Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bolt Action Economics: Unit Costs vs Unit Value


As with all games systems we have a fine line between what is cool and what is practical that we can add to our armies. We all like to win (least once in a while) and have a good time. We all hate the fact when you have something cool on the gaming table and it gets blown to hell before you got to use it. We all have been there and done that! Now some instances you can’t help but there is also some principles you can follow. I call this simply Bolt Action Economics.
What is Bolt Action Economics or BAE? A simple concept, but a hard thing to master as this isn’t about min/maxing but getting the best for your points you spend.  Think of each point you have as money, so a 1000 point game is $1000 bucks. So, you don’t want to just throw away $100o do you? No, you want to get something for it. This is a concept that sometimes people forget in wargaming, getting a return on what you put into your army. You have to consider the cost of the unit and the ability that it can do something in such a way that allows it to earn value or otherwise it should not be in your list.
Here is a good example:
A Regular Tiger I tank is 395pts, a pretty high cost there. Now, you do get two MMGs (one co-axial and one forward facing), a super-heavy anti-tank gun and a 10+ heavy tank defense.
If it goes up against another tank, for example a Russian T-34-85 tank, that is a Regular also costing 235pts. If the tank can kill this tank, it still is in the hole earning another 160 points. Pretty much another tank or a vehicle of some substance in points becomes the only worthwhile target. Otherwise you are wasting your points (or money rather) with something that can’t kill enough to make it worthwhile.
Look at an infantry squad, say we go Veteran here, add 5 men and a LMG to the package, so it is roughly 150points. Could the Tiger kill it to make some points? Let’s look:
  • If it fires the MMGs (both) it could dish out 8 shots, not bad, but now let’s factor in long range, soft cover (at least) and the tank moved. So, I need a 6 to hit. So, unless I am a lucky bastard you will hit maybe twice. As they are Veterans, well you need a 5 to wound with a MMG.
  • If it fires the main gun using HE, you get d3 hits (that is assuming you hit), now the other player can opt to take half that if they go to ground. So, you may get at best 2 hits, with a crappy +1 to wound and a single pin! Yea, feel the excitement! If you fired the hard round, if you hit (bear in mind a 1 in 5 or 6, depending on range and cover (could be better or worse). So, congrats you kill one and get a pin marker. Whooo! Throw in a MMG, so you may or may not get a bonus kill.
  • Now if you shot at a fat target like an Artillery Observer, maybe that gamble will pay off. Net you a few points, but then again the odds are slim to hit him if he is in cover, small unit, range and if you moved are all factors. Again, you could be facing a 5 or 6 on average…a 1 in 3 chance to hit! Sure shoot that AT round, short of a 1 you will kill him.
Yea, that Tiger isn’t looking so great now eh? Not to talk you out of taking a Tiger I tank or anything else, just know what you are getting into. If your opponent shows up with cheap vehicles or infantry heavy, you have some serious work cut out for you. Plus that Tiger sinks a great deal of points that gives you less dice in favor of a stronger tank, one that is harder to hurt but not impossible to beat with someone that is prepared.


  1. Great post....i try to think the same way.
    units cost vs units value.

    Best Regards


    1. Thanks, there is more later on I will touch on. The cost vs value is a good rule of thumb allows plaers to build a playable list that they enjoy.

  2. I'm just now understanding how all this works. And it explains the buying/painting decisions that the gamers I follow make. RPG is pretty straight forward. But wargames are much, much more complex. Very good post sir.

  3. The rules make tanks too easy to destroy.