Monday, November 10, 2014

What-Khan 2014 Bolt Action Tournament-In Review

This past weekend was the first annual What-Khan held in Rockford, IL at the sport complex.  While this is a new gaming convention it is really a well established gaming convention in disguise, just under a new name.  What-Khan was formerly ROCK CON for many years.  This year the primary sponsor who owns the name "ROCKCON" pulled out and ROCKCON was in jeopardy of not happening.  Fortunately some daring individuals stepped up and made it happen again this year with short notice.  Due to legalities though they could no longer use the name ROCKCON and came up with What-Khan.
Event Flyer

Unfortunately this all happened late in the year so the normal weekend was not available and What-Khan had to be booked in NOV instead of late OCT as it has been for many years.  The gaming group I play with was approached about getting the word out and supporting the convention with some games.  As I have been one of the primary proponents for Bolt Action in our group I agreed to host a Bolt Action Tournament.

I had never attended a Bolt Action tournament let alone hosted one, but after reading several AARs and listening to many Bolt Action related pod casts that discussed the many national tournaments I was confident that we could make this happen.  I put out a flyer, recruited some helpers and began planning.

My goal for the inaugural event was up to 20 players with at least 8.  I then solicited ideas from experienced tournament organizers to put together the player pack.  I received a few responses and was able to piece together the parameters as well as get the tournament registered with What-Khan.

Player Pack Page 1
Player Pack Page 2

While eagerly waiting for players to sign up I began soliciting sponsors for prize support as well as putting together the certificates for the awards.  The response was overwhelming and I received generous donations from Warlord Games, Nobel Knight Games, Kryptonite Kollectibles, Arctic Skunk (Shape ways), and Black Tree Design as well the convention organizers.  A huge Thank You to the sponsors as well as the Con organizers especially Antina and Danielle who made hosting my first tournament much easier.

Our Sponsors  THANK YOU!

Based on what I had seen with other tournaments I decided I wanted to set the bar high and give our tournament a professional polished look so we could be an ambassador for the game and stand out from other events.  I did this by designing table signage, a large tracking board, and ensuring I had quality terrain for the tables.

Packed and ready to go

As the event drew near we had 9 players signed up.  I decided I would not play unless we had a odd number so I could roam to answer questions and keep things moving.  In hindsight the T.O. should never be playing, especially in an event where inexperienced players are encouraged to attend.

Friday afternoon I proceeded to What-khan to get things set up so that we would be ready to start on time Saturday AM.  While this was done I received notice that my primary rules assistant, Brian, would not be able to attend due to a family issue.  I was disappointed, but that made an even number so I would be free to focus on T.O. duties.  Before the evening ended though I had a father son approach me about signing up.  They had very limited experience and did not have troops though.  Not wanting to turn someone away I agreed and told them armies would be available in the morning.  This put us up to 10 players and they turned out to be great additions to the playing field.

Bolt Action area
While I made final preparations including putting together two more armies (I lent out 3 for the tournament) Saturday morning came very quick.  All players were asked to arrive NLT 8:30 AM and we had one late arrival, but he communicated he was running late and assured me he would make it by 9AM
Player board and standings after game 1
Tables were assigned and the first scenario was revealed, Demolition.  Not having an assistant it was very hectic getting things going.  We had four players who had played three or less games prior to this event.
Phil (IJA) and Haynes (USMC) square off in the jungle

I had allowed 2.5 hours per game which I thought would be plenty of time, but only one table finished early and a couple did not make it to turn Six.   My intent by giving a longer game time was that everyone would have over a half hour between games to take a break and check out other things going on at the CON.  Despite finishing late a couple players decided to take a lunch break anyway and did not make it back for the 12PM start for game 2 which was a bit frustrating.
Sam (Germany) and Haynes Game 2

Game two was Hold until relieved.  Again, there were many questions, but players were starting to get into a rhythm and it appeared all were having a good time.  The tables that started on time were able to finish this game.  Unfortunately I had to stop some slow players so I could ensure that game three started on time as we had a 6PM deadline for awards so I could clean up and people could get to the evening gaming session.

Robert (Brits) and Randy (IJA)

Game three was Point Defense.  This one seemed to go the best of the three as players who were new had figured it out and experienced players had rid themselves of the early cob webs.

