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An Introduction to Bolt Action. What is Bolt Action? Part. 1 - War Gamer

An Introduction to Bolt Action. What is Bolt Action? Part. 1

Long time no post my fellow War Gamers. Sadly responsibilities, formal engagements, and life having been getting in the way. Anyway, enough about me, lets get on to talking about more important things, playing with our favourite toys!

Now in my personal gaming life, I’ve been getting into a little game that you may have heard of, called Bolt Action. I’m going to break down these articles into four parts:

1. What is Bolt Action?

2. What you’ll need to play a game of Bolt Action.

3. The Nations of Bolt Action.

4. How to play a game of Bolt Action.

So without further ado, lets begin…

What is Bolt Action?

Bolt Action is a 28mm scale World War 2 based game, all the major nations that you would image that you can play with are available.

A US Aireborne anti-tank team takes aim at oncoming German armour.  Hopefully they've not gone a bridge too far...

A US Aireborne anti-tank team takes aim at oncoming German armour.
Hopefully they’ve not gone a bridge too far…

Other minute and niche armies are also available, some not so specific to a nation.

The guys at Warlord Games describe Bolt Action as the follows:

“From Blitzkrieg to North Africa, from the Russian Front to the D-Day Landings, Bolt Action puts YOU in command of the most brutal and famous battles of the Second World War.”

The beauty of Bolt Action is that as it is based upon a real period of time, you can draw on a cavalcade of different sources, brining you a whole range of information and date to inspire what and how you collect a mighty force for your games of Bolt Action.

Bolt Action utilises a series of statlines and preordained rules to differentiate between lets say a Tiger-1 and a Medium Machine Gun. Like many other game systems out there, Bolt Action differentiates clearly what a unit is, how it operates on the battlefield, what weapons (if any) it carries, and other much needed details to play the game.

Bolt Action like other contemporary game system uses elements of randomness to demonstrate the place of chaos on the battlefield, and to add further depth. Not every soldier (heck some weren’t even formal soldiers, but pushed into tough situations of fight or die) was accurate as each other, nor is every weapon as powerful as each other. Rolling to hit and wound/penetrate units comes as expected these days, skill tests, and moral tests to see if the resolve of a unit has been broken are very much core to the game system. But where Bolt Action differentiates significantly, for the better in my opinion, is that turns are determined randomly between players. Order dice are an integral element of the game system of Bolt Action, for every unit taken, you receive an order dice towards your dice pool. At the start of every round you place all of your order dice and your opponents into the same cup, bag, receptacle give them a good shake, then randomly draw a dice out of the cup. This is where it is helpful to use differently coloured dice, as whoever dice is removed from the container it is now there turn, and they can issue an ‘Order’ (keep tuned for what that exactly is in later articles) to any of your units. 

An example of a German force for Bolt Action, including vehicles, tanks, transports, artillery, and infantry.

An example of a German force for Bolt Action, including vehicles, tanks, transports, artillery, and infantry.

Armies of Bolt Action

First thing you need to do is like any other game system is select what nation you want to play as. As the game is not based on a fictitious story, a series of events that have culminated under the heading of the Second World War. This horrendous period of time in modern human history touched the lives of billions of people, unimaginable destruction was wrought across the world, lives destroyed, nations rose and fell; the world would never be the same again. But moving away from the doom and gloom, this allows a great deal of variation in terms of what faction you can play as, all with very different units, abilities, costs, doctrine and much more. The Army books that are available at the moment of publishing this article (August 2015) are as follows:




  • Great Britain & Commonwealth
  • Germany
  • United States of America
  • Imperial Japan
  • France and the Allies
  • Italy and the Axis
  • Soviet union

Other Minor nations that you can collect for Bolt Action that borrow rules, or use free temporary PDF rulesets are as follows:

  • Belgium
  • Finish
  • Poland
  • Bulgary
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • China
  • Partisans

So now you have a general idea of what nations are available, and what Bolt Action is, then why not recap your learning? By watching the video below to find out what the guys at Warlord Games have to say about their exceptional game systems.

Is Bolt Action an historical game or wargame?

Bolt Action is very much a wargame, at heart, but also an historical game. It centres around the chaos of the tabletop, sometimes that Tiger-2 taking a shot at a lone Jeep out in the open might fail to do anything, people do miss from time to time… By the above statement, what I am getting at is that I believe Warlord have hit the sweet spot in terms of getting a good cross-section between an historical piece, and what is essentially a glorified bucket o’ soldiers (no offence intended Warlord, we love you guys).

If you want to build an historical force that obeys what was available at the time, and stay true to the narrative, then you very much can do that. Theatre Selectors give you guidance in terms of what to take so you aren’t spamming Pershing Tanks in the middle of Germany in 1939. The Theatre Selectors give some nice guidance in terms of would have been available at the time, whilst also providing the occasional special rule for your force. As an example the ‘Baptism of Fire’ special rule for many nations, including the Soviets, Brits, and the Americans, disallowing you from using Veteran units during a certain period of time.

But going back to what type of game Bolt Action is. Bolt Action has been a great joy for me, rekindling my love for wargaming. It is not really an abusive system, that encourages or allows power playing (hint, hint at some companies). That’s not to say that serious games of tactical genius can’t occur, but I’ve found Bolt Action very much a great way to unwind and a have a casual game. Many laughs will be had when insane things such as the Tiger and Jeep incident occurs. Or when you happen to draw all of your order dice in a round, before your opponent even draws one of theirs.

The models in terms of quality and range from Warlord Games are growing on a constant basis. With many nations transitioning from metal and resin to multipart plastic miniatures as well.

In Conclusion…

As expected, Bolt Action has it’s own little foibles, but what game system is perfect? If anything this allows a community to grow and ask questions about a game system that people love. It turns a game system into more than that, a subject that is enjoyed and grows with its players.

Sorry if I have missed anything, but life beckons again sadly. But I hope I’ve given you an idea of what to expect from this great game system. Until next time, keep Wargaming my fellow War Gamers.

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3 Responses to “An Introduction to Bolt Action. What is Bolt Action? Part. 1”

  • […] For those new to Bolt Action check out our first part of four, An Introduction to Bolt Action. […]

  • […] those new to Bolt Action check out our first part of four, An Introduction to Bolt Action. If you like what you’ve read, make sure to ‘like’ us on ‘Facebook‘ and follow us […]

  • […] If you want to learn more about Bolt Action, then why not read our first part in this introductory series to Bolt Action; ‘Part 1. What is Bolt Action‘? […]

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