As I mentioned a long time ago I decided to break off from my typical 20mm scale for Bolt Action and try building a force in 28mm. I settled on a Russian platoon and got the bulk of my troops from Wargames Factory. Their boxed sets are nice but heavy weapons teams were non-existent. I looked around and settled on Plastic Soldier Co. as an alternative.
They have a pretty complete range of Russians available in 28mm. I had gotten the 45mm anti-tank kits and liked them. So I was eager to check out their heavy weapons sets too. There are 2 sets of sprues that come with each box with a variety of models for mortars, MGs, AT rifles, and other crew members.
For mortars you have both minis for the 50-PM 41 as well as 82mm medium mortars. Interestingly, the 82mm mortar has a rectangular base plate. I thought they typically had round base plates, so this might be some variant.
There are also two sculptures of minis armed with AT rifles. One is prone firing the weapon and another is carrying it. Along with the AT rifle troops are prone loaders.
Akin to the AT rifle models, you have Maxim M1910 MMGs in poses either being fired or transported with 2 crew (which I didn’t assemble). There are additional crew members but they don’t appear to be feeding the MMG directly or hauling ammunition. I am using a few as spotters for my mortar teams and possibly field them as artillery observers.
The models are pretty good. They have enough detail to stand out if painted, but I will admit they aren’t as crisp as some other minis I have from different manufacturers. Nonetheless you cannot beat the price, variety, and quality of the kits. They are a great value and not bad if looking for a number of heavy weapons to round out your platoon.
I’ve been plugging away at my russians making pretty good progression on them. I have a lot of figures to paint however. One of the nation rules for russians is you can get a free inexperienced 12 man rifle squad. That’s in addition to the three other squads I’m painting up. I’ve got a horde of comrades to paint.
Sadly, don’t have the space and set up to use an air compressor. That’s certainly something I want to dabble around with in the future. For now I’m stuck with hand painting everything. So I wanted to see about cutting corners some given I’ve have 50+ infantry to paint up.
Rather than put a lot of time into drybrushing highlights, I ended up using high contrast highlighting. The trick is to pick a lighter hue paint color and just touch on the clothing and parts that would catch most of the light. So you end up painting the folds and not the creases of jackets and tunics, lighten the top shoulders, highlight pant material around bent knees, etc. It will look a little off putting with the stark contrast, but that’s the result you want.
You will end up following the highlight contrast with a wash. This is another trick I used to speed up painting some by sticking with one basic wash for the entire miniature. I use Vallejo paints and inks mostly. So I’ve got a nice selection of shades. However, for my russians I stuck with a single sepia ink wash for the entire figure. It’s a nice general wash that adds some tone to the figure and looks good over everything. More importantly, it helps blend in the high contrast highlights I gave to the miniature.
One important bit is to soak up some of the excess wash that pools on the mini (particularly the feet). I used a paper towel corner that I twisted into a sharp point. Dabbing the end onto areas that have a lot of wash will draw up much of the excess, but leave enough behind to bring out the detail.
Some touch ups on the base, drybrush the boots some with a light grey, and a final sealing with a matte spray. Done. You get a nice effect by mixing the wash over the two colors of the tunic and pants. It’s quick and helps give some texture to figures that have a full uniform of a single color. A great technique if needing to speed paint a bunch of miniatures.
One 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.
Scouring around for places to pick up paints and supplies I stumbled across likely the new Mecca for hobby supplies for me, Neighbor Hobby. It’s nestled away unassumingly in the lower floor of an office building. But despite it’s location, they have a pretty amazing stock of model kits of all sorts.
There is a great selection of military models. Unfortunately for fans of Bolt Action, they carry only Tamiya 1/48 kits, but they seem to have a full selection from that line. As 1/72 and 1/76 scale kits go though, they have a great choice of tanks, soldiers, and terrain. With buildings I usually use 20 mm, even for 28mm stuff as it keeps a smaller footprint on the table and looks okay. I find true 28mm scale buildings just a little too big and even the smallest 2 story house seems to dwarf the rest of the table terrain. So having a lot of building model kits for sale was a pleasant surprise.
Now for paints, brushes, and other supplies you are set. There is a great selection of paints from Testors, Tamiya, AK Interactive, MIG, as well as my go to for painting, Vallejo. It’s a wonderful amount of choices and stock for both brush and airbrush painters. They also carry a complete selection of Testors and Tamiya sprays. Well worth checking out.
