A guide to list building in Bolt Action, using the late war British army as an example.

A British Late War List for Bolt Action

List making is something of an art form in many rules systems, and I have to admit that it’s not my strength. Still, in our group I probably have the most experience with Bolt Action and particularly in playing BA at tournaments and events. Of course I don’t exactly tear up the rankings in most tournaments, so take my advice with an appropriate helping of salt.

My favourite faction to play WW2 wargames with is the British and Commonwealth forces so that’s the kind of list I’ll be building in this post. Fortunately Bolt Action factions don’t tend to vary all that much when it comes to list building considerations. I’ll be making a 1000 point list as that is the most common point value I’ve seen played.

I’ll also be trying to steer a middle course between strict historical accuracy and playability. I see Bolt Action as more like playing out a WW2 movie than a documentary, so I’m willing to fudge history a bit here.

The Core

britsection

One of our four sections.

Your list needs a good, solid core of infantry to hold and take objectives. These can be veterans, regulars or inexperienced troops.

I am not a fan of seeing my poor men gunned down in droves and stampede off the field, so inexperienced soldiers don’t cut it for me. Your mileage may vary of course, and inexperienced hordes can certainly be effective.

Veterans are harder to kill than regulars and also more likely to follow orders in the heat of combat, but you pay for that. If you go with regulars you’ll have more boots on the ground and more firepower at first – as regulars shoot just as well as vets – but they will die noticeably faster once the bullets start flying.

I’m going to go with regulars and hope I can keep them alive. Because they’re fragile I’ll make the squads quite large and get four of them. I’ll also give the NCO a sub machinegun for a little extra punch up close and so that I can tell him apart from his troops – interestingly real WW2 NCOs often ditched their distinctive smgs to make it harder for snipers to pick them out.

I won’t be using lmgs in my squads as I find them to be horribly overcosted for regulars (veterans can get some use from them). This is an unfortunate nod to playability for the list as British sections relied on the Bren lmg for most of their firepower in reality, whereas in Bolt the lmg is a very small upgrade to the section’s firepower for a hefty price.

I’ll give them a first lieutenant to lead them, as his extra morale bonus is very useful for getting regulars to follow orders. As this is a British platoon they also get a free forward artillery observer.

  • Regular First Lieutenant – 75 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Forward Artillery Observer – free

Support

sniperteam

Originally named for hunters skilled enough to hunt the elusive snipe bird, snipers have a huge effect on enemy morale.

To get the job done my infantry will need support. The first unit I like to throw in is a sniper team. These men are a very reliable source of pins and can pick out nasty targets like flamethrowers embedded in squads, which otherwise can ruin your whole day.

Although not famous for them, the British made good use of snipers in reality – primarily to slow enemy advances.

  • Regular Sniper Team – 50 points

My next choice is a flamethrower team. This team is very fragile and a bullet magnet on the table, but if left in reserve in a transport it can really save your bacon. Honestly this combination is so useful that I think you’d need a reason not to take it – unless you’re considering a vehicle mounted flamethrower of course.

In reality whilst British infantry had excellent access to man portable flamethrowers, they rarely used them unless they ran into a heavily dug in force that refused to surrender when surrounded. I’d rather include a Wasp, which was widely used, but I’ll cover that issue later.

  • Regular Flamethrower Team – 50 points
  • Regular Jeep – 21 points

Next comes some heavy firepower in the form of a mortar and an artillery piece. A nice medium mortar can put some serious hurt on the enemy and also lay down smoke if needed. With a 60” range I find a spotter very valuable.

The platoon doctrine of British and most Commonwealth armies relied heavily on smoke provided by a 2” mortar. In Bolt a light mortar has too little range to be used to cover an approach, so I use a medium mortar.

  • Regular Medium Mortar with Spotter – 60 points
25pounder

With its long range and excellent rate of fire, the 25 pounder was the backbone of the Royal Artillery in WW2.

For artillery the British have an easy choice. The 25 Pounder masquerading as a Light Artillery unit with its AT round for dealing with inconvenient armour is almost an automatic choice. Medium Artillery is also a good choice, and I keep reminding myself that I have to finish painting mine.

In WW2 a 25 pounder, with its 12km range, would never be this close to the enemy unless something had gone drastically wrong, but in Bolt Action I find it a necessity.

  • Regular Light Artillery – 55 points

My final support piece will be some armour. The Commonwealth forces have a good range of excellent armoured support that can handle both infantry and other armour. I use a wide variety of tanks and armoured cars in my lists, but for this one I’ll fall back on an old favourite – the Sherman with a 105mm howitzer. This can erase squads of infantry and, while not particularly good at killing tanks, can put a decent number of pins on most of them.

The most historically accurate choice for armoured support for British infantry in the late war would be a Churchill as this is quite literally the role it was designed for and they were imbedded in infantry formations. The Sherman 105 is a reasonable historical choice however. It was often used in Italy to support infantry – and it is dramatically cheaper than the Churchie.

  • Regular Sherman IB (105) – 175 points

Rounding it out

shermanIb

The British didn’t use the 105mm armed Sherman in NW Europe for very long due to shortages of ammunition and a desire to prioritise it for the U.S. forces, who used the 105mm howitzer as their standard light artillery piece.

Out of my initial budget of 1000 points I have 90 left, which gives me a fair bit of scope to fine tune things. Firstly I’ll be adding a 3 ton truck to haul my soldiers around. The extra mobility is often useful, and an extra order die is nothing to sneeze at.

  • Regular 3 Ton Truck – 39 points

Finally I’ll add a Universal Carrier in the armoured car slot. It is a useful source of mobile firepower, and was a mainstay of the British army. It is also the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.

  • Regular Recce Carrier – 60 points

Final Touches

Now is the time to go back over the list and fine tune it. My first thought is that the Universal Carrier could use a pintle mounted lmg. It is only a 10 point upgrade and it literally doubles the UC’s firepower. To pay for it I’ll take one man out of one of my infantry squads. This leaves me on 997 points, so I’ll add an smg to a squad and call it a list.

The last choice is a suitable national rule. This is very much a personal choice. I have had the most luck using the Rapid Fire and Up and At ‘Em rules. For a list of regulars without alot of punch in close combat, I’ll go with Rapid Fire.

  • Regular First Lieutenant – 75 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 2 SMGs – 106 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 10 men & 1 SMG – 103 points
  • Regular Infantry Section (Mid/Late War) with 9 men & 1 SMG – 93 points
  • Regular Forward Artillery Observer – free
  • Regular Sniper Team – 50 points
  • Regular Flamethrower Team – 50 points
  • Regular Jeep – 21 points
  • Regular Medium Mortar with Spotter – 60 points
  • Regular Light Artillery – 55 points
  • Regular Sherman IB (105) – 175 points
  • Regular 3 Ton Truck – 39 points
  • Regular Recce Carrier + pintle lmg – 70 points
  • Doctrine: Rapid Fire

1000 Points, 14 Order Dice

A Note on Vehicle Flamethrowers

There are no vehicle flamethrowers in this list because our local tournaments and events tend to ban them outright. The game designers have conceded that they are somewhat more powerful than intended in the current version of the rules. I do use them sometimes, but prefer not to rely on them, which is why this list has a man portable flamethrower instead of a Wasp.

Posted in 20th Century & Beyond (1900 to now) and tagged , , .

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