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 

Friday 23 October 2015

Beyond the Gates of Antares, an over view

With Warlord Games imminent release of Beyond the Gates of Antares, I thought I'd put something together to describe the game based off my experiences of playing the Beta version, as well as a sneaky game of the final product a few weeks ago. Hopefully this will be helpful for those who are unfamiliar with the game, and for those who are on the fence about getting into another new system. In the interests of full disclosure I have been lucky enough to do some stuff with Warlord involving the game, however I can hand on heart say this is a fantastic product, that's shaping up to be a very exciting game indeed!

What is Antares?
Probably the most fundamental question, Beyond the Gates of Antares is a science fiction skirmish game set far into the far future, and is the brain child of the legendary Rick Priestley. Hoorah! That was a nice short article. Tune in next time folks! 

Hmm, I suppose I should expand on this a little more. Antares's universe has been in development for years, and so far contains 6 factions, all of whom are evolved forms of humanity (more or less), some more recognizably so than others. The game plays as a large skirmish game, and seems to fit at around 20-30 models, at least going off the currently released starter forces. At the moment all the models are metal, however the starter set is introducing the first of the plastic models to the range.

How does it play?

I'll give a brief overview, and describe some of the key points of the game, without getting into to many of the specifics. 

Each player has a force consisting of several small squads of typically around 5 models, though some are more, and some are less than this, backed up by a few support teams and drones. Units are deployed according to the scenario being played, and then Each unit in a players army generates an order dice, and each player places all their order dice in the same bag.

This works so that say player one has 5 units, they'll put 5 red(For example) order dice in a bag, whilst for this example has 5 units too, places another 5 dice of a different colour in the same bag. To decide who  goes first, a player reaches into the bag and pulls out an order dice, and the owning player can use this to activate one of their units, to move, fight, assault, over watch etc. Anyone who has played Bolt Action will recognize this mechanic. Once a unit is done, another dice is pulled from the bag, and another unit activates, And so on until every dice has been pulled, and the turn is over. All the dice then go back in the bag, and the process starts again.

Ranges for weapons, as well as movement are potentially very long, and this results in games feeling very fluid and punchy, your rarely fighting against the game mechanics to do what you want to do, and instead are able to focus on out foxing your opponent.

Shooting works by rolling a D10, and attempting to roll under the required score with modifiers applied for range and cover.  When and if hits are scored, the target gets to make a resist roll, by attempting to roll under their resistance value, again modified for cover, armour etc. If the target rolls under the required value all is well, however of you roll over the value, it's time for that model to fill in a sick note. 

A key concept of the game is pinning. Certain actions call for an agility test, which if failed causes a unit to gain something called a pin. Shooting hits also cause pins, as can a few other circumstances.

 The more pins a unit has on it the less effective it becomes. A unit with pins wishing to activate must pass an orders test, and the more pins on a unit the harder it is to activate. Pins also affect a units accuracy when it tries to shoot, and as such pins can render a unit ineffective as quickly as casualties can, though they are far easier to get rid of than in Bolt Action.

This barely touches the surface of the game, but does cover a few of the important points of the rules. The activation system and pinning mechanic prevents devastating army lists that destroy their opponent before a player can activate, and in my experience both of playing Antares and Bolt Action result in a game that is very tense, and forces you to be on your toes constantly. 


At present,  there are 6 faction. These range from the fighting forces of vast empires, to armed mercantile collectives.

The Concord
The Concord are a civilization whose lives are guided by a benevolent artificial intelligence, shaping society in the way most beneficial to it's people. The Concord troops are very heavily armed and armored, and arguably have the best equipment in the game. They are the force I've played the most, and work best at long range, dishing out very accurate and dangerous fire. The effectiveness of their armour decreases at close range, so it's always best keeping your opponent at medium to long range. 

The Ghar
The Ghar are a mutated, spiteful and vicious race that goes to war in large armoured battlesuits to over come their physical weakness.  Not seen rules for these yet, but they appear to be very resilient and heavily armed, and I suspect we'll see something to represent their unstable and un predictable technology. 

The Algoryn
The Algoryn are a militaristic society, who have been locked in a long war with the Ghar empire.The troops of the Algoryn are well armoured, although they don't have the heavy fire power of the Concord, and don't have as much of the fancy technology and drones. They tend to be very mobile, and excel in close range punishing fire fights.

The Isorians
Another faction that we've yet to see much of. They are another AI guided civilization  like the Concord. Unlike the AI guiding the Concord however the Isorian AI was altered by the introduction of alien bio-organic technology, giving them a very different appearance and tactical doctrin, even though they carry equally heavy weapons.
From the beta rules though they use stealthy armour rather than the outright force of their Concord counterparts, and from the models seen at Salute this year, the range is going to be stunning. I can't wait to see more of these...

The Boromites

Bormites are biologically altered to work in  mines, and as such are heavily muscles with thick scales on their skin to protect them. They work as mercenary gangs, as well as being involved in more nefarious activities. They tend to be unarmoured, however their thick skin and high natural reslience provides them with solid protection. They carry lighter weapons, but are physically strong, and have access to a variety of beasts as well. Like the Algoryn they are a closer ranged faction, and are very effective in close combat, especially when supported by units like lavamites.

The Freeborn

The Freeborn are the merchants and traders of the Antarean universe. They operate mercanry forces to protect their interests, and until the full army list comes out for them in the mainbook, there isn't much know on these. They seem to be fairly lightly armoured and agile, with most units being lightly armed, however at least one is packing big guns and heavy armour, whilst also looking very awesome. These are a force I'm slowly building up, and collecting myself a band of pirates with lots of conversions.

I hope this helps to throw a little more information onto Antares, and all the models and photos in the article are from my own collection. You can read more about Antares at the Warlord page Here And as ever can check out my work at Volley Fire Painting

Monday 5 October 2015

Beyond the Gates of Antares Ghar walker

I've been lucky enough to snag myself one of the new Ghar assault walkers... I'll be doing a step by step painting guide at some stage, but here's a sneaky peak at it. very cool model, and great fun to build too!

Beyond the Gates of Antares is now up for pre order for news letter subscribers, and will be up on general pre order very soon. It's expected to be available in November, and I can't wait! Keep an eye on it at the Warlord Games website, and you can find more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Service