Thursday, January 30, 2014

The German - Russian rematch. Flamethrowers versus howitzers

After my battering in our last game of Bolt Action, Gergely and I decided to throw down for a rematch and see if the Russians could continue their winning ways. To make it as even as possible we took basically the same 750 point forces with a few tweaks and played the same scenario, this time with the Russians on the attack. 

The Germans had 8 order dice with the following troops, all regular: 
 - Lt + 2 men, assault rifles                                     - 5 men with rifles and a panzerfaust
 - 6 men with 2 light machine guns (LMGs)             - 10 men with 3 assault rifles and 2 panzerfausts
 - A regular sniper team                                          - A medium machine gun team (MMG)
 - A SdKfz 250/10 half track with light AT gun       - A SdKfz 250/16 Flammenpanzer half track with MMG

The Russians brought 11 order dice as before with the following (I hope I remember correctly)
 - Lt + man, SMGs                                                - FREE squad of 11 green troops, LMG, Molotovs
 - 11 men, LMG, NCO with SMG                         - 6 veterans with SMGs and tough fighters upgrade
 - MMG team                                                        - Medium mortar with spotter
 - Anti tank rifle team                                              - Sniper team
 - Su-76 assault gun upgraded with AT rounds        - Zis-3 76mm light howitzer/medium AT gun
 - Jeep upgraded with MMG

Going up against the Russians I often feel outgunned simply because they bring so many order dice to the table. My plan was to do my best to focus fire and wipe out units so I could level the playing field and be able to activate units as often as Gergely.  

The Germans deployed mostly in the centre trying to get as many units within 6" of the Lt to help deal with the pins from the preparatory barrage. Luckily for me, the dice was a 1 and the Russians had to come on without their artillery softening up the way. The Su-76 duly rolled on and drew a bead on my AT half track. 

Luckily for the Germans the 76mm shell whizzed by without hitting. Half tracks really aren't built to take on large guns as their armour of 7 isn't worth much when your opponent has a +5 bonus to his penetration rolls. 

The Russian left flank had a hefty group of attackers with veterans, green troops, the AT rifle, Jeep and covering fire from the MMG in the forest.

To deal with them I sent my large squad forward towards the barricade with the Lt in tow. The small rifle squad you can see next to the tower. I decided not to enter the tower for fear of an assault from Gergely's tough, SMG-wielding veterans. In the end though, luck smiled on me and the tough veterans took one pin marker, failed their order test with a double 6 (FUBAR!) and ran off the table. A tough break for the Russians early in the game. This was coupled with my sniper getting a killing shot on the MMG team and, because every sniper shot scores exceptional damage, I could kill the gunner and wipe out the whole team in one go. Two order dice down and I was feeling a bit more confident.

Gergely sent his jeep around the tower along with his freshly upgraded squad of 'green' troops. ***When a squad of green troops takes the first casualty you roll a D6, on a 1 they take extra pins, 2-5 has no effect and a 6 upgrades them to regular....guess what he rolled for them.....again haha). They shot up my rifle squad at close range and my return fire wasn't so good. The panzerfaust missed the jeep and two rifles weren't going to kill much. Luckily the Flammenpanzer could get close enough to torch the jeep. In the background you can clearly see my jealous hands on the Armies of the Soviet Union book. Soon I hope to get the German book to see what sort of special tricks I can bring to the table.

Gergely's backfield was taking fire from my MMG team in the tower as well as the large squad hiding in behind the barricade. I'm really glad I got into cover sooner rather than later because it saved my guys from a lot of casualties.

However I did take some casualties. You can see the Lt's two men in the dirt, which cost me two assault rifles but luckily my commander passed his morale check and didn't run. I don't recall what killed them (the MMG, jeep or green squad I think) but I know the sniper was looking to draw a bead on them all game. Being able to ignore cover modifiers makes these scoped hunters nasty to face.

The Russian mortar spent the whole game throwing explosive shells my way, guided by their brave spotter in the woods. They took out a couple of troops from my double LMG squad (who also got hit with a howitzer shell) and then hit and killed the MMG team in the tower, removing a chunk of firepower from an elevated vantage point....damn.

Unfortunately we don't have more pictures of it but after three 76mm armour piercing shells streaked past its thin armour my half track decided to get out of the firing lane and motored around the flank. It avoided another shell due to the forest's cover then went for broke, closing to point blank range on the Su-76's flank....where it missed....MISSED I TELLS YA!!!

The Su-76 popped into reverse and guess what....didn't miss. We laughed about the poor luck of the Germans here as the shell set the half track on fire. The crew failed their morale check so they bailed out instead of putting out the fire. My most reliable anti tank weapon was gone and I'd lost an order dice curses.

