Bolt Action – Introduction
Bolt Action is a miniature wargame set during the second world war at a platoon level and covers everything from the initial German blitzkrieg attacks to the last defense of Berlin and everything in between. It’s written by Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestley and published by Warlord Games and Osprey and since it’s release in 2012 it’s become a very popular game.
What do you need to start?
So you’re interested in the game? Good!
First, you need to choose what country you want to play. It can be a bit tricky, just like in all miniature games, as each country plays somewhat different. A very good resources can be found on the Warlord forum (link), it’s still a work in progress but it’s still a very good resource for the beginning player where they explain what the strength and weaknesses are for the different countries.
The countries that are available are:
- Imperial Japan
- United Kingdoms and the Commonwealth
- United States
- Soviet Union
Building an Army
There are two ways of making your army. Either it’s build using what is called a Reinforced Platoon which consists of all units available to the country in question or you choose one of the many Theater Selectors. Each Theater Selectors are based on a specific period of the war and the choice of units and special rules reflects that.
I find the best way to decide where to start is to choose an army that you either like the playing style (which can be hard to know if you haven’t tried the game yet) or like how they look. Let’s face it, painting an army were you don’t enjoy their look gets old very fast.
Building an army in Bolt Action aren’t very different from most other games and if you’ve played games like 40k you’ll feel right at home.
All the available armies have the same standard template for buying units. They’re divided in to different slots that they all share but the units within those are what makes them unique.
The process of building the army resembles 40k in many ways, You have mandatory slots, 1 Officer and 2 Infantry squads, and when they are filled you can start building the really fun units.
Bolt Action uses a point based system and I would recommend to start at around 500pts. When we play down at the local club we usually have between 1000 and 1500pts.
The armies are divided into platoons and you can have multiple ones as long as their from the same country and theater selection. One of the reasons to why you would include more then one is that the restrictions on what you can buy is in general per platoon. As an example, you can normally only include one tank so if you get a second platoon you get to have another tank in your list.
The game is quite infantry oriented and while you can play a tank army (with the Tank War supplement) you will most likely see way more infantry then tanks. With the group I play it’s rare to face an army with more than two tanks at the most. It’s not that tanks aren’t good but they come at a high cost. But then I do like to include one because it looks good on the table.
As an example of how an army can look I’m using the content of the starter army box for the German Fallschirmjäger’s that are up on pre-order from Warlord Games at the moment. With the equipment that Warlord has used on them in the box it clocks in at around 1500pts.
- Oberleutnant & two extra riflemen
- Fallschirmjäger Squad (10)
- Fallschirmjäger Squad (10)
- Fallschirmjäger Squad (10)
- Infantry Support
- 81mm Mortar Team with Spotter
- Panzerschreck Team
- Flame-thrower Team
- Sniper Team
- 75mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun
- Plastic Sd.Kfz 251 Ausf. D
- Plastic StuG III Ausf G
Other Things You Need
Besides have an army to play with and someone to play against there are some more things you need. If you are completely new to miniatures you need something to play on and some terrain. I prefer to play on a full sized table (~120x180cm) but if you don’t have access to a table in that size you can definitely play on smaller as well but I wouldn’t use very large armies.
As for terrain, there’s a ton of companies making them these days and especially after laser cut terrain came out on the market. The cheapest way is to make your own and you can build incredible terrain pieces but it takes some time and practice. I definitely enjoy making buildings so I haven’t bought much terrain.
If you for whatever reason don’t want to build your own I would look at MDF buildings. They are not super cheap but you get a lot for your money anyway in my opinion. My favorite companies are:
- Sarissa Precision, they have a huge selection of buildings at an ok price. Some of their older buildings are starting to show their age but the newer ones are really good.
- 4Ground, this is the place to go if you want pre-painted MDF terrain with a lot of details. I think they make the most detailed kits but they came at a high price.
- Charlie Foxtrot Models, a maker I recently discovered that seem to be a good middle ground of details and price.
There’s also many companies that makes resin terrain but I don’t have any experience using them in Bolt Action. They’re usually quite expensive but better looking.
After that you need a measuring tape, preferable a set of order dice from Warlord, the rulebook of course and I would recommend getting the army book for the country you are planning to use.
My Own Journey Into Bolt Action
I started playing miniature games back in the mid 90s when I discovered 40k, which I still play a bit and since then I’ve played more games than I can remember, both GW games and others.
The idea to start a historical game started to grow a decade later but it would be some years still before I finally decided to start.
I was over in the US visiting my ex-wife’s family and picked up a Weird WW2 game to see if I could convert some people in the club to try it out and I felt it could be a good middle ground. We never ended up playing the game and it’s still collecting dust in a box somewhere.
Then we came across Secret of the Third Reich, also a Weird War game, and we build some armies and started playing it and had a great time doing it. Sure, it wasn’t the best rules but it was still fun. But the game died for us when they more or less stopped developing it.
Now I had gotten my first taste, and I liked it. So when Bolt Action got released I got the rule book but once again it took some time before we got around to try it out. When we did try it, I was sold. It’s just my kind of game. Very relaxed and casual.
Sometimes I can feel that the game is just a bit to generic and could use a bit more depth but all-in-all, it’s one of my favorite games.
- Warlord Games, the makers of the game. They have a pretty good forum for Bolt Action.
- BoltAction.net, a very good fan page that do a lot of reviews and rule packs with changes they think would be good for the game. They also have a pretty good forum.
- Bolt Action Easy Army, an online army list creator, as with all army building tools, double check your list so they haven’t made an error. It’s a great took for checking out new armies and lists.