Donavon (U.S.) and Phil fight in snow game 3

Game three was scheduled to end by 5:30PM with awards at 6:00PM which made for a very stressed T.O. as the totals needed to be finalized as well as the painting contest vote conducted.  The players were all very cooperative and helped with table tear down as they finished so awards started at 6:02PM.
Doug (IJA) and Mike (Chindits) prepare for battle

I had pre-established 7 categories for awards:
Top Commander
Top Allied Commander
Top Axis Commander
Top Minor Nation Commander
Best Sportsmanship (Player vote)
Best Painted Army
Hano-Swag(Most Historically based)

Framed Awards

My intent was that the Top Commander would also be the top nation to spread the prizes around.  As my only minor nation player dropped out I decided to award Top Commander and bother Allied and Axis.  In addition to the certificates each player received some very nice prizes courtesy of our generous sponsors.
Sherman looing to claim the objective

I also came up with a FUBAR category as well.  Throughout the day each time a played rolled their first FUBAR I asked them to call it out.  I had put some two man painted observer/Sniper teams that I donated and Mark Anderson professionally painted for me that were handed out each time someone rolled a FUBAR.
Award/Prize Table

Before starting the formal awards I also awarded the player with the most FUBARs (Ethan P.) a new pack of dice to help improve his rolls and his pick of a smaller prize.  Ethan was also one of our young players who as new to the game.

Standings after Game 2

Next up was Sportsmanship.  I decided to go with this first as while it is fun to win the game being a good sportsman while playing is even more important.  This award was determined by the players assigning a score of 1-3 to each of their opponents.  While the votes were close(two players received an 8) only one player received a perfect score of 9 and that was Phil C.

Phil's IJA battle Hayne's USMC for the airfield

I then went to the top player awards.  Points for each game were determined by awarding 10 points for a scenario win, 5 for a draw, and 0 for a loss.  Additionally, kill points were given.  Players could earn up to 10 points per game (1 point for every 100 points destroyed including decimals).  So, if you destroyed 345 points you scored 3.45 points for that game.  A player who won every game and tabled his opponent could score a maximum of 60 points(20 points per game).

The Top Commander was one of our three IJA players who had an excellent tournament list and scored a total of 56.82 points.  That player was Doug R.

Doug's IJA vs. Chindits

Top Allied Commander also happened to be the over all 2nd place finisher.  This player played for the very first time at a Demo event I ran in June and has been assembling and painting his army ever since.  I also believe that including the Demo event this was his 4-6 games ever played.  With a total of 35.34 point Donavon D. and his U.S. Army build won this category

Robert's Brits slug it out with Ethan's Soviets in the desert

Although Top Commander was a Axis player. I awarded top Axis Commander to the second place axis player as well since there was not a minor nation rep.  This player was also new and had attended the Demo event in June with Donavon.  He had not been as industrious as Donavon with his personal German army and is still in the assembly and painting stage.  With some encouragement we convinced him to come play and he coordinated ahead of time to borrow a German build from me.  There must have been some magic in that army because he was also the overall third place finisher for the day.  With a total of 29.3 points Sam L. took the honor of Top Axis Commander and earned a very nice 3D printed 6 RAD shapeways model for his efforts.

IJA vs. U.S. in the snow

Next up was our best painted army.  For this category I was very glad I did not have to choose.  Four players entered their armies in the competition.  The USMC belonging to Haynes R. took this category with a decisive.   Haynes was also our youngest player and had informed me he had just completed painting it before this event.  Excellent job!

The final category was Hano-Swag.  This was a really tough one to decide.  I had to consult other gamers outside the tournament to reach a decision.  It basically came down to two choices.  I was going to award both, but then one (USMC belonging to Haynes) won the painting, so I went with Mike B's Chindits which I know he has been working on for some time.  Mike is a historical gamer first and I know he struggles  with some of the gaminess of Bolt Action at times, so I was happy he could claim this award.

IJA putting the hurt on the Brits

We were still not done as there were prizes yet to give away.  Due to the generosity of our sponsors I had a number of prizes remaining.  So to finish the event I called each remaining player who had not already won something in a category in the order of their overall score to claim something from the prize table.
Sam and Ethan square off to start the Tournament

One other thing I did for this inaugural tournament was have each player fill out a After Action Review (AAR) when they turned in their final score sheet.  I asked them to rate the overall experience as well as give me their opinion on what they liked and what they would do differently.  Overall on a scale of 1-10 for overall experience the lowest score was a 8, so I guess we did something right.  Because I was able to get donated prizes and funded all the printing costs and frames out of pocket I did not charge a registration fee.  To a player all said they would have paid to participate which is encouraging for future events.  Not that I plan to charge much if anything, but it is nice to know everyone valued the experience.

