My copy of Bolt Action arrived yesterday so, as promised, here's a quick overview of what I think about them.
First up I was impressed with the quality of the book itself. It's a thick hardback book that will stand up to wear and tear well. The content is well laid out and easy to follow with lots of the usual Osprey pictures along with photos of well painted figures in action situations. Being old I particularly liked the fact that the font used is clear and of a good size making it easy to read. Although there is no index there is a good table of contents which makes finding what you want fairly easy. The rules include six scenarios (but I would expect more to appear soon either fan made or official) and points values for some British, U.S., Russian and German units. I deliberately didn't say army lists because that's not what they are. It's more of a 40K approach with all forces having to have a Lieutenant and two infantry squads which you can add to, but you are mostly limited to just one unit of each type e.g. one sniper, one tank. So this means you're not going to be facing a force with loads of armour or flamethrowers. There is still plenty of scope for variation though not least in the quality of troops you choose to take and any special rules that may apply.
The most impressive thing I can say about these rules is that I read them through in one sitting. Normally my brain gives up after reading a few pages of rules but this wasn't the case here. Everything is explained simply and follows a logical progression. There are no 'walls of text' to put you off. They introduce the basic infantry game completely and then move on to the additions needed by things like vehicles and air strikes. This means you can quickly grasp the basics before adding in complications.
I haven't had a chance to play a game yet so my comments here are based on my impressions of how things will play on the table. There's no pre-measuring which you may or may not like. It's a D6 based game with rolls to hit and then kill (although there are exceptions to this) but it has some nice extra mechanisms like the 'lucky shot'. Normally when you've killed a figure the defender gets to pick which model you've killed. But if you roll a six on a damage roll you get to roll it again and if you get a second six you get to pick which model is killed. So you can pick off the officer or the guy with the bazooka etc. The same mechanism can be applied to hitting. If you need more than six to hit after modifiers have been applied you roll anyway and any sixes can be rolled again with second sixes being counted as hits.
The other mechanism of note is the order sequence. Each turn a coloured marker/dice is put in a container for each of the units in play (say green for Brits and grey for Germans). Then one of these is drawn out randomly to indicate which side can give an order to one of it's units. Once that order is completed the next marker/dice is drawn and so on until all the markers have been drawn. Then the process is repeated for the next turn. I'm not sure I like the idea of this mechanism. You could get a situation where your opponent gets all his markers drawn before you get to give orders to any of your units. Of course all your units would then activate but by then they may have been destroyed or had lots of pinned markers placed on them making it impossible to do what you planned. For me it negates any planning and adds a large luck element to the game. But I'll have to try it out to see if it's as bad as I fear.
This brings me on to 'Pinning' which is one of the key mechanisms of the game. Basically damage taken adds pinned markers to a unit. The more pinned markers it has the harder it becomes for it to obey orders and it also reduces the effectiveness of shooting. There are ways to remove pinned markers and judicious use of officers can help mitigated their effect. But you'll probably spend a lot of time think about how to get pinned markers onto your opponents units and how to remove them from yours.
For me all of this fits very well with the scope of the game. It's a game of infantry squads with you as the shave-tail lieutenant trying to keep your guys alive while trying to achieve your objective.
So my first impressions are very favourable. I think at £17.50 from Amazon it's great value and I'm looking forward to my first game next Thursday (I'll be posting up my thoughts and a batrep soon after). I'm tempted to say they're a simple set of rules but that would do them an injustice. Better to say that they are not overly complex. More a set of rules to play a game set during WW2 than a set of WW2 wargames rules. By that I mean there aren't loads of tables for all the different weapons plotted against all the possible armour thicknesses etc. instead the focus has been placed on a fun game that requires a depth of thought while still remembering that this is a game not a simulation.
P.S. I listened to all the sensible comments about going with 20mm and agreed with them all. But I've still ordered a load of 28mm Russians because I'm an idiot and they were very shiny. :-)