Snipers are almost a constant in any force you’ll come across on the Bolt Action tabletop, despite not being quite as prevalent in real life as Hollywood might like to have us believe, and with good reason. Used right, they can be incredibly destructive, and even their mere presence on the battlefield can cause an opponent to alter their plans and playstyle drastically! Let’s have a look at the hows, whys, and whens of snipers in the game of Bolt Action. Note, for the purposes of this article the term sniper is being used to refer to the two-man Bolt Action unit, rather than any real-world military designation.
We’ll begin as usual by looking at what you get for your points. There are a few different and funky options out there, from the Japanese Lone Sniper (rules in Campaign: New Guinea) to the legendary Finnish Simo Häyhä and Soviet Vasily Zaitsev, but for the purpose of our discussion today we’ll be looking at the ‘standard’ unit available to the vast majority of nations. For 50 points at Regular you get two blokes, one spotter armed with a rifle or pistol (or SMG for you American players), and one sniper armed with the eponymous sniper rifle, with the Forward Deployment special rule. They can usually also be Veterans in most lists for 62 points – perfect for those wanting to run slightly more hard-bitten snipers!
Right off the bat, a 50-point Order Dice in the bag is nothing to sniff at – remember, more dice in the bag equals a greater likelihood that one of your dice will be drawn when you really need it! Quite aside from that, it gives you a Small Team that can forward deploy, getting into the most advantageous position possible before the game starts. The sniper rifle, meanwhile, is one of the most potent infantry weapons in the game, with any wound caused by it treated as causing Exceptional Damage, allowing you to pick off officers and NCOs and destroy team weapons with contemptuous ease. Has your opponent got a flamethrower lurking in cover, waiting to pounce on your infantry? Guess again. Snipers ignore cover, making it very difficult to hide from them, short of getting completely out of sight. If you can get your opponent hiding their valuable units behind buildings, they aren’t advancing them on your forces, giving you the upper hand right away!
Now, this doesn’t mean that snipers are an all-powerful weapon of destruction. They’re basically useless against armoured vehicles (barring chucking a Pin on them if they’re open-topped), and if caught by an assault they’ll simply melt away nine times out of ten. While being a Small Team gives them decent protection against shooting, there’s only two bodies to soak up wounds, so a single lucky fusillade can wipe them off the board. Quite aside from all that, it’s highly likely that your opponent will have a sniper team of their own! You can’t just leave your sharpshooters out in the open and expect them to lay waste to all before them – using them requires a modicum of thought.
Being a Small Team allows snipers to really make the most of available cover, and Forward
Deployment lets you get them into an advantageous position from the get-go. Top floors of buildings are ideal (just watch out for HE) as they give you a great field of fire and shield you from being assaulted quite as quickly, while dense bushes or stands of trees are great for ground-level firing positions. Make good use of the terrain on the table, don’t get caught in the open, and if you don’t have a worthwhile target that turn, don’t be afraid to go Down if shot at. Also remember the minimum range of the sniper rifle – don’t let enemies get too close!
Let’s now talk about target priority. Very simply, this is the process of deciding what to shoot first, and is an incredibly important part of using your snipers correctly. Your first target should always be your opponent’s sniper, for a couple of reasons – firstly, cinematic sniper duels are just plain cool! Secondly, they’re the biggest danger to your own sniper, so get them off the board early! After that, focus on taking out any spotters your adversary may have, to effectively blind their mortars and other indirect fire weapons. Then move on to any forward observers they may have, ideally before they call in their deadly strikes! Once that’s done, you’ve got a few more options. It’s always a good idea to have a pop at enemy officer teams if they’re foolish enough to get into your line of sight, and deny your opponent their morale bonus and Snap To special rule, but by this stage the game will be well underway and there may well be bigger fish to fry! Enemy special weapons such as flamethrowers and anti-tank teams should be considered priority targets – pick them off to foil any cunning plans and keep your troops alive. If no target presents itself, but you know your enemy will have to make a move, an Ambush order is always a good shout, and can cause them to alter their plans on the fly – the perfect recipe for a tactical blunder. Finally, if there’s really nothing else left to shoot at, you can either start popping some Pins on any infantry in reach (and taking out their NCOs to boot) or consider relocating, perhaps for a last-minute dash at an objective to score some points. At all times remember – distance and cover are your best friends!
Armed with this handy guide, you’ve got all the info you need to get sniping! Mark your targets, take careful aim, breathe out, and smoothly squeeze the trigger. BANG!
Here is but a small selection of Bolt Action sniper teams available:
Hoi, nice and good advice.
But as as player of polish army, These is still point of polish snipers being a one-man unit.
Or was there a Errata about that?