Siege of Tobruk – TO’s Recap

In a man-to-man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.
– Field Marshall Erwin Rommel

In late-January I had the privilege of running my very own Bolt Action tournament! The venue and date were set, but it was up to me as TO to design engaging scenarios, create list construction criteria, reward players with prize support, cater to a wide variety of play-styles and ensure every player felt their games were worthwhile fights and fun regardless of the end result.

Many Bolt Action players enjoy the rush of competing against opponents to secure victory in a tournament/event setting, but it may be surprising to learn about what goes on behind the scenes to ensure a smooth experience. Leading up to the event, months in advance, I set out to create an event that every player wouldn’t soon forget!

Mission Design

The goal of my missions was to provide engaging games for players of all forces and army builds. This engagement was centered around multiple ways to earn points and a special twist in each game to both keep things fresh and keep players on their toes. After each game, I discussed the scenarios with players and often, the game wasn’t decided until Turn 6, 7, or in some cases the last Order Die pulled!

Mission 1 – Early Morning Patrol

  • Objective: The sun has yet to rise on a calm morning. Scout out the surrounding area and eliminate any enemies encountered.
    • End Game Scoring Kill Points:
      • At the end of the game, tally up the following:
        • 1 point for each enemy unit killed.
        • 1 bonus point for each enemy HQ unit killed (Lts, Forward Observers, High Ranking Officers, etc.)
        • 1 bonus point for each enemy unit killed in close combat.
    • To secure victory you must win by a margin of 2 or more points (Ex: 6-4 Victory). Otherwise, a draw is declared.
  • Mission Rule: Dawn Raid
    • Visibility for Turn 1 is limited to 12 inches. Visibility for Turn 2 is limited to 24 inches. Turn 3 and onwards is played with full visibility.

Post-Game Takeaway:

Woah – I was pleasantly surprised to hear the tactics players employed to leverage the bonus points! The combination of limited visibility on the first two turns and bonus points to kill units in close combat as well as HQ units allowed for heavy close combat units like submachine gun squads or cavalry to get into position for a Turn 2 or 3 charge, but with the protection of the limited visibility, artillery and counter units were placed in Ambush to prepare for the oncoming assault.

Many players’ lists were evenly matched by Order Dice, so it would come down to these bonus points to grab the victory.

Results: 7 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw with the point spread barely hitting the win-by-two condition. The first mission of the day proved to be quite the nail-biter for many players and was a good foreshadowing of what would happen through the day…

Mission 2 – Pilot Rescue

  • Objective: A pilot’s plane has crash landed! We need to rescue the wounded pilot and return him to battalion CP, lest the enemy capture him and learn our plans.
    • End Game Scoring Objectives:
      • At the end of the game, tally up the following:
        • 1 point for each Objective held at the end of the game
        • 2 points for the pilot’s recovery
    • Objectives can be captured by a friendly Infantry, full Transports, or Artillery units within 3” and no enemy units within 3″. Objectives can be contested by any unit including Vehicles.
    • To secure victory you must win by a margin of 1 or more points. Otherwise, a draw is declared.
  • Mission Rule: Plane Crash!
    • At the beginning of Turn 4, before any order dice are pulled, place a new objective in the center of the table (the unfortunate pilot) and roll a scatter dice (use an Order Die) and 3d6. Move the objective 3d6” in the direction of the arrow. That new objective is now in play and cannot be moved. It is worth 2 points at the end of the game. Rescue that pilot!

Post-Game Takeaway:

Inspired by the Glider Crash scenario in Campaign: Fortress Budapest, this mission was a fight for Objectives (one in the center of each table quarter) with a fifth Objective randomly scattered in the center of the board to simulate a pilot parachuting down onto the battlefield.

Many players know the post-lunch round can be a bit of a craps-shoot. Sometimes your food arrives late, pairings need adjusted, and players need to all be on new tables and face new opponents. This chaos factor forced me to think on my feet to carry the players smoothly from lunch into Game 2. A handful of players came in late so to ensure the full scenario was played, I had the parachuting pilot drop occur on Turn 3 instead of Turn 4. This adjustment was appreciated by the handful of players who started late.

Now, talk about nail-biters! Players had no idea where the valuable pilot would drop and these two points were essential to winning the game! Having this mission be end-of-game scoring forced players to take calculated risks to capture the pilot. As I walked around the game space, I heard table after table involved in brutal close combat fighting over these objectives with several players making use of Reserves and Outflanking to get a late-game jump on the Objectives outside of their respective table quarters.

Results: 7 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw.

Two down, one to go. The board is set with four players battling for the top prizes. What will this scenario bring? Let’s dive into the final game…

Mission 3 – Seize the Supplies

  • Objective: The desert is a cruel place where each drop of oil is as important as water. Armies must seize any opportunity to capture supplies on the battlefield.
    • Progressive objective scoring:
      • At the end of each Turn, the player scores 1 point for each Objective held. The Objective is contested if any enemy unit is within 3” of the Objective at the end of the turn and yields no points.
    • 1 bonus point is scored for each enemy Vehicle is destroyed (soft-skinned vehicles included).
    • To secure victory you must win by a margin of 2 or more points (Ex: 6-4 Victory). Otherwise, a draw is declared.
  • Mission Rule: Scattered Supplies
    • Each objective is a crucial supply dump. To represent this, a unit holding an objective gains the following ability:
      • Re-roll all 1’s to hit in a shooting attack (indirect fire does not benefit).
      • Note: If contested, the supply dump confers benefits to both friendly and enemy infantry and artillery units within 3” of the objective.

