Bolt Action – Student nationals 2016

So we come to the end of the mini saga of my Italians and their journey to the Student Wargaming Nationals in Manchester. You can check out my army list and thoughts on how they might perform ahead of time here:  https://notasgrumpyashelooks.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/road-to-the-nationals-building-the-army/
I finally finished painting them just 1 day before travel and here they are.

 

Game 1 – Maximum Attrition vs Soviets

 

09:30, D-day. Scouts have spotted Soviet guards armoured formations approaching, these are high quality units so degrading them will be vital to the campaign ahead.  Both forces will be arriving onto the battlefield from unknown locations so be cautious.

My first opponent was Damien, his Soviet guards army was very different to the Soviets I usually play against, with fewer infantry and a greater focus on support weapons, as well as a massive IS-2 heavy tank. Since the scenario would be based on destroying units I was wary of a few of my smaller units, the paratroopers in particular so I sent those to outflank. The only units to set up on the board were snipers and forward observers, Damian’s sniper and artillery observer as well as a spotter for a 12cm mortar faced off against my sniper and howitzer spotter, my air observer being held back so I could effectively target his IS-2.

Turn 1 was fairly uneventful with both of us committing our first waves to the battle, I opted to pressure both flanks whereas the russians went for a more central approach, the only real event was my sniper taking out his artillery observer before being counter sniped. Turn 2 saw the armies come to actual blows with my flame tank on the right attacking some guards riflemen and getting promptly blown up in retaliation by the IS-2, similarly my Howitzer took a small chunk out of another rifle squad but itself died to mortar fire. Elsewhere I just made minor shuffling moves and took pot shots, trying to set up a better turn 3. Turn 3 started poorly with my airstrike completely bouncing off the IS-2, and while my cavalry did charge it was only against a sniper team. On the right I made a quick charge with my riflemen to clear out a unit of tank riders but took a lot of casualties in return. Now was when I brought on my outflanking units taking out a unit of dog mine handlers, the cutest anti-tank unit in all of Bolt Action. Meanwhile the IS-2 was rolling around being basically indestructible but fortunately also missing everything it fired at.

Now that turn 4 started I was behind by 3 units, this meant that my army special ability activated, the Italians were getting disheartened by losing so my entire army had -2 morale. This hurt my cavalry who immediately failed to charge. My 3 riflemen did manage to charge but got beat up by one man with a sub machinegun. I moved up my officer so I could get my cavalry moving next turn, and took out a mortar team with my paratroopers. The remaining russian infantry were whittling down my cavalry and once again the IS-2 missed and a breathed a sigh of relief going into turn 5. The cavalry were finally able to get moving and cut down the Soviet officer only to be blown apart by the IS-2 while my remaining rifle squad finished off a conscript unit. Turn 6 saw both armies running out of steam, as I finished off the last guards rifle squad and a fleeing man trying to get to safety, this left the IS-2 as the only remaining enemy unit so I just hid from it until the end of the game.

Certainly early on it looked like I might lose but the numerous small units being run by the Soviets offered me ways to catch up and start the tournament with a win.

Game 2 – Top Secret vs Germans

 

12:45,  D-day. Betrayal! German units have attacked us and are approaching an unguarded field headquarters containing maps to all our minefields and defenses as well as our supply dumps. Retrieve those maps and escort them off the field, enemy casualties are not a priority. 

Danny and the Germans faced me in round 2, several infantry units including some Waffen SS with assault rifles and a flammpanzer III appeared very threatening but I felt confident I could get in and out before the superior German firepower did too much damage.

In this mission all out units started in reserve so I couldn’t even set up any observers, instead I decided to ram all my units forward to intimidate Danny and hope he wouldn’t notice my cavalry which would hopefully be the actual game winners. Not many shots were fired but a significant boon for me was the flammpanzer failing to arrive from reserve, meaning my cavalry could feel safe from sudden destruction. Turn 2 was a little dicey when his Pak38 had a shot to the side of my flame tank a hit would mean certain destruction but fortunately he missed, the German infantry units then advanced and tried to harass my cavalry. I wasn’t doing a lot of attacking, mainly because I wasn’t positioned well but that wasn’t how i planned to win the game anyway. I moved my flame tank clear of the anti-tank gun and brought my cavalry in to pick up the objective, ready to move next turn, I also called in an airstrike on the flammpanzer which would hopefully arrive next turn.

