Believe it or not, the Michigan GT was the first Bolt Action tournament I ever attended, way back in 2016. It speaks to the strength of both the community and the game that even after five years, folks are still rolling up to play in events and create new forces.
Michigan GT itself hosted over 20 different tournaments over the weekend of Oct. 8, ranging from Age of Sigmar Doubles to Star Wars Legion. The event was at a new venue this year and was bigger than ever. It makes me so happy to see events not only bouncing back after a year (or more), but also growing! We had 20 players for the Bolt Action tournament and the word on the floor was that the AoS GT had over 80 players! Needless to say, there was a lot going on over the weekend.
The Bolt Action tournament was one-day, three-games at 1,000pts. Players could bring 1-2 Platoons, no Theater Selectors or Campaign books allowed.
With the list restrictions in mind, I brought a force very different than what I would normally take to an event. What I landed on is this US Double Sherman army. This list was, without question, the most straight forward army I have ever played. There are no support teams, no indirect fire, no artillery, no tricks, nothing fancy. Just GIs, a Jeep, and two standard Sherman tanks – all Regs. My approach to each game was the same – Fire & Maneuver. This is basically a ‘rush’ list. Throw it all forward, blasting away as we go. And after three games, I really enjoyed it! There are a few tweaks I want to make (more BARs, add a Mortar) but the list worked much better than I thought it would.
Game One – Envelopment v. Paul (Germans)
Shermans and infantry pushing hard up the left flank and towards the objective.
In Game One I faced off against Paul and his formattable StuG 33b. That Heavy Howitzer, Armor 10 Tank was going to be a real issue for my Medium AT Gun Shermans (I’d need a 6 just to glance the front armor). Paul won the roll to pick sides and chose to Defend. That put me as Attacker and with my no-nonsense strategy of Fire & Maneuver in mind, I threw my forces forward using a refused flank attack. I had a long way to go towards the objective (Paul’s table edge) and I had to move quick.
Highlights from the game:
– Hero of the Game goes to one of Shermans, Ink Spots, that held that StuG 33b at bay for five consecutive turns. The gunner must be an ace because Ink Spots never once failed to miss and even managed to glance the StuG not once, but twice and effectively shut it down for the whole game.
– Around Turn 4, Paul held the church with only two Vet infantry. I assaulted the building with a full eight-man Reg squad and those two German Vets managed to win the combat! It was a tense couple of turns as Paul held off my advance while heavily outnumbered.
– The refused flank worked! I amassed nine of my ten units on the left side of the table with only one infantry unit on the right. That one squad hopped into a building and was able to keep three of Paul’s units at bay while the rest of my force made a break for the objective. That one squad put the team on their back and competed a near impossible mission.
Result – Win
Game Two – Nuts! vs. Jeff (Finns)
Murderous close engagements against the Finns in the trainyard.
A Game Two Grudge Match! Our request for a Game Two Grudge Match was honored and both Jeff and I knew it was going to be one hell of a fight. The mission scattered five objectives across the table and there was a lot of ground to cover. In addition we played on an incredible Soviet tank factory/train depot table filled with ruins, line of sight blocking terrain and all kinds of hard cover obstacles. With so few open lines of sight, this game was going to come down to close combat and point-blank firefights.
Highlights from the game:
– The table! It’s worth repeating, this table was incredible. It was super claustrophobic and forced cagey play. Trying to get line of sight on your target was a challenge and resulted in most firefights happening at point-blank range. It was insane.
– I lost another 8 v 2 assault to take an objective – I just couldn’t remove Jeff’s Finns! They refused to break.
– Jeff rolled up a bicycle-mounted squad down a road and they let loose with a pair of panzerfausts at one of my Sherman tanks. Luckily, they missed but I’ve never seen anyone push with a bike squad like that. It was amazing! Also, a harsh lesson in the power of roads.
– Both of our armies were in tatters by the end of Turn 7. We each only held one objective with the other three objectives contested. Jeff played his Finns to the max, it’s an incredible army and I did not have the tools to effectively deal with them. It was one hell of a game, Jeff remains a superb player.
Result – Draw
Game Three – No Man’s Land – Scott (Germans)
US Regs engaging Scott’s Vets – the Battle for the Factory will become legend.
The third and final game. The last game of the tournament had one simple objective – kill the enemy. The only way to score was by kill points. Scott aggressively deployed his fully mechanized Germans with Quad-Flak Truck and a AT half-track support. He had a total of five vehicles including four half-tracks – a wonderful thematic force. It was going to be another brutal fight in an urban battlefield.
Highlights from the game:
– I give major props to Scott for his aggressive deployment. He deployed two fully loaded half-tracks on a open road with his Lt right behind them. My Sherman had clear line of sight and was praying for the first Order Die of the game to be his. His plan was to Snap to Action! both half-tracks up the road and I’d be staring at four Vet German units, just waiting for me. However, it didn’t play out that like. I got the first Order Die and blasted one of the half-tracks off the table with a Sherman. The squad inside took major casualties and the German advance up the middle faltered. I love the bold strategy, it just didn’t play out for him this time.
– The Battle for the Factory. Holy hell. It took almost half my army to get those Germans out of the factory. They really didn’t want to give it up. Pictured above are Scott’s two remaining infantry supported by an empty MMG half-track. My squad would die to the man in close combat against those two Germans and only managed to kill one. I then assaulted again with my Lt who was also cut down in close combat. It was a charnel house. I brought in a third infantry squad to take out the last remaining German, but the game ended before they could charge. But, honestly, with how the combats were going, that squad would have been cut down by this lone solider as well.
– Scott played an extremely aggressive game and made great use of road movement. He was moving to outflank me left and right. It was only through some luck and cold dice on his part that I managed to make it out of there! In the end, the Empty Transport rule sealed the deal. Once Scott’s infantry started to falter, I was able to scoop up those empty transports to swing the kills in my favor.
Result – Win
After three hard fought games I ended the day at 2-0-1, I’ll take that! The list worked much better than I expected and I am thinking about adding just a few additional options to give it some more punch. I was also thrilled to see Team Chicago Dice bring home the hardware! Ben won Best Theme with his Partisans (Partibus!) and Matt won Best Opponent! Always fantastic to see your clubmates come back with their shields.
Michigan GT was back and bigger than ever! The new venue was great and it was awesome having all the events in one big room. Walking around the tables and seeing all the games being played just made me happy. Jeff (the TO) did a great job running the tournament. The games started and ended on time and the event packet was solid. I was also impressed with the terrain – the tables looked great! Especially the two that I played on for Games Two and Three. My only critique is to allow Theater Selectors and Campaign book units but that’s really more a personal preference than anything else. I love seeing the wild lists that folks bring using those additional rules.
It was a great weekend full of gaming with friends new and old. I know that I’ll be back again next year and I am excited to see how big the Michigan GT can get.