We've jumped on a bit here in the photos but I got lucky. My large squad jumped out from behind the barricades and over the next turns went into the woods, pinned down a squad, moved up behind the Su-76 and blew the tracks off with panzerfausts, leaving it immobilised and facing the wrong way, assaulted the sniper team, moved out to gun down the mortars and then started back towards the howitzer.

Not quite in shot is my dead Lt who ran after the big squad and failed to hit the pinned Russians three turns in a row before they assaulted and killed him.

The LMG support squad kill off the Lt's killers on their way to take on the Su-76 in assault. Because it is open topped we had a fair chance to hurt it.

The Flammenpanzer, for all it's reputation, was a mixed bag. It killed stuff, sure. The jeep, half a squad and the AT rifle all fell to its flames or machine gun rounds. It was also blessed with the good luck to survive an AT shell from the howitzer. Then the comical bad luck game where it failed an order test (3 pins) and reversed. Next turn it passed an order check (2 pins) and raced up the flank. One more burst of speed would put it close enough to take out the howitzer and so it, of course, failed the order test and reversed away from the enemy again. What a yoyo :-)

Fresh from their mortar team kill, the big squad pours on the shots and without the gun shield's protection the crew fell to the bullets. Lesson learned, flank guns if you need to kill them.

The victorious German squad in the Soviet backfield

We had a quick go against the Su-76.

ASSAULT! With just four men though, we couldn't muster killing damage. 

At this point, with just an immobilised assault gun that was pointing the wrong way, Gergely conceded and the Germans held the victory. Revenge was ours for now.

While it turned out to be quite a strong German victory I had some great luck on my side. Gergely failing to get the bombardment was a big one as I had no pins or kills to deal with. Also he was very unlucky that his veterans got a FUBAR result and ran off the field without doing anything. I was also lucky not to lose my half track earlier on because that drew the Russian attention and kept the howitzers off my vulnerable infantry teams. 

Just like the last game this one kept me engaged and challenged throughout. We both enjoyed the back and forth of the game, cheered the other's success and commiserated the bad luck. I'm lucky to have found a gentlemanly opponent who is often generous with LOS or cover and refused to take any favours. I suggested that his veterans should fall back to near the table edge and not run off but he refused the offer and fought on. A lot of fun from the game and I can't wait to play more games.

All the best everyone


PS: I realise that I also inadvertently 'cheated' because I told Gergely that his gun's had a 48" range (light howitzers) when actually they jump to 60" when firing as medium anti tank guns. I think he took a penalty for firing over half range when actually it was under half range for the AT round. Gergely...I apologise :-)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Flamethrowers and tanks! The reinforcements arrive for Bolt Action :-)

Hi folks,

My gaming buddy and I recently took advantage of Warlord Games' vehicle offer (buy 3 vehicles, get 10% off all of them) to add some reinforcements to our armies. He had it easy since he plays only Russians but I've got more challenges as I'm rocking Germans, Americans and British. I got all three because I knew I'd have to start building the scene and having at least two forces was a good way to start. However, for this order I decided to focus on the Germans since they'll be able to play against every other force.

For the game we stepped up to 750 pts and it was a great challenge. Both of us had new units to use and new things to work on. I was particularly interested to see how my flame half track fared. We'd heard that it could be overpowered in the game and so this was a testing match of sorts.

750pts of Germans. I had 8 order dice and the army, front to back, comprised a 6 man squad with 2 LMGs, a 10 man squad with 3 assault rifles, a 6 man squad with 2 panzerfausts, a 3 man command team with assault rifles, a sniper team, an MG42 medium machine gun, the aforementioned flame half track and a half track sporting a 37mm light anti tank gun.

Gergely's veritable horde of Russians was intimidating to face. Three 11 man squads, a commander, a medium machine gun, an anti-tank rifle, a sniper team, a medium mortar with spotter then the reinforcements of a machine gun jeep, a light howitzer and an SU-76 assault gun. Phew, 11 dice of Ruskies coming my way :-)

Our match left me as the attacker going up against the Russian gunline. We nominated the three buildings as the objectives (two you can see here, the other is just out of frame, foreground right) and I went on the offensive. My preliminary bombardment was great, putting pin markers on nearly every Russian unit and even killing the officer's adjutant. Not a bad start. 

So.....flamethrowers....pretty nasty...

This picture shows the effects of a single advance order from the flame half track. I moved up, getting range on both squads and with my two flamethrowers, I could split fire. Flamethrowers automatically hit (18" range for vehicles), putting 2D6 hits (+3 to damage, meaning 2+ to kill infantry) and D3+1 pin markers on each unit. I took out five from squad 1 and four from squad 2 and dumped pin markers all over them. Both squads took their mandatory, post-flame, morale check and failed, despite re-rolls. In one turn I took out 22 infantry and two order dice. Wow!

