August 31st saw the Phoenix Wargames Club in Rushden put on their second Bolt Action tournament this year, entitled Operation Overlord. Although I've been playing Bolt Action since the game first came out, I hadn't ventured near any kind of competative gaming. I think I'd been largely put off the tournament scene by my experiences with competative Warhammer but going along to a few other smaller tournaments, most recently the Judge Dredd events organised by Mongoose, convinced me that not all competative wargamers are complete dicks and I decided to give it a go.
I hadn't used my Russians for a while and due to other commitments the only practice game I was able to get in was a blue-on-blue (red-on-red?) battle against Chris's Russians at the club. That game had started out even enough but turned into a rout in my favour, I'm not sure how much I learned tactically but at least I'd brushed up on the rules.
So, onto the event itself. We'd be playing 3 games using custom scenarios and a different victory point system which awarded points based on the type of unit rather than their value. This meant, among other things, that I wouldn't just be able to throw my free unit of inexperienced infantry/cannon fodder into the fight like I normally do, as they were worth exactly the same as my veteran squad. That could make things interesting.
My first game was against an opponent whose name I have regrettably forgotten (common problem for me) who was using fallschirmjager. Lots of veteran infantry, a Puma recce vehicle and a big anti-tank gun which had me worried for my T-34. The scenario was a pitched battle with a twist, we each had to nominate an enemy unit that would be worth double victory points if destroyed. I picked the smallest of his 3 unit of veteran infantry, he picked my free unit of conscripts so I really couldn't throw them away now.
In the end I needn't have worried. The Puma turned out to be fairly annoying, in the way only recce vehicles can be (stand still and let me kill you, damn it), until I eventually opted to ignore it and concentrate on the rest of the army. I think I got more than my share of luck in this game as everything I set out to do worked almost perfectly. Even my veteran squad fubar'ing and fleeing at exactly the wrong moment was only a blip. When the dust settled all I'd lost was my mortar (to the Puma, after it stopped hiding) while my opponent had lost everything except the Puma and his medic. Final score 20-1 in my favour. But more to the point, a thoroughly enjoyable game against an opponent who took everything in his stride, even when it was all hitting the fan.
Incidentally, my conscripts took a total of 4 casualties, 2 of them inflicted by my own commissar. Nichevo.
Game 2 was against Pete Melvin, one of the event's organisers who was fielding more fallschirmjager. This time there were a couple of flak units on his side of the table, which was a concern as I was using an air force forward observer who'd so far had things all his own way. During setup we each exercised the option to hold a couple of units in reserve, in my case the T-34 and my squad of SMG-armed infantry (if they could outflank the enemy it would get nasty) and in his case 2 squads of veteran infantry. Setup was interesting, as we both chose a refused-flank option. My left flank had my conscripts and commissar facing off against a lone veteran infantry squad, while the rest of our armies were concentrated on the right. Turn 1 saw my veteran infantry take a big hit from a heavy mortar that wiped out two-thirds of the squad, while my AT gun blew up his armoured car (one of the flak units) with its first shot.
On turn two all of our reserves came on. My SMG troops had failed to outflank (different rules to normal for this scenario) and turned up on my own baseline so all I'd effectively done was waste 2 turns of movement, but my T-34 turned up on the right flank and was able to throw some more firepower into what was already looking a little one-sided. Both of Pete's units turned up on my left flank, which left the conscripts doomed but meant that those three veteran infantry squads would take little part in the rest of the battle while I mopped up on the right. Final score 15-5 in my favour, another major victory.
All of this meant that going into the final game I was the highest placed Allied player at the event. Which was mildly unnerving and meant that I had everything to lose in the final game, where we only had 750 points to use. This meant that I would be losing my commissar (not a huge problem, the guy was a bit of a liability) and my T-34 (big problem, it'd had a big influence on the first 2 games), and also playing against the guy who was top of the table for the Axis players.
This turned out to be Brian McGonagle, who was also using fallschirmjager (sensing a pattern here guys). I had the better set-up, with most of my army in cover while Brian's was largely in the open. Then I started rolling dice and it all went down the toilet. I lost my SMGs to a failed morale check (needing 8 or less on 2D6, with a re-roll) then lost my veteran squad exactly the same way. My airstrike didn't turn up until turn 4 by which point Brian had isolated the target unit to minimise the impact, the NCO of the target squad was the sole survivor, passed his morale check and spent three turns taunting my sniper who completely failed to kill him netting me no victory points. I had a couple of chances to pull things back but they didn't materialise and by the end of the game it was a minor win to Brian.
When all the other results were in I finished up in third place for the Allies, which was definitely more than I was expecting going into the event but still a little disappointing given the way things had worked out. Still I had three thoroughly enjoyable games against some excellent opponents, and now I'm off to warlord's first official Bolt Action tournament at Derby next weekend.
Incidentally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the success of the other club members who were at the event. Ryan scored third place among the Axis players with his Japanese, and Tony took the best-painted army award for the Axis (with Ryan in second place). So a good day all round, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
p.s. I didn't take any photos at this event, but you can see Pete's here. Mine are the very basic looking Russians about halfway down. Brian's account of our battle is on the Warlord forums here.