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Friday, May 29, 2015

Bolt Action: Second Attempt...

Nate returned to my place for a second attempt at a game of Bolt Action, the 28mm WWII game from Warlord Miniatures. The first one ended rather inconclusively, due to time restraints. We didn't have a lot of time today either, but we made a good go of it, although we were slowed down by me still learning the rules. Above are Nate's American forces - nothing to scoff at. Once again, I played Germany, and with the way the lists work, I had significantly fewer forces (the Americans had an extra MMG, an extra rifle section, a bazooka, and two jeeps and an armored car), but my forces had better quality and weaponry, with two of my three rifle sections rated veteran and plenty of AT weapons and assault rifles. The unpainted blobs in both pictures are MGs.

The Germans deployed into cover. The tank, MGs, officer, and a unit of regulars was held in reserve.

My sniper team took up positions on the second floor of this building for better line of sight.

As my units activated, I advanced them into more forward (and better) cover, taking the odd shot at the American infantry across the road.

On the second turn, I brought up my Panzer, advancing and using the MGs against Nate's infantry.

I moved up one of my veteran rifle squads, before my regulars came on the board and occupied the position the vets had just vacated.

Meanwhile my sniper was coming under heavy fire. Nate brought up his armored car and both of his jeeps (with MGs mounted). No casualties, but they were doing the best they could to keep his head down. I was actually ok with this, as he was wasting a lot of shots on the small team, hard to hit in their excellent terrain.  The way Bolt Action's dice system works, most of his shots on the sniper needed a 6 and 6 again to actually hit him, at least if the unit moved that turn. I was more than happy to let him waste the shots, even if the sheer volume of dice started accumulating pins on the unit. 

 More threatening was the way he was trying to move rifle squads in that direction.  If he could take that building, my objective would be very threatened. On turn 3 my vets rushed up to support.

The sniper kept soaking up fire, accumulating 4 pins, rallying to lose 2, and then getting them right back. Finally, American fire killed the sniper's observer, leaving the sniper himself alone in the building.

Nate's infantry move into the open, showing his hand. He was throwing everything at this flank.

My Panzer wasn't having it. It moved up, and threw fire at the infantry in the open. It was also trying to get out of range of the bazooka team.

I got my veteran infantry team into the building just in time for it to be assaulted by the troops crossing the road. I also got my officer into the building to support them (and help activate all the pinned troops inside).

The assault didn't go well for the Americans. I lost a few men, but their whole team got slaughtered trying to climb through the windows.

On the other side of the battlefield, rifle fire managed to destroy one of jeeps. Cheers from the German side!

A second American infantry unit which had been a bit chewed up by the Panzer's machine guns, found enough fighting spirit to make an assault and got luckier than their predecessors, clearing out the German infantry squad inside.  Now only the offer and sniper remained in the building. The sniper took a shot but missed.  Hard to shoot when you're pinned down.

Fire from the jeep which pulled around the rear of the building took out the German commander. Bolt Action doesn't consider a commander's death to be a problem though - a major oversight in the rules I think - but for this game, I'll just be grateful.

And then... out of time.  We played 4 full turns our of the 6 the scenario called for, but it wasn't quite enough to call a clear winner. We both agreed that the best I was likely to get was a draw, but honestly, I don't think the Americans had a shot to win, as a vehicle can't hold an objective, and Nate had very little infantry left on the flank he'd opened to exploit it. His end position was probably slightly better than mine, but I think a draw was far more likely than a victory.

Another incomplete game, but to answer the question I posed last time - "What's worse than an incomplete game?"

No game at all. 

As for Bolt Action - it's fun, fairly quick (although not quite quick enough apparently!), but I think it's kind of incomplete in terms of WWII gaming. Nate and I are talking about trying a Chain of Command game using his 28mm WWII figures, which I'm guessing is going to suit me better. The ranges in this game in particular just feel arbitrary. It's not that 30" in All Quiet is particularly realistic, but at 18mm it feels more natural somehow than 24" or whatever at 28mm. It seems odd not to be able to shoot a submachine gun at someone on the other side of the road from your position.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Battle for the Crossroads


This past weekend, two good friends of the family came by for a Memorial day BBQ and an epic 4-player game of All Quiet on the Martian Front.  It was to be a "couples game", me and my old buddy Mark against his girlfriend Julie and my wife Andrea. Girls vs. Guys... always a dangerous proposition, especially for the guys.

Julie had played a couple of games with Jamie and I (which she won), and Mark just once way back when I just had the starter set with no terrain and no idea what I was doing.  Because they both more or less remembered the bare-bones basics, I decided to offer up a complicated scenario to keep things interesting. The ladies demanded the Martians of course and talked a pretty big game before we set up.  I'd set out all my toys, each side getting equal number of the basics, and the unique support units to be split up between the players.

