Anatomy of an Army List

The majority of Bolt Action games are played using the Generic Reinforced Platoon. This strives to provide a force organization that two opponents can build balanced forces around. Although Generic is in the name, there is a lot you can do to customize your Platoon and make it your own.

Before moving forward, setup an EasyArmy account. It’s the best tool available for creating and editing Bolt Action Army Lists.

Platoon Structure

The Generic Reinforced Platoon follows a universal structure:

Reinforced Platoon
1 Lieutenant (First or Second)
2 Infantry Squads
Plus
0-3 | Infantry Squads
0-1 | Captain or Major
0-1 | Medic
0-1 | Forward Observer (Artillery or Air)
0-1 | Machine Gun Team
0-1 | Mortar Team
0-1 | Sniper Team
0-1 | Flamethrower Team
0-1 | Anti-tank Team
0-1 | Artillery, Anti-aircraft or Anti-tank Gun
0-1 | Armored Car
0-1 | Tank, Tank Destroyer, Anti-aircraft vehicle or Self-propelled Artillery
0-1 | Transport vehicle or Tow per Infantry and Artillery unit in the Platoon

Platoon Requirements

All Generic Reinforced Platoons must include one Lieutenant (First or Second) and two Infantry Squads. The two Infantry Squads can be pulled from any of the Infantry Squads listed in your Nation’s Army List. That’s right, any and all Infantry Squads are valid choices for your Required Infantry Squads. The two Squads do not have to be the same. For many players, this is where the theme building begins. If I want to build a force of British Commandos, my two required Infantry Squads could be Commandos. Or if I was looking to create a Defense of Berlin force, my two required Infantry Squads could be a squad of Volksstrum and a squad of Late War SS.

As for the Lieutenant, they are all the same for every Nation (with a few minor exceptions). The decision you need to make it, do you want a 1st or a 2nd Lt? Conventional wisdom is that if you are running a Veteran force, bring a 2nd Lt. If you are running Inexperience units, bring a 1st Lt. For a Regular force? You could go either way.

Additional Units

Once you have those required units sorted it’s time to add some additional units. This is where the true customization begins. Although all Generic Reinforced Platoons follow the same organization, you can run wild with theme and flavor. You have a lot more freedom than you may realize. Your Army List could be a small band of hardened Veterans, or an Inexperienced horde or a fully mechanized force recon. All are legitimate options using the Generic Reinforced Platoon. With the exception of Infantry Squads (0-4), all of these options are 0-1. Meaning you can take up to one Captain or Major, up to one Machine Gun Team, up to one Tank, Tank Destroyer, Anti-aircraft vehicle or Self-propelled Artillery, etc.

Let’s explore each of the options available.

Please note, this exploration was created for a 1,000pt, Single-Platoon Army List.

Infantry Squads

Honestly, this exactly the same as your Required Squads. You have run for up to four more Infantry Squads and they can be anything! Typically you’ll want a squad to support and a squad to assault. The support squad could include multiple LMGs, embedded mortars (like the Japanese Knee Mortar), or VB-launchers. The assault squads could be tooled up with SMGs, ARs, Panzerfausts, or Flamethrowers. You are spoiled for choice with your Infantry Squads – what kind of Platoon do you want to make? Your Infantry selection is where you can make your idea come to life. Will you go for raw numbers? Massed squads? Hardened Veterans? Something in between? Depending on your play style (aggressive, standoffish, defensive, agile), the Infantry Squad picks are where you can shape your Platoon.

Captain or Major

You rarely see a Captain or a Major on the table, especially at 1,000pts. It’s such a significant points investment for not much return. Conventional wisdom evaluates units with a simple question, “Will it get it’s points back?” The simple answer for Captains and Majors is, “No. No they will not.” However, they are specific Army List builds that a Higher Officer is an effective move. Inexperienced forces have a real problem with Morale. But add a Higher Office with a 12″ Morale boost bubble? Well, those five 12-man Inexp. Squads are looking a whole lot more effective. In general, these are probably not a great pick. Especially for new players. But there is a time and place for Higher Officers. One thing is for sure, this is the kind of unit that you build your List around.

