Netrunner store championships – Wargames emporium 20/03/2016

Heading back to the table for a store championship I knew it would be a more serious affair than the game night kit I’d played for over 2 months ago. I wasn’t feeling confident, not nearly enough practice combined with decks that probably weren’t the best, also the level of play would definitely increasing. Given this I would have been very happy with being in a middling position at best. Disclaimer: in my role as most forgetful man in the world names and events may be remembered poorly or not at all, you have been warned.

The Decks

Rielle “Kit” Peddler: Transhuman

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Event (8)
3x Diesel
2x Modded
3x Sure Gamble

Hardware (7)
2x Plascrete Carapace
3x R&D Interface
2x Astrolabe

Resource (9)
1x Kati Jones
3x Daily Casts
2x Symmetrical Visage
2x Film Critic
1x Hunting Grounds

Icebreaker (7)
1x Corroder
1x Mimic
2x Atman
1x Gingerbread
1x Cerberus “Lady” H1
1x Study Guide

Program (15)
2x Panchatantra
1x Magnum Opus
2x Paricia
3x Self-modifying Code
1x Paintbrush
3x Leprechaun
3x Multithreader

My Runner game tends to gravitate towards safe shapers and Kit is as safe as they come. With the newly released Panchatantra breathing life into poor little Gingerbread, this only got better, making any 2 deep ice defeatable. Study Guide combined with one or more Multithreaders is incredible, helping Multithreader make back its high install cost. I was initially worried the deck could struggle for money but that ended up not being the case, although this worry was from testing against HB decks and I saw none on the day. Some of the choices were a bit more questionable, Paricia is nice but eats up valuable memory, so it probably gets overwritten some time in the middle of the game and Hunting Grounds was included for use against Tollbooth which never appeared. The patchwork of support programs, Panchatantra, Multithreader, Paintbrush and Magnum Opus necessitated some Leprechauns, this made things more complicated with the need to find and pay for their installs. Overall the deck was typical of my shapers, too slow and too timid, but with only 4 rounds, the opposition was not representative of the full spectrum of decks.

Cybernetics Division: Humanity Upgraded

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Agenda (12)
2x Advanced Concept Hopper
3x Accelerated Beta Test
3x Project Vitruvius
1x Gila Hands Arcology
3x Self-Destruct Chips

Asset (11)
2x Mumba Temple
2x Adonis Campaign
3x Cerebral Overwriter
2x Jackson Howard
1x Chairman Hiro
1x Tech Startup

Operation (11)
3x Hedge Fund
3x Restructure
3x Mushin No Shin
1x Cerebral Static
1x Defective Brainchips

Barrier (3)
1x Heimdall 2.0
2x Markus 1.0

Code Gate (7)
2x Viktor 1.0
1x Viktor 2.0
2x Gyri Labyrinth
2x Turing

Sentry (5)
1x Vikram 1.0
2x Ichi 1.0
1x Janus 1.0
1x Fenris

I chose to play Cybernetics Division because i wanted a deck that allows flashy plays and puts the stress on the runner, it doesn’t need to be as rich as a meat damage deck and can close out games with fast advances a bit better than a Jinteki deck. Even though cybernetics division can have a small deck size, I felt a bit too constrained trying to fit in enough economy, ICE and kill so went to 49 cards. The deck is trying to drop my 3/1 agendas along with throwaway assets like Mumba Temple and try to sneak them past the runner, dropping their hand size until i can kill with Chairman Hiro. Mushin No Shin helps greatly with this, meaning I don’t become incredibly poor scoring an agenda turn 2 and making Cerebral Overwriter much more useable. The ICE suite is ok but definitely has some problems, Fenris is nice but i can’t justify it since Faust destroys it and is everywhere. The bioroids are good in this respect as they are typically reasonable strength with high subs and Turing is great. Gyri Labyrinth however should definitely have been cut as it will never secure the kill, the runner being easily able to break it by the time 2 temporary brain damage matters. A necessary addition was one Cerebral Static because I hate Noise and all he stands for   The aim of the deck, to play mind games with the runner, is fine but ultimately i didn’t make the wrong decisions seem necessary enough for the runners to take them, and the deck slightly fizzled.