To get there isn’t too difficult. Take subway line 2 to Hongik University and get off exit number 3. You need to cross the street and footpath park and take a side street, then go right. Once you hit a main street go left and it will be in an office building.
However if you enter the front of the building you are actually on the 2nd floor and have to take the lift down to the 1st floor.
All in all Neighbor Hobby is a fantastic place to pick up military models, paints, and modeling supplies. It certainly is one of the top places to get wargaming model supplies in the city. It’s also in the same neighborhood as Rolling Dice so a great stop to get a double scoop of geek supplies while in Seoul.
I am a long time fan of Bolt Action and enjoy the game immensely. It’s a bit Hollywood but for skirmish WW2 gaming it gets a lot right. Another bonus for me is that it’s small enough in scale to offer some narrative potential with scenarios.
I’m not going to go much into the mechanisms of the game as my first review pretty much carries the same opinions as before. You instead for the most part have some refinement with the rules with the new edition. The game still has some parts that are a tad gamey, but some of the more glaring rules and wonky tactics that were in the first edition are curbed some.
This won’t be an exhaustive list but I thought I’d highlight a few changes focusing on some of the more notable ones. Likely the biggest change regards officers. Leaders now can potentially have multiple units to activate under their command. Most allow for 1-2 units within 6”, but higher ranking officers increase this to 12” and up to 4 different units.
If an officer successfully passes their order test (note the Down order is exempt from this), they can pull and assign extra order dice. The assigned units still have to pass their orders, but you can get quite a few units getting that extra boost to act while in the presence of an officer. This is a really great rule. Before the benefits of officers were minor unless working with a lot of inexperienced troops. Plus there was not much incentive to take higher ranked officers. This rule completely changes that and makes leadership have a greater impact on the game.
Some other notable changes to orders were also made. Rally now is not subject to pin modifiers to see if the order is passed, but the unit still only removes D6+1 pin markers. There is a small change to Ambush. If at the end of a turn you want to return a unit’s order die, on a 4+ the unit can immediately execute a Fire order before doing so. Just a little way to get something out of taking a unit off Ambush, if nothing ever presented itself during a turn to trigger it.
Another big change is that the Down order provides at -2 penalty to shooting at infantry and artillery units. This is a pretty hefty defensive bonus. Likely this will make the option of just hitting the dirt due to excessive fire more enticing for units and a solid tactical option. Not to mention those pesky air and artillery observers being able to evade fire.
Assaults no longer take off pins automatically for units fighting in hand to hand. Also target units can return fire automatically if they have not been given an order. Veteran units still have a heavy advantage in assaults, but at least it emphasizes Rally orders for removing pins. Another change is that assault weapons (like pistols and SMGs) get one additional attack if they successfully inflict a casualty, not automatically double the number of attacks. This lowers the effectiveness of these weapons in assaults (units that are Tough Fighters get this too), trimming down their ability to tear through units as before.
As weapons go, there are a few key changes. I always felt LMGs were lacking in the game and it seems that Warlord has listened to the community. Both LMGs and MMGs now throw an extra die when shooting. Another tweak for fixed weapons is that they can make a special Assault move, rotating in place towards any facing, and still be able to fire (with a -1 penalty to hit). These slight changes now make units like MMG teams a little more fearsome.
Flamethrowers were always a bit of a divisive weapon, especially vehicle flamethrowers. Now they don’t automatically hit and instead hit on a basic 3+ ignoring any modifiers for cover or units that are Down. Vehicle flamethrowers now only inflict D6+1 hits instead of 2D6. The plus side is that all flamethrowers now only run out of fuel on a 1 (instead of a 1-2 for man-packed flamethrowers).
Likely the biggest weapon change is in regards to HE as templates are used to determine the number of hits. I’m on the fence some with this. One aspect I cringe about is that the game now can get a little finicky with a player maneuvering templates around. The basic rules are that a player must always try and place a template to hit as many enemy models as possible, and they cannot also target friendly troops.
This limits the number of potential hits, especially for light mortars but it does add some consistency with the number of possible casualties. The plus is that across the board all HE weapons can potentially inflict more pins. Also there were some weird instances in the first edition where you might target a small weapons team and only be able to hit that unit, despite it being positioned close to other enemy troops. This certainly adds some tactical value to spreading different squads out to avoid being hit by large HE rounds.
There are a couple of notable changes to vehicles too. Empty transport vehicles can now fire one weapon. I love this change as it encourages armored transports to be used and having more importance on the battlefield other than just carting troops around. Mind you, the same rule for empty transports being destroyed if ending a turn closer to enemy units is still a thing.