Mark wanted the colossal MKIV tank and the MKII minelayer, so I took the artillery batteries.  The scenario rules are below, but scroll past them if you want to get straight into the battle report. Full OOB at the bottom of the post, along with other details on the scenario rules. 

Further, here's a two-player version played a week later.

Scenario: The 29th Infantry division, having just barely stopped the Martian invasion of the Mississippi Delta, launch a counter-attack on the important crossroads town of Clarksdale, MS. Both sides converge on the site, hoping to control strategic points within the town and wrest control of it from the other.  Further, both sides have received additional orders from their superiors to, if possible, achieve certain additional objectives, potentially turning even a defeat into a useful exercise.

Set up:  1 objective token is placed by each player, anywhere outside of 12" of an edge or another token.  These tokens are considered to be held by a side if a unit is within 6" of the token without an enemy being within the same distance. If both sides are within 6", it is "contested".  Not to confuse AQMF players, but we used "blip" markers as the objective markers, since the scenario didn't allow for hidden human units.

After the tokens are placed, each player draws a secondary objective card which will represent another objective which was kept secret from the other side until the end. The full list is at the bottom of the post, but I felt the need to give the Martians 6 cards to draw from, so as not to as easily guess their objectives (it worked out well, actually), and gave the humans 4 cards to save myself some work.  I'm probably going to add to the "deck" in other scenarios however as it really made things interesting.

Terrain is quite thick, per my usual preference, but is set up completely before the random deployment is rolled, for fairness. A crossroads is created, with four tall buildings at the center of the board, and various ruins spreading out from there. Farm and rural terrain is on the outskirts of the town.

Deployment: Each side nominates one player's force to go on the table on round 1, the second player's force to come in on round two if they roll above a six on a d10. If they don't come in on round two, they always come in on round three. The first two players roll off for deployment, the winner rolling first, and deploying first. They then roll again for deployment. The order of the later deployments will follow the initiative for that round, but if both forces come in at the same time, they both deploy before the round begins.

Player one from each side rolls a 1d6 on the table chart and can deploy within 8" of their table edge or edges (in the case of the corners). The two players may not deploy on the same side of the board. Whenever the second pair of players enter (and they can enter on turns 2 or 3, separately or at the same time, depending on their rolls) they deploy by rolling of of the remaining table edges, but cannot deploy on an enemy deployment zone. Unlike the first round, the second deployment can be directly next to an enemy deployment zone.
Victory conditions: Points are gained by holding objective points on the board at the end of the game and/or by fulfilling the secondary objectives. Either player on each side can accomplish each others' objective. Whichever side gains the most points wins.  A tie is taken as a draw.

We placed the objectives, and they were not evenly distributed. On the above chart, they were located in zones 4, 5, 3 and 6, all quite close to the center line.

I drew a good secondary objective for my force:

Artillery Superiority - Destroy all enemy artillery (the one grenadier) and have at least one unit of artillery remaining at the end. Mortars and drones do not count. 1 point.

Mark and I slipped off to plan, and he showed me his objective.

Drone Sample - When the first drone is destroyed, place a destroyed drone marker in the space it occupied. Capture this destroyed drone with any unit and exit off of any table edge. The exiting unit can not return.  1 pt.

We both agreed that I should get on the table first with the long range stuff. It worked out extremely well, at least for the first turn.

Of course, the ladies agreed that my wife should take the lead. It was a classic showdown already. It's even better because it's also our Anniversary weekend! This was indeed a dangerous game.

My wife won deployment, rolling for zone 2, and I won initiative, and deployed on zone 6. My guns were sighted in at her grenadier from the beginning. Having won initiative, she was tightly packed a bit, allowing me to hit more than one unit with my barrage weapons.

As the artillery opened up, the infantry made for cover. I'd placed an objective marker in that warehouse, so it also had strategic value.

The artillery fire was spot on, destroying not only the grenadier, but also an assault tripod. My wife was not looking happy about her anniversary present from the artillery.

 Of course, payback is a bitch. She mowed right through my advance tanks, riddling them with sniper drone fire and heat rays to finish them off. She pushed on, destroying another tank before her turn wound down.  If the other two tripods hadn't gone down it would have been much worse.

Turn two: Both Mark and Julie rolled to come in on turn two, and since the humans won the initiative again, he rolled first. He deployed right next to my wife, in the corner, and Julie right in front of him. My wife had moved towards my position aggressively, so he had breathing room in the ruins to move towards, but decided to face off with his girlfriend as well, splitting his forces for a bit.  There was plenty of cover in the thick woods to snipe from. He deployed one unit of forward tanks to keep Julie occupied (and off the artillery guy's back), and also made wonderful use of that lovely minelayer. He deployed it as close to the nearest objective as possible, and then used a move order to rush up and lay a mine right on top of it. The mine's proximity fuse goes off at 6", same as the distance needed to the objective to hold it.  And like most minefields, it effectively covered a good section of Julie's approach, making the splitting of his forces safer.

