The first Bolt Action supplement, Battleground Europe: D-Day to Germany was released on Nov. 20, 2014. Since then, 18 more supplement books have been published to further enhance our beloved game. January 2021 sees the release of the twentieth Bolt Action supplement – Campaign: D-Day: British & Canadian Sectors. To celebrate this milestone, I looked back at all the previous releases to create the definitive Bolt Action Book Ranking in a four part series.
Each book was rated across five categories; Units, Theater Selectors, Scenarios, Production and Layout. There was a max of five points in each category giving a possible score between 5 and 25. In the case of ties, I adjusted the overall rank to award the better book with a higher overall position.
Please note: only the Theater and Campaign books were ranked. No Armies of… books were considered for this Ranking.
14 – Germany Strikes! Early War in Europe
Published July 20, 2015
Written by John Lambshead
The poor formatting of the Theater books continues. Germany Strikes! is packed with fantastic and flavorful units and Selectors but they are so frustrating to find. Scattered throughout the book and divided by operation and chronology – nice to use as a reference book but not for a gaming supplement.
Early War is an often overlooked area of Bolt Action and Germany Strikes held the line as our only Early War in Europe supplement for years. It’s packed with unique content like the Fallschirmjager drop onto Eben Emael and the fearsome Neubaufahrzeug Pzkpw V Model A Tank (possibly the most incredible machine of the war). The scenarios are fun, well written, and the “Players Note” provides welcome insight for those looking to play these missions. I would have loved to put this book higher on the Ranking but the egregious formatting really killed its chances.
13 – Campaign: The Western Desert
Published Sept. 20, 2018
Written by Roger Gerrish & Mike Bradford
Ah Western Desert, you got so much right and so much wrong. This is another book that should have scored higher. The annoying layout and the major inconsistencies / errors / insane unit rules (looking at you Schutzen Squad) keep Western Desert from rising to the top. The highlights include full rules for Commonwealth Forces, a major and needed buff to Italian National Rules, out of control (in a good way) LRDG special rules / options and the Scenario maps are a great addition. As an Italian player I was beyond hyped for this release and overall, it did not disappoint. I am continually inspired by Western Desert to start new hobby projects and create new armies.
12 – Campaign: Gigant
Operation Sea Lion: The Second Front
Published June, 2017
Written by John Lambshead
A true under the radar release and one of only two Bolt Action supplements that go into all out alternate history. Actually, I’d wager that Gigant is beyond the scope of alternate history. I mean, the premise of the book is set around the invention and deployment of the ME 323 Gigant – a glider that can hold numerous Panzer tanks!
The layout is good, it works. Nothing fancy and gets the job done. I this is a fantastic book and if you thought Sea Lion was silly, well this is not the book for you! Even though Gigant is thin (only 64 pages) it’s packed with content. Crazy unique units and Selectors. Its got rules for a Panzer I that arrives via paradrop! This is a book that knows exactly what it’s about and leans all the way in.
11 – Empires in Flames: The Pacific and Far East
Published Oct. 20, 2015
Written by Andy Chamber
Empires deserves props for nothing else than giving players the opportunity to play games set in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. This is fantastic and I am still waiting for a supplement focused on the Spanish Civil War. I have a soft spot for Early-War Bolt Action. I think the game is at its best when playing Early War and Empires brings the Early War heat.
The layout is improved over other Theater books – the scenario special rules are collected in the back of the book, not scattered throughout. The Selectors and new units though are still not collected in one spot to allow quick reference. But what the book lacks in cohesive formatting it makes up in scope. There are units from 1937-1945 from the US, UK, IJA, Soviet Union and a full army list for China. Excuse me, two full army lists for China. You can run either Nationalist or Warlord and both have unique options. The scope of the scenarios is just as impressive. There are rules for night fighting, jungle warfare, urban battles and more. This is the one of farthest reaching of the supplement books.
Special shout out to the book that brought us the absolute filth that is Gurkha Paratroopers. I had to mention it. Oh, also Mongolian Cavalry. And Merrill’s Marauders. Also X and Y Force. Dang, this book is legit.
10 – Campaign: The Road to Berlin
Published Nov. 30, 2017
Written by Roger Gerrish
The Road to Berlin is certainly one of the top supplements from a production standpoint. The photos are fantastic, the terrain superb and the scenario maps are well done. However, this does not help the books horrible layout. Units and Selectors are buried within historical flavor text and split across multiple pages and divided by poor image placement. There are multiple instances where it’s not clear if something is rules or historical background.
When are you able to find the rules, they are unique and flavorful. There is a full Army List for the Polish Home Army! It’s a great boost to the Partisan Army List included in France and the Allies and gives players a chance to bring something other than a generic resistance force. We also have the next-level Extended Last Levy Selector. This Selector is filled to the brink with wild units and really lets you run with the theme of desperate urban warfare. For example, the Panzer-Zestorer Truppen is a squad with three Panzerschrecks, THREE. Also included are German Tank Riders, the possibly never saw action Panzer VIII Maus, and multiple NKVD units along with an NKVD selector. If you are looking for Late-War Soviet, German or Partisan options, this is the book for you.
Thanks for joining me for Part II. Ten down and only nine to go! What book will come at the top of the Ranking?
|19||Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin||9|
|18||Duel in the Sun: The African and Italian Campaigns||11|
|17||Battleground Europe: D-Day to Germany||11|
|16||Campaign: Mariana & Palua Islands||12|
|15||Campaign: Battle of the Bulge||12|
|14||Germany Strikes! Early War in Europe||13|
|13||Campaign: The Western Desert||13|
|11||Empires in Flames: The Pacific and Far East||14|
|10||Campaign: The Road to Berlin||15|