Round 1 – NEH and Noise

Wargames Emporium had a nice late start of 11:30 so I wasn’t forcing myself out of a hungover bed, and I sat down for my first round against Rebekah who i had faced at the game night kit in January. Seeing NEH I had mixed feelings, typically one deep ice meant I could probably get away with only the study guide however the fast pace of the game would require me to spend my money trashing assets and being constantly wary of fast advances from the hand.

I opened up well, seeing both my Paricias and pressuring the open remotes to trash San-San City Grids, Pad Campaigns and Team Sponsorships, but I was unable to prevent her from sneaking out an Astroscript using a Biotic Labour. I made a calculated risk that I would not be seeing any meat damage and spend a little time setting up my Study guide and a Magnum Opus. Seeing an Archangel and a Little engine in R&D I slowed down and built my Study Guide bigger to deal with them. In this time Rebekah was able to put out a bit more ICE and also score a Project Beale out of hand, but I now had R&D lock with two R&D Interfaces so was feeling more confident. Then to my horror she snuck out an already installed Astroscript without me noticing bringing her to 6 points, now I knew it was basically over as any agenda in her hand would allow her to win. I made 4 hail mary R&D runs and got up to 6 points but lost to a breaking news out of HQ. The lesson there, my deck lacked HQ pressure, maybe I could make room for a Legwork.

So we flipped sides and I faced off against Noise, my least favourite fictional human ever. His ability just makes all my lovely careful plans fall apart. I could have played a consistent deck that didn’t care about its individual pieces as much like core set HB, but where’s the fun in that?

I started off bold, Mushin on an Advanced Concept Hopper behind a single piece of ICE, HQ and R&D left unguarded. It paid off with a quick score of an excellent utility agenda and nothing of note lost from the centrals. I threw some ICE in front of my centrals but didn’t really have the money to pay for it all, hopefully I could keep my poker face up as they were only Ichis and wouldn’t stop a determined run. I lost a Project Vitruvius to Noise’s mill before I could get my Jackson down, but was able to score a Self Destruct Chips behind a Turing, following this up with a Cerebral Overwriter behind the turing to bait out a D4v1d although this failed as she chose to click through instead. I was in a rough position, I could either attempt to score another agenda or sure up my centrals, in the end I chose to build up some cash and protect HQ. The end came swiftly, a Faust plus spooned clearing my ICE on R&D then multiple Medium runs grabbing the remaining agendas. Noise is always a pain, especially when I’m playing combo oriented decks. He proved why he’s still my nemesis and that he’s a punk kid who needs to get a real job.

Round 2 Ken Tenma and Tennin Institute

 

Gearing up for round two against Tom,  I was wary of Ken Tenma. Being a criminal I was expecting Inside Job to sneak into the one ICE remotes I create through Mushin and the excellent criminal killers like Fairie or Mongoose would scupper my plans for sneaky brain damage from my ICE, so I considered taking a slower approach.

I began by putting ICE on HQ to ward off the inevitable Account Siphon, installing a bit more ICE and gaining some money, and then over the next few turns snuck out a Self Destruct Chips before he could get any breakers ready. I managed to stop an Account Siphon and a Maker’s Eye with my ICE and used Mushin No Shin to throw down a Cerebral Overwriter, which Tom promptly ran on and reduced his hand size to zero. However, by now Tom had built up a huge money pile through Oracle May and some strong event economy, I wasn’t confident I would be able to continue scoring agendas so instead I relentlessly started digging for Chairman Hiro to get the kill. In the end I was able to flatline by putting out another Cerebral Overwriter with Mushin and it felt good to end the losing streak.

Switching up to my runner I was concerned about facing a Jinteki ID, my deck had no net damage protection and it would slow me down to draw up cards to protect myself with. Although it wouldn’t be too bad as I planned on installing most of my programs before running anyway, I hopefully wouldn’t find myself in a position where I was unable to get into a server.

