Friday, January 20, 2017

2016 Year in Review: Bolt Action

This year in review is getting long in the tooth, so I'm going to try to finish it by Monday. 2016 was again, pretty great for wargames, but not so great for almost everything else. Bolt Action, a game which has gained a huge following both in Michigan and around the world, had a second edition released to a ton of anticipation.

There are a lot of 'change summaries' out there to look at, so I'll just cover some of the ones that I had strong feelings about. Warlord Games definitely did a great job reading their audience - taking in suggestions, looking at the .Net format, etc. Most of the changes are things that people have house ruled in the past, although a few are new!

The Good
Some of the changes came directly from Beyond the Gates of Antares - the ability to rally on your unmodified morale value is pretty great! It makes it so you'd actually use the Rally order as opposed to having a hail mary attempt.

They also added in an ability similar to 'Follow' in BtGoA. This is something that I think most people didn't expect. Leaders can, when given an order, pull out order dice for other units as well. This is great! It really makes leaders more than just a morale bonus monkey. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth over this one, thinking that leaders would order to artillery pieces to fire and just hose your entire line, but I don't think any of that has proven justified.

Flamethrowers have to roll to hit on a 3+. This is huge - in the past, if you got a flamethrower close to an enemy, it was almost always a confirmed total unit wipe either by morale or hits from the flames.

It also creates really interesting situations in the game - is my opponent going to draw the first die, give it to his lieutenant, then move forward on this building with two squads of SMG troops to change the tide of the battle?

Machine guns have been changed - they gained an extra shot, and now LMGs are 36" range. This is a welcome change. Most Bolt Action players would say that LMGs and MMGs in first edition were not worth taking at all.

Assault rifles had their range reduced to 18" from 24", and no longer auto-confirm an extra attack bonus - they have tough fighters, which is changed a bit. This is a really welcome change as assault rifles were way too prevalent in the game for what they were in real history.

Dense terrain has been added to the game to provide some line of sight blocking. As a person who was never a real fan of True-LOS, but played every game with it, I wasn't always welcoming to house rules changing how first edition worked. I'm really glad to see this so that people won't monkey around with rules.

Recce units cannot recce if they've already activated. This was a common sense change that most people really wanted. Transports with a machine gun can fire it even when empty, another thing that was in .Net that really is a no-brainer.

The Meh
Templates. I don't really know why they chose to add templates to Bolt Action. Almost nobody wanted this change, but in the end, I think it won't affect the game much other than slowing it down with template measurements and discussions. It actually will likely average out to fewer hits by artillery etc. on most squads.

Down orders now give a unit a -2 to hit instead of -1. This makes many infantry units intensely hard to kill - needing a six to hit them and a five or six to damage. I don't know how big this is, but we'll see at the National GT in March.

The Ugly
Supply issues. This isn't even a change to the game, but rather a super shortage of rulebooks and templates when Second Edition first launched. I think Warlord grossly underestimated the demand for BA2 - I think the pre-orders were pretty huge but still more people wanted to buy it at a FLGS or online. Some people waited months.

The Future
Bolt Action's future is definitely bright. I really hope they release a Campaign supplement soon. The Theater books are cool but they don't give you ideas for a linked campaign. I'd also welcome perhaps a Necromunda-like squad on squad game where your guys advance etc. etc.

More plastic models will definitely help the growth of the game as well.

And of course, more rules written for minor powers and un-represented units. We have rules for Dad's Army and Chindits but not for Slovakia? I realize they make rules for stuff they can sell, but hopefully we can rectify that.

Thanks for taking a look - early next week I'll post the last article in this series on my favorite thing of 2016.

No comments:

Post a Comment