Another change is that a player decides to fire either a main weapon or the co-axial MG, not both. This really cuts down the firepower of tanks. There is also a pretty big change with recce vehicles. They can only make an escape move if they have not been given an order die. It certainly makes using these vehicles for scouting more difficult, but also reduces the abuse some players had with these vehicles taking pop shots and scooting behind buildings to avoid return fire.
Additionally if opting to fire pintle-mounted weapons the tank is considered open topped. This is a small change to differentiate them from tanks with just co-axial weapons. However likely the pintle mounted guns are also flak weapons, and that now has some greater use on the table.
Certain weapons can now provide flak support. When a plane comes in due to an air observer, each flak unit can try to attack it, rolling to hit on a 5+. If scored total hits are 3 or more the plane is either shot down or sent away. I love this rule. It makes using air support a bit trickier to use (and possibly encourages the more expensive artillery observers instead). Lastly, it gives a greater role to flak weapons and encourages a player to add a few as a potential counter to air attacks.
There are some more small bits and tinkered rules (dense terrain, reduced assault rifle ranges, changes to sniper teams, etc.). Overall they are pretty much a refinement and incorporation of a lot of popular community house rules. Some of them shift away from truisms of the past editions. Now you have a reason to take a higher ranking officer. Now full infantry squads can re-roll failed order tests until they suffer a casualty, meaning investing in a large squad can get some tangible benefit other than just being able to suck up a lot of hits (which works especially well with inexperienced troops).
The book has a total of 12 new scenarios. Six of which are more meeting engagements, where the other 6 have clear attackers and defenders. Unfortunately, three of the scenarios are still a Maximum Attrition type of game, where you just have to kill as much of the enemy as possible. But the wrinkles in setup and some scenario specific rules shake them up some.
Much like the previous book, a truncated army force list is provided for each major nation. This time Japan is also included. Fans of a particular nation will eventually want to pick up the army books, but the lists in the book are serviceable and provide options to field a robust platoon. Lastly there are some other supplemental rules for night fighting, rules to incorporate more players, larger forces with multiple activations, and even multi-national forces.
The Good – The second edition is more an assembling of tweaks and house rules than a full blown rework of the game. For the most part this is great news. Some of the changes likely will mean players have to adjust their tactics (leaders with multiple activations, and units no longer automatically removing pins in assaults are a few). There is still that random order activation. Pinning units to degrade morale and effectiveness is still there. In short it’s still Bolt Action.
I like that more scenarios are presented. I’m especially glad to see them mine other games for some fun scenarios (like a classic 40K cleanse mission).The sprinkling of scenario specific rules also helps reinforce that Bolt Action can be very much a narrative historical game, and also an enjoyable tourney game.
The artwork and layout is pleasant, with each section having a nice heading on the outer edges of the page. There are more examples and more diagrams. And typical of Osprey books, lots of great art and pictures including a concise timeline of key historical campaigns and engagements to spur on ideas for possible battles in different theaters of the war.
The Bad – This isn’t a simulation game. There is still some abstract mechanics and you are going to get some pretty shifty tactics from players. With the addition of officers being able to allow multiple activations, some might feel the random initiative is simply too chaotic for their tastes over an IGOUGO system. And lastly, it’s still point based. You are going to get those guys making cheese platoons and trying to game as much out of the force lists as possible.
Another minor quibble is that the background of the pages have this stressed border graphic that appears like flock. All the pages on the right have what appears to be a smudge of gunk. While for a page with a sparse layout of figures and pictures, it doesn’t stand out. But for me it gets a little distracting having it among paragraphs of text.
The Verdict – I love Bolt Action and the 2nd Edition is certainly an improvement of the former rules. There are a lot of small changes and enough so that I would consider picking up the new edition. However if you only play the game once in awhile, likely you could get away with just sticking with the old rules and try to scoop up a new QRS/player aid.
It’s still a great, robust set of rules. It doesn’t lend itself too much towards being a staunch historical game. There are plenty of opportunities to play out those ‘what if’ games, and a few of the mechanics might be too abstract for die hard WW2 wargamers. Not to mention some platoon force lists that will likely make someone well versed in historical TOEs tear out their hair. But it gets so much right.
Bolt Action is chaotic and the concept of throwing a lot of fire at a threat to force it to hit the dirt, so your troops can maneuver, is still there. It’s just such a fun set of skirmish rules. And I particularly enjoy how the game encourages players to dig into historical books and fish out odd units. If you want to field a platoon of Moroccan Goumiers that fought in the Italian campaign, you can do that. That to me demonstrates how pliable the rules can be.