My lessons learned.

1. If future tournaments are open to inexperienced players a dedicated T.O. and assistant are a requirement.  While I enjoyed hosting I was wiped out by the end of the day.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.
2. Prizes were just about right.  I liked doing the FUBAR prize and I think I would expand that to first tank kill and some other categories to get the excitement going early.
3.  I will relook at the time per game.  2.5hrs is probably more than enough time with more skilled players, but may need to be increased to ensure people get a break in between games.

While 10 players met my goal, I look forward to seeing more next year.  The date is already set for October 23-25th 2015.   With more notice and advertising and the help to support it I think we could easily see a 20+ player tournament in the future.  What-Khan was rather last minute this year and competed with a National event (Fall in) and two other local Gamming Cons and hour away.

Thanks again to all our generous sponsors.  I am glad everyone enjoyed their experience.

Many people stopped by the display I had set up and were asking questions about the game.  I had made up brochures to hand out as well which were almost gone by the end of the day.  Hopefully we can parlay this into a Bolt Action gaming group activities to spread the word with all the contacts I made over the weekend. 

At some point I look forward to the possibility of even playing in a tournament myself . :)

Looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Domination" in North Africa-Bolt Action AAR

Last night we gathered at LABRYNTH Games in Baraboo, WI for an epic 2000 points per side battle in the desert pitting the DAK/Italian forces vs. 8th Army/American forces in a battle loosely based on The Battle of Gafsa Heights.

There were a total of four players: Jarred, Nate, Brian and myself each of us brought 1000pt forces.  Brian and I were paired up as the Axis vs. Jarred and Nate as the Allies.  Special thanks to Jim who supervised and impartially puled dice for the duration.  Extra special thanks to Corey for staying late so we could finish.


Brian's Italians:
Jarred's Americans:
Nate's 8th Army:

As you can see we all brought a different colored dice.  We agreed to add all the colors to the bag and when that color was drawn only that force could activate.

The scenario we picked or this event was "Domination" which is published online at bolt


By Judson MacCaull (and Truck Stop Lauterbach, and Company of Heroes)

You and your opponent are fighting to dominate the field of battle.


Both players roll a D6. The player who rolls the highest number may choose to be the attacker or defender. The defender chooses which table edge to defend. The attacker attacks from the opposite table edge. Both players start the game with their entire army off the board. Starting with the defender, each side designates half their force (rounding up) to come on as a part of the first wave. The remaining troops are placed in reserve or outflank.

Game Duration

The game ends at the end of turn six, unless the game is extended. At the end of turn six roll a die. On a 1-3 the game ends. On a 4-6 play one more turn.


Objectives are placed on a 6' x 4' board in the pattern indicated on the map. The objectives closest to the players’ board edges are each worth 1 victory point. The objective in the center of the board is worth 3 victory points; the other two objectives are worth 2 victory points.

Both sides are trying to control as many objectives as possible by the end of the game. An objective is controlled if at the end of a turn a friendly infantry, tank, or artillery unit is within 3” of an objective, and there are no enemy teams within 3" of the same objective. Once a player controls an objective, the opposing player can capture the objective by ending their turn within 3” of the objective, with no enemy units within 3”. Until that happens, their opponent controls the objective. Transports cannot capture or control an objective.


The player controlling the most victory points at the end of the game wins. If players control the same number of victory points at the end of the game, count the number of units each side lost. The side that lost more units loses. If players lose the same number of units, the game ends in a draw.
Scenario Set up Map

I brought my North Africa terrain which was set up per the above map with seven objectives.

3 point center Objective is in the Building
2 point objectives are on the side hills.

The terrain was fairly sparse being a dessert map, but there was plenty of LoS blocking terrain.  The picture does not show it real well in the above pictures, but there were six hills/dunes which were placed under the table cloth to provide elevation.  We defined the terrain as follows:

1. since I only have so many palm trees they were treated as area terrain.  Units in the trees or behind gained light cover.  Basically for the hills that had trees the entire top was light cover.

2. The two large rocks were rough terrain impassible to all vehicles.

3. Hills were rough terrain impassible to wheeled vehicles.

4. The large rocks and the hills provided hard cover assuming more that half the unit was obscured.

5. All other terrain was normal.

Initially, the Allies won the die roll, but since Italians were involved we forced a re-roll and the Axis won deciding to defend and pick the board side.  Brian did not bring his defensive works, so they were not in play, but the allies were not allowed to run on turn 1 per the Italian special rules.  First wave was determined and units put in outflank.  Then the contest began.

