Adventures in Bolt Action – Figuring it all out!

After unboxing the massive box that was Battle for Berlin, I was left feeling a little daunted, feeling a little bit like I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I had sprues coming out of my ears, more weapon choices than I could shake a big shaky stick at, and lots of teeny-tiny decals, which my poor eyes could barely decipher. So, I had to get a grip, buy a book or two, and try and figure it all out…

The booklet that came in the box lists the statistics for the units within, specific unit types and sizes, which sounds all well and good, and probably means a lot to someone already immersed in the world of BA, but to me, it was as if it was all written in Greek!

After sitting and thinking about it for a while, I started to get my head around it, I was attempting to come at the problem from the wrong direction. My only experience of BA so far was through reading the rulebook and so I was fixated on the reinforced platoon, the basic foundation for creating a force, and the points system, whereas the units provided in the box didn’t appear to conform to this but were specifically built for the included scenarios.

The basic Reinforced Platoon as per the rulebook

This is fine, but the stats didn’t include point values for the units, and I wanted to know how it would all fit together later down the road when I wanted to put together my won reinforced platoons, both Soviet and German. Armies of Germany was my first port of call, it provided all the information I needed, typically, the late war theatre selectors from which my platoons will be formed.

Bolt Action - Armies of Germany

The book was superb, containing bags of lovely pictures and plenty of historical background – the images of painted units would be a big help when I finally start assembling everything and move to painting. I could now work out how much each unit would cost if built along the lines suggested in the BoB box. I then did the same for the Soviets, grabbing Armies of the Soviet Union off Amazon. Whilst the German Armies book has been updated for use with BA 2nd Edition, the Soviet one remains unchanged because their army structure was a lot simpler and didn’t require any tinkering when the new edition came out. If anything, I prefer the way the Soviet book is put together, it felt like it contained a lot more historical content and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also preferred the way it approached theatre selectors, they felt more concentrated, breaking things down into smaller chunks of time than the German one.

Before I dived in and started working out exactly how I was going to put it all together, I decided to add yet another book to my collection – The Road to Berlin campaign book. This concentrates on the events from Operation Bagration right through to the fall of Berlin, including the Warsaw and Prague uprisings, which I found really interesting.

Armed with these three books I could now decide on how to proceed. Here’s my thinking…’Blow it all and do what I want!’

Pretty sound don’t you think?

For example: The box comes with 12 German Heer Grenadiers and specifies two figures to be used as either an Officer and his bi… helper or as a sniper team, whilst the rest go towards a full, 10-man, squad. Now, I’m thinking that my initial Platoons are going to be late war, playing scenarios set towards the fall of Berlin, so, to keep in with that, maybe 2-squads of 5 men would be more realistic, as attrition would have ground down the forces and few, if any, would be at full strength?

More tinkering can be done with the Soviets. The set comes with 24 Soviet Infantry and 24 soviet Winter Infantry, and they are broken down in the book into 4 units: a rifle squad, a light machine gun squad, a submachine gun squad, and a veteran squad. The first two are full, 12-man squads, whilst the others are 10-man, the other 4 figures becoming an Officer and Sniper team. The minimum squad for Soviets is 5, which leaves plenty of room here for shuffling things around. I also noticed that, according to the Soviet Armies book, there were no standard rifle squads (being inexperienced) during this stage of the war, they were either guard or veteran squads. Again, I doubt if I’ll go with a full, 12-man, squad here, and reducing them down slightly will give me at least one extra unit, if not two, to play with – more units=more dice in the bag=more chance of pulling one of your own out!

I’m quite happy now on where I’m going with the assembly of my units, but then there’s painting, and here I find I’m in the same boat (mind the pun), as I was when painting my Naval ships. What colour was Soviets uniform? Why can’t I seem to get a definitive answer for this simple question? Shades of green, shades of grey, and shades of brown often erring on the side of yellow. I can only conclude that they’re all right to some degree and it depends on when the uniform was issued and how long it had been worn. I know for a fact that they fade. I have some of my old uniform, both the old Combat Soldier 95 DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material), phased out 2010-13, and the later MTP (Multi-Terrain Pattern), both of which are well worn and quite different to what they were originally. The colours of the CS95 are dull. Where there was once black there is now grey and dark greens have sun-bleached to a much lighter colour. The MTP, which is made up of four colours, has faded so much it now looks a single colour from a distance of 10m or so – on a side note, the newer MTP hasn’t lasted as long as my old CS95 stuff, which has seen me through many a day fishing, working in the garden, and generally getting mucky in the garage, and other than a tear in the knee is still going strong (The MTP wore so thin it fell apart!).