Post-Game Takeaway:

When designing missions, I recalled on past experience where these Objective missions often favored highly mobile armies and there was nothing in my packet preventing spam of trucks or armored carriers! Since players did not know of the missions prior to list construction, and I did not receive list submissions until long after the missions were created, I smirked at my foresight of the back-and-forth nature of this game. I included bonus points for killing enemy Vehicles (including soft-skins) on top of capturing the Objectives themselves!

The re-roll 1’s granted to contesting Infantry and Artillery units as well as capturing units proved interesting as players were firing point-blank at each other and Down or Recce orders being essential to weathering the storm of bullets.

As the top tables battled it out for their respective titles and the remaining players fighting for glory and one final dash at victory, I noticed players who may have had an easy time in the first two missions struggle to secure victory (just as planned, mwahaha…). Many games were decided again by barely hitting that win-by-two condition and there being far more draws!

Results: 4 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws (two players had to drop due to travel obligations going into Game 3)

I designed the missions to best reward players for taking balanced armies with tools to deal with a combination of opponents and win-conditions. Seeing the battles first-hand throughout the day, I was thankful to see handshakes abound and hear the results of various shooting and close combat attacks being exclaimed with both triumph and sorrow depending on the result of the ever-fickle dice.

Army Construction

Being the first tournament I would run myself, I wanted to ensure players came in with the mentality that this was a casual-leaning tournament meant for green recruits as well as grizzled veterans. As such, I impressed the intent of this friendly competition on the players via a strict control on units that would be considered overly strong.

  • 1,000pt force consisting of 1 Generic Reinforced Platoon
    • No Theatre Selectors or Campaign-specific units can be taken outside of ones that specify in their entry that they can be taken in a Generic Reinforced Platoon.
  • 14 Order Dice limit – including free units
  • Maximum of 1 Flamethrower can be taken – whether they be a unit upgrade, vehicle upgrade, or weapon team.
  • Maximum of 1 unit of Gurkhas can be taken in a British or Commonwealth force.
  • Maximum of 1 unit with a Heavy Howitzer may be taken, either as an Artillery unit or mounted on a vehicle.
  • Maximum of 1 unit with a Multiple Launcher weapon may be taken, either as an Artillery unit or mounted on a vehicle.
  • The Leadership Standard – your Platoon commander must have a veterancy equal to or higher than that of the majority of your force.

Army Breakdown:

  • Germany – 7
  • Hungary – 1
  • Great Britain – 3
  • United States – 2
  • Soviet Union – 2
  • France – 1

As I reviewed lists more closely, I was surprised to see that many players opted to explore new army builds or take unusual picks compared to the traditional competitive meta…

Key stats of the 16 players:

  • Only 2 Flamethrowers were present.
  • Only 1 Heavy Howitzer (though many players took Light or Medium variants)
  • No Gurkhas even when we had three British players
  • Only 2 players took a Multiple Launcher
  • Half of players had a Mortar
  • Half of players had a Sniper
  • Order Dice High: 14
  • Order Dice Low: 7
  • Order Dice Average: 11

There was no correlation between number of Order Dice and the total score! This came counter to my first predictions upon seeing people’s list submissions. Thank you, Aaron, for challenging my understanding of army construction, haha.

The Ringer:

Something that will come up occasionally when there is an odd number of players is the TO steps in to play as a Ringer in addition to rules judging and running the event overall. While I did not have to perform double-duty this time around, I nevertheless prepared a Ringer list of my own Afrika Korps force and had some thoughts about what differentiates a ringer list from that of a paying player.

The function of a Ringer is to play the lowest scoring player each round so they don’t have to sit out and take a bye round. That being said, the Ringer has no chance of claiming prize support and the list construction should reflect this intention. If I were to win a game against the opponent, I wouldn’t want to play back-to-back games against them, so if the Ringer wins the game, I rule it as a draw for the opposing player instead of a loss. That allows the Ringer to play against someone who lost every round through the day.

I opted to use the Afrika Korps Starter Army as a basis for the army with some additions to leverage what the Germans can take in a Reinforced Platoon and give the list some more teeth than your standard starter box. I also limited myself to use the average amount of Order Dice per platoon across the players at the tournament – in this case it was 11 Order Dice.

