Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bolt Action: Refighting the Battle of Arras

Turn 1
    This is a scenario I devised to play a Bolt Action game based on the final phase of the Battle of Arras where Frankforce, the 4th & 7th Royal Tank Regiment and the 6th & 8th Durham Light infantry, attacked the SS Totenkopf and 7th Panzer. The attack was only halted finally by a gun line of 88m Flak guns and 105mm heavy howitzers.

   The attack shocked the German command who thought they had been attacked by five divisions rather than four understrength battalions.

   The layout above shows a T junction in France in 1940 looking south. Two weak platoons of Durham Light Infantry supported by RTR armour are attacking south across the open fields. The German gun line protected by two weak platoons of panzergrenadiers are strung out along the east-west road. German units are 'Hiding'.

   The Bolt Action Rulebook scenario Point Defense was used to play the game. The three objectives are shown as white blobs. I put the main axis of my attack as the British player in the centre where my slow armour could move up the road protected by flank attacks from infantry sections.

   The game starts with a massive British artillery stonk: the British get to throw each roll twice and take the best result. I didn't kill many troops but I did deal out suppression markers liberally keeping German heads down for the first turn.

Turn 2
   The battle really started on Turn 2. The German 105mm opened up at (1), the German left flank. The first shot of the game hit the Matilda II (2) in the flank, setting it on fire.

   That's right, I lost my best asset to the first German shot of the game. %$£&^*

   A Pak 37mm turned out to be concealed behind the farmhouse (3). It hit my armoured car, immobilising it.

   The infantry section (5) got confused and failed to move.

Turn 3
The German howitzer brewed up a bren-gun carrier (1). The third German heavy weapon, an MMG, turned out to be guarding the third objective. It raked my attacking infantry (3): Hitler's buzz saw, indeed.

Turn 4
   This turn I had disaster on the flanks. At (1) and (2) my infantry suffered horribly. On a better note the recalcitrant infantry section finally got moving (3) and I soaked the German unit guarding the centre objective (4) with suppression markers.

Turn 5
   Captured the central objective (1) and the Matilda I overran the Pak (3), its puny 37mm shells bouncing off the tanks thick armour. Blood on the tracks! Now the plan was to take the objective on my left flank with a pincer attack. Unfortunately my units on the flanks (2) took another clobbering.

Turn 6
   This was possibly the last turn of the game. My Matilda was brewed up by the 105mm howitzer (1) and my infantry assaulted to the left flank (2) but it was all too little too late. My hopes were raised when a seventh turn was rolled.

Turn 7: Centre Objective

I hold this one firmly. The objective is indicated by the red marker.Victory to the BEF!

Turn 7: Objective 2
   So near but yet so far. The Germans retain the objective.

   My forces had been wiped out on my right flank so I never had a sniff at this objective.

   A 7th Panzer victory then by two points to three over the BEF but it was a close thing. If I hadn't lost my Matilda II on the first shot...

   Congrats to Shaun.


  1. Great looking game and nice table!

  2. Shaun laid out the table. I provided the models and scenario.

  3. Wonderful game there John and it is good to see that Bolt Action rules worked really well.

  4. Dear John,

    It strikes me that shrinking units while keeping the proportions the same leads to this sort of anomalous result: a lucky first shot tips the balance. Though thinking about it, it doesn't seem that the lack of 2-pounder was critical.

    The alternative is that lovely Naseby layout I saw at Salute in 2004--6000 pieces and a board so large that the creators had never seen it complete until the morning they set it up at Olympia. Everything is a trade-off.

    Back to thinking in plotly directions.

    1. Yes, the more you reduce something down the more subject to chaos theory it becomes. In natural science the more processes are amalgamated the more probabilistic they become and hence the more predictable. Is why one can predict climate but not weather.

      Actually I was a bit disingenuous in the write up. The Matilda was not such a winning weapon as its 2 Pdr was indeed useless. No targets. :)

  5. Nice post John. Its so much better when its close!

    1. Yes, it's nice to think one almost won.

  6. John - is Bolt Action as much fun to play as it looks?

    1. It really is admiral. It is designed with a high game value and a low autism value. Probably not the best rules for someone who want to intimately recreate ww2 tactical combat bullet by bullet but if you fancy a fun game with enough realism to suspend disbelief then these are good rules.

  7. A great BatRep, I realy enjoyed that.