At the start of turn 3, my airstrike did arrive but unfortunately did no damage, it did at least but some pin markers on the SS units which did prevent them from acting this turn. I retreated most of my army to extract the objective and also gain secondary tournament points for no units lost, in a similar vein my flame tank went forward and immolated the German officer for a point but then ran out of fuel. The flammpanzer then surged forward and cooked a unit of paratroopers that didn’t get away in time, losing me that bonus point. Turn 4 was very short as I got the first order and moved the objective off the board.

The cavalry were key here and no other units were especially useful, not seeing the flammpanzer turn 1 was awesome, although as long as it came on the board before my cavalry I could have worked around that. In this mission something on a motorbike might technically be more efficient but for the rest of the day the cavalry proved more worthwhile.

Game 3 – Point Defence vs Americans

 

15:00, D-day. Our forces have come up against a defence line manned by an American infantry division, we must be able to pass through this region. Capturing a majority of their strategic positions would make their defence untenable, any losses are considered acceptable.
Avanti Savoia!

After 2 games already facing Ben and his Americans, the faction I feared the most, seemed like a gruelling task, especially after I lost the roll off to defend. I watched him set up some infantry on his centre-right and artillery on his left, so I sent cavalry to outflank right and 2 units of paratroopers to outflank left. Also my sniper started off in forward deployment, hoping to catch his officer or sniper in my sights. Before the game my preparatory bombardment was very effective, putting 2 pins on a unit of veteran riflemen and his heavy mortar and howitzer.

The first turn was a bit more risky than previous games as Ben had serious units on the board and I did not, I had a large hill in the centre of my edge so felt funnelled down the sides sending the flame tank and one infantry squad down the left and my machine gun tankette with another infantry squad down the right. My howitzer was deployed centrally because the spotter would allow me to shell most of the map. The main American threat was the Chaffee, one of the best tanks in the game, but that was still in reserve so I brought on my air observer trying to cover the areas it might come on. The early pins really hurt here as none of the american artillery would fire and the infantry squad refused to advance, leaving the rangers to go it alone, advancing towards the flame tank hoping to get the drop on it in the next turn. As turn 2 began I drew the first order dice allowing me to flame the Rangers, although they did not run away as I hoped, meaning I had to bring up my riflemen in support. It was now that the Chaffee appeared and shot into the riflemen, missing with its high explosive round but doing some casualties with machine guns. The enemy howitzer failed to fire again, but the mortar succeeded in destroying my howitzer before being gunned down by the tankette. Ben was keeping his 2 remaining infantry units in reserve for a counter attack so I used the lull to move up my riflemen on the right and target the Chaffee for air attack. My  airstrike was delayed at the start of turn 3 but I could put up with that, my infantry on the left cleared the remaining rangers allowing my flame tank to surge forward. The American howitzer finally got into gear, blowing my tankette apart and the american lieutenant got into the fight trying to bolster the morale of the infantry squad still hunkered down in the deployment zone. The remaining American infantry squads stayed in reserve so I still had a temporary ability to push forward relatively unhindered. My sniper was proving to be totally useless as he repeatedly hit the enemy sniper and officer but failed to wound so I was almost inclined to just tell him to get down all the time.