Medic

This is the Dreamers pick. Not hard-nosed analyst is ever going to recommend a Medic. The chances of a Medic making its points back are so slim that it is without question an ineffective choice. But. But there is that 1 in 6 chance to save a 33pt Vet LMG gunner. And that makes it worth it for me. When creating a Veteran force, the Medic is worth a look. Not because he may save your expensive Vets, but because he gives your army a cheap Order Die. Vet forces struggle to get Order Dice in the bag and adding a Medic to your force is an additional Order Die for low, low price of 30pts Vet. Plus, can you even put a price on that amazing feeling of making a Medic save roll? No. The answer is no.

Forward Observer

Forward Air Observer – Oh how the mighty have fallen. Back in First Edition it would have been unheard of to see a US List without a Forward Air Observer. Air Observers were hit with a significant nerf in Second Edition and now you almost never see them. Why is this? It’s much easier to stop the air strike from coming in and that’s a lot of points to spend on a strike that has a significant chance of being competently ineffective.

Forward Artillery Observer – These are a different story. Besides being a free addition to all British Lists, they provide effective crowd control and area suppression that cannot be stopped by your opponent. There is always the chance that the strike will not arrive when and where you want it, but it’s coming in. At 100pts Reg, a Forward Artillery Observer is often a worthwhile choice. Just make sure you call it in before getting sniped out…

Machine Gun Team

The MMG Team is the unit that everyone wishes was better. Outside of the German MMG Team (6 shots at 36″ is legit) there is not much good you can say. It really is a bummer – the MMG is so iconic. It drips WWII theme but you never seem on the table. There are just so many things going against it:

1) Can be taken out with one Exception Damage shot
2) Cannot move and shoot
3) If it rotates, it’s a -1 To Hit
4) For the same points you can get five Regs with Rifles – it’s just not great.

I like to think that there is an effective use in a US Platoon (you can take 0-3 MMG Teams) where you create an effective overlapped field of fire / Ambushes but that may be a stretch. Using MMG Team for area denial is a legitimate tactic, but there are many counters to the MMG Team and that will reduce the effectiveness of this strategy.

There is also the HMG Team. HMGs are not available for every Nation and I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever seen one the table. Depending on your List there may be use for an HMG. Having more Heavy Weapons is always a good thing. Having a +1 Pen weapon with three shots is great against transports and other soft-skin vehicles, as well as a Veteran Infantry counter. Although Autocannons are a stronger option, the HMG provides this support without taking up the Artillery slot of your Platoon.

Mortar Team

Mortars are amazing. At first glance you may feel that a weapon system that can only fire indirectly is not great. That first glance, is incorrect. Yes, you always have to range in on your target. Yes, the first time you fire you cannot hit on anything other than a 6. But those are the only cons. Everything else is a pro. A Mortar Team forces your opponent to make choices – Do I stay put or do I move? Each and every turn your Mortar gets closer to dropping a HE Template on the target. In addition, your Mortar can fire from safety. Using a Spotters’ line of sight, you can tuck this Team back behind some woods or a building and know that you are safe from enemy fire. Let’s take a look at your three options:

Light Mortar – I feel that the Light Mortar is an overlooked pick. Although it only fires a 1″ HE template, the weapon dose not have the Fixed rule. This means you can fire the Light Mortar on an Advance. If you already have some solid HE support via a Howitzer or SPG, a Light Mortar is an inexpensive pick for further mobile HE support. Worth noting, Light Mortars cannot take Spotters.

Medium Mortar – The traditional choice. The Medium Mortar supplies indirect fire support with the incredibly effective 2″ HE template for an incredible price. With the option to add a Spotter (Reg. and Vet. only), what’s not to like? Target priority is the main decision point for you. You need to target the your enemy Fixed threats – Artillery, MMGs, Snipers – and force your opponent to make the hard choice on weather to shift position (and not fire) or stand and hope for the best. The point is, you need to range in on targets that need to stay put in order to be effective. Trying to drop shells on an Infantry Squad that is only going to move towards an objective anyways, is not a good choice. Depending on the state of that game, using a Mortar with an early Turn Order Die can force those hard calls.

