That’s totally subjective. If the dice or card driven activation is so poor, then why does TwoFatLardies use that very mechanism for it’s most successful game, Sharp Practice?

      “They also do WW2 a lot better compared to BA which really doesn’t feel like a WWII game and promotes some really bizarre “tactics” and list choices.”

      Proponents of both those rule sets never tire of bringing that up. Again, subjective comments. But I’ll agree with the bizarre list choices. But that has nothing to do with the game and it’s mechanisms. That’s to do with the “culture” of competitive tournament gaming. It’s the “minimizing the points vs the maximum effect” mindset, rather than following real battle conditions that is the culprit. If CoC was anywhere near as popular as BA to the point that CoC tournaments were played everywhere, you would see the same silly behavior. Same thing with Flames of War, Art de la Guerre, DBM/DBMM, Warrior, 40K, Warmachine and any of the other tournament games out there.

      Again, it’s all subjective…..and that includes my comments. (Oh, and by the way, Lemon Gelato is THE best tasting ice cream… question. It just does that flavour thing better than all the rest.) See what I mean?

      1. Jacob Stauttener

        Thanks for the well thought out arguments Ralph. I can tell you are. Big fan of Bolt Action too. It is still my favourite system.

        1. Ralph


          Well, I’ll say that at this current time, I’ve “settled” on Bolt Action. It does have some issues (like all rule sets), and to be fair, I agree with some things that Dead1 says. I played some older WW2 games, and sadly, I can’t remember the titles. I do know that I didn’t enjoy them and I can’t really remember why. I then discovered “Disposable Heroes” which was a great and fun game. What I didn’t like about DH was the spotting rules for artillery and tanks, and the overly complicated penetration process when shooting at vehicles and tanks. Were these rules more realistic? Sure. Did they impact the outcome of the game or make the game better? I don’t think so. They made me just want to play infantry games. Both these issues were addressed and greatly simplified in Bolt Action. So that’s what I play now.

          No one I know of plays Battlegroup, Fireball Forward, Command Decision or any of the other WW2 games out there. One of them could be just what I want, but how would I know? Like you Jacob, I’ve heard the buzz about Chain of Command, and have played it twice. I just don’t get the allure of the game. I’ll give it a few more chances. Also Disposable Heroes II is out now and I may give them a look. (Maybe Dead1 would want to run a game for us)

          I just get frosted when people confuse their personal preferences and biases with objective statements of what constitutes “quality”. It’s like comparing ice cream preferences.

          OK rant mode off.


  3. Jan

    I will agree that Bolt Action is a GREAT system- but there are some glaring cases of where the rules are simply written badly.

    First is Turret Jam- on every glancing or penetrating shot- with a jam (for the whole game) on a 4+?
    That’s just ridiculous. On a “6” maybe…would be more realistic. Or am I wrong? Did 50% of all tanks hit in battle have their turrets jammed?

    Second is blowing up a transport- and you roll a D6 for hits to the passengers.
    Roll a 1- and you just did those passengers a favor!
    Passengers should be hit with a heavy mortar template if they are riding in a truck that gets blasted with a 75mm HE round.

    And finally- zeroing for indirect arty but not for tank gunners?
    If a tank is stationary- and its target is stationary- roll to hit should decrease -1 just like it does for indirect fire.

    Imagine a tank- unmoving- missing their unmoving target after the 2nd -or even 3rd shot. The tank commander would probably shoot his gunner with his sidearm on the spot. Perhaps inexperienced don’t get this?

    Chain of command has some nice ideas on using grenades etc.

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