Bolt Action
So, what colour uniform was standard for the Soviets?…. Anyone?

Tanks aren’t so much of an issue. Whilst there are many different; paint schemes to choose from, they do seem quite well documented, so it’s just a case of deciding which ones to go with.

So, that’s where I am at the moment. I have everything worked out in my head I just need to move on to actually putting things together. I’ve just prepped my last batch of MoM miniatures, as well as three more for M:CP, so they are what I’m concentrating on currently painting. They shouldn’t take long though, the MoM stuff I keep nice and simple, and when I find myself with a spare half-hour, I’ll make a start on assembling some units. I also want to forge ahead with the scenery, some of which should be a quick fix, though the Berlin Houses will take a bit more thought.

I’ll bang another BA post out when I have more to add, even if it’s just some pictures of work in progress. In the meantime, if anyone can recommend a good website or book detailing Soviet or German uniform colours (or tanks), that would be much appreciated, thanks😁

19 thoughts on “Adventures in Bolt Action – Figuring it all out!

  1. Enjoyed seeing your progress Justin, and how you’ve approached it all, seems very sensible to me. Unfortunately can’t help on the recommendations, but I bet when John gets here, he’ll be a fountain of knowledge

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thanks Dave.
      Lol! Yes, I bet John will have the answers. At least I hope he does😉

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Based on the above comments I’m reckoning I’d have been better waiting a week or two before commenting in the hope that someone else might answer the tricky questions! 😉 I paint Russian uniforms in Humbrol 26 khaki (acrylic) and Vallejo Green Brown is practically identical (it might even be Brown Green, I’m downstairs typing and my paints are upstairs hiding in a box)! Vallejo do a Russian WW2 Uniform colour but I think this is too green and much closer to Russian WW1 uniforms. The older Osprey Men-At-Arms book on the Russian army in WW2 by Steve Zaloga shows the uniforms more brown than green and not too dark. I paint helmets in a darker brown or greenish shade but I haven’t painted Russians in a while and in 20mm I only do shade colours with a single lighter layer.
    Russian vehicles as a rule were a plain dark green, with Lend-Lease vehicles being left in their original colours. Vallejo do a surface primer for Russian 4B0 green but I find this quite dark for a final colour so I currently paint Russian vehicles in Vallejo 70.894 Camouflage Olive Green (I saw a few references on the internet to this colour so I started using it). In April 1945 Russian tanks started carrying white crosses on the turret roofs with a horizontal white band around the turret (usually leaving gapes for tactical numbers and the occasional red star). I seem to remember seeing these markings on your Berlin battleset box on an IS-2 and thinking that the horizontal stripe was far too thin. These markings were not carried universally and were intended to prevent friendly fire attacks from British and American aircraft as the Allies closed up to the Russians in Germany (these had happened in Yugoslavia in 1944 I think). The system changed in May 1945 to white triangles on turret roofs when it was found that the Germans were marking some of their few remaining tanks in the crosses and horizontal bands.
    I can’t really comment on the Bolt Action force organisation I’m afraid – I use 1 model = 20 real life men or vehicles, which lets me field battalions of a similar size to BA platoons, but I draw all units from a complete divisional organisation.
    Hope this might help a little. I’ve assumed it was only Russians you wanted to deal with for now, but if you want some thoughts on the Germans just let me know!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow, John, that’s worthy of a post all of its own, thanks.
      I always thought Russian uniform was more on the brown side than green, and Vallejo’s Green Brown does look how I imagined it. Lifecolor do a Russian Uniform set, which looks along the lines you mention, with a darker brown helmet. I’ve never used their paints but I’ve heard good things, and their naval line is supposed to be very accurate.
      Interesting what you say about the markings on the tanks, I hadn’t really considered that yet, just thought about their basic colours. I know there are decals for them, but again, I haven’t looked that closely to see what goes on what – I’ll have to gen up on that kind of thing as I’m clueless!
      BA is 1 model= 1 man, so a section, or squad as they call it, has a full strength of around 10 men depending upon nation. They use what’s called a Reinforced Platoon, a number of squads plus the odd artillery piece and vehicles. You can field a number of platoons instead of just one, as long as you come within the nominated points. It appears to work quite well.
      Thanks for providing all that info John, much appreciated, and you’ve definitely steered me in the right direction I think. Cheers👍

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Although there are newer books, Steve Zaloga’s Eastern Front Camouflage and Markings book is a good reference, including Russian tank markings, but you can just drop me a line nearer the time if you want me to dig out some specific vehicle markings. But if the above, has helped I’ve achieved something! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks John, you really should start charging!😉
        There’s so much to consider, I wonder if I’ll ever get anything done🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sprues coming out of your ears! You should get that checked out, mate. That sounds serious 😉 Dave beat me to it, but I’ll also say read whatever John says above, he’ll know!