Heavy Mortar – Same as above but in a bigger package for more points. The Heavy Mortar packs a massive 3″ HE but it’s not always worth those extra points. Plus, a 3″ HE template is much scarier than a 2″ and a Heavy Mortar can quickly become Public Enemy #1.

Sniper Team

The Sniper Team is often considered a gamblers’ choice. On paper, it sure looks incredible. The ability to target a single, specific model at 36″ always hitting on a 3+ (unless Pinned or down a man) is awfully powerful. That is, until you start to do the math. If you make you shot (2/3) change. You have a wide varience in your ability to deal damage. An Inexp. target will go down on a 3+ (2/3 change again), but a Reg. target is a 4+ (50/50) and a Vet. target you need a 5+ (only 1/3 chance). What I am saying is, your Sniper will get a lot of hits, but that’s probably about it. Luckily, I hate doing the math. Taking a Sniper Team is cool. They are thematic, they are fun to model up and they are fun to use. Your opponents are scared of Sniper Team because of the threat they pose. Even when the chances of being a game changer are low, it’s still an issue that must be addressed. And my word to people love to take shots up a Sniper Team (Small Team, in cover, at range) and just hope for those 6×6 rolls. I will never fault someone for taking a Sniper, it’s a hard unit to pass up.

Flamethrower Team

Arguably the most powerful weapon in Bolt Action, a Flamethrower is one of the few weapons with a chance to delete an entire squad after one shot. It’s a weapon system that has a highly likelihood of either destroying the target outright or causing the target to fail a Morale Test and flee (same as destroyed). What may newer players fail to realize is the potent AT capability of a Flamethrower. Yes, you need to get real up close and personal but just from taking a hit, even if you cannot deal damage, will force the vehicle to take a d3-1 Morale Test (no easy thing).

The downside to this raw power is that every time you fire the flamethrower, even if you miss, you must roll to see if it has run out of fuel. On a roll of 1, the tanks are empty and the Team is remove from play. This is an effort to balance out the Flamethrower. Having this weapon as 100% reliable would be just a tad over the top. And trust me, it’s plenty powerful.

If the theme of your List allows and you have some points to spare, you should consider bringing a Flamethrower. Even better, if you have an Infantry Squad with the ability to take a Flamethrower embedded in the squad (much like an LMG). Having a squad for protection greatly increases the chances of getting that Flamethrower to where it needs to go.

Anti-tank Team

Another option with well, a lot of options. Anti-tank Team covers everything from Bazookas, PIATs, AT Rifles, Dog Mines, Sucicide AT Teams and Panzerschrecks. As many of these are army specific, we wont dive into too much detail on the specific options. Instead we will discuss at a high level what this slot in your Platoon can provide. When creating your Generic Reinforced Platoon, you should have some form of dedicated AT asset. That could take several forms – a tank, a massive AT gun or one of these teams. If you are considering the most bang for your buck, an AT Team is the option for you. Tanks are expensive and AT Teams are cheap. If you are strapped for points and need something to deal with enemy amour, fill this spot in your List.

With these AT Teams you will have a highly agile AT option. Do not underestimate the power of the Small Team bonus. You will be able to hide these teams pretty much everywhere. Using a AT Team is a game of cat and mouse. You need to get your usually limited range AT asset within striking distance of a big bad nasty tank. Getting your team into position and then locking down a lane or an approach with an Ambush Order can do wonders.

Another popular tactic is to pack a two-man AT team into one of the numerous car / Jeep / Gaz / Kübelwagen and fly in off a flank or zip 24″ up a road only to Advance 6″ out and pop your shot at a massively increased threat range. Considering how cheap those cars / jeeps are, it’s a legit strategy. Of course, overextending yourself is something to always be aware of but using an AT team as a Forlorn Hope to knock out a 250+pt. tank, well, that’s just what it’s all about.

