Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bolt Action Banzai!

We played our first Pacific War themed Bolt Action game on Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA. Phil Bardsley and Mike Lombardy were the Marines, Bill Stewart and Mark Serafin were the Army, and Jerry Tyer, Dick Larsen, and I were the Japanese.

I've had an interest in the Pacific War most of my life. My father was a veteran of WW2 in the Pacific (Okinawa) and was always reading books on it. It came naturally. My first Pacific War project was a 15mm Tarawa game with Kevin Smyth using the much under-appreciated Crossfire WW2 rules, which I've just realized I reviewed many years ago...

Marines dismount from their LVT-1 and attack
I later sold off all my figures, models, and the terrain pieces I did. However, I got into 28mm Japanese some years back when The Assault Group released their excellent 28mm range. These sat for a long time getting no love from me until Warlord Games released Bolt Action last year. I finally got around to painting what I had in October and purchased several more packs that were on hand at The Panzer Depot. I also completed two Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks that I bought from Company B  at our local Enfilade! convention several years ago.

We've played several games of Bolt Action so far, all set in the Western Desert. Bill Stewart and I have been painting Japanese for a while. After our last game we decided that we were near enough to critical mass to plan a game. Much feverish painting later, we had two platoons plus a number of supporting weapons teams (MMGs, "knee mortars," snipers, even a flamethrower team).

Mike Painted one of the box sets of US Marines from Warlord Games and I managed to paint two Marine squads plus a couple flamethrower teams from an order I got in from The Assault Group recently. (I had earlier painted two 81mm mortar teams and two bazooka teams.) I also had a Warlord Games M4A3 completed, which completely outclassed the Japanese tanks. The Marines were augmented by Bill's vast supply of G.I.s he's had painted for some years now.

We played the Top Secret scenario from the Bolt Action rule book. The objective was a ladder—for lack of anything else at hand—placed in the center of the table in fairly clear terrain. (Perhaps it was the only means of getting to the delicious coconuts in the trees and therefore vital to each side's war effort.)

We wound up having a large number of "units" on the board. Not so much in infantry squads (only six total), but in all the weapons teams. On retrospect, that was a bit much and the Crown Royal felt bag used for our order cube pull was pretty full.

I had one Japanese squad, the two Ha-Gos, a sniper team, a "knee mortar," a three-man command group, and a MMG. I advanced my squad through the jungle to take position on the edge facing Phil's Marines.

My initial advance
Meanwhile, Phil advanced one of his squads into a patch of jungle but got stung immediately by my sniper, who took out one of his B.A.R. gunners. In response, Phil pushed his squad out into the clear to go after the sniper.

Phil's Marines advance
The Marines managed to kill off the number 2 guy in the sniper team, but the triggerman remained undaunted and took out the Marine squad leader. Next turn, I brought on one of the Ha-Gos that were in reserve, which sent Phil back into the trees. He brought up a mortar and one of the bazooka teams to have at the sniper and the tank. The tank survived two missed bazooka shots, but the sniper went up in a puff of smoke.

Phil's other bazooka team hiding in the grass shack
 Meanwhile, Mike brought on his M4 and started taking shots at my squad on the jungle edge. Even though I had the suicide tank bomber figures painted, we have no rules for how to use them. One of them just served as eye candy.

If only...
 On the other edge of the table, Dick advanced his first squad only to see it evaporate in the teeth of the Army's withering fire. Bill's "doggies" took up a commanding position in a patch of jungle at the top of a hill.

The Army takes position
Jerry ran his troops up to to the woods edge.

Advance for the Emperor!
Next turn, he sent in a squad to close assault and took the position.

However, an immediate counterattack by another Army squad, re-took the position. Jerry's other squad was left high and dry in the open.

Exposed in the open
My one infantry squad was in position, but beset by Mike's M4 and a mortar that had zeroed in.

In position
Of course this left me no alternative but to attack. I rushed out of cover into the open to assault Mike's Marine squad only to get decimated my superior firepower. Undaunted, I passed the critical morale check and next turn I slammed into the Marines with all two of my remaining men.

Banzai! redux
As expected, it didn't go well. I later attempted a similar forlorn hope banzai! with my command team, who never made it in contact. This left me with my tanks, MMG, and knee mortar.

Sole survivors
Mike moved his M4 over the ridge to challenge my Ha-Go that had been tormenting Phil along the flank. His first shot hit and miraculously bounced. Next turn, I hoped to get the order cube first and attempt to knock out the M4. However, Mike's cube came up first and his second shot didn't disappoint.

The predictable end when a Ha-Go tries to punch above its weight
My left flank was completely open and I had only my other Ha-Go, the MMG, and the knee mortar left. The little knee mortar zeroed in on Mike's Marines still hunkered behind the bridge. With the M4 on the other side of the ridge and jungle patch, I bravely advanced my remaining tank to take Mike's Marines under fire as well. This got him moving and soon, the Marines were swarming my remaining troops.

Closing in
The knee mortar team gave it up for the Emperor when one of Phil's squads got it in close assault. He was going to flame it, but he couldn't get the FT team into position.

On the other end of the table (where I apparently took fewer pictures), Jerry had lost his two infantry squads and was holding on with his support weapons—including a sniper who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Dick had two squads mostly intact, but was beset by Bill and Mark's Army troops.

In the denouement of the game, Phil's mortar zeroed in on my Ha-Go on the first shot. The penetration roll was a "6" and the damage result roll was a "5". My Ha-Go went up in flames like my other one.

Result of a very lucky shot

 Post Mortem

I made the Americans veterans and kept the Japanese as regulars for the game. I thought that the fanatic and banzai rules for the Japanese would make them tougher. It just made the Marines 33% harder to kill.

There were a lot of support weapons on hand. Because we had seven players and six (I think) infantry squads, I thought a larger number of them would give people more units to run. It also gave the edge to the Americans who had a lot more firepower in their medium mortars. I'm not sure what Bill pulled out of his boxes for the Army. I kept wondering how five Japanese squads plus supports could run into trouble against three squads of "doggies." I think it may have been more even than that.

I managed to get NO pictures of Bill's excellent Japanese troops. I'll have to remedy that in our next game.

I have a handful more of Japanese figures to paint and I just got the last pack of two Assault Group Type 99 MMGs in John's shop.

I also have my remaining Marines to finish. This is the army I will use in the Bolt Action tournament coming up at the Enfilade! convention in May.

I placed a small order to Company B to get a couple of Japanese Type 1 37mm AT guns, who's Wikipedia article cites them as ineffective against M4s...

I also ordered a Marine 75mm pack howitzer and a Marine M-3 37mm AT gun—not that the Americans need any more firepower!

I've also got the wheels turning in my head about making fortifications like MG bunkers, rifle pits, gun emplacement, etc. I've found, perhaps, a new use for old CD-ROM disks.