So like with my original review, Bolt Action is still a fun, WW2 skirmish game. And if a die hard fan or a new player interested in getting into historical gaming, the second edition is very much a great book to pick up.
Anyone that’s been reading my blog for a while will know I am a fan of the 1/72 scale Armourfast kits. These are not high quality models. However for 20mm wargaming they are excellent. Cheap, pretty easy to put together, and they come 2 vehicles per kit. If you are going for building up an armor platoon, they are an especially a good buy.
I finally finished up my 20mm Pacific US Marines and wanted to get a tank for my list. I recognize that Stuarts are likely the most popular choice but I wanted something a bit more fearsome, so I went the M4 route.
The Armourfast Sherman kit was a snap to put together. I would say one hiccup was fitting the turret peg into the hull. The turret peg isn’t molded into the turret and instead you’ve got to assemble it. Not an issue, but I found the hull hole where the peg fit into was a bit tight. Filing it down and putting a tad too much pressure meant twisting the turret peg some. I pulled it apart quick enough, straightened everything out, and filed the hole some more for an easier fit. However fair warning and ensure that the peg fits well into the hull before assembling (rookie modeler mistake from me as usual).
The details of the tank are okay. The pintle mounted 50 cal fits well. As per other Armourfast kits the inside tread wheels are more to be desired and are empty molded plastic without any details whatsoever. The plus is that you can’t readily notice them unless looking at the tank from a lower angle. Another plus is that as a single model peice it’s easy to assemble the tread wheels to the hull.
There are no stowage options and if wanting to add some personality to the model, you’ll have to go the route of pillaging other model kits for that. There are also no decals for the kit, so that is another thing I’ll have to pilfer from other kits.
The details of the tank hull stand up to painting well enough. Yet I’m a bit miffed with my choice of a wash. My original base coat had a nice dark shade for the tank treads but the difference between the hull became quite muddled after a wash coat. Still it’s a serviceable tank model for tabletop wargaming and good enough for 20 mm Bolt Action.
So a long while back I was scrambling to find a PIAT team for my 20mm British platoon. I settled on using some Italeri models which are pretty nice. The unfortunate bit was they were paratroop models. Now Bolt Action is pretty open to mixing and matching troop types. You could hand wave the entire thing and say they’re a few paratroops that folded into a Normandy group the first few days of the invasion. I was perfectly happy with that, but those minis sort of sparked my interest in working up a British paras force.
I went off and got a platoon of Italeri figs and got another British platoon painted and completed. They turned out nice and the box had quite a few different figures, however I still was missing a few weapon teams to round out my force. I started looking over some other minis to get and picked up on one from Valiant Miniatures.
They are pretty nice figures. There is a lot in the box, 4 complete sprues for a total of 68 figures. There is a nice selection of riflemen and figures with Sten guns, as well as PIAT and Vickers MMG troops. A nice bit is that some separate heads wearing berets are also included. While not 100% accurate with the uniform and kits, I was able to swap out some heads and paint them up to supplement my Italeri para troops. I also could now field some 3 and 2 inch mortars too for medium and light mortar teams, respectively.
As a bonus, I now had a PIAT team to whip up and throw into my other British infantry platoon painted as a proper army uniform team. I’m also thinking of hacking up one of the Vickers MMG to throw onto a Bren carrier. The downside is I now have a gaggle of odd Brit minis. Maybe I’ll find a use for them or hack up parts for other projects.
The Valiant minis are a stiff plastic which is easy to work with and uses regular plastic cement for assembly and basing. The figures are mostly one piece with a squarish base, so you’ll likely have to put them on bases of your own. They are detailed well enough. Some parts are a little blocky and the figures seem well proportioned even if some of the weapons are a little large. The facial features and hands are a tad cartoon looking, but well enough for 20mm figures.
They are somewhat large though compared to other figures, including being a bit over proportioned. I think a few figures don’t stand out too much on the tabletop, but you should be cautioned if trying to mix and match. Below is a comparison with a 20mm Plastic Soldier Co. figure on the left and you can see that the Valiant figure on the right is not only taller but also bulkier.
For wargaming they are suitable minis though and a great price with a decent variety in the box. Another nice point is that they are hard plastic which I’ve always found easier to work with in modifying and modeling. Overall if you’re on a budget, they are a good set to pick up for 20mm wargaming.