Luckily for Gergely his reserved Su-76 came in. He'd kept it off the table to avoid the pre-battle barrage. Sadly for him it missed the flame half track and I prepared to burn some more.

Here's where it went wrong for me. Reluctant to expose my flame vehicle to the howitzer and AT rifle I tucked it into the cover of the trees and declared a double flamethrower attack against the Su-76. I was out of range by 1/2"! Damn. The Russians, ignoring the waves of flame just in front of the tank, put an armour piercing shell through the thin plating of the half track and left it destroyed (and probably burning).

I did my best to take out the assault gun but a half track with a light gun isn't going to have a good fight against a more heavily armed and armoured foe. My half track fell victim to another 76mm shell.

From there I did my best to enact revenge but I was just outgunned and unable to turn the tide. I took out a few more troops with my machine gun, who narrowly avoided the mortar's fire before shooting them down at long range. Otherwise my troops just got bogged down and hit by enfilading fire. The panzerfaust squad couldn't make it close enough to shoot at the Su-76 before they were pinned and battered from all sides.

I lost the game as I failed to capture two of the three objectives. In the end I had one and Gergely had one, but with a large chunk of his force intact and mine battered and bruised, the Russians had definitely carried the day. 

The star unit for me was actually the MMG. I can't deny that the flame half track was brutal but I think the plucky MG-42 team who stayed brave as the mortar started zeroing in on them, pinned the infantry and the howitzer then finally turned their gun on the mortar and wiped it out deserve a pat on the back.

From the Russian side the best moment was the MMG jeep. It drove right into my lines (crazy Ivan indeed) and gunned down troops at point blank range. It took fire but survived with just a pin marker, then failed it's order test and reversed manically between two Wermacht squads around a hedge and to safety.

What about flamethrowers? Are they overpowered? 

Gergely thinks no, but I think I need a few more games to really decide. It took out two squads like a dream and had it been a tiny bit closer I think I'd have taken out the Su-76, giving me a chance to burn my way across the field and rolling up one flank. The flammpanzerwagen feels like a lot of eggs in one unit. It's expensive (168 points), pretty vulnerable but has the chance to brutalise the enemy, especially if you take out the main anti tank threats. We'll see what it comes to in future games.

All the best and keep your eyes open for model reviews in short order.

Pete :-)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

500pts of Bolt Action making 40k feel flat as a game.

Hi folks,

Happy New Year and welcome to my first two games of 2014. 

My buddy Greg and I managed to get in two games. We're very much into Bolt Action but he was also keen to give 40k a try as he's a WFB player and was always tempted by the Dark Eldar (he's the source of my new Haemonculus Coven models). We went for a 500pt game of Bolt Action and then a ~1000pt game of 40k.

Here are Greg's new Russian support weapons. A medium machine gun with a gun shield (6+ to kill if shooting from the front arc) and a medium mortar team.

His assembled troops squads. The lying miniatures on the right are his sniper team (shooter + spotter) and in the middle of the troops, at the back, you should be able to make out his light machine gun team.

For the Germans I brought a 6 order dice list comprised of my 2nd Lt, a veteran sniper team and four infantry squads. Greg had 7 order dice - 2nd Lt, two 11 man squads, a medium machine gun, a medium mortar with spotter, a sniper team and a free 11 man squad  from the Russian special rule (all regular).

We rolled the attrition mission and had to move on in the first turn. We both sent all the models in in a single wave, not keeping any reserves. Greg brought the Russians onto the table relatively evenly spread but I was a bit worried about his numerical superiority and so I used the big building on the left to block LOS to several of my units while I tried to focus on the right flank.

Here we are in the early stages of the game. It swung dramatically back and forth but as the turns wore on, I managed to take out enough of the Russians and pin the remainder so much that they couldn't mount an effective counterattack. I took casualties of course, in particular my commander who fell to a lucky sniper shot through the building's window, but overall managed to wear down the Russians.

Here is the end of the game. Having outgunned, outflanked and outlucked the Russians, my three surviving squads closed in on the final member of the Russian side who chose to abandon his mortar and run back to the Motherland. Undoubtedly he'll return with reinforcements for a rematch.

