Several months ago I was contacted to run a Bolt Action event at Polar Vortex 2022 in Chicago over the weekend of Jan. 21. I’d played in Polar Vortex before, back in 2017 and 2018, but had not acted as TO. With Adepticon only a couple months away, I jumped at the chance to not only meet up with old friends, but also to test out new missions for Adepticon.
For a complete breakdown, here are the Bolt Action Escalation event rules. At a high level it was a one-day, three-game escalation tournament. Game One was 450pts, Game Two was 750pts and Game Three was 1,000pts. Theater Selectors were allowed along with units from the Campaign books. The event packet we used is also available:
As TO for the event, I was not planning on playing. But, I packed an army just in case there was a last minute change in the number of players. If we ended up with an odd number I’d have to step in as The Ringer. Knowing full well that I would still be acting as TO even while playing, I wanted to bring a simple no frills army. A force that didn’t have a bunch of unique special rules or subtle strategies. Just some men with rifles and a big ‘ol Flak 88. That’s right – it was time to bring out the Kriegsmarine!
I adore this force. Not only are the models from Empress/Tsuba and Copplestone fantastic, the blue sailors uniforms are unlike other Bolt Action forces and are quite striking on the table. It’s been far, far too long since these troops marched to battle and I was thrilled by the prospect of getting some games in. This force is originally from Ben and my Adepticon 2018 Bolt Action Doubles project and with Campaign: Italy: Soft Underbelly in hand, I was once again inspired to bring the 88 out.
Polar Vortex allowed Theater Selectors and Campaign book units for Games Two and Three so I dug into Soft Underbelly to find a Theater Selector that worked with my existing collection. One of the new Theater Selectors is for the Kampfgruppe East Hermann Goring Division. This German force was charged with the defense of Sicily and the Selector has some very unique and interesting options – such as the ability to field two artillery pieces in one Platoon. Also, the only Infantry option is the HGD Panzergrenadier squad (Sicily, July 10-12). Talk about specific! I used my Kriegsmarine to represent these Unprepared troops and loaded up on artillery.
The Game One – 450pts list is almost all HGD squads with only a MMG and Light Autocannon in support. For Game Two – 750pts I added the 88, upped the Autocannon to Heavy and added another HGD squad with double LMG. For Game Three – 1,000pts I added in a Medium Mortar and a Flak Truck. As I said, nothing subtle about any of this. I wanted to move the Unprepared Infantry into cover and blast away with Autocannons and the 88!
Game One – Scattered Deployment v. Al (SAS – Europe)
A squad of Kriegsmarine (HGD Panzergrenadier) holding cover as the SAS move in from the table edge.
In Game One I faced off against long time friend and Bolt Action comrade Al in a 450pt clash of Combat Patrols. Due to miscommunications from high command, our forces missed the drop zones and units found themselves scattered across the table. Luckily, the objective was simple, destroy the enemy. Players scored one point for each enemy unit destroyed, and an additional point if that unit was destroyed in close combat.
Highlights from the game:
– The scattered deployment left Al’s PIAT Team wide in open at the start of the game. With the first Order Die I assaulted with a full 8-man Kriegsmarine squad. The PIAT Team was quickly dispatched putting me up 2-0.
– On the last Order Die of the last turn Al moved a lone SAS solider within SMG range of my Lt. The shots were at long range, through cover, at a lone model but that didn’t stop Al from rolling a just one single hit. If he managed to kill my Lt, it would bring the game to a Draw. Just one roll, on the the last die of the game, to determine the fate of the entire battle. We held our breath and BANG my Lt went down. It was unreal. One of the most tense moments of Bolt Action I’ve ever witnessed. Cheers to Al for never giving up and truly living into the SAS motto, “Who dares wins.” Well, in this case, “Who dares snatches a draw from the jaws of defeat.”
Result – Draw
Game Two – Take & Hold vs. Shane (Germans)
The 88 holds down a line of fire as Shane’s troops move in behind the building.
It’s Germans v. Germans in Game Two. There were four objectives spread across the table, whoever held more objectives at the end of the game would secure victory. Both our forces arrived via First Wave and the carnage began almost immediately. Shane aggressively drove his force forward, risking shots from my 88 and Flak 38 in an attempt to secure board control. I respect the boldness – it’s a play I’ve made many times – but not against the waiting guns of the Kriegsmarine. Shane lost both his Puma and Truck (with Pioneers aboard) on Turn 1. After that, he was unable to push the objectives and the game ended with me controlling two objectives, contesting a third and Shane controlling one. This was a fantastic game that swung back and forth a few times. Without a lucky shot on the Puma, it may have gone very differently.
