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 :-)

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