Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bolt Action BatRep, Nomanisan Island, Pacific Ocean

So, more Bolt Action on Sunday, another game against Rob's Japanese with my Marines. Another satisfying game, too. Only a draw, but closely fought the whole time, and the end once again came down to a crucial dice roll, on both sides.

The battlefield, some isolated settlement on a small Pacific island. I was once again responsible for the set-up. I'm a big fan of asymmetric yet balanced battlefields.

Here, for example, the centre is a long gulch/canyon, with plenty of cover and a spit of rock at the middle of the southern end, allowing for good sight lines. Opposed to that rock is a building, better cover, but more restricted line of sight—also harder to assault.

The left flank, to the north, is built up and rocky, blocking line of sight to the northern board edge from the south—but the south is completely open, offering unparalleled mobility for any forces that choose to pass through there, though they'll have to weather fire from entrenched enemies.

The right flank is once more open to the south, but through the north is a lot of uneven, broken ground, which will slow the advance of any troops without providing any real cover. There's a risk of getting bogged down while under heavy fire.

The northern half of the table contains most of the buildings—a deliberate choice—as the southern half contains most of the stronger covering elements. There's a good mix of long sight lines for snipers and support weapons; tight areas for short range infantry combat; and large paths for vehicles to roll through if they so desire.

Onto the battle.

We rolled up mission 4 this time, Hold Until Relieved. I chose to attack this time, as Rob was attacker last time. This meant a lot more of my arm started on the table, not that it really helped me in the opening stages, due to some poor positioning of certain units—and a lucky Japanese flamer team.

This was the situation at deployment, a squad of IJA infantry holding the control point of an AA battery, with a machine gun team set up in the building north of them. They were surrounded by Marines that had pushed forward earlier in the day, closing in on the vital position.

Two USMC infantry teams on the left flank, with the command squad between them. One on the right flank, with the medics. To the far north, one squad of Marines waited beneath a building, hoping to ambush Japanese reinforcements. On the north of the left flank the bazooka team too position in the rocks, waiting and watching for Japanese armour, hearing reports of contact earlier. All along the southern end of the canyon, the machine guns and mortar teams readied their weapons while a sniper team crawled into position on the right hand ridge line. Everything was set to begin the battle.

It started in disaster, my sniper missing Rob's MG, which fired back with deadly effect, driving my sniper out of the battle after his observer was killed.
Rob then pulled another dice of his (this became a theme, and was quite inconvenient for both of us at times) out of the bag. He used this to run on his flamer team and clear out my Bazooka team—clearly, he didn't want them punching large holes in the side of his tanks.
 On the eastern flank, under the northernmost building, there came a furious exchange of fire as Rob advanced an infantry squad onto the field, taking aim at my marines under the building. The Marines were lucky, losing only three men to the heavy fire. The next order dice was mine, and those marines fired back, causing a massive 5 casualties—more than half of Rob's squad. This would normally cause a morale check, and might force them off the board, however, the Japanese are Fanatics, meaning they'll fight to the last man, and never retreat.
Another infantry squad, this time on the western flank, setting up beneath the building there, hoping to draw a bead on the infantry squad holding the AA control point. Only the BARs are in range, but they manage one hit, generating a pin marker.

The situation at the end of turn 1. Rob's first wave has made it on, making a mess of my ambushing forces on the northern edge of the battle. Things are going better towards the centre, pinning the IJA squad there quite heavily, but it may not be enough in the end.

Turn 2, the end thereof. Surprisingly uneventful. Rob managed to kill off the survivors from the northern unit, and the southern unit on the right flank FUBARed, running like madmen, with only one pin— it was from a sniper though.

Elsewhere, everything advanced on the central objective, and machine guns exchanged furious bursts of fire, killing one crewman on the Japanese weapon. My Long Tom also arrived, at the south end of the canyon, while my Engineers continued their outflanking move.

Turn 3 began with Rob pulling the first order die, again. He used to move his flamer team up, taking aim at the Marines under the house on the left flank. He caused only one hit, but managed to stack three pins on the unit, and they failed their morale check, shattered by being hit with such a terrifying weapon.

Sergeant Leon ran as if pursued by the demons of hell itself. Who else could start and survive such an inferno? Private Lopez had been the unfortunate victim of the attack. The timbers of the shack above him creaked and groaned, and Leon choked on the thick, black smoke surrounding him. The Japs had a done a number on the shack, too. Maybe that's why the flamer had seemed to run out of fuel so quickly. There was a tank somewhere nearby too, but there was nowhere to hide. Leon ran, the acrid smoke filling his lungs, praying he could make it to some kind of safety. His legs failed him, tripping against a fallen beam. With a horrendous crash the building came down on top of him, burying him with the rest of his squad.