But for his first turn, Mark's main objective was to turn around and shoot my wife's Martians in the back.

He told me as we talked over dinner that the tanks on his right were sacrificial lambs, meant to soak up Julie's fire and bottle up her first turn's movement.

Mark's infantry advance into the woods and take up defensive positions.

While mine take position in the warehouse, hoping to stubbornly hold the objective there.

My wife has no intention of letting it go uncontested of course. She moves up her Scorpion Drones.

American Artillery fire takes down most of the sniper drones leaving the drone marker - Mark's secondary objective. There's no pictures, but the next turn I used my rough riders to snatch it up and exit the board - they even immobilized that slaver on the way out!

The scorpion drones try to assault the machine gunners and infantry holed up in the warehouse and are repulsed with some human casualties.

Julie moved her forces up, but her first move was limited by the placement of Mark's tanks, which he'd pushed up into her deployment zone, and the presence of the mine (at center near the orange objective marker in the picture below). The mine made her a bit cautious for several turns, limiting her advance towards Mark, and causing her to lose several shots with her shorter range scouts. 

Instead of losing more shots, she detaches an assault tripod with black dust and a scout towards my artillery positions.

My wife is not idle, and moves her slaver and assault tripod into position near the objective marker behind the church, but a series of misses limits the damage she might have done to the human forces.

Unfortunately for humanity, we lost the next initiative, meaning my wife got to shoot all over again. Julie used the new turn to finish off Mark's "sacrificial lambs" and order a general advance. just outside of 6" from the Tesla Mine.  The psychological effect of a mine is nothing to scoff at.

And then there was suddenly green gas, everywhere.

With green gas support destroying half of my infantry and machine gunners, the Scorpion Drones were able to fight their way inside the warehouse, contesting the objective.


Mark and I were frankly a bit worried at this point. Our turn began uncertainly. In fact, for me it began in retreat, my commander fleeing the warehouse for safer hiding places. I probably didn't need to do this as I used my last two orders (we got 5 a piece) to bring up two replacement units of MKII tanks. I guess I just don't like the idea of my commander being torn apart by robotic scorpions which inject a gas into your chest that melts your insides.  However, more artillery fire destroyed the slaver controlling the scorpions.  They suddenly weren't a threat, but the scorpions were stranded an inch from the objective in excellent cover.

Mark's rough riders.  ::Sigh::  They must have tried to immobilize a tripod four times and only succeeded once. It was not this time. Thankfully, fire from some of his tanks and machined gunners caused damage to the tripod's movement systems.

"But now the guns spoke again". For it was the human's turn to win initiative and go twice in a row.

We took a break here, at the bottom of round four, for dinner, wolfing down our grilled shrimp, steak and asparagus, talking some serious smack all the while. However the girls seemed less certain than before. These humans were proving unexpectedly resilient.  We offered to wager our portion of dessert on victory in the game, but neither of them were willing to take the wager. Which is understandable anyway given my wife's excellent custard.

We resumed, and Mark's massed tanks fired all at once at Julie's slaver tripod.

It explodes, actually getting an 11 on the damage chart, taking out a shock drone, and further destroying an assault tripod which itself then exploded, taking out another drone. A chain reaction!

At this point, there were some serious dirty looks from the ladies.  Mark got very quiet, withering a bit under Julie's heat rays.  Suddenly, he seemed far less interested in winning. As we rolled the women were making some sinister comments about armor "penetration" and how the only way we were going to roll high later was by rolling low now.

My wife had two tripods left by this point, the rest being destroyed in Mark and I's successful crossfire. She moved aggressively, pushing forward to contest an objective each with them. All the while she muttered and complained about the unfairness of the Industrial Might rule.  Arguing was pointless. Of course she thought Industrial Might was unfair - she thinks its unfair that the humans should get to attack the Martians at all... I guess you just can't reason with Martians, especially when they're losing.

Mark was also in a good position, only having to worry about an immobilized black dust assault tripod as long as Julie avoided the mine.

He came under heavy fire, but the Martians were in rough shape. He wasn't dashing after any objectives yet, but holding back, his infantry within striking distance of the objectives in the ruins, and his tanks laying down heavy fire.

He actually brought the mine layer back with Industrial Might, which dropped a Tesla Mine very close to the center of the crossroads before the mine layer was taken out by my very angry wife, who was now near growling whenever Industrial Might was brought up. 

There's an objective right near the farmhouse below. I'd held it most of the game, but my wife pushed up her last scout to contest it on turn 5. I concentrated my fire, but rolled poorly.