This week just a small tip for folks delving into miniature painting. If you are like me you might have a lot of different game systems and army projects going (sometimes several simultaneously). Once an army is done, going back to add a few troops or units is always an option. However it can be a tad difficult to remember what paints were used before for that force.
Another issue is that occasionally your miniatures will get some dings and dents. You may find needing to touch up a miniature or two. So trying to think back what paints you originally used for a base coat along with the proper wash might be a problem. It’s compounded if you’ve been painting a slew of other stuff since then too.
To get around this I use note cards. I write down the paints used for base coats, washes, and highlights. Additionally I pair this information up with the appropriate parts of the models. Along with the name of the paint, I also place a small dab of the paint color on the card.
This way I know exactly what colors I used for say, the webbing on my US Marines, along with the colors used for the drybrush highlight too. The color reference is also there in case I have problems tracking down a specific paint. I then have a hue to compare to if seeking a replacement paint from a different manufacturer. Another plus is I can take the card with me into the shop to directly compare.
They are very handy. I’ve got a slew of unfinished 15mm Russians I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years now. At least with the paint reference cards I have some confidence I can revisit them again using the same color scheme as I had done in the past, ensuring that my army will have a uniform look. So consider keeping track of the paints you use on your minis. While I find note cards handy, but even a notebook is helpful. After all you never know when you might have to touch up a couple of minis (or add another squad to your force).
Warlord games has been diligently releasing their theater specific books and I was able to finally snag a copy of Bolt Action: Empires in Flames, their Pacific campaign book. This details quite a few parts of the entire Pacific and East Asia conflict from the initial invasions of Japan into China during the second Sino-Japanese war, engagements in Burma, to the final allied island-hopping offensive to take back territory from Japan. As with many of the previous books it not only covers some scenarios, special troop types, and unique rules for these games, but also provides brief historical background overviews of the conflicts.
The book is broken down into sections first dealing with the 1937 outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, then detailing the rapid conquests Japan had during the initial part of WW2, up to the final years of the war (with Burma and the other major allied offensives being their own section). There are only 8 scenarios listed in the book, but taking a page from Ostfront, there are lists of scenarios out of the main Bolt Action book that are recommended as ones that would be applicable for that period of the war.
Although the scenario count is limited, many have some unique layouts in terrain to give them a twist from your typical games. Additionally, they employ some special rules incorporating night fighting, mines, or amphibious assaults, or ones more specific to the stress troops had in a jungle environment (like exhaustion, monsoon rains, or deep mud). There are also quite a few suggestions for the density and type of terrain that should be on the table for these games. I’ll admit it’s a little disappointing more rules weren’t included but there is enough to add some wrinkles to your typical game which could capture that feel of jungle fighting.
One thing that stands out included in the book is a complete army force list for Chinese national forces. If hankering to duke it out during the initial Japanese invasion into China, this book has you covered with some Japanese theater specific lists. But along with that is a complete list of units and vehicles that would be thematic for the Chinese national army at the time. It certainly is a very niche force, but an interesting option if looking for something different in your typical Pacific theater games.
Along with this new force list are also some new units for both Japan and the allies (both US and Britain), including rules for Mongolian Russian troops. There are a sparse number of heroes and a few vehicles. Most of the new units are for infantry troop selections. Rules for horse limbers and mule-packed guns are also presented as troop options.
Amphibious rules are presented, as well as rules for night fighting, city fighting, and minefields. There are some additional rules that attempt to capture the challenges of fighting in the jungle (monsoon rains and deep mud). Another interesting rule tweak is exhaustion. This rule potentially strips away troops from infantry and artillery units. Exhaustion can also impeded Run orders (units must always check leadership, even with no pins) and units in reserve are more difficult to bring in. It’s a bit of a gamble if playing with the jungle specific rules for exhaustion as it can randomly effect just the attacker or just the defender (or possibly both sides).
The Good – The book provides a nice overview of the different types of engagements that typified warfare in WW2 for this region. Touching on the years up to the start of the war, along with the initial part of the Japanese military campaign is also welcomed, as it’s something not quite visited in typical WW2 rules.
The theater-specific rules are okay and having additional units are always welcomed. The detailed scenarios aren’t groundbreaking but do offer some different challenges from your standard Bolt Action game. It’s especially nice to have a complete army list and theater-selectors for a Chinese national force, which certainly stands out from your regular Pacific wargame book.
As with many other Osprey books, the art is great. It’s well organized and having the special rules dedicated in a single section at the end of the book is nice.