German Reinforced Platoon
Officer
Second Lt – Reg – 50
x1 Buddy – 10
60pts
Infantry
Heer Infantry Squad- Reg – 8 men – 80
x1 LMG – 20
100pts
Heer Infantry Squad- Reg – 8 men – 80
x1 LMG – 20
100pts
Heer Infantry Squad- Reg – 8 men – 80
x1 LMG – 20
100pts
Fallschirmjager Section – Vet – 6 men – 98
x6 SMG – 18
x1 Panzerfaust – 5
121pts
Med. Mortar Team – Reg – 50
Spotter – 10
60pts
Artillery
88mm Flak 36 dual purpose AA/AT Gun – Reg – 160
Spotter – 10
170pts
Armored Cars
Motorcycle with MMG Sidecar – Reg – 40
MMG
Recce
Turn on the Spot
40pts
Transports
Truck – Reg – 39
MMG – 15
54pts
Tanks
Panzer III Ausf. L – Reg – 195
Turret-mounted Med. AT Gun w/ co-ax MMG
Hull MMG
Armor 9
195pts
Total – 11 Order Dice1,000pts

Prize Support and Awards

Now that the missions were made and army lists were submitted, now comes the unique responsibility of a TO – prize support!

Thanks to the combined support of Warlord Games and our venue host, Golden Rhino Games, I set out to structure prizes so all players had a chance at glory on the podium and even players who didn’t make it would leave the event with something in-hand and a motivation to try once more at victory.

To my pleasant surprise, there was an even number of Axis and Allied players, so our first two prizes were set for Best Axis and Best Allied. Glory for the day went to the Axis as Chris M and his Late-War Germans went an impressive 3-0 vs. a number of strong opponents to secure Best Axis.

Also making an impressive showing were Franklin M’s Soviet Guards (and very threatening Quad Maxim AAA GAZ Truck) and day-of-event arrival Matthew S’s 8th Army British with an army of Bren Carriers and a Cruiser Tank! These two titans battled it out on the final table ending in a draw with Order Dice killed being the final tie breaker making Matthew the victor and taking home Best Allied.

At the other end of the results ranking, I laughed as I recalled a younger and inexperienced version of me walking up to the podium to grab my “award” of new dice for coming in last place. The Purple Heart Award (and it’s accompanying set of new dice) went to Shawn M and his Afrika Korps.

Now, with an excess of prizes, I found myself thinking about the things I admired in players outside of the competition and two things stood out – Best Painted and Best Sportsman!

For Best Painted, although I did not require armies to be painted for this event, I ensured players were aware ahead of time that painting would be highly encouraged. With the help of Andrew’s painting rubric, I set out to judge players’ armies during lunch and fitting enough, I was drawn to the incredible conversion and painting work of Andrew’s own Kriegsmarine force dominated by an 88mm Flak Gun!

Best Sportsman is an award not seen too often in the competitive spheres of other game systems, but is one I was pleased to see in every tournament I went to in Bolt Action! I have come to learn the community prides itself on the “gentlemen’s war” where two players come together to compete and regardless of the result end in good handshakes and excitement for a rematch. Every player at this event started with 30 Sportsmanship Points and would be docked depending on instances of unsportsmanlike conduct. To my admiration, every player emerged with their 30 points intact with one player standing out among the rest – Henry S and his German force complete with Nebelwerfer and no less than 13 panzerfausts! As I walked around the tables, I heard Henry and his opponents rectifying mistakes, and cordially discussing rules discrepancies.

I understand that the heat of battle and possibility of victory can sometimes get to a general’s head, and I was thankful to see that all 16 players were upstanding to each other and marked “Yes, I would play my opponent again” on their scoresheets for all three games.

Warlord sent us enough prizes (a combination of box sets, tape measures, and dice) for all 16 players to leave with something regardless of their standing. Not all was an exact match however… I found two other models in the box from Warlord – this month’s exclusive “Soldier of Fortune” Red Devil – Battlefield Angel!

Now, what was I to do with these extra models? I thought it would be fun to offer them as secret prizes unbeknownst to the players. One model would be given to the first player to get a 6 on their first shot with an Indirect weapon – which ended up happening within 10 minutes of Game 1’s start! This went to Matthew and his Brits. The second model would be given during Game 2 to the player who first to roll Insane Courage on an Order Check. This went to Dave D, also a British player! Maybe it was fate that brought these Red Devils to British generals…

Final Thoughts

All in all, I had a blast running this event and was surprised how tired I was after the day’s organizational efforts. Many players came up to me throughout the day to thank me for running it and were reminiscing on the back-and-forth nature of the missions I designed. Seeing everyone leave with prizes in hand and anticipation for the next event motivates me to continue my journey both as a player and TO.

Golden Rhino Games, with their recent expansion, proved an excellent venue with many players saying they would love to play here again! Plenty of space, diverse product selection, and a welcoming staff were invaluable in creating a great tournament experience for everyone.

Thanks again to every player who came out to my event and I look forward to many more, and a special thank you to Andrew and Anthony W for providing extra terrain!

Results

PlayerNationBattle ScoreAward
Chris MGermany60Best Axis
Matthew SUK50Best Allied
Franklin MSoviet Union50
Nicholas MUSA45
Joe VFrance45
Jason SSoviet Union45
Aaron NGermany45
Andrew VGermany35Best Painted
Joseph FHungary35
Dean VUK25
David DUK20
Dragi VUSA20
Ryan LGermany20
Anthony WGermany20
Shawn MGermany20Purple Heart
Henry SGermany15Best Sportsman

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