Bolt Action: Third Edition is coming, but that doesn’t mean Bolt Action games have ground to a halt. Quite the contrary, in fact – there are still dozens of tournaments and events between now and the September arrival of the new edition, not to mention thousands of games played at clubs all over the world, and that means there’s still plenty of room to talk tactics, not to mention the timeless joy of putting models together! This time, we’re looking at the brand-new US Rangers plastic boxed set, and how you can get the most out of them on the tabletop!

To begin, we’ll look at what you get on the sprue:

Bolt Action US Rangers Sprue Component List

Packed with components enabling you to create a huge variety of unique figures (and subsequently units!), each Rangers sprue has a ton of potential, and really is all but a one-stop shop if you want to field an army of these elite American infantrymen! From your ‘standard’ riflemen (inasmuch as a Ranger can ever be ‘standard’) to BAR gunners, officers, medics, and even sniper and Bazooka teams, the new sprue has you covered! With 30 figures per box, that’s the core of your army sorted right away! For things like artillery and machine gun teams, the US Army range has you covered – simply Ranger them up with the decals included in the boxed set, and you’re good to go!

So, you’ve got your sprues and tools ready – the only question is: what to build? Well, the obvious answer is ‘whatever you want’ – after all, it’s your hobby! However, we’re here to talk tactics and gameplay, and how you can get the most out of these awesome new plastics on the tabletop!

Right off the bat, Rangers are your classic Veteran infantry squad, and you can bring up to 11 of them in a single unit, with options for both a BAR and LMG, plus up to 3 SMGs and the option to take Anti-Tank Grenades. So far, so normal, right? Well, the ‘secret sauce’ of the Rangers isn’t in their equipment options – these are pretty standard for most late-war US infantry units, although the option to take an LMG is a nice addition to have that isn’t usually available to non-Airborne troops – it’s in their Rangers Lead The Way! special rule! This allows Ranger squads, after deployment but before the game begins, to make a free Run move, which although it does not allow them to Assault enemy units, is also immune to triggering an Ambush! This is a seriously useful tool in your arsenal, and really represents the willingness of the real Rangers to go further and do more than the ‘average’ infantryman.

The US Army tactical doctrine placed great emphasis on firepower and mobility, and this is reflected in the armament of the standard infantry squad with the self-loading M1 Garand rifle or carbine, and Browning automatic rifle (BAR), which could be fired effectively by one man on the move.

To reflect this combination of doctrine, armament and plentiful ammunition, US infantry models equipped with M1 Garand rifles/carbines and BAR do not suffer the –1 ‘to hit’ penalty for shooting and moving. This means that these models can be given an advance order, move, and then shoot without suffering the usual ‘to hit’ penalty, making American infantry extremely effective both on the attack and when shifting position in defence.

So, you’ve got a unit of Veterans with your choice of weaponry that can move up to 12” before the game begins – how do you use them, and how does that inform how you build them? Personally, I’m a huge fan of big squads of riflemen for US armies (my personal USMC tournament army is built entirely around this concept!), so I’d be looking at least two 11-man squads, with 10 rifles and a single BAR (5 points for an extra shot is a no-brainer!). This build also synergises perfectly with the US special rule allowing them to ignore the penalty for having moved when firing rifles and BARs, giving me 12 shots of mobile firepower per unit with a decent chance of hitting with plenty of them!

Bolt Action US Rangers 11-Man Infantry Squad
US Rangers 11-man Infantry Squad

With those two core squads, I’ll be looking to get across the board as quickly as possible, using aggressive manoeuvring tactics (you can read more about that here), aiming to get lots of bodies into key pieces of cover or in controlling positions near objectives. Being able to move the Rangers up to 18” and still take some shots by the end of turn 1 is a huge advantage here, and really helps get into the opponent’s face early on in the game and seize the advantage. At just over 300 points for the two big Ranger units, there’s still plenty of points left over in the standard 1,000 or 1,100-point tournament list for all your usual toys (a nice medium howitzer, flamethrower team in a Jeep, and all that good stuff), and they give a really good ‘hard core’ to the army that informs the rest of the list selections.

Bolt Action US Rangers Bazooka Team
US Rangers Bazooka Team

With just one box of Rangers, if you build those two big squads… you’ve still got eight bodies left over! My personal top tip would be to use these to fill out some of your crucial supporting units – the sprue allows you to build a Sniper and Bazooka team which for me are absolute must-haves, which would use up four bodies, and with the remaining four you can get your Officer team (solo or two-man, as you prefer), as well as either a medic (perhaps using the arm carrying the satchel as a medical bag) or a couple of spotters for any artillery or mortars you might have. Suddenly, that single box has sorted you out the core of your army all by itself!

Bolt Action US Rangers Sniper
US Rangers Sniper
Bolt Action US Rangers Officer
US Rangers Officer, built using the included Captain Miller head, representing the iconic Saving Private Ryan character.

The possibilities on the sprue don’t stop there! Want to field an Engineer squad? The Bangalore Torpedo demolition charge arm is a perfect way to get the feel of the unit lugging loads of heavy gear around, while with a relatively minimal amount of kitbash fettling, you can also integrate the LMG arms from the US Airborne kit if you fancy a Ranger squad equipped for longer-range fire support. With an enormous amount of inter-kit compatibility with the rest of the US range, you can really go to town creating unique figures, to suit however you want to build and play your list.

Bolt Action US Ranger with Satchel Charge
US Ranger with Satchel charge – this part could easily double as a Medic’s bag!
Bolt Action US Ranger with Bangalore Torpedo
US Ranger with Bangalore Torpedo

The new Rangers boxed set is the perfect foundation for an army – let it lead the way to a new collection today!

The New Plastic Bolt Action US Rangers Boxed Set
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