The game was a lot of fun. Both of us had our share of lucky moments and failed order tests that cost us dearly. Highlights include:
  • A mortar round guided by the spotter rolls 6 hits and wipes out an entire Wermacht squad. 
  • The Russian officer is sniped but his adjutant runs bravely forwards towards the building before failing three order tests (7 or less on 2D6) in a row and cowering on the ground.
  • The flanking squad luckily surviving fire from a light machine gun, then a medium machine gun, killing both, killing the spotter then getting hit by a mortar round and pinned down en route to the final kill.
  • The German sniper killing an officer early on and then pinning a squad while failing to kill anyone for about five turns.
  • The Soviet inexperienced, green infantry squad passing their morale test after the first casualty, being upgraded to regular and fighting hard before going down in a hail of bullets/glory.
My favourite part of this game was that neither of us had a clear advantage all the way through and it wasn't until the last couple of turns that the game really swung to the German side. A few different dice rolls could have taken it the other way. Also, I remember having (and I think Greg also had) real challenges choosing which unit to activate first when I got an order die. This part of the game is really fun. Do you take the sniper and risk that single shot that can pick off an NCO or special weapon, or is it better to move your big squad out of the line of fire in case the opponent gets the next order die? These kind of questions keep you involved the whole time. Also, given that we basically alternated activation, I never felt that I was just waiting for my guys to die before it was my turn again.

Both of us finished the game with big grins and are excited for the next order from Warlord Games, which will be bringing halftracks, flamethrowers and machine guns for the Germans, and artillery, jeep and light armour support for the Russians. 

Next up was an introductory game of 40k on the same terrain. The armies were just over 1000 points and chosen to give a flavour of different things for Greg to try. He took the Dark Eldar, in order to play tricksy and I brought the Deathwing to be polar opposites. It was a pretty quick game with lots of casualties. The Deathwing clinched it in the end after a few turns but with some losses.

That said, the game just felt flat to both of us. Greg picked up 40k quickly and we didn't have rules challenges but a lot of things felt really stupid. In particular the shooting drove us both crazy.

Why does standing still and shooting at point blank range give me the same chance of hitting as when my troops sprint around a building and fire at maximum range through a forest against a single model in cover? It just runs really counter intuitively now. I know the cover save element comes into it, but the single save mechanic of 40k means that the Deathwing and other good armour troops have little reason to seek cover and take no benefit from it.

By the end of the Bolt Action game we felt pretty stoked, challenged and interested to play more.
By the end of the 40k game we felt just a bit...meh...and agreed the excitement wasn't there.

Now I love the models and background for 40k, enjoy painting a variety of different units and admit that it might just be that I've been playing a different game for a while now, which has skewed my perception of rules. Still, it hasn't got me excited to expand my armies at all. Maybe I need a few more games to get back into the swing of things. 

All the best everyone.

Pete :-)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas painting season, then the wife rediscovers transfers :-)

Happy New Year everyone.

I hope you all had (or are still having) a great holiday season and relaxed nicely with family and friends. I know that I did and I'm still lucky enough to be off from teaching English until next week. Terrible for the bank balance (I'm freelance so no work = no pay) but great for relaxation and my hobby time. 

Over Christmas we spent a week in my wife's home village in southern Slovakia. It was as relaxing as usual since my mother in law refused nearly all offers of help and wouldn't let me cook/clean/wash up or do much other than relax. Well...if you insist ;-)

While the ladies chatted happily in Hungarian and baked oodles of tasty treats, I decided to kick butt on the painting front. I took my totally unpainted Eldar Jetbike force down with me and can happily report that I returned with all of the primed models totally painted. Then when arranging them on my desk at home my wife discovered the transfer sheets and her face lit up. When she was younger, she and her cousin loved using transfers to decorate eggs and the like. She gave me the puppy dog eyes and how could I refuse. An hour later she'd stuck them in just about every place they could go on the models.....and given them the pop that they really needed to stand out. 


Here is the paintscheme in general. I wanted to do something different to the Dark Eldar but stay close enough to tie the two forces together. I went for an armour colour match but the bikes were in gold and blue.

My aerial assault force ready for battle, replete with awesome new transfers. 

The Autarch is now glued and placed on his Rhino-blade-bike and I'll prime him in the next batch of models.

Here is my farseer conversion on the triple bladed bike with a singing spear.

Side view showing the greenstuff handle. Since I spliced two spears together (the shaft from a Venom flagpole spear and the head from a Scourge power spear) I knew I'd need to reinforce the joint. I went for the twisted pattern you see here. It's not perfect but once painted up I hope it'll look good. I still want to greenstuff a cloak to make the model stand out but that's still on the cards.

Now I've moved on to the Finecast haemonculus batch I received as gifts before Christmas. I'm doing the messy parts first with the pale skin (Menoth white base, blue wash, highlights) and then I'll get onto the other colours to bring the models up. Any thoughts on colour schemes here? I'm thinking of going with a flesh/hide skirt colour but need something to tie them into the rest of the force. Since the others use red with a touch of purple as a spot colour I'm considering the opposite here. I think that the haemonculus force being different from the main force but consistent with one another will look nasty. 

Best wishes to everyone and comments welcome :-)