The problem with LMGs in Bolt Action

VeronicaFoster-RonnieBrenGunGirl-smokeI really enjoy Bolt Action. While it’s not a WW2 simulation it certainly is a fun skirmish game. As it’s been out a while, sure enough errata has slowly crept into it. However the lead designer, Alessio Cavatore, has a philosophy of trying to minimize errata. He really believes in saving it for rules that are unclear, as opposed to trying to fix problems in the game.

One thing that has stood out for a long time is the LMG. Being a tournament game, based on building forces with points, inevitably you are going to get people trying to get the most competitive army possible. As such, LMGs consistently never seemed to make the cut. As a team weapon at +20 points, it appears people just couldn’t justify the points for getting them.

There are some slight advantages with LMGs. Most notably is the range. At 30″ they can really reach out and touch someone. You can get pins put on a unit well before they can return fire. Even with penalties for firing on the move, long range, and having a target in light cover, with 6s you are rolling enough dice to get roughly a 50/50 chance to throw on a pin.

I’m convinced LMGs were viewed in the light of max squads. They are the only way to add some firepower to a full unit. Given LMGs are team weapons, having 2 extra dice would be roughly equivalent to having 2 more rifles in a squad. From that perspective, paying +20 points for a LMG works out. The 2 extra dice being similar to spending another 20 points to add two more men.

This falls apart though when you aren’t looking max squads. A regular 5 man squad with a LMG compared to spending an equivalent 70 points for 7 riflemen, you actually throw out less dice. Due to the team weapon rule, you only get 6 fire dice. Ignoring that 7 man squads can take more casualties and pitch more dice into an assault, you still come out on top with fire dice compared to buying a LMG with the same points.

The cost for LMGs are broken. Sadly, it’s not something that will be addressed either (or at least until Bolt Action 2). But for a competitive tournament scene, it’s odd that LMGs are not encouraged more to be included in a force list. This also smacks right in the face of historical composition of infantry squads. LMGs were pretty much standard armament to compliment infantry. So a couple of ideas to consider…

Drop the team weapon – I did this for my BA sci-fi conversion. With no loader needed, you are at least matching the number of dice that a 7 man rifle squad is rolling. So that 5 man squad with a LMG generates the same amount of fire dice for the same amount of points.

Lower the cost of LMGs – The other answer is lowering the points. One suggestion is paying only 5 points. At first this seems too cheap. However if you take into consideration the team weapon rule, you are only generating 1 more die for shooting when comparing a LMG to 2 riflemen. Looking at this, +5 points for LMGs match very well against troops armed with BARs or assault rifles which generate a similar number of extra fire dice.

Of the two I am leaning towards dropping the team weapon rule. Maybe only have a penalty if it’s the last person in a squad. The only reason I am leaning this way is I like keeping points for models roughly similar. That way if in the incredibly unusual situation I actually hit up a tournament sometime, I am not scrambling to adjust my points. This is the only reason however. Looking over the numbers, keeping it a team weapon and lowering the cost to +5 points is actually a better solution.

I’ll put money on the point cost of LMGs being addressed in an updated rulebook. Till then I guess I’ll have to tinker with them to make them more cost efficient.