After a turn of putting ICE on his centrals, Tom laid out 3 new remotes. i chose not to run on any of them and instead build up money and find my study guide, fortunately none of them were agendas. He then used his ID power to advance a card in one of the remotes, I felt like I had to run it, a Junebug wouldn’t be awful and I couldn’t risk a 4/2 like Nisei Mk2 being scored or a Ronin, but in the end it was a Cerebral Overwriter, one brain damage not a serious issue. I then hit a snare which hurt a bit and I had to stop my brain from going on autopilot and clear the tag, however I was able to pick up a Philotic Entanglement from HQ saving a bit of pain later. I was now able to get through the ICE on R&D so I dropped 2 R&D Interfaces and went for it, over the next 2 turns I saw all three Medical Breakthroughs and closed out the game. Tom did get unlucky there, if I had not already seen some of the net damage i would have been punished more for my multi accesses but in the end I got away with it and balanced out my score going into round 3.

Round 3 NEH and Whizzard

Another round, another NEH, sigh. There’s nothing wrong with the fast advance strategy, but it does stress me out ridiculously, the feeling of inevitability after they score the first Astroscript, and the feeling that you’re playing badly if you’re not able to trash all the assets and make repeated multi accesses. However I figured I would stick with the game plan, Study Guide through anything and try to set up an R&D lock.

I tried to be aggressive right off the bat, running early to force him to rez some ICE and deplete his money, but i hit a Data Raven. The horror that I might now have to worry about meat damage, I jacked out and built up my money, digging for a Plascrete Carapace. Any successful run might be my end, with SEA Source and Scorched Earth being a very real possibility. This timidity let him score out an Astroscript and then another from his hand. I tired running R&D but saw nothing and he scored a Project Beale using his Astroscript token. I made a last ditch attempt to score some points in R&D then asked ‘Do you have a Breaking News?’. He did and the game ended quickly.

Whizzard messes with my preferred strategy, to put out my Self Destruct Chips unguarded along with stuff like Mumba Temple and Adonis Campaign. A normal runner might consider running on these to be a waste of clicks and credits to trash them while they are unknown, but Whizzard is more than happy to check them out. I opted to mulligan for a Mushin and try to make flashy plays.

As in game 1 I started with a Mushin putting down an Advanced Concept Hopper behind a piece of ICE, leaving my centrals unguarded. I knew I was going to lose in the short term, but the Hopper would pay off over time. His run in the following turn hurt, losing me a Jackson Howard and an Accelerated Beta Test. The next couple of turns I put ICE over HQ and R&D and built up my money, I felt safe with a Turing on R&D since Faust would be unable to get in. I managed to score a Gila Hands Arcology but often forgot to use it when clicking for credits like the idiot that I am, along with an Accelerated Beta Test which I opted not to fire. Unfortunately a Parasite had eroded the ICE on HQ which lead to another steal. I drew into a Project Vitruvius and had a Mushin ready, with this being match point I went for it and put the agenda down unguarded. The ball was very much in his court, he installed a Turntable, grabbed some money and fruitlessly ran my HQ leaving him on one click. That click felt like it lasted five minutes as he weighed up the risk of a Cerebral Overwriter or a Junebug, sadly the fear did not win out and he stole the agenda, swapping it for my Advanced Concept Hopper. I could clearly see at this point that the tide had turned and he closed out the game shortly after. 2-4 with only one round left and I could feel the awful spirit of tilt gripping onto me.

Round 4 Jesminder Sareen and Jinteki:Personal Evolution

Round 4 was against Dave, an unreasonably nice man who I would be trying to destroy. Jesminder is a nice ID that I’ve been wanting to try out myself, I was expecting standard shaper bullshit but maybe a better than average chance of things like Account Siphon, so I would have to pay attention to his money to spot scoring windows.

