Review: Bolt Action – Armies of Germany 2nd edition

germanarmy2ndOne nice thing that Osprey and Warlord Games is doing with the new edition of Bolt Action is pretty much keeping all the older army books usable. No updates will be made to them. The exception though would be the german army. When Bolt Action first hit, the germans seemed to have gotten stuck with the first army book curse.

A hallmark of 40K was that with each new edition, there would be several new codex books released updating all the races. Commonly the first book would end up being ‘underpowered’ compared to the other armies that were released later. More cool ideas and better balancing (or imbalances) would come out after a new edition was released. Typically the first army book would have point costs and choices that seemed ideal on paper, but after a few years of essentially further playtesting from the community at large, later releases of army books would have better options and point costs more in line with their relative value on the tabletop. Sadly, this was viewed from many the same for Bolt Action regarding the germans.

I’ll start off and cover stuff that hasn’t much changed from the first edition. You still get a nice product that covers the german army and various units that were seen throughout the war. There is a brief historical overview of the conflicts and different theaters the german army participated in, then a breakdown of the force organization and options for a reinforced platoon, followed up by theater specific force lists. The layout follows the new format seen in the force lists of the 2nd edition book, which I think is a little easier to read and digest. I haven’t gotten too deep in the lists, but for the most part it seems the costs and unit options are the same as the first version.

The german army has a few new nation rules though. The replacement of fallen NCOs and Hitler’s buzzsaw (LMG and MMGs get an extra d6 shooting) are still in place. One big change is that all german officers get an extra die for giving orders to other units. In effect a 2nd Lt. acts like a 1st Lt., and a 1st Lt. pulls 3 dice like a captain, etc. which is a big change. With the right deployment you can get very effective turns activating several units within command range. I like this new rule for the german army and it’s something that somewhat reflects the discipline and leadership much of the army had in WW2.

The other new nation rule which is a little more flaky is Tiger Fear. Every enemy unit that sees a vehicle with this special rule acts as if it has an additional pin except for orders to fire on that vehicle. Now for a Panther or an actual Tiger, I could see this as a nice flavor rule. But this also applies to the Panzer IV which to me sort of pushes that into OP territory. You suddenly have a medium tank that can make it difficult for enemy units being able to advance and take objectives, simply by seeing it on the table. I expect Tiger Fear to be heavily house-ruled for many people.

You have a scattering of a few new units. Ambulance vehicles can now be chosen which operate as both a transport and as a medic unit, which is interesting. Additionally there is a special section at the end which covers units and vehicles that had night vision gear for those night fight games.

The Good – This is a fairly comprehensive book for players that want to field a german army for Bolt Action. You get a lot of options including several special units and theater lists that cover much of the war including a few that have some special rules for engagements at certain time periods (such as limited fuel for the end of the war, or unreliable new production panther tanks that were mid-war). I like that the german army also has a few extra nation-specific rules which can bolster their force some. As typical for these books there is a lot of great Osprey artwork and photographs, along with a comfortable layout to read the unit choices and costs.

The Bad – Aside from the few extra paragraphs for the nation specific rules, you aren’t going to find much different from the first edition. There are a few minor changes here and there (such as light infantry mortars no longer being able to fire smoke rounds). But essentially the point costs and unit selections are just about the same. On one hand you might be pleased with this, meaning you don’t have to alter up the composition of your platoons much. But on the other hand, if you think there were glaring imbalances with point costs for certain units, they are likely still there.

The Verdict – If you are a new Bolt Action player and fancy fielding a german platoon, this is a must buy. You get so many options and choices, along with lots of theater-specific lists to let you dabble in more historic TOE forces, it’s worth getting. It’s also an attractive book with a lot of material to offer a decent source of information for both painting and modelling, as well as a touch of history.

If you are an older player of german forces, this might be worth picking up. You could likely take a pencil to the older edition and mark down the few special rules and changes to some key units. Other than that, you could simply commit the new nation rules to memory and work with your old book. You aren’t going to find much here that is new or different from the first edition. In fact, I’d say embrace a more environmentally sound choice and possibly get the PDF version and alter the few special rules in your old print edition manually.

It’s an attractive book and the new nation rules are worth noting. However it’s likely not something you absolutely need to have a print version of if you’ve got the older edition (just use the new nation rules). Yet for new players, the 2nd edition is certainly something to buy if playing a german army. A pleasant book with some more material other than just unit profiles and force selectors to serve as an enjoyable light read for a german army enthusiast.