Artillery, Anti-aircraft or Anti-tank Gun

Ok there are a lot of options to cover here. Again, not going going to dive into too much detail but inside of this one slot you can take:

Artillery – Light, Medium or Heavy Howitzer or a Multiple Launcher:

Light Howitzer – This is your basic Artillery, it all builds up from here. For my money, Light Howitzers are one of the most effective units in the game. They can fire 2″ HE either Indirectly or over-open-sights. Add on a Spotter and you have an incredible little gun that does not need a Tow to be moved around. Depending on your Nation you may or may not have the option for a Gun Shield or the Spotter but either with or without, Light Howitzers are just fantastic and you shouldn’t have a problem finding room in our List for one.

Medium Howitzer – The bigger gun. Medium Howitzers are common, they are also terrifying. The 3″ HE template has a massive threat factor and there is no Infantry target that won’t be killed on 2+. At 75pts Reg, the Medium Howitzer is a steal. Even after adding a spotter for +10pts you are still getting an incredibly destructive unit for under 100pts. Plus, with four crew and a Gun Shield, this unit can soak up more small arms fire than you think. If you are behind cover it’s a real pain to try and remove a Med. Howitzer from the table without using HE or a Flamethrower. And let’s not forget, a +3 to Pen against vehicles using an AP shell is nothing to sneeze at. I wouldn’t want a Med. Howitzer to be my primary AT asset, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Heavy Howitzer – The biggest gun. Rolls this out from when you need to drop 4″ pie plates on your opponent. As awesome as that sounds, it’s honestly a bit overkill. Sure the +4 to Pen is great, but against any Infantry target, you are already killing on 2+ with the +3 to Pen from a 3″ HE. Yes it’s fun to roll out the heaviest of artillery but do you really need to? The effectiveness of the Medium Howitzer if hard to beat and going with a Heavy is a tad over dramatic. The 40pts it costs to go from Med. to Heavy are better spent elsewhere.

Multiple Launcher – There are several Nation-specific weapons in this category – the Nebelwerfer, the Land Mattress, the Calliope, the Katyusha. Although they all have a different look and feel, they all work the same. Multiple Launcher have the possibility to straight up ruin your opponents day. Unlike other weapons in Bolt Action, these can hit multiple targets in one go. And by hit I mean blast them to into dust with a 3″ HE template. However, there is a downside. You can never, ever hit your target on better than a 6+. Whenever you fire, you always hit on a 6+. Never worse, never better. And you cannot take a spotter, so you will always been within line of sight of your target. And you don’t have a Gun Shield. Thus you are exposed but in one Fire Order you could hit multiple enemy units with massive damage and Pins.

Simply put, a Multiple Launcher can win you games. Or be completely useless. But their relatively low cost makes it a low risk option. Honestly the points are not the issue, it’s taking up your Artillery slot that is. Oh, don’t forget. You can also fire at empty buildings and hit all the enemy units within 6″ of the building itself (you need to roll to hit each unit). Playing on a city table just got more deadly.

AA Gun – Light or Heavy Autocannons, Multi-MG Platforms:

Because these options also exist within the Artillery, Anti-aircraft or Anti-tank Gun slot of the Generic Reinforced Platoon, you almost never see them. And that’s a real shame. The Automatic Cannons are probably the most underrated weapons in Bolt Action. Let’s explore why.

Light Automatic Cannon – Your options will vary Nation to Nation but in general, the Light AC is a two-shot weapon with 48″ range, a Pen of +2 and the option to instead fire two 1″ HE shots. They are almost always mounted on a rotating platform (giving you 360 arc of fire) and come with a Gun Shield. For 50pts Reg. Just for context, that is the same cost as a MMG Team. The versatility is a major selling point. You can ace soft-skins and harass Light Tank with the AP, and you can put serious hurt on Infantry with the HE. But, because taking one blocks your Artillery / Multiple Launcher / AT Gun options, you rarely see them. The Light AC is a weapon that cannot stop your opponent on it’s own, but at a dirt cheap price you get one steal of a weapon, it just needs to be used in conjunction with other supporting elements.