The beginning of the game was fairly standard, I used my muligan to try to find Mushin but ended up with Chairman Hiro much earlier than I would have liked, at least I still had enough ICE and cash to protect my centrals initially. Dave’s initial turn involved dropping a Professional Contacts and going down to almost no money, so I took advantage of this to put down an Adonis Campaign and score a Gila Hands Arcology. At this point Dave managed to get himself a breaker, Gingerbread comboed with Panchatantra, so he could now get into any of my one deep servers for a not very high cost. I tried to Mushin out a 3/2 behind ICE and dissuade him from running it but the bludd failed and he stole the agenda, I then did the same with a Cerebral Overwriter and he did not take the bait. My poker face clearly needs some work. He was then able to access HQ and trash Chairman Hiro for 2 more points. I also lost points to accesses through R&D which was expensive for him but he seemed happy to pay to get in. Over a few turns Dave had managed to destroy the ICE on HQ and I had not been drawing affordable means to replace it so the final points were scored from my open central. My lack of ICE over strength 5 meant that his only breaker, Gingerbread, wasn’t being made prohibitively expensive to use. Maybe my deck would have benefited from some Heimdall 1.0s as they would have been good against both this and Faust.

The final match of the day was against Jinteki: Personal Evolution and I was not on top form at all. I knew from experience that playing as Jinteki at the end of a long day is taxing too so I hoped that would work in my favour. Going into the game my concerns were the same as in round 2, slowing down to draw, and missing agendas because I was too scared to run open remotes.

Dave started by using Celebrity Gift to show me a hand full of net damage and not a lot else, gaining plenty of cash and dissuading me from running HQ for most of the game. This at least freed up my turn to run R&D to force him to spend some money, then building up my own money pile. His next few turns were spent laying out a series of remotes, one of them being advanced once, this ended up being advanced a massive 7 times leading me at various points to think it was a Nisei Mk2, an incredible bold Vanity Project or a huge GRNDL Refinery, but it was actually a Junebug the whole time. I did manage to pick up a Philotic Entanglement and trashed a Ronin which made me feel less like I could die at any moment, although a House of Knives was scored from an open remote. R&D was protected by only a Lotus Field so it was cheap to access after I got my Study Guide up to strength, I made several accesses but found a Fetal AI when I was too poor to steal it which stung. Dave then used Mushin No Shin to put out a card and left it unguarded. I decided I was fine with him scoring another one point agenda so instead ran HQ, hitting a Shock, and gathered some more money. Then he asked me how many cards I had in hand, it was three, and revealed that the Mushined card had been a Ronin and delivered the killing blow with a Neural EMP. My only flatline of the day leaving my score on 2-6 but I couldn’t have lost to a nicer guy so I wasn’t too bitter about it. I wondered after if something like Net Shield or Feedback Filter might have been helpful but they are both in their own ways quite fiddly and it would have been a better solution to just play better, not letting myself get so low on cards.

The end came and I received my alt art Jackson Howard, the most stylish man in all of netrunner, since I wasn’t going to make the top 8 I slunk away and retreated to the pub.

All things considered I’m happy with the decks I took, more so with the corp than the runner, but I’ll be spending the time up to regionals doing a lot more netdecking to improve my fundamentals, maybe switching up to criminal since I’m not a fan of the very prevalent Whizzard/Noise Faust decks. Also the Patriot Games cube league should be a good opportunity to get better at building decks that are just solid rather than trying to do anything fancy. However when it comes to the actual event I’d always rather be playing something a bit more unique that I thought up myself.

 

 

Survive – Escape from Atlantis – The unofficial Jaws board game

A calm breeze wafts over a tropical paradise, but then the ground rubles and starts sinking into the ocean. People scramble for the insufficient rowing boats and ominous sea monsters can be spotted on the horizon. This is the opening to Survive – Escape from Atlantis, a veteran board game who’s 30 year anniversary edition is already a few years old. Survive will see up to 4 (or 6 with expansions) players trying to get their coloured meeples across the sea to the safe areas; a sea increasingly populated by sharks, whales and sea monsters.

Survive earns some points from me right off the bat by being simple, a game that works with my terrible teaching ability and probably 2+ pints is always good. The setup is excellent, getting the players engaged by asking them to build the island they’ll be fleeing as it slowly sinks into the sea. Then players set up their meeples, each one having a different number underneath representing how many victory points they are worth if they escape, but after setup they can never be checked. This means until scoring at the end of the game you aren’t sure if you saved an important scientist worth 6 points, or someone useless like Dom* worth 1 point.