The Bad – There is a lot of ground and history to cover, but it would have been nice to provide some more scenarios. As with many of the other books, a fair number of scenarios are presented more as generic battles with a Pacific flavor rather than detailing a specific battle. Even though the horse limber rules are presented again, it’s a shame the rules for flag bearer units weren’t included.
The Verdict – Empires in Flames is a niche book. It certainly is for a player wanting to focus on the Pacific war. Most of the rules covered have been seen elsewhere in other campaign books (although it’s nice to have them collected in one book here again). So if looking for tons of new rules, some might be disappointed.
Additionally the number of scenarios provided might be considered a little sparse. However the ones provided offer a nice snapshot of the particular types of battles seen in the Pacific. There are quite a few suggestions for table layouts, special rules, and theater-selector lists to use too.
I think Osprey has hit their stride with putting these campaign books out. Empires in Flames manages to present a wide range of different conflicts in the Asian region well. I don’t consider this book a must have for everyone. But if war in the Pacific is your bag, you’d be remiss not to pick up this campaign book. It’s got a lot of meat in between its pages to keep a Bolt Action fan happy.
For a long while now I’ve been pretty much sticking with 20mm for my Bolt Action platoons. I’ve accumulated quite a few different nations dabbling both in the Pacific and European theaters. Usually when I jump into a wargame I end up picking up enough models to fill out a couple of armies. It’s just so much easier for me to spark someone’s interest in playing when I’ve already got an army for them to try out. So for Bolt Action, going 20mm was not a problem at all for me.
However I realize that if I was dumped into a gaming scene where I’d be typically playing against folks with their own armies, well, I guess they might frown a little on me pushing around 1/72 scale troops and tanks. So I wanted to work on another nation army that would be a ‘proper’ 28mm scale and settled on fielding a Russian force. One aspect of my choice was that I’d be able to dig up some 1/48 scale armor and vehicles. I could have chosen some other smaller nation, but rounding that out would likely be difficult. The downside of course would be that I’d have to whip up a lot of models. Russian armies work with having lots of bodies so I certainly wanted to look into plastic kits.
There are a few options out there but in the end I decided to make the bulk of my troops from using the Red Army box sets from Wargames Factory. These are pretty nice sets of around 30 figures with a variety of small arms. Most weapon options are for Mosin Nagant rifles and PPSh-41 smgs, but there are quite a few DP-28 lmgs and various sniper rifles also. My complaint would be that I wish there were more rifles. You can get about 15 figures with rifles from a box set. From my 2 sets, I wanted to squeeze out a 3rd rifle squad but it looks like I might have to stick with making that a smg scout squad instead (was able to get a free 12 man rifle squad though for a total of 3 rifle heavy units).
The figures are pretty well sculpted with a fair amount of detail. It’s hard plastic that is a snap to assemble with cement and they don’t appear to have excessive mold lines (although there are some and you can see from the photos I still need to trim more). Another small bit I love about the box is that lipped bases are also provided. There are a couple of prone figures that don’t get any benefit from the bases, but it’s a nice touch.
There are a variety of heads but most are with helmets with a smaller proportion having caps. There are a some officer caps and a few female soldier heads also. As a nice touch, you have the option of making a couple of female troops which is cool. Something historically accurate and adds a little variety to how your force looks on the table. I made one of my sniper teams women and working on converting my field medic to be female.
As pistols and other accessories go, the sprues are a little lacking. They are present but in a limited number. However there are tons of ammo pouches and field kits. So certainly you can deck out your troops to have some additional details. I will grumble some that the entrenching tool and canteen are modeled as a single piece which somewhat limits options for attaching them.
Arms are modeled individually and at first I sort of groaned looking at this, worried how much of a chore it’d be to piece them together properly. However each arm is paired by letter along with a matching body figure making it a much easier process. Still, you’ve got individual arms, heads, and other gear kit bits to glue. Expect your assembly of troops to take a while.
Nonetheless the end product is fairly good. They are digital sculpts but they look like they can handle some detail rather well. I’ll complain about wanting more rifles, but there are enough different weapons between smgs, sniper rifles, and lmgs to provide lots of options. While most of the bodies are single sculpts, with movable arms and heads you can get enough dynamic poses to give the models variety. Adding more kit options and about 5 body figure types, you end up with enough to make your force look engaging with plenty of differences in poses. Hands down, the quality and price for these kits are hard to beat and are an exceptional value for wargaming. Well worth looking into to bulk up your Russian force.