Turn One:

Just saw initial deployment s and units maneuvering for position.  Only one German unit opened fire causing a pin.

Axis position forming on the right
Heavy mortar takes the heights for LoS

Allies bring out the big guns
American Infantry forming on the left
Turn two:

More rounds started to fly as the positions shaped up.  The Sherman arrived with a bang, but failed to produce a critical blow.  Axis mortars started laying smoke, but were not very effective.

222 started the game of cat and mouse
Smoked laid with little effect
Axis position starts to develop on the left
Turn Three:

Out flank units all came on to meet the developing threats.  The Tank battle aka "Mexican Standoff" began.  The PzIV was suppose to outflank to the left, but because the Sherman deployed deep into Axis side of the board we changed our mind which in hindsight was probably ill advised.  Had it deployed as planned with infantry support it would have likely rolled up the left flank forcing the Sherman to come to it to meet the threat.  The Heroic British medics proved their worth as the started to save the first of 12+ troops.

Pioneers come on from outflank and eliminate eight man U.S. Squad except the Medics saved three.
Allies quickly avenged their losses reducing the Pioneers
Sherman is only able to stun the Italian light tank
PzIV enters and gets it 1 and only shot off hitting, but fails to penetrate
Right Flank is fully developed and the Allies capture the 2pt Objective while the Axis secures the building.

On the left the German Vet and Regular squad do their best to hold off the advancing British knowing that the promised armor is not coming.
Allies launch the first of two bloody assaults at the building which the Italian defenders beat back.

Turn Four:

After the initial air strike failed to materialize on turn three the target was shifted to the 222.  The planes would not miss blowing up the target and pinning many of the defenders as well as the attackers.  The Tank battle was a none battle as the Sherman hit the PzIV, but only stunned  the crew.  On the left the German vets assaulted and eliminated a British section and then took the hill with their redeployment to begin to dig in for the long haul.  On the right more and more Allies moved to support the 2 pt objective and try to press the axis rear objective.

222 blows up and many units are pinned on both sides
Now reduced British section continue to push on the Axis left.
Tank Stand off lags on
Turn Five:

The Allies sense that the possibility to secure the building is slipping away, so the begin a hard push against the Axis right to capture the 1 point objective.  Meanwhile the Italian "tankettes" which are zipping around unnoticed as the giants slug it out get several kills.  Additional Allied armor arrived on the Axis left severely threatening the hold on the 2 point objective.  The U.S. Marks the PzIV for an Air strike.

With the defenders fading the Allies push hard on the right.
Italian "armor" makes its presence felt.

British armor finally arrives producing an serious threat.
Sherman fails to deliver a blow and the PzIV is marked for air attack

Turn Six (Final Turn) :

Due to time constraints all knew turn six was the final turn.  The Axis started the turn with a solid lead of 7-4 objective points, but were being pressed hard.  The Allies had to take the other 2 point objective and/or the Axis back objective for an win or force a draw.

The air strike materialized , but failed to kill the PzIV leaving it with 4 pins and down.  The Sherman could not produce the blow needed to knock it out, so what began as a stand off ended as a stand off. 

On the right the allies advanced, but due to a stout combined German/Italian defense they could not get within the required 3" of the back objective as the hills were rough terrain.  On the left the newly arrived cruiser tank was able to move forward just far enough to contest the 2 point objective.  The German Squad launched itself in a desperate assault against the tank which had moved.  The passed the command check and the tank fear, but could only produce one six requiring another six on the penetration roll to hope for a fire damage, but that did not happen leaving the two point objective contested.

Allies push hard on the right, but cannot get close enough to contest the objective
2 point objective is contested with no way to destroy the tank

Final score Axis 5 and Allies 4 

Despite pulling out the six turn win the axis forces were severely bloodied and reduced.  Had the game gone to a turn 7 it would have certainly ended in a draw if not a Allied win.  The Allies would have certainly contested the back objective, but not sure if they could have eliminated the 6 man German squad contesting the 2 point objective.

All in all a great game in classic bolt action style.  It did take a little long at a bit over four hours.  We liked dividing the dice, but probably should have used a multiple draw system or dived the table and used two bags.

The Domination scenario was a huge win for playability as well all enjoyed it.  It plays in true Bolt Action style.