Heavy Automatic Cannon – For only 10pts more than the Light AC, the Heavy AC gives you two shots at a whopping 72″ range with Pen +3 or HE 1″. If you are strapped for points and you need a suitable AT asset, this is the great pick. It’s only 60pts! And firing two shots with Pen +3 at an armored target is pretty fantastic. Sadly, same Force Org issue as the Light AC. It’s once you mount these onto a Light Tank or Armored Car is where they really shine.

Multi-weapons platforms with MMGs, HMGs, ACs – These are just super fun. The options varey wildly by Nation and include everything from twin-HMGs to quad-Light ACs. The weapon systems themselves are nuts. If you catch an Infantry out of cover and open up with a quad-HMG? Well, I’ve been on the receiving end of that – my Vets did not last long. Your main issue is cost. Many of these multi-gun weapons are prohibitively expensive and are borderline immobile. However, you get a solid deployment that allows you lock down a wide arc of fire and you can hold an entire flank.

AT Gun – Light, Medium, Heavy or Super-heavy AT Gun:

Fixed AT is well, not great. Being fixed is issue. You are spending a lot of points (AT is more expensive than HE) on a weapon that (for Heavy and Super-heavy) cannot be moved without a Tow. You also cannot move into / out of any Rough Ground or Buildings. You also have a limited arc of fire. You are easily out-flanked and also easily avoided in general. There are, of course, exceptions to this but in Bolt Action you want your AT to be mobile, able to set traps for your opponent, able to dive into cover, and able to quickly seize an opening. Fixed AT like this cannot do any of those things. Oh, and it also is completing for the same spot in your Platoon as all the Artillery / Multiple Launcher / AA guns described earlier.

Light AT Gun – Of all the fixed AT options, the Light AT Gun is my favorite. The price is right and it’s effective. The Light AT does only have a 48″ range so your threat is minimal outside of 24″ but anything outside of a Heavy Tank needs to think twice before making a move. Light AT can also be moved by the crew, you don’t need a Tow, that is a major plus. Would I ever take a Light AT Gun instead of a Light Howitzer? No. I don’t think I would. But that also depends on the rest of your Platoon. There is a time a place for Light AT.

Medium AT Gun – Now you are looking at an effective AT asset. A 60″ range and Pen +5 you can control a massive part of the table. Pen +5 is where every Tank really needs to pause and consider what could happen if they entered your field of fire. I think the Medium AT Gun is the pick if you not have other AT as part of a Tank or Armored Car. With +5 to Pen on everything within 30″, that’s some major projection of power. 75pts for the Reg is getting to the ceiling and only a three-man crew is a downside. Also only having the 1″ HE option is a bit of bummer. However, for what you are paying for, the Medium AT does exactly what it needs to do.

Heavy AT Gun – With a 72″ range and Pen +6 for 110pts you will be able to stop any Tank tank that comes your way. The problem is the ‘comes you way’ part. Heavy AT Guns cannot be moved by their own crew. You are at the mercy of the table / deployment / your opponent in order to get a shot lined up. To use Heavy AT effectively, you need to think about area denial. This is not an offensive weapon. It is defensive. Once deployed, unless you want to spend a Turn limbering and then another Turn unlimbering, your gun is not going to move. So pick a spot with a wide arc of fire and lock it down. Make sure nothing can cross your lane of fire. Use Ambush and, if you are lucky, you’ll be able to take a shot.

Super-heavy AT Gun – These guns just destroy anything they touch. Pen +7 is pretty insane. Even with Armor Value 10 you take a full penetrating hit on a 4+. Plus with 84″ range, you are not going to be shooting much of anything outside of close range. Everything that applies to the Heavy AT Gun apples here, just more. It’s more expensive, but more effective. It’s a lot of points to put into one weapon that cannot move but under the right circumstances it can be devastating. One thing is for sure, the cost of the Heavy Tank you just destroyed was way more than the cost of this gun.

