Very sore head!I spent last weekend with the in-laws in Scotland. I enjoyed a little piece and quiet for a change and was able to do some thinking. The subject of this difficult enterprise was the idea that Bolt Action could be turned into hex based game. This is an idea I have had before but have never thoroughly tested out.
First off I actually had to read the rules. Easy enough I thought, many better people before me have done this and survived. My first issue is that the rule book is 216 pages long, that's a big read even if it does have lots of pictures.
The second issue is that the infantry game is quite straightforward. Using hexes significantly simplifies a lot of the mechanisms including unit cohesion, line of sight, who can shoot etc. However, when you get to the vehicle bit it looks like a bolt on (sorry). Superficially similar rules actually follow a different path, for example, "down" and "pinned" for infantry are interpreted differently for tanks. Not a surprise in itself but, for me at least, a sign that the underlying mechanics are not holistic. They have been bolted together (sorry again) to make a game.
The third issue is the army lists. Loads of really boring points led stuff. Tedious in the extreme, great for selling miniatures though.
The fact that people buy Bolt Action, get the miniatures and have a nice time is great and I don't begrudge that at all. The rules just don't fit the inside of my head.
I then had another look at the Neil Thomas WWII rules from his Wargaming: An Introduction. Firstly, very short. 30 pages including introduction, rules, army lists and scenarios. The army lists are very simple which is also great and give lots of nice options when combined with some nice simple scenarios.
So far so good. When I started to look at a hex conversion I was struck by the similarities with Bolt Action. Things like unit cohesion and firing ranges etc are simplified by using hexes. I didn't enjoy working out firing dice by range band. I had to do a similar thing for Bolt Action. The numbers just didn't look right in either game and I concluded that range attenuation isn't really handled very well.
I then looked at the tank thing. Again, the NT rules have a separate approach to the tank rules. Tanks don't take morale tests for example. OK fine, in real life tanks are different. But I also know that tanks and infantry in real life are inseparable. They can't do without each other and must have a way of interacting effectively.
My only other comment about the NT rules is that the 30 pages probably leave out some important stuff, although I think NT trusts us to work this out for ourselves.
This all sounds a bit depressing. However, both sets of rules show their connections with the origins of the hobby. Neither are revolutionary and both can be linked back to stuff written in the 1960s. Again, nothing wrong with that either. However, I ended up turning to boardgaming back then because I was not satisfied with these sort of miniatures rules.
I still have two further sets of rules to explore: FiveCore and Blitzkrieg Commander (BKC). I'll be pursuing these further. BKC is very interesting because it bridges the infantry/tank game divide by having a conscious combined arms approach. FiveCore is a bit more traditional but has some other very unique features. Wherever this goes, I do keep coming back to the simple army list ideas in the NT rules and will want to keep these in future.
Interesting Weasel developments:
- From Shako to Coal-Scuttle: The beta version has been updated following feedback and can be obtained from Wargames Vault.
- Company Command: An updated version of this has been announced for a few weeks time incorporating some of the Five Men at Kursk features. I'll wait for these before doing more work on the hex thing.
I have mentioned a potential hex version of Lion Rampant before. An article on a conversion of Lion Rampant to the Napoleonic wars has appeared in the latest edition of WI. This is great and quite exciting, especially if I can fit it to hexes. However, it is called Eagle Rampant whereas I would automatically have called it Dragoon Rampant. Never mind.