Can Bolt Action be historical?
Having seen this question on several fora and Facebook groups, I decided to attempt answering this question.
Bolt Action is a platoon level World War 2 game. Each unit is typically a squad, a support weapon or a vehicle. The gamer plays with real-life forces, so by definition, it is a historical game. Maybe the question should be rephrased to Can it be played historically?
I play a lot of Bolt Action, primarily because it is what my local gamers play. I do enjoy playing the game too. The system for Bolt Action works very well, with the activating, pinning and morale systems giving an interesting alternative to the more traditional IGOUGO wargame.
The mechanisms give a simple but historically plausible game. It is admittedly more of a game than a simulation and the 'buy in' both in terms of money and understanding the new system is pretty easy.
Where the issues begin are with the army lists. They are designed to give the player a maximum amount of freedom, which leaves the system open to some abuse.
When we play Bolt Action, it is generally with historically accurate forces. So 1944 British versus 1944 Germans, 1942 Desert Rats versus 1942 Italians etc. Having restrictions makes the game more fun.
The host of new theatre books and theatre selector lists have been a godsend to more historically minded players like me. The limits in these lists is what makes them more interesting and much more playable. No Stg 44's, Panthers or Panzerfausts in our desert games! We only use what equipment they had at the time.
Chaosbunker did such an excellent review on the new Campaign: The Western Desert book, that I could not do better. I will be doing a review later this week on the excellent Campaign: Battle of France book.
Bolt Action is lots of fun. I think it can more fun if played with forces based on historical orders of battle. We'll be playing 1940 France soon, paper thin armoured Panzers versus inexperienced French. Now that is going to be a new challenge! Less is more, in my book.