When turn 4 rolled around I really needed the airstrike to arrive but it failed to do so again, instead I was able to get my flame tank attacking and wiped out a rifleman squad, and pushed my own riflemen forward towards the American sniper, here Ben chose to charge with the sniper, banking on the squads depleted numbers and his own sniper’s veteran status to carry him, unfortunately this didn’t work and the Italians were able to move forward into some trees. The american howitzer hit back however by destroying another unit of riflemen, at this point I was nearly running out of units, my outflankers had not moved enough along the board edge to bring them on. Turn 5 was almost a disaster, my airstrike arrived but the incompetent airman of the Reggia Aeronautica put several bombs through the roof of my flame tank, destroying it. The American engineers also arrived and destroyed my infantry unit approaching the central objective with their own flamethrower. Now I had to bring on my reserves, one unit of paratroopers moved towards the left flank objective, and the cavalry seized the right by massacring the howitzer crew with their pistols. Ben did still have another infantry unit in reserve which i had not yet forced him to commit, these arrived and with the help of the Chaffee cleared the left objective. It seemed like the game might end in a draw at this point, but I did at least manage to kill the enemy officer for bonus points. Turn 6 saw my 2nd unit of paratroopers arrive and hurt but not wipe out the infantry unit guarding the point on the left, my cavalry then made a move towards the central objective with a view to taking it if there was a 7th turn. Fortunately I was granted a 7th turn and was able to charge the engineers and capture the central point to win the game by a whisker.

It would have been helpful if in just one game that day the airstrikes had done their job and removed a problem tank, but the rest of the army pulled together and made up for that weakness to bring me victory.

Ending the day on 3 wins of 3 games I was nervous of playing similarly high win opponents in the next 2 rounds but I put off that worry by retreating to the pub.

Game 4 – Demolition vs Poles

 

09:30, D+1. Polish cavalry units have outflanked our line and threaten our supply dumps, however their supplies are also nearby and without them they will be unable to sustain their raids. Defend our positions while also making forceful attacks.

Coming in tired and overly full on hotel breakfast I was up against Stuart and his Polish cavalry army. The mission was demolition, destroy the enemy objective by having one of your units contact it, and the several units of cavalry as well as small transport cars made me very worried that i could lose out of nowhere. This scenario allowed both players to set up significant forces on the board, this saw both of us deploying our armour and artillery early. I sent both units of paratroopers to outflank on the left, which I mainly planned to come on behind enemy outflankers.

Turn 1 was short and bloody, Stuart pushing his TKS tankette to attack my flame tank, fortunately doing no damage but the anti tank gun was put on ambush, waiting for my return strike. My tankette managed to outflank the anti tank gun, destroying it and leaving my flame tank free to move and destroy the TKS. Calling in an airstrike on the 7TP at the end of the turn I was in a good position. The airstrike was delayed from the start of turn 2 so I took the opportunity to redirect it to the rifleman squad guarding the Polish objective. 2 Polish cavalry units now came on from reserve, advancing down both flanks supported by machine gun fire from the 7TP and a patrol car, the Polish heavy mortar did good work by hitting and destroying my howitzer but i retaliated by eliminating the 7TP with my flamethrower tank. I felt confident at this point with most damage dealers dead I could concentrate on controlling the map. Turn 3 started poorly, my airstrike achieved little while my flame tank went FUBAR and annihilated my other armoured vehicle, fortunately it did not run out of fuel so remained a threat. The polish cavalry on my right were virtually unopposed so cut down my sniper in the trees, as for the ones on the left my own cavalry came on from reserve to meet them, whoever got the first order next turn would be able to dictate the charge. My only other move was to bring on some riflemen from reserve to put pins on the cavalry, hopefully they would fail their order even if they went first.

The first order die of turn 4 was indeed Polish, but the cavalry failed to obey orders, leaving me free to charge them instead, wiping out the unit for few casualties in return. I chose to consolidate backwards in retreat because there was still a cavalry unit outflanking me that had not yet arrived . Stuart then put his officer into a staff car, creating another fast scoring unit I would have to deal with as the second cavalry unit made its way around my unguarded right flank. The flame tank then turned and started moving towards the Polish objective, killing a mortar team along the way. Turn 5 saw the last Polish reserves arrive on my left, a large 10 man unit of cavalry very close to my objective. I attempted to whittle them down a bit before charging in my cavalry, who cut them down in short order and consolidated around my objective. The remaining Polish cavalry ran down an exposed rifleman unit and were positioned to charge me in turn 6 if they went first. My flame tank was able to eliminate the Polish infantry guarding their objective so I would be able to capture it in turn 6. Neither of us had many units left going into turn 6 but small units like my officer and air observer were contributing extra order dice so I could have a greater chance to go first with my vital cavalry. They drew their sabres and entered melee with the last Polish lancers, annihilating them but leaving my objective unguarded. This meant the Polish staff car could drive up and take it, giving me until the end of the turn to destroy them. Fortunately my remaining infantry did just that, destroying the car with the subsequent explosion killing the officer inside. My tank finally moved onto the Polish objective to end the game.