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The turn order for Survive is also nice and easy too. First you spend 3 movement points, either moving one person or boat a lot or several people or boats a little bit. Next you remove a tile from the island starting with all sand tiles then all forest and finally mountains. These tiles are not only pretty to look at but give the island a bit of 3D character to it with each type of tile being much taller than the one before it. (well done Survive, more points for nice object design). Any people standing on the tiles when they are removed will have to get in the sea**, so make sure to pick people who you don’t really want to stay friends with. The tiles also have abilities on the back which you secretly look at and depending what they are, either reveal and resolve them or save them for later. Finally you roll the monster die and move one of the available sea creatures to ruin everyone’s day even more. Whales move the furthest and knock over boats, tipping the passengers into the sea like so many peanuts in a dodgy pub. Sharks move slightly slower and gobble up any people swimming in the water. Sea monsters are the last type and these move like treacle but also eat anything in their path so watch out.

 

However, I’m going to put it out there that I don’t like Survive all that much. The problem i have is that it feels like the difficulty switches from too easy to too hard after each player has had 2 or 3 turns. Early on there are no sea creatures except the monsters in the corners so the first boats have an ok chance of getting through, probably with your high scoring meeples. Later on there are so many whales about that no boat can realistically move, meaning most of your people will be swimmers, swimmers are dead people that just haven’t realised it yet. A problem is that swimmers can only move 1 space per turn so swimmers that fall off the island in the middle of the game will not have time to make it to the edges even without accounting for sharks. This makes the game feel very samey with an early rush and basically the game being decided by those point. I have thought one way around it is to make all the outer tiles be beach so that players can’t set up a guaranteed early pounce on a boat, but that seems to go against the fun of building a random island to look pretty.

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For the first time in this blog I’m going to talk about expansions, and I hate almost all of them, apart from the one with allows 5-6 players which I always like because I typically have more than 4 in my regular group. These expansions make the game even more murderous when i think it’s already too deadly. One expansion introduces the horrifying giant squid model, which appears whenever a whale appears but can be placed not just in the tile that was just removed, but anywhere and can kill people still on dry land or in boats. The other expansion adds dolphins which are supposed to help the players but in practice are a mixed bag, in the base game dolphins were a power that you gained from tiles, allowing you to move a swimmer up to 3 spaces but in the expansion these are replaced with some adorable dolphin miniatures that protect swimmers from sharks and sea monsters. This is fine but doesn’t help the unbelievably slow speed of swimmers. The dolphin expansion also comes with new monster dice, the addition of dolphins and other changes make moving any one specific monster type less likely. There is also another die which changes how fast the monster you rolled moved on average slowing down whales and speeding up sea monsters as well as letting your monster dive to any unoccupied space on the board. Slowing down whales does help boat survivability a bit but I wouldn’t say this expansion was worthwhile for that.

At the end of the day i can appreciate Survive as a unique piece of design, if you’re looking for a light game you could definitely do worse and it will remain part of my teaching arsenal. i just find after playing it a fair bit that games tend to develop very similarly and there isn’t a lot of chance for players to make skilled moves with so much death surrounding them, but if you can get past that then you might want to pick it up.

 

*Yes offence

**© @megaslippers (2015)

 

 

 

Road to the nationals – Building the army

With the nationals 3 weeks away it’s time to nail down the army list, and putting it up here will give me a chance to work through my general strategy for the tournament. So here it is.

Italian 132nd armoured division ‘Ariete’

Headquarters
1st Lieutenant (Regular) + bodyguard 85
Forward air observer (Regular) +bodyguard 85

Infantry squads
9 regular infantry 90
9 regular infantry 90
5 Paratroopers with SMGs and anti-tank grenades 95
5 Paratroopers with SMGs and anti-tank grenades 95
9 Cavalry 135

Teams
Sniper (Veteran) 65

Artillery
Medium artillery (Regular) with spotter 85

Tanks
L3/35 tankette with twin MMGs 70
L6/40 tank with flamethrower 105

 

The army’s core operating principle is to go hard and fast against infantry, while hiding and protecting its own. Since tanks are expensive, particularly ones that will duel other tanks  I’ve taken a calculated risk that I can avoid dealing with them. If it absolutely comes to it I have the air observer and the artillery.