Highlights from the game:
– Poor 88. You are too terrifying for your own good. Shane ranged in with his Med. Mortar at the top of Turn 2 and with one Exceptional Damage roll destroyed the gun in its entirety. Although the 88 was unable to strike a target, it did force Shane’s Puma to Recee out of line of sight and put it within range of the Flak 38 Heavy Autocannon. Two AP shots later, and the Puma was a smoking wreck. Fair trade.
– Shane’s Pioneers bailed out of their Truck and took up cover in a farm house. That farm house looked like Swiss Cheese by the end of the game from all the small arms fire I poured into it. I never was able to get those Pioneers removed (Vets, Down, in a building) but I sure as hell tried!
Result – Win
Game Three – Fuel Shortage – Ben & Ernie (Soviet Tractor Factory & Market Garden US Airborne)
Kriegsmarine MMG covers the advance toward US Airborne.
After I had complied the matchups for Game Three, I realized that Ben, Al, Ernie and myself would all be playing on tables 1 and 2. As the four of us have a long history of silly and insane Bolt Action battles at Tyton Games, I suggested to them that we play a single, 2v2 game. To my great delight, they all agreed! Thus, Al and his SAS teamed up with my Kriegsmarine to face Ben’s US Airborne and Ernie’s Soviets. To ensure we finished within the time limit we agreed to use our 750pt lists from Game 2 instead of the 1000pt lists originally planned for Game 3. Considering how Doubles games add significant playtime, it was the right call.
And thus, four 750pt lists took to the table for what promised to be one hell of a game.
Highlights from the game:
– Ernie’s Tractor Factory T-34s rushed up two approach roads in an attempt to contest our objectives. They got damn close. Spraying multiple MMGs at our hunkered down infantry, it look the combined might of multiple Autocannons to bring them down. Al and I were able to knock out both T-34s but those would be the only unit kills for the Kriegsmarine/SAS allies.
– An artillery duel! As infantry squads on both sides tried to move forward enough to contest the enemy objectives a massive artillery battle look place. I had both the 88 and a Heavy AC, Al had a triple Light AC, Ben with a light and a Med. howitzer, and Ernie with two Zis-3 AT guns. There were shells flying all over the place! Sadly Al and I took a serious beating but not before we shut down Ernie’s tank thrust.
– After five full turns on tense combat, insane shots, wild Outflanking and near misses the game ended in, a dead tie. Neither side to push into enemy territory and snag an extra objective. And not for lack of trying! My force was almost completely destroyed and Al barely had any SAS remaining.
– We played the game on my table! I’ve been playing Bolt Action since early First Edition and in all those years I’ve never actually had a full table of Bolt Action terrain. But no longer! This was my first game on the table and I gotta say, I’m a fan. I am very pleased with the terrain. Next stop, Adepticon!
Result – Draw
From a paint and hobby perspective we had an excellent turnout. Ben’s Market Garden US Airborne took home Best Painted and John’s DAK were voted Player’s Choice! I was thrilled to see many of the players take advantage of the Theater Selectors. Some of the unique forces included Ernie’s Soviet Tractor Factory force, Al’s SAS and Jeff’s LRDG that rolled up with no fewer than six trucks and jeeps!
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to bring Bolt Action back to Polar Vortex. The event went off without a hitch and truly feel that all the players had a great time. Pulling double duty as both TO and a player was exhausting but it was an absolute blast rolling dice with friends new and old. We had generous prize support from both GCmini and Tyton Games ensuring that every player left the event with a Bolt Action book or model kit. Both Allen and Ty have always supported the Bolt Action community and this year was no exception.
I fully intend to make Bolt Action happen at Polar Vortex 2023. I want to keep the event small and retain the escalation format. I already have ideas for new missions and themes. But for now, my sights are set squarely on Adepticon 2022. I have the honor to TO both Bolt Action Combat Patrol and Doubles. After two years off, Adepticon is already shaping up to be one hell of an event. I hope to see you there!