Meanwhile, my wife convinced Julie to try and detonate the mine that had been sitting on the objective since turn 2 with one of her drones. She pushed it forward, and after all of that buildup and hesitation, the drone emerged from the explosion unscathed!  She pushed the rest of her force up behind it and took the objective near the ruin pile.  But strangely, she kept advancing her drones beyond the objective. Something was up...

Meanwhile her scouts finished off my MKIIIs, opening my flank.

By that's it was the drones that interested me. They attacked a unit of machine gunners hiding out in the ruins and captured two of them!  They were trying to fulfill a secondary objective!

Midnight Snack - use any drone with reaper tentacles to capture an element of human infantry. Once captured it "rides" the slaver like a gatherer tripod. Exit the slaver off the board. 2 pts.

She made a run for it, burning a movement order, but the humans again won initiative on round 6, which would probably be the last turn.  Mark's rough riders finally immobilized something - the slaver carrying the captives!  .Nope, no penetration tonight.

He poured on the fire, shooting everything he had at the immobilized Slaver, but it only took it down to a 2 armor, failing to destroy it

Meanwhile, artillery fire destroyed my wife's last scout, nearly guaranteeing the humans the objective marker in the farmhouse.

At the end of the human turn, I push forward a unit of MKIIs, fresh off the assembly line, up to the objective behind the church, contesting it.

The Martians, on their turn, probably the last turn of the game, focus on the objectives.  My wife tries to sweep the MKIIS with her last tripod's heat ray, to no avail.  No one gets that objective.

Julie has also tried in vain to drop dust on the infantry hiding in the warehouse.  My last stand of infantry stubbornly held out, throwing itself against the stranded scorpion drones but unable to dislodge them in brutal room to room combat. On the last turn Mark moved up his mortar team to back them up (in case the dust was successful), but it turned out not to be needed. No one would control this objective either.

With three objectives contested, and one in human hands, we tallied the score.

The Martians managed to break the immobilization on the slaver to exit it and its captives off the board on their very last turn, gaining them two points, but they were unable to fulfill their other objective (Testing Sniper Drones - see below) as the relevant unit was destroyed too early. Mark and I had both fulfilled our objectives, giving us three with the board objective controlled. Three to two, a narrow human victory, and no penetration for anyone.

Secondary Objectives:  I'm hoping to add to this in further scenarios. I like secret objectives!


Artillery Superiority - Destroy all enemy artillery (the one grenadier) and have at least one unit of artillery remaining at the end. Mortars and drones do not count. 1 point.

Drone Sample - When the first drone is destroyed, place a destroyed drone marker in the space it occupied. Capture this destroyed drone with any unit and exit off of any table edge. The exiting unit can not return.  1 pt.

Cut off the head... - Destroy all drone controllers - 1pt

Command and Control - All command units must survive and be within 6" from a held objective at the end of the game. 1pt.


Midnight Snack - use any drone with reaper tentacles to capture an element of human infantry. Once captured it "rides" the slaver like a gatherer tripod. Exit the slaver off the board. 2 pts.

Supply Strike - Destroy 2 supply depots (def 3, armor 5, immune to dust and gas). If this card is in the desk (even if not chosen), place two depots at least 12" from any edge. One player places each. 1pt.

Cut off the Head - Capture a human command unit with any drone with reaper tentacles. When captured, the unit rides the slaver. Exit the slaver off any table edge. 3pts.

Artillery Superiority - Destroy all human artillery while keeping at least one grenadier alive. 1pt.

Tank Killer - No tanks remain on the board at game end. 1pt.

Sniper Drone Test - Kill or finish off 2 complete units using your sniper drones. The drones must kill the last remaining element to count. 1pt.


Americans: Dave & Mark - 2220 pts total.

Dave (me):  1095 pts total -  2 infantry units (60pts), 1 HMG (40), 1 mortar team (45), 1 Rough Rider (45), 1 Command unit (30), 2 MKIIs (330), 1 MKIII  (225),  1 heavy artillery battery (160), 1 field gun battery (80), 1 AT Gun (80).

Mark: 1125 pts total -  2 infantry units (60pts), 1 HMG (40), 1 mortar team (45), 1 Rough Rider (45), 1 Command unit (30), 2 MKIIs (330), 1 MKIII  (225) 1 MKIV Monitor (190), 1 MKII Minelayer (160)

Martians: Andrea and Julie - 2460 pts total.

Andrea: 1230 pts total - 1 assault tripod (200), 2 assault tripod w/Green Gas (500), 1 grenadier (100), 1 scout (155), 1 slaver (100), 1 unit of sniper drones (75), 1 unit of scorpion drones (100).

Julie: 1230 pts total - 1 assault tripod (200), 2 assault tripods w/black dust (500), 2 scouts (310), 1 slaver (100), 1 unit of drones (60), 1 unit of shock drones (60).