    To be a bit more serious, I’m glad the army books got you sorted out as I can see where you might be a little lost. Those books look quite nice and I like how they have rules, inspiring photos, and historical info all in one. Generally those sort of books don’t have much other than rules and nice photos so I think there is a bit of extra value there.

    I can’t tell you much about WWII but I look forward to seeing how you get on with this project. I will also say that I think you’re going to be busy for the foreseeable future! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Turns out, the sprues were stuck in the potatoes!!

      Yes, John knows what he’s talking about alright, and he’s pointed me in the right direction.

      The army and campaign books are really good, especially the artwork, which is mostly from Osprey, though the pictures of actually miniatures are Warlord I think. The history contained within gives a great backdrop for it all and it’s written in a condensed but highly formative style, which I like.

      Busy till I’m dead, otherwise I’ve wasted too much time 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha, I second that last notion! I’m too busy being busy and enjoying life, if you know what I mean 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Looking forward to see how you go. My approach as always been to assemble first and find out what does later, but this does lead to a certain amount of attrition as you discover you don’t need certain combinations. BA is pretty forgiving, given the basic unit in almost every army is a solder with a rifle.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Dave.
      Lol! That used to be my approach too. I used to jump in, thinking, I don’t need to plan ahead, it’ll all come good in the end, but did it? Noooooo!🤔

      Liked by 2 people

      1. these are true words.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. That many troops to assemble can indeed be a daunting task. But fear not, it seems you have a fine source of info in John and I’ve even learned some things from his comment!

    I’ve played Soviets in Bolt Action since the 2nd edition was first released and tho my own project is a Winter ‘44 era with greatcoats and padded uniforms, the basics are still the same imo.

    In Bolt Action Soviets max out their infantry at 12 men. Typically (like all other nations at the time.) a sergeant with smg, 10 men with mosin nagant rifles and the cool dp-27 lmg as squad support. One of your rifle men will also be a “loader” for the lmg trooper (meaning he can’t shoot in-game as long as the lmg is alive.). It’s always good to take (and historical for late war 1945 as Stalin moved all the Siberian vets to the west front bulking out his armies to massive numbers.) full squads also get to re-roll order tests as long as they haven’t taken a casualty, which helps out lots especially with inexperienced troops.

    I also have tank riding vets toting smg’s which are also another very fun option to include and the imagery of troops sat on a tank hull as it trundles forward into weapons range is pretty damned cool!

    For uniform colours John has the right of it. Vallejo Green Brown was a go to for me and also Vallejo Khaki. But other light browns work just as well as historically so many factories were pouring out uniforms that much like any other nation there were plenty of variations in shade and colour.
    I “did” tho use Vallejo Russian Uniform for helmets and armoured hulls throughout my collection. (I’d not heard of the brown variations that John has mentioned, but now I am excited to go research this!)

    There obviously more I could prattle on about but I’ll leave you with a link to my blog and if you like you can search under “Soviets” and see my own take on Bolt Action ruskies!

    Enjoying reading about your adventures with all this sir.

    – Dai

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Dai.
      Yes, John is a fountain of useful information, one that I drink from regularly!
      There’s a lot to putting together a force that doesn’t always come apparent until you’ve got it down and played; thanks for your advice there.
      Green Brown is where I’m heading. I might see if I can get an ‘air’ version, as I’m thinking of basecoating the whole lot with the airbrush and then going back to fill in the details, I reckon it might be the quickest way of getting them done.
      Thanks for the link, am following and sure I’ll be seeking inspiration 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. remember the soviets have one free 12 man rifle squad otherwise the game will be one sided

    Liked by 1 person

  7. this looks amazing but dont forget about the free 12 man squad for the soviets

    i dont play bolt action yet but i have most of the armies of books and all i need now are minitures

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, thanks for the reminder.
      I’m a bit behind on things at the moment, though I will be putting out another BA post early next year to catch up with where I’m at – I’ve just finished painting my first batch of Soviets. At this rate, you can guess that I won’t be playing a game any time soon, but I have enjoyed reading through the several books I’ve bought.

      Hope you get a game in soon, you can let me know what you think. I guess you’re going with the Soviets?


      1. yes i think i will use the soviets as i find their tanks cool as i live in zimbabwe there is no one to play me so i will also get germans.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yup – Cool Tanks!
        Great minds think alike, cos that’s exactly what I’m doing too😁


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