I definitely benefitted from a lucky first and second turn, without that I think the result would have more likely been a draw, as I would timidly retreat rather than risking an unsuccessful attack leaving me exposed.

Game 5 – Maximum Attrition vs Americans

 

13:00, D+1. The enemy is in retreat, destroying the enemy remnants will force them to sue for peace. Take care to protect our forces, without an army in the field our negotiating position will be severely weakened. 

The last game was a rematch against Ben with us being placed 1 and 2. A slightly different scenario, maximum attrition had me a little worried. My small units were vulnerable, especially to the very effective American Infantry and destroying the Chaffee was still going to be a problem as it was in round 3. We each set up our snipers and forward spotters, with my air observer successfully hidden from the American sniper and my own sniper positioned to hopefully catch the enemy commander as he came onto the board. This game I outflanked my flame tank to keep it safe from the Chaffee and hopefully catch the advancing enemy infantry unawares.

Turn one saw most of the American forces committed to my right, away from where most of my outflankers would be and concentrated near my weaker units like my officer and sniper. I sent my cavalry forward but the strong enemy forces made me retreat them behind a hill in subsequent turns. Now that the armies were deployed turn 2 would see some serious shooting, starting off with my howitzer taking out its American counterpart, and my machine gun tankette advancing to try whittling down the large number of enemy infantry. The Chaffee was menacing my right flank as my riflemen skirmished with some enemy riflemen sneaking around a hedge, not doing much damage but causing vital pins. On turn 3 my airstrike arrived on the Chaffee but didn’t cause very serious damage, at least stunning it for the turn. This enabled me to bring on my paratrooper unit unmolested to attack a unit of infantry, after heavy casualties they shockingly routed, giving me one less problem to deal with. over on the other side of the field however, a depleted unit of Americans made a quick charge towards my riflemen and cut them down, consolidating towards the board edge.This brought them near to where my flame tank would arrive, clearing them out. The US rangers also made my life difficult by advancing on and slaughtering my air observer.

It seemed like the game could go either way going into turn 4, with me getting the first order die. I used this to have my paratroopers charge the Chaffee with their anti-tank grenades, forcing Ben to consider whether to use his recce move to escape but he declined. I needed a 6 to cause serious damage but thankfully I got it, destroying the hated light tank. The remaining enemy combat strength was the rangers in the centre who had a clear line to my CO, closing in and killing him. However this but them right in the sights of my Howitzer which promptly blew them away. The rest of the game was just mopping up of the enemy lieutenant. Although I did lose a unit to some surprise engineers coming on from reserve it didn’t stop my momentum which lead to a wipe out in turn 6.

I can’t really complain about anything going badly in that game, I would have liked my airstrike to do something useful at least once over the weekend but really my army more than made up for it in other areas.

Over the whole weekend the elements that consistently proved valuable were the armoured elements, cheap but high firepower with the light armour not mattering when I could hide them, and the paratroopers who often were small surprise damage dealers who I’m glad I didn’t cut. To improve the army I’m not sure what I’d do with the limit of one platoon, maybe cutting the sniper to make the infantry units bigger and more durable would help but that’s a problem for another time.

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So that’s it really, 5 wins of 5  put me top of the charts. I’d like to thank Vague for putting on an excellent nationals and Gonzo in particular for running Bolt Action. Also shout out to the other members of the Sheffield Wargames team, Tom Hands and Ed Wells getting 1st and 2nd in 40k and Jake Corteen placing 2nd in Warhammer Fantasy, with Sam May and Sam Watson doing well in Bolt Action and 40k respectively, also Simon Canham in the mixed event, The Gauntlet.