 As vengeance for the flamer incident, I tried to destroy what was left of Rob's central IJA squad. No luck, as the Long Tom missed by inches, the shell slamming through the generator behind them.
 My command team and a Marine squad advance past the ridge line on the left of the canyon, pouring murderous fire down on the Japanese infantry sheltering behind a rickety wooden bridge. The Japs are cut down to a man, choosing death before dishonour.
End of turn 3. As the last act of the turn, the Engineers moved on from their outflanking manoeuvre, taking aim at an IJA infantry squad in the open, attempting to pin them down.
 Turn 4 opened with me getting the first order die. I wasted no time in giving the Long Tom a fire order, taking careful aim at a full strength IJA infantry squads bearing down on the now clear central objective.

The Japanese infantry hit the dirt, but the blast still claimed four of them, heavily pinning the unit with an additional 4 pin markers. They weren't going to be very useful anymore.
End of turn 4. My central MG had a shot at the same squad my Long Tom hit, further pinning it, inflicting another 3 casualties, reducing the unit to 2 men. My mortar had so far distinguished itself by not managing to hit anything, despite firing at the same target for four turns. Rob managed to move up his medium tank, taking a pot shot at the Long Tom, killing one of the crew, pinning it. This would prove crucial, as the big gun would fail its next order test, making it useless on the fifth turn of the game.

At the start of turn 5, Rob elects to assault with his depleted IJA squad. This goes badly, as my command team have SMGs, and cut them all down before they reach combat, consolidating in the cover of the craters. They then load fresh magazines, firing at the IJA squad sheltering under the building just to the north of them. Said IJA squad has already taken several pins, and decides it's better to assault than hold back—as Japanese troops automatically pass any order test required to assault an enemy.

First Lieutenant Brady heard the cry of Banzai before he could see the Japs ahead of them charge from cover. He knew they were going to be overwhelmed, there were too many, wearing the insignia of the rising sun. He looked to his assistant, loading another mag into his Thompson. They would die today, but they would drag as many screaming Japs into hell with them as they possibly could.

Brady fired, taking one charger in the torso, a stray round grazing the arm of another as he rushed forward to take the fallen man's place. Another had closed enough to start thrusting with his bayonet, but Brady's assistant put a burst through the assailant's head, staggering back as the Japanese NCO drove his sword through his gut. Brady clubbed the Jap closest to him with his empty Thompson, drawing his pistol. He barely felt the blade take his left arm—but his right still held his 1911, and as he fell, he aimed up at the Japanese NCO, putting three rounds through his chest and another through the side of his face.

A Japanese soldier worked the bolt on his rifle, there was a flash, a deafening bang, and Brady fell into the darkness.

As recompense for it's earlier ineptitude, my 81mm mortar took aim at Rob's command team, hitting with the first round. The effect was devastating, and when the smoke cleared all that could be seen were scattered body parts and a smoking crater. The MG team running up ground to a halt just before the crater, close enough—barely—to contest the objective.
Turn 6 started in the centre, Rob's suicide AT trooper finally killing my medic. I had started calling him Doctor Nope, because he just refused to die, saving three people in a row this game, but alas, his luck finally ran out, and Doctor Nope was slain.

My first order die was once again spent on the Long Tom, taking careful aim at the depleted IJA squad sheltering next to the searchlight of the central objective. The resultant explosion tore the searchlight to pieces, dug a huge crater in the dirt, shook the building just to the north on its uprights, and completely obliterated what was left of the IJA squad.

The game drew to a close, as we had nothing else close enough to contest the objective, and there was no turn 7. If there had been, it probably wouldn't have changed anything, our armies were so battered.

In the end, it came out a draw, my MG team contesting the objective against Rob's sole surviving suicide AT trooper. A close game, with many satisfying moments. Next week though, Wild West.

I've got some painting to do.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Late night progress

I finished some stuff. Well, for varying degrees of the term 'finished' at any rate.
 A small pacific village, all Sarissa stuff, only base painted, need to drybrush/highlight it before throwing on the varnish.
 Long Tom, 155mm Artillery. Okay, so it was built last week, but I got into a frenzy and finished the crew in like 2 hours tonight. That includes making 2 155mm shells from a bit of rod lying around.
 Something that's actually, properly finished now. USMC squad 1, complete with basing tufts.
 Sniper team, for long range support.
 MMG team, for heavy fire support. Quite proud of the way this one turned out, looks really nice.
Commander and adjutant, because a USMC leader will lead from the front, and lead by example. (As he has tried to do so in every game so far).

Monday, 20 October 2014

1944: Japanese break through Marine vanguard

So, great game against Rob on Sunday. More Bolt Action, finally managed to get some stuff painted. USMC vs Imperial Japanese. Scenario chosen was Envelopment, with Rob as the attacker.

This was the table I set up. Coastline down one flank, plenty of dead ground along it, a scattering of craters towards Rob's side. Major rock formations towards the northern and southern outskirts of the field, providing useful MG and Sniper perches.

