This is the first in a series of Theatre Books for the Bolt Action set of World War II (WWII) rules from Warlord Games. These books are slated to cover the various theatres in which WWII was fought, offering scenarios and units along with background information.
The book is packed with great overall information about the subject, as well as fantastic layout and design. The way this soft cover 108-page book is produced is something I think all new rules sets and supplements should emulate as the gold standard. Naturally, mixing in professional looking photographs of miniature action shots with the always outstanding Osprey artwork really gives a visually appealing book.
The subject of this supplement is strictly the 1944-45 period on the Western Front encompassing the actions and details involved with D-Day and the push to Germany; starts with the build up to the invasion of Normandy and follows through to German’s surrender. The introduction for this supplement states that, the:
“Goal is to describe the context for games set within the phase of the war. What was it like to storm the beaches of Normandy? How formidable was the bocage country? What was it like to fight in the snowy woods of the Ardennes? This is not a definitive account of the campaign, nor is it meant to be. Think of it more as a tour through history, stopping at places of interest and pointing out pertinent information as we go. Some scenarios depict actual historical battles, while others offer a view on typical operations that give a sense of what the fighting was like. Included are details of various units that allow you to construct armies from specific time periods and areas of conflict, On the other hand there are lots of ‘what if’ battles to be fought.”
All of what the author entices above was delivered and did not disappoint – historical background, new units, and new rules, plus a total of fifteen scenarios. While the historical background is solid, it is rather limited as it scratches the surface rather than going deep into details. Admittedly, this is not intended to be a history book, but rather the supplement serves like a travel book to give overall aspects and touches on enough information for both the inexperienced or veteran WWII gamer. Naturally, a lot of in depth information traditionally covered by history books on specific events, while not available in this sampler, can easily be found in the plethora of books on WWII to gather more detailed military history on the events glossed over in this supplement (which Osprey Publishing, for one, offers a varied of quality books for).
While there are quite a number of new units in this book for including in your forces, many of these were already available via the Extra Units PDF and other articles from the Warlord website; nothing radically new here, but these have now been nicely collected together in one published book for the gamer.
The supplement is broken down into five sections, from the invasion to the days immediately following the subsequent breakout from Normandy, and ending with the drive into the Reich. Each section details some battles with a narrative and complete information, including rules for fielding and playing units and characters (“Legends of the Western Front”) specific to the theatre, plus events, tactics, and special rules, as well as three scenarios. The lists used in the scenarios are somewhat generic so that players can select their own specific forces from the Bolt Action army books, which is a nice touch.
The first section – Prelude to Invasion – includes information on putting together a SAS Infantry Section and Pathfinders Squad, plus ‘Legend’ character details for Captain Richard “Dick” Winters, Major John Howard and Stan Hollis, as well as night fighting rules and three scenarios: Airborne Night Fight, Glider Assault, and Capture the Causeway.
The second section – The Battle of Normandy – includes special rules on playing the 21st Panzer Division (including Alfred Becker’s armored vehicle conversions), and the British 79th Armoured Division, plus rules for ambulances, amphibious assaults, and minefields (I love that they even included rules for infantry clearing a minefield with bayonets!), and three scenarios: Gold Beach, First Move Inland, and Take the Bridge.
The third section – Breakout – includes background about the Falaise Pocket plus rules for a French Milice Squad, and three scenarios: Hedgerow Hell, Closing the Falaise Gap, and Hold the Hill.
The fourth section – Liberating Europe – includes background for Operations Market Garden, Antwerp and The Siegfried Line as well as playing the Battle of the Bulge, plus ‘Legend’ character details for Simone Segouin, Major John Frost, and Otto Skorzeny, plus special rules for playing the Luftwaffe Field Division Squad, for Welbikes and the Wasp Flamethrower Carrier, and three scenarios: Last Stand at Arnhem, Crossing the Causeway at Walcheren, and Bastogne.
The fifth and final section – Into the Reich – includes information on playing a US Veteran Infantry Squad, plus ‘Legend’ character details for Audie Murphy, and Land Mattress rocket battery rules, as well as three scenarios: Taking Ludendorff Bridge, Operations Plunder, and Germany’s Last Stand at the Ruhr.
The only real issue for me about this book is that there are no scenario maps, only details of what the tabletop should look like in roughly a paragraph format. Granted, many of the scenarios were easy enough to explain to allow gamers to set them up with little or no difficulty. However, I have never really seen scenarios that have not included a map, which would be especially welcomed for a novice gamer. Possibly it was a business decision to forego scenario maps in order to allow for more content for background, rules, etc., to keep everything down to 108 pages, but if so, then Warlord could easily reference a website URL in which a PDF of each map is located.
In summary, this supplement looks like a solid addition to the Bolt Action line and is well worth the money. I look forward to seeing more books in this range for the other WWII theaters, especially if they keep to this level of detail and production. Well done and highly recommended!
By Robert Giglio