Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bolt Action Empires in Flames overview

First off let me apologise for not getting this article out sooner, I had intended to publish this at launch, however work got in the way, and I wanted to do a proper article for this book rather than rushing something incomplete.

Empire in Flames is the fourth book in Warlords theatre book series for Bolt Action following on from Battleground Europe, Ostfront and Germany Strikes. Empires in Flames is a 124 page, soft back full colour book, and is written by the esteemed Andy Chambers.

The book divides into six sections. The first is a prologue explaining what the book is, before going into the meat Empires in Flames.

The Second Sino-Japanese War.
This is probably the longest section of the book, taking up over a third of the page count, and covers the conflict in China from 1937 until 1945, with a brief over view of the history, before providing many new units and theatre selectors. Some of the units may be familiar from the earlier books, but most of these are all new.Although the book lists the theatre selectors before the Chinese army list, I'll briefly mention that first.

Empires in Flames adds the first new army to Bolt Action since the last Armies of book came out a few years ago. The force is divided between Nationalist, Communist and Warlord forces to represent the difficult political situation that was present in China during the period. The Chinese forces have several national sepcial rules, those these break down into a per faction basis, as you have to pick whether to play Nationalists, Warlords, or Communist forces. Unique to all of these though is a free 14 man inexperienced infantry squad, similar to the Russians.

Communist forces are given a rule that represents their useage of gurellia tactics, and allows their infantry units to move up to 9" before the game begins! Warlord and Nationalist forces recieve the bodyguard rule, which allows their commanders to sacrifice the body guard (A unique Chinese character) in their command squad to stop the commander becoming a victim to snipers and exceptional damage. 

Nationalist forces are the best equipped, and depending on the period get access to German or Western Allied trained units, and equipment, notably things like German trained infantry squads, MMG Teams with the Hitlers buzzsaw rule, and allied armour like the Sherman, they also get access to the Big Sword squad, based on the society of the same name, and possibly the coolest unit now in Bolt Action!

Warlord forces represent local warlords, unsurprisingly. Warlord forces have a fairly limited range of equipment, however their command squad is probably the most potent in the game, being large, having a big command bubble, and good options, as well as great command bonuses too, and also has the option to be upgraded to cavalry. 

The Communist army is provided with some early Russian armour, and also has access to small guerilla and scout units. The army looks quite fun to play with lots of small, lightly equipped units, I suspect it will be fragile, but very fluid to use.

The theatre selectors are as follows, For the Chinese army
  • Battle of Shanghai 1937
  • Battle of Tai'Erzhuang 1938
  • 8th Route Army 1937-45
  • X and Y Force 1942-45
  • Tank War:- Chinese Armour, though this is more a paragraph than a full selector describing how the Chinese armour was organised
 For the Japanese
  • IJA Kwangtung army 1937
  • IJA Kwangtung army 1945 
 And for the Russians there is the Soviet Army of Manchuria of 1945.

Each of these provides interesting new frameworks for players with existing armies, and I'm quite drawn to the X and Y force list, and at some stage in the future I'll look to making some Chinese Nationalist figures equipped from US stocks, and supported by Warlords new Merrils Marauders figures.

New units for the Sino-Japanese war include Japanese cavalry command, Japanese cavalry squads, Japanese scouts squads, a couple of nice new artillery pieces,  the type 92 armoured car, and the SS-Ki armoured engineering vehicle. This is an awesome looking machine, and although it has the option to pack several flame throwers, the armour is paper thin, and it can only fire one per turn...  The Russians get the Mongolian Cavalry Troop, and all forces in the game get access to the horse drawn limber, a cheap way to shift artillery around without paying for an expensive towing vehicle.  Rounding out the Sino-Japanese war section are 3 special characters, one for Japan, and 2 for China. 

The Red Sun Rises 

This section covers the Japanese attacks on Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and the Phillipines, and covers making a short campaign using a couple of new scenarios added in this book, as well as the existing scenarios in the main rule book, and handily also provides a bit of advice on what terrain to use asa well.

New units are Phillipine Scouts and a Phillipino character for the US army, and there is also a theatre selector for the Battling Bastards of Bataan, a largely inexperienced US list, but one that looks like being great fun to model. This is another that has caught my imagination, and may well end up in one of my figure cases one day... 

Burma and India

I was deeply shocked and pleasantly surprised to discover this section detailed the fighting in Burma and India,  and covers the whole period with a brief history of the campaign, a couple of scenarios, and another guide to playing out the campaign with a guide to what scenarios and terrain to use.

No theatre selectors this time, however 5 additional units, and 2 more special characters.
New units include Ghurka Paratroopers(!!!!) Australian Commandos, Merrils Marauders and the Indian National army for the Japanese.

For all the forces in the Pacific theatre are added native scouts, these are a small unit for scouting purposes, and would add a really nice element of flavour to any army I think. 
It's worth mentioning the two special characters though, as the first is Orde Wingate, one of the great commanders of the Second World War, whilst the other is Bhanbhagata Gurung, a Gurkha VC winner who is equally equates to being just as awesome as you would expect in game.

Island Hopping

  This penultimate section of Empires in Flames covers not just the Campaigns in the Pacific
but also discusses the Kokoda Trail, New Guinea and the Phillipines, as well as the battle of Guadalcanal. New scenarios are added including one theme to Tarawa which I need to play, as my own US Marines are based around this battle.

3 new units for the Americans are added in this section, including USMC raiders, USMC War dogs, and the M29 Weasel amphibious utility tractor.

There are also 4 more special characters, namely John Basilone and Chesty Puller for the Americans,Tom Derrick for the Commonwealth forces and Tadamichi Kuribayashi for the Japanese. As ever with these type of characters they give a nice flavour to a force, without being especially overwhelming, and are always one sniper shot away from being out of the game...

Scenario special rules

Rounding out the book is a large section conting rules for Night fighting, digging in, minefield,s amphibious warfare and beach landings, and city fighting, as well as rules for tropical hazards!

As you can see there is a lot to digest with this book, and if you have even a hint of interest in gaming the theatre in games of Bolt Action I really recommend it. Everything is nicely produced, with lots of great artwork and colour plates from Osprey. Especially handy for painting and collecting the Chinese forces.  You can order the book from Warlord Games and buying direct will also give you a special figure of John Basilone, who I will be painting up shortly and presenting here. 

All the models and photos in this piece are from my own collection, and you can see more of my work or contact me regarding commissions at Volley Fire Painting Service. I also have a guide to how I painted my USMC, as well as a series of articles on how I collected the force here at A tale of Bearded Gamers 


  1. When is Warlord going to find out that the US Army fought in the pacific conducting as many or more amphibious landing as the US Marines?

    1. It gets mentioned, but no specific theater selectors sadly.