Monday, 14 July 2014

Ham Green Hysteria

After what seems like an age I actually got a game in last weekend!

Having read about several VBCW games being played with the Bolt Action ruleset recently, I decided to download a copy onto my Kindle and give them a whirl.

My pal Giles duly agreed to come over to JP Mansions with his Malvern Hills Conservators, which he was keen to bring onto the field again after a period of inactivity (and finish off his shotgun toting militia). He very kindly came up with a scenario:-

The fighting in the eastern parts of Herefordshire has concerned the Malvern Hills Conservators, whose land holdings extend into the county, and so far have not been proactively defended from the BUF, Anglicans and other assorted ne’er do wells. Therefore, Sir Jonathan Porridge has decided to send in his Wardens to clear the areas of their land and neighbouring areas of Mathon & Cradley Partishes. Ed (Ted) Ward-Glear has been chosen to lead this mission and firmly establish MHC (and Royal) control on these parishes and forestall any interlopers. Luckily, Ted has just taken ownership of a new Lanchester Armoured Car refitted by the Morgan Motor Company and views this as the ideal opportunity to use its capabilities to see off any of the unwelcome factions. He has also arranged for a local force of landowners, gamekeepers and other hillsmen to support his Wardens. They come with a large amount of shotguns, ammunition, and enthusiasm…if not skill…

Little did the Conservators know that they would be facing their supposed Royalist allies but in actual fact mortal enemies the local Blackshirts!

The Malvern Hills Conservators

Having being advised by the good chaps on the Bolt Action Facebook page that, with my small table, a 300 point force each would be a good starting point, we both duly knocked up a force. Giles' Conservators took to battle with the aforementioned gamekeepers and Lanchester, plus officer and standard bearer, while I brought on a unit of Blackshirts, their light tank, officer and standard.

The protagonists approach Ham Green
The goal was to seize and defend a strategic Y-shaped road junction on the Harcourt Road towards Ham Green.

Gamekeepers take cover

The gamekeepers, seeing my tank, took cover in the scrubland, while my Blackshorts moved up to the junction. The MHC's Lanchester opened fire on my tank with it's HMG, hoping that the tank's very thin armour (courtesy of the VBCW rule modifications written by 'Pappa Midnight') would be pierced. However the tank remained in one piece and replied with it's sole weapon, a light anti-tank gun.

The Blackshirts advance.

Direct hit! Some decent dice rolling to hit and damage caused the Lanchester to brew up, leaving the MHC's gamekeepers at the mercy of the better armed Blackshirts. (Fearing a rather one-sided game I sent my tank on a long outflanking manoeuvre to the other side of the table - or at least I tried to as it broke down - another VBCW mod - and sat where it was!)

Fancy a brew?

To their credit the gamekeepers pressed on, hoping that the scrub would keep them hidden enough to get into shotgun range of the Blackshirts, but it was not to be. Whittled down by superior firepower and with their support destroyed, the Conservators left the road junction to the victorious Blackshirts.

BUF firepower wins the day

The next game was a more interesting affair, with each side adding an extra 150 points, but removing all vehicles. The task was to capture the nearby Ham Green ridge (represented by a line of books under my green towel gaming mat, with a gap in the middle).

Ham Green Ridge (Blackshirts bottom edge, MHC top edge)

Giles split his gamekeepers into two groups of 5, ditched the Lanchester and added a better armed militia unit, Vickers machine gun, mortar, spotter and a medic. Bereft of my tank I added another unit of Blackshirts and a unit of green civilian militia, plus Vickers MG and medic.

Blackshirts head for the central gap

Both sides advanced to the ridge, my Blackshirts mindful of exposing themselves to mortar fire. My MG team ascended the ridge first on my right, but before they could set up their sights to spray the area with bullets, up popped some of the gamekeepers. Eager for revenge, they charged the hapless gunners.

The machinegunners' last moments...

Now I had read somewhere that close combat in Bolt Action is brutal - this I can confirm!

Unable to respond because they had already taken a move and were too close to the gamekeepers, all the gunners could do was brace themselves as the Conservators gave it to them with both barrels - no morale checks required. A half-unit of untrained farmers with shotguns might not sound much militarily, but in Bolt Action they are deadly up close. The MG team was wiped out.

More gamekeepers ascend the ridge

Also to my right, my own unit of untrained militia crept up the ridge, exchanging fire with more gamekeepers. After taking hits (and thus a 'pinned' marker), they failed an order test in the next turn and went to ground, as did their opposite numbers on the other side of the ridge.

Green militias half-heartedly duke it out

In the centre, a unit of Blackshirts moved into the gap in the ridge, only to attract mortar fire, directed by a nearby spotter. They quickly shot up the spotter, but, with the mortar in line of sight and an Conservator MG unit moving up, were in an exposed position.

Blackshirts in the centre exposed

To my left the other Blackshirt unit, also concious of the enemy's mortar and MG, remained on the reverse side of the slope, lying in wait while the Conservators' militia climbed up to fire on them. Shots were exchanged, pinned markers given and casualties taken on both sides.

Fighting on my left flank

The Blackshirts in the centre, exposed, bereft of MG support and with hostile shotguns being trained on them from above on their flank, decided that some action was required. Giving like for like, they charged the MG nest ahead of them as it was being set up in some bushes, and wiped it out before overwhelming the Conservators' HQ and moving on to the mortar team - now hastily packing up to leave.

The Blackshirts charge (again!)

However this move left the centre wide open, allowing the gamekeepers to swoop down from the ridge onto my own HQ! After crushing them underfoot they reloaded their shotties and charged the flank of the Blackshirts sheltering on the slope. This and the attention from the Conservator militia finished them off.

As do the gamekeepers (again!)

By now my green militia had recovered their wits and had shot up the other gamekeepers, leaving half of the ridge in my hands, the other half in Giles'. Time to call it a day with honours even for this game and the grudge between the MHC and the BUF becoming increasingly sour.

My left flank in big trouble

We found Bolt Action a very interesting set of rules, but yet again I wonder if they are suitable for my small table. Both sides were upon each other before either could really make use of it's firepower, and a series of desperate, short-range, surprise charges were the order of the day.

MHC mortar hurriedly packs up

I liked the initiative system, and the pinning system, which means that units perform increasingly badly as they take damage, and would be happy to try the rules out again on a bigger table.


  1. Stirring stuff! I've only played one game of BA, on a large table, and they worked fine.


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