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Bolt Action WWII

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TITLE: Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules Bolt_Action_Cover

AUTHOR: Alessio Cavatore

PUBLISHER: Warlord Games/Opsrey Publishing



    Player support can be obtained on the Warlord Games forum for Bolt Action located here.

PRICE (with date): $34.95 (in 2012)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin



Bolt Action is a hardback book, 216 pages long. It is filled with art from various Osprey titles and a large number of photos/dioramas featuring figures from Warlord Games/Bolt action. The book has a detailed table of contents and a 6 page rules summary/quick reference sheet included as an appendix. The rules themselves run 103 pages (though that is deceptive - a LOT of space is taken up with photos, sidebars, etc).


Bolt Action is a skirmish game covering the entirety of World War II. Player maneuver teams and squads.


A platoon of 30 or so soldiers, plus a support wepaon or two and maybe one or two vehicles would certainly give a good game at this scale.


Units are either teams or squads. Crewed weapons such as HMGs, AT guns or artillery are a single unit. Vehicle models represent individual vehicles.


  • Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are set to fit a typical table top)
  • Time scale 1 turn = Not stated (but probably no more than a few minutes)
  • Figure/Base 1:1
  • Recommended Figure Size: 25mm (Warlord, the publisher, manufactures 25 mm figures under the Bolt Action brand).
  • Table Size: 4 x 6 or larger
  • Game Length: Most games should be playable in 2-3 hours


Bolt Action (BA) does not specify basing. Most measurement is not from the base but from the model itself, so basing is not terribly important. Figures should be based individually.


  1. The Orders Phase: An order die is drawn from a cup, and a unit of that side may carry out its turn (moving, firing, etc.) the order die is left next to the unit to show it has had its activation for the turn.
  2. Turn End Phase: Remove destroyed units and put aside their order dice. Put the remaining order dice back in the cup and start a new turn.


Order Dice: The order die is color coded to each specific army (German, British etc.). When an order die is drawn, the owning player may place it next to a unit and perform any actions with that unit. The order die has one face for each of the 6 possible orders: Fire, Advance, Run, Ambush, Rally and Down. Units with no pinned markers (see below) act normally. units with pin markers must pass a morale check (called an orders test) in order to execute their order. If a unit rolls double six on this check it must consult the FUBAR chart, and may fire on a friendly unit, or panic.

Advance: Units under the Advance order may move normal speed and then fire. Fire and casualties are resolved immediately. units that move suffer a penalty when firing.

Run: The unit moves at double speed, but may not fire. Only units with a Run order may engage the enemy in close combat.

Fire: The unit may fire at full effect, but may not move.

Ambush: The unit neither moves nor fires but holds for an available target (aka opportunity fire).

Rally: Morale effects are shown with pin markers. Units under Rally orders may attempt to remove pin markers.

Down: Take cover. Units that are down gain protection from incoming fire.

Movement: Normal infantry movement is 6”. Terrain is broken down into Open, Rough, Obstacle and there is a chart indicating which units may move through each kind of terrain and how it affects them. For example, for infantry, they may move normally in Rough ground (i.e. a full 6”) but may not run through it.

Morale Rating: Every unit has a morale rating based on its training. As units come under fire they accrue “pin markers.” For example, a unit that is hit by fire picks up one pin marker. Each pin marker lowers the unit’s morale rating by one. Units with one or more pin markers must pass a morale check to carry out orders. Units that acquire as many pin markers as their base morale are routed and removed from the game.

Fire Combat: Ranged combat is quite simple. Each figure firing rolls a die (the game uses all six-sided dice). Any roll of 3 or more is a potential casualty. The roll is modified for terrain, long range, cover etc. For each potential casualty roll a second die and consult the Damage Table.

The Damage Table indicates the score needed, based on the target type. For example, a 3 or better is a casualty against inexperienced infantry, while a medium tank is only damaged on a 9 or more. Larger weapons modify this roll with their Penetration Value. A heavy AT gun, for example, adds 6 to the roll. The die may also be modified by range, and whether you are shooting at front or rear armor of vehicles.

By using the Penetration Value to modify the damage dice, it allows all kinds of direct fire to be resolved in the exact same way. Whether your squad fires on enemy infantry or your tank fires on an armored car, the procedure is exactly the same.

If a hit is scored in an armored vehicle a further chart is consulted. A single die is rolled. On a 4-6 the target is knocked out. Otherwise it may be on fire, immobilized or the crew may be stunned.


Melee is short and deadly. In order to engage the enemy, a unit must have a Run order, and declare an assault. In some cases the defender will fire at the unit before they close. The attackers are then moved in to base to base contact with the defender. Each attacker rolls a die die and consults the damage table (this is just like calculating damage from shooting). the defender then takes casualties based on the attacker’s dice. Surviving defenders then roll on the damage table in the same way. The side inflicting more casualties has won the combat. The loser is destroyed and all surviving figures are removed from the game.

If both sides inflict equal casualties a second round of combat is fought simultaneously. Fighting continues until one side wins or one side is wiped out.

After winning a melee, the winning unit may D6 inches. This is not movement but is considered part of the melee itself.


Each of the six orders is modified for artillery. For example, some guns may only be towed so rules for limbering and unlimbering are detailed here.

Indirect Fire: Indirect fire requires the use of a spotter. A spot is marked and a die rolled. On a 6 the round is on target. Otherwise the round is ignored. If firing at the same spot the next turn a 5 or better is needed, then four or better the following turn and so on. artillery fire does not use a template - it only ever affects the target unit.

Guns are rated for power by dice. When a barrage lands on target the indicated number of dice are rolled, and the target unit takes that many hits. If the target is Down the hits are halved. Certain guns inflict additional pins based on a die roll as well. For example, the Soviet SU-76 is rated HE (D6). It will inflict D6 casualties on target units. It is also rated D2 for additional pins, and has a penetration value of +2 (for firing on armored targets).


The book includes a chapter on generic scenarios for tournament style play. the scenarios include Envelopment, Hold Until Relieved, etc.

Basic army lists for Germany, the US, Ul and soviet Union are included. Supplement books covering each army in detail are also available (sold separately) which go in to more detail and add minor nations and additional weapon types.

The army lists include a point system for tournament style play.


Overall, the book is nicely laid out and reasonably well written. Rules are broken up unusually (indirect fire is covered under weapons, not artillery, for example), and the summary is incomplete (it contains no tables for indirect fire, for example).

However, the game seems to be extremely simple using one mechanism for morale and one (with slight modifications) for all combat, so it would probably make an ideal game for players new to historical gaming, or for use at a convention.


Not played.

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