Some of the units are slightly edgy calls, in particular the paratroopers, the units are quite small so vulnerable to damage but put out a fair bit in return. These units and other being fragile makes the army weak at assaulting an enemy, but hopefully I can use the Italians’ ability to re-roll who is attacker/defender to mitigate this. The sniper is a unit I didn’t particularly want to include, his damage is quite low but his potential to take out key officers at least promotes some fear in the opponent. In essence my sniper is a response to my friend who plays americans and his sniper, who constantly threatens my air observer so I have included a sniper mainly for counter sniping.

The shining star of the army is my flamethrower armed tank which is some ungodly machine of death, removing one infantry squad per turn if it is in range, it could also threaten a tank if pressed, so on a cramped map where it can hide from AT guns should do well. I have also included the cavalry because frankly they are hilarious, especially if you can time a charge well, and also they do well in objective based modes as they are some of the fastest units in the game.

So that’s the army really, on a map with heavy terrain I should be able to push high damage on small fronts and in a more open area I’ll sit back and let them advance into my guns. In a scenario where I have to attack on a broad front it will be much more difficult much like for the actual Italian army.

The next update on this front will be after the tournament, so wish me luck. Now to retreat to the painting table.

 

 

 

Condottiere – This map is so cute

I love Condottiere for two reasons, it is relatively simple to teach and comes in a lovely small box. So it fits into my favorite genre of board games, games you can play in the pub.

You and up to 5 of your friends will be mercenary captains, marauding your way across a tiny map of Italy that cuts off the best part, the toe kicking Sicily out into the Mediterranean. The aim of the game is to control regions via obligatory wooden cubes, many if they are spread out but fewer if you can make a connected kingdom.

Condottiere is fundamentally a game about hand management, carefully husbanding your resources to win only the important fights. While the game is also about map control and bluffing, these aspects are facilitated by your hand of cards. Each round a battle will be fought in a region and the winner will be the player with the most strength in their battle line at the end. Players take it in turns to either add a card to their battle line or pass, but once you pass you may not play further cards. It might seem good to put down one or two strong cards and then retire early, however you might see your lead either broken down or surpassed by other players willing to put in more cards. This means your hammer blows want to be delivered late so you have to decide what cards to sacrifice so you can stay in the round longer. The juggling act is made even harder by the fact that you do not draw cards unless all but one player has no cards, so in a 6 player game you could burn out quick then be unable to fight for quite a while.

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The intense brinksmanship is what makes Condottiere not just a game of playing all the cards in your hand. You could throw down some strong mercenaries to intimidate other players into giving up then pull them back to your hand with other cards, or you could drop some tiny dudes until other players feel secure enough to stop then power out some bigger cards unopposed, ultimately all your hard plans can be undone by a player making it winter and reducing your mercenaries all to 1 strength so beware over committing. The map control adds an extra element of strategy, picking fights in areas you don’t need to win but others will expend their cards on so that you will be fresh for the next battle.

Condottiere is a game you should definitely own, it’s super portable and games only last around an hour, leaving you wanting to go again almost immediately. It works just as well as a casual 6 player affair, with deals being made and broken almost in the same instant, as an intense one on one duel. And most importantly it can be enjoyed with a pint.

 

 

 

 

Road to the nationals – A Bolt Action adventure

My first foray into games in the tabletop sense was the behemoth that is Warhammer 40,000, and while it has served me well for 9 years now the shine has definitely worn off. I no longer have the sick dollar to keep updating my armies or branching out into new ones so have been stuck with broadly the same armies for a while now. I’m not a collector or a serious painter who buys models because I just want to, I’m always building towards a specific army list, so I don’t have large collections to make many different lists out of. This can end up being a problem since my first ideas are often bad (as are my second, third and so on, I’m not good at games OK), so I was definitely in the market for something a bit cheaper. Also as a bit of a history buff I fancied a historical wargame, so when some of my friends mentioned Bolt action a 28mm scale WWII game designed by some of the 40k creators I jumped right on it.

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You guys are definitely part of the problem

I’ve only played about 10 games against a handful of people but I’m committing to playing Bolt Action at the student wargaming nationals in April. I won’t be posting my list just yet as it is very much subject to change but if somehow people are scouting me, I’ll be playing 1940 Italians so I wouldn’t worry too much. Instead I’ll go over some of the key aspects of the game and why I like it.