Broken ground and craters littered the rest of the field, but the dominating feature was the cliff running through the middle of the table, providing both good cover and an elevated firing position.

Turn 1 opened with a lot of my reserve units getting orders, and Rob's scout car/tankette gunning down some marines that had advanced up the beach.

End of turn 1 saw both sides advancing rapidly, the Japanese to try and break through the Marine encirclement, and the Marines to close any gaps in their line.

 Turn 2's opening saw the Marine squad on the beach further decimated by Rob's tanks while the Long Tom failed to hit anything. I was less than impressed with it at that point.
 Along the eastern flank one brave squad rushes through the dead ground, pouring fire into the Japanese as they go, causing severe casualties.
Turn 2's end saw the central Marine squad effectively pinned by Sniper and MMG fire from the northern hilltop, while the western marine squad survives by some miracle. The eastern squad did well, weathering the Japanese return fire with aplomb. All my other teams except the Engineers have now made it to the table, heavily weighting the western flank.

 Start of turn 3 sees Rob moving first, rushing forward with his suicide AT troops. Then the Long Tom gets a chance to fire, lowering the barrel to target the Japanese troops next to the tank. With a mighty crash the howitzer fires, and the distant explosion throws sand and debris a hundred feet into the air. When the smoke clears there's nothing left of the Japanese squad but a smoking crater in the sand.
 My sniper takes a potshot at Rob's commander (hiding just next to the tankette). He misses.
 The pinned Marine squad and Bazooka fail to pass any order tests. Saw that coming… but normally my Bazooka team can't hit the broad side of a barn three feet away, so yeah.
 Towards the end of turn 3, and a most Marine squads have pushed forward heavily, wanting to take the ridgeline before the Japanese can make it there. The eastern squad has taken heavy casualties, but simply refuses to break.
At the end of the third turn Rob's tanks have managed to advance implacably forward, mowing down the MMG team, the Long Tom's crew, the western Marine squad and the Bazooka team loader.

On the other hand, my engineers have shown up, kitted out for killing tanks, traps, and other forms of nastiness. They also have a flamer for rooting enemies out of dense cover or bunkers.

In turn 4 I got the first order die, so the Engineers immediately assaulted Rob's heavy tank, scoring just enough hits to stun the beast. This would prove critical, as Rob just couldn't unpin the beast afterwards.
 In the centre, the Marines finally make the ridge, pouring fire into the Japanese below them, causing heavy casualties and pinning them. This proves to be a mistake, as Rob decides to launch an assault, and his Japanese special rule allows him to automatically pass any order test to do so. The marines, lacking the numbers to match the Japanese fall to a man. However, as the sergeant falls he manages to put pistol round through the Japanese commander's skull. I claim a moral victory for that.
This sets up a grand melee in the centre, my commander advancing to point blank with his adjutant, both of them gunning down several of the Japanese with their Thompson SMGs. The eastern centre squad then converges on the Japanese squad, accurate BAR fire accounting for all but the LMG loader. 

 End of turn 4, with carnage all round. The Japanese have lost several units, as have the Marines. It's going to be close, but I have to stop Rob getting anything off my table edge.
 Turn 5 opens with me again, running the Engineers behind the tank, opening up with the flamer on the Japanese squad next to them. Something jams in the flamer's nozzle, and the stream of fire fails to kill any Japanese soldiers before running out of fuel. Rifle and BAR fire claims three enemies instead.

The rest of turn 5 is a mad dash for the finish, throwing caution to the winds. The Tankette nearly clears the board, and my Bazooka once again fails to unpin in order to stop it.

The lone Japanese commander (his friend taken out by sniper fire) assaults the mortar observer to finish the turn. At the start of turn 6, my commander, surviving an assault from the Japanese gunner left from last turn, guns down the Japanese leader as he tries to escape.
Rob's tankette gets the next order, zooming off the board, followed by a suicide AT bomber. Nothing else makes it past the Marine's wall of lead, and a valiant effort from the Medic and his orderly could have swung the game, but alas failed to inflict any wounds—then again, he didn't save any during the game either.

Rob won the scenario convincingly with 14 points to 10. If I'd managed to kill that last squad it would have been 12-12, and even draw, so it was very close.

We didn't play particularly swiftly, but we weren't slow either. The game felt fast paced after the opening turn of movement, and the USMC really suit my aggressive style of play. The Long Tom was useless when trying to shoot tanks, but proved so deadly against infantry that Rob couldn't allow it to get off another shot. My Bazooka proved as inept as ever, but my Sniper finally managed to win a sniper duel, which was fun.

There was plenty going on in this game, fire and manoeuvre warfare, tactical advances, assaults, tanks vs infantry vs artillery. All in all, even though I lost, it was one of the most satisfying games I've had in a long, long time. It never actually felt like I was losing—and even then it wasn't by much. It felt like a close game the whole time, and there were plenty of great moments to take away from it.