Armored Car

Armored Cars are often the sleeper of the List. ACs can fill just about any roll you need and plug a gap in your force. They can be a true AT asset, an outflanker, an anti-infantry machine or a full on second Tank. There is so much variety and you are remiss if you do not take a close look at the AC options available for your Nation.

We will build out this section further by looking at our favorite Armored Car choices at a later date.

Tank, Tank Destroyer, Anti-aircraft vehicle or Self-propelled Artillery

And here we are, the kings of the battlefield. There is something mythical about the Tank. Something that makes it almost impossible to not include in your Platoon. Luckily, there are more options for Tanks than any other unit type in Bolt Action. I’m serious, take a look at the drop-down list for Tanks in EasyArmy, it’s insane. Although the rules attempt to split tanks into different categories – Tank, Tank Destroyer, Anti-aircraft vehicles and Self-propelled Artillery – there is nothing that differentiates them in the game. All of these armored vehicles function the same. There is no difference (rules wise) from a so-called Tank Destroyer with a Heavy AT Gun and a regular Tank with a Heavy AT Gun. It seems like a missed opportunity. I understand the desire to keep the Bolt Action rules high level and no get bogged down in the minute difference in weapon caliber or gun sights, but just a bit of spice to make these categories of vehicles feel different from one another would have been cool.

There are way too many options to even attempt a breakdown. Not even a breakdown of the categories (meaningless as they are). All you need to know is no matter what you need a Tank to do (land-battleship, long range support, close support, AT, anti-infantry, outflanker, whatever) there will be an option. You just need to find it.

Also, armored vehicles are one of the most rewarding units to model and paint. They will almost always, do to size alone, be the centerpiece and the focal point of your Platoon. They are the perfect opportunity to lavish detail, weathering and extra character.

We will build out this section further by looking at our favorite Tank choices at a later date.

Transport vehicle or Tow per Infantry and Artillery unit in the Platoon

In a break from the 0-1 restriction on the other units types, Transports and Tows are 0-1 per Infantry and Artillery unit. So, if you have three Infantry Squads, an MMG Team, and Light Howitzer you could take up to four Transports and a single Tow.

Transports – All Nations have access to a basic Truck and Car. The Trucks are up to 12-man transport capacity, wheeled, and usually have the option to add a Pintle-MMG. Although we all want to field a massed formation of armored transports and half-tracks, the humble Truck is what you want. Why do you want / need a Transport? It’s to give yourself speed. It’s to allow an assault unit to take advantage of a break in the enemy line, to fly in from Outflank and to get behind the enemy. All of these objectives are accomplished by the Truck. And it does it for fewer points and with more speed than an armored transport or half-track. Yes, the 250/1 Hanomag looks awesome. Yes, I want to command a swarm of Bren Carriers. But for what it costs, it’s just not a great idea.

All of this is to say, don’t overlook the basic, no frills, soft-skin options for your transports.

The classic strategy is thus – put a tooled up ‘assault’ squad into a Truck. Keep the Truck in Outflank. On Turn 3 or 4, roll in the Truck deep behind enemy lines with an Advance Order – Fire the MMG into your target unit – Bail out the squad with an Advance – Finish off the target squad. Tried and true.

Tows – Unless you are created a mechanized platoon that includes a Transport / Tow for every unit, you don’t need to bring a Tow for anything outside of Heavy or Super-heavy Gun. And if you do have a Heavy or Super-heavy Gun, you need to bring Tow. If you play a game that includes First Wave, and you don’t have a Tow, you won’t be able to bring the gun onto the table. Having to bring a Tow is a bit of tax for those big guns, but considering you can get yourself a Tow for around 15pts (and that gives you another Order Die), it’s hardly a bad trade. Most Tows have no weapon options. Sadly this means that after they have brought the gun to the table, they are useless. At that point, their only job is to not get destroyed. If you have the option to put a MMG or similar on a Tow, they make excellent point defense units that can cover the flank of your gun.


And there we have it! Version 1.0 for Anatomy of an Army List. I hope this helps players get an idea of the options they have available when creating a Platoon.

Last update – 02.23.21

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