The mechanic that drives the action part of Bolt Action is the order system.( I haven’t found the bolt yet but I guess it could be in a drawer somewhere) Each player has 1 order die for each of their units and put them all into a bag, these dice are then drawn randomly and the player they belong to may order 1 unit for each one drawn. The orders that can be issued are relatively straightforward, all being some combination of moving, shooting and taking cover. You could end up with one player getting a string of orders in a row and start to snowball, this is exacerbated as units die and their dice are removed from the pool. And while this might be a problem I have rarely found a wargame that doesn’t get harder once you start losing. I’ve often excused this potential unfairness based on an an anecdote about the design of Magic The Gathering. The mechanic of land allows players to be lucky or unlucky with the amount of resources they have and so unskilled players have a chance to beat more skilled opponents, this also gives them an excuse for defeat too and helps them persevere with the game.

Another key mechanic that affects everything about the game is pinning,  whenever a unit is hit by fire it receives a pin marker, pin markers represent disruption and the desires of soldiers to keep their heads down. Each pin marker makes units less likely to obey your orders, less accurate in their shooting and more likely to break and run after heavy casualties. This is easily the best thing about Bolt Action, it makes every unit matter, one pin marker is allocated per attack regardless of the number of hits, so outside of damage one lonely officer with a rifle can affect the game as much as a horde of soviet conscripts. It has strong synergy with the order dice mechanic, if you can get the drop on an attack your opponent had set up, the unit might be too pinned by the time it’s turn rolls around. It makes Bolt Action a game not about wiping away an opponent with a huge alpha strike, but a game about wearing down your opponent, suppressing threats so you’ll be in a good position to attack them later. The terrain affects this a lot, and I haven’t yet played with significantly line-of-sight blocking terrain, the inability to focus down units with most of the army would change things significantly.

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Russians! Thousands of ’em

The game is also very well balanced, most men with guns are the same across all armies, with 3 levels of training to differentiate them, recruit, regular and veteran. All armies have special rules but these often add flavour more than affect performance in an significant way. There are more differences in vehicles, and Bolt Action has a large vehicle selection, although the skirmish nature of the game means you will typically see only 1 or 2 armoured vehicles per side. Although there is a Tank War variant which I haven’t tried yet, I’ll get around to it once i rustle up some Afrika Korp.

I think vehicles are one of the weaker aspects of Bolt Action, a big heavy tank like a Tiger might be iconic but they don’t add a lot of value to your army. Big anti-tank guns can only really be used against other tanks and so the heavy investment struggles to pay for itself against an infantry heavy force, which most are. These weapons can also be very anti climactic missing with their one shot and leaving you underwhelmed with your white elephant.

 

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It’s ok boys, that’s nearly half their points right there.

While automatic weapons are plentiful the game still has satisfying rules for the adrenaline fueled rush of close combat, even dashing cavalry charges. These require nerves of steel but can be a winner takes all gambit if you pull it off, assaults are quick and bloody with the losing side being annihilated even if only a narrow defeat. These assaults along with rules for off table support from artillery and airstrikes, and even the opportunity for outflanking maneuvers are icing on the cake giving you more options than just grinding your way to victory in slow firefights.

The missions in the rulebook are often creative but i feel these are also another area the game falls down. Some are fine in terms of balance but are lacklustre, others seem too favourable to either the attacker or defender, and then there’s ‘top secret’ a mission that 99 times out of 100 will end in a draw. While there are historical or themed scenarios I’ve always disliked those in wargames, I want to show up for a pick up game with an all comers list and see equal lists with equal generals have a roughly equal chance to win.

So that’s Bolt Action, if you’re a recovering 40k addict like me then i think this is right up your alley. It feels both similar and very different. It’s not super cheap, i think I’ve spent around £200 going through a few different list variants for my Italians. But most wargames of this type will run at this price range or higher. Overall i think this game rewards thinking tactically and being gutsy in equal measure and it definitely deserves your interest.

*I have just realised the title image is of the Italian surrender, maybe not so auspicious.