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On Bolt Action, Impressive Terrain, and Excellent Emissaries

Posted by Andrew on

I'm going to take a break from talking about Malifaux for a bit.  As much as I love the game, I do play others and I know our customers play them as well.  The stable of games I have locked in my brain-space is a bit crowded, to put it lightly.  I currently have fully fleshed-out forces for Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Malifaux, Dropzone Commander, Dust Tactics, and Warlord.  I played Warmachine/Hordes competitively in the past, and I'm building a force for Infinity and Wild West Exodus.  My game budget is highly strained at any given moment, but sometimes I have an experience that gives me pause and convinces me to pick up another game.

When we went to the Crucible, I had the opportunity to meet a group of gentlemen playing a historical WWII game called Bolt Action.  One of these gentlemen backed our Kickstarter and got the terrain all prettified far better than I could myself.  The graveyard went on a table that I assume is a small town in occupied France, the ruins and rubble set got some snow, a great paint job, and some propaganda posters to magically transform into Stalingrad.

I've seen some other pictures of our stuff painted up and prettified before, but seeing an entire table done like this really took my breath away.  As the Crucible went on, I had lots of opportunity to interact with the community playing Bolt Action and I was thoroughly impressed by them.  Several were father-son pairs, all were great guys.  There are lots of games being played at the Crucible, and far too often as gamers, we look down on those who play games we don't with scorn and derision.  I've been very vocal of my disapproval of this attitude, it gives us all a bad name and increases tensions in a hobby that we should be celebrating, not denigrating.

Back to my point, a vendor adjacent to my booth had a lot of Bolt Action stuff for sale at the show.  That Saturday, I sat with a group of the organizers and vendors, relaxing and resting my aching feet and back from a day of standing and hustling, and watched six people purchase full armies for the game.  Part of this derives from the design of the game and level of affordability Warlord built into it, I won't take those away from them.  Much of it also came from how awesome that community is.

As a game, Bolt Action functions a lot like a streamlined version of 40k 3rd edition with some serious upgrades.  Turns run off staggered activation with a twist, each activation you have adds one order die to a shared cup at the beginning of the game.  A die is drawn at each activation, whoever has the color activates a unit.  This means you'll be able to react to your opponent, but there's no guarantee you're activating again after the crafty tactician across from you.  I'm very curious to see how this works in play, it's very similar to the Batman miniatures game.  Which is another game I'm learning.

My wallet cries.

The other very important aspect of Bolt Action lies in how pinning works.  Being pinned is bad, soldiers don't like being shot at.  Whenever a unit is hit, not wounded, just hit, it gains a pinning marker.  These function as negative modifiers to morale and shooting, whatever the value of your pinning is.  So you can have some veteran troops firing at point blank range still have trouble hitting if they're too busy hitting the dirt to aim properly.  Also, if you're pinned, your troops might not even take those shots, preferring to hit said dirt and avoid a fatal case of lead poisoning.  These men are soldiers, some brave some fresh-faced recruits, but they're all human.  No fearless super-soldiers here.

My final point involves a piece of terminology I've heard bandied about, followed by a call to action.  These gentlemen at the event, especially the one organizing and running the event, are emissaries to the hobby.  These are people with enough passion about the game they want to share it with the world.  Many of us have this passion, but not all of us are emissaries.  If you run events, demos, tournaments, and have other ways of supporting the community, you are an emissary.  Don't be a poor one.  Don't denigrate those who play other games, even if you don't care for the game.  Don't tell people they should be playing a "real" game, don't be elitist, and don't drive people away.  It's rude and it hurts the hobby.  This hobby, this lifestyle, really, relies on new blood, that new generation.  Pass on what we love.

Until next time, keep gaming,

Mojo out.