Modern Wars, Bolt Action, 28mm
When I decided to run a small modern game the original plan was to use Force on Force rules. Unfortunately its a long time since I last used them, and I didn’t have time to re-read them as thoroughly as I wanted. They can be something of a mindf**k, particularly when you get units reacting to the fire of enemy units reacting to the movement of another friendly unit. Every action sets off a chain reaction of reactions and counter-reactions, prompting numerous morale tests and activation checks. An hour before I ran the game I decided to abandon Force on Force for this game, and to run it using Bolt Action instead. Bolt Action are the complete opposite of Force on Force. There’s nothing complicated about them – quite the reverse. What you get is a “4,5,6 you’re dead” kind of system, which is intuitive if you cut your teeth on Warhammer. I didn’t, but on this occasion simplicity won over complex realism. Surprisingly we landed up with a fairly enjoyable game, helped by the fact that everyone could grasp the rules after the first turn.We used the rules “as is”, treating all Commonwealth SLRs and Indonesian AK-47s or FNs as “assault rifles”, RPGs as reloadable Panzerfausts with a small direct fire HE capability, and GPMGs and RPKs as LMGs.. We classed the Commonwealth troops as Average, and the Indonesians as Inexperienced. Primary jungle (the stuff with tall trees and fallen logs) counted as hard cover, and secondary jungle (my over-sized aquatic plants representing new growth) as soft cover. That all seemed to work pretty well. The game was a rescue mission – a two pronged one. A British Saladin armoured car had hit a mine, and the two wounded survivors had to be rescued. Meanwhile glamorous teenage model Joanna Chumley was on a photo shoot in the jungle when her sampan broke down, leaving her stranded with just her native guide for protection. A Gurkha platoon was dispatched to rescue both groups, but he Indonesians had also heard their distress calls, and sent their own patrol out to capture them – which would have made for a nice propaganda coup. The stage was set for our little rumble in the jungle – a game set in Borneo in 1964.Actually, it was a bit of a non game. The Gurkha platoon was split into four sections – two (including the HQ section) were commanded by me, while the other two were led by Sweyn, my teenage sidekick. Sweyn showed a lot more common sense than me. His Gurkhas approached the stranded sampan along the river bank, and on turn 5, with a cry of Ayo Gorkhali (the Gurkhas are coming) they reached the sampan, and threw a cordon around Joanna and her guide. They were just in time. In the distance a squad of Indonesians appeared at the edge of a patch of jungle, and opened up a long range fire which caused two Ghurkha casualties. Rather than stay there and mix it, Sweyn remained true to his mission and pulled back, protecting the civilians as he went. By turn 9 he was safely off the table, his mission a complete success.Over on my side of the table things didn’t go quite so smoothly. My leading section reached the armoured car, located the two wounded crewmen, and began escorting them back to the freindly table edge. However, a host of Indonesians appeared, and it soon became clear I wouldn’t get away without a fight. In the first round of the firefight my Gurkhas engaged an Indonesian squad, and caused four casualties. That though, left them isolated, as the HQ section pulled back, protecting the wounded crewmen. By the time the isolated Gurkas withdrew they had to run the gauntlet of fire from three Indonesian squads, who let rip with machine guns, assault rifles and RPGs. Amazingly – thanks to some great saving rolls – four of the section survived the maelstrom of fire. Rather than stay and press the issue the rest of the section withdrew back into the cover of the jungle, and eventually made it off the table. So, when the game ended the Gurkhas had achieved both of their rescue missions, but suffered six casualties to the Indonesians’ four.All in all victory depended on how you rated the lives of your soldiers- and the value of Joanna Chumley. Apparently she never forgot her Ghurkha rescuers, and years later would return the favour by campaigning to give them free places in a retirement home outside Aldershot. The game lasted about two hours, and ran smoothly. Using Bolt Action was an inspired decision as it let us finish the game, and concentrate on enjoying ourselves, rather than poring over a set of rules. While no doubt we’ll use FoF again, Bolt Action is also now firmly up there as an option for a quick n’ dirty modern game.