Our thanks to US Raider Jordan Wiebe for providing us with this detailed After Action Report! There is also a video detailing the entire event which you can view below:
The returning hero trope is present throughout all of humanity. It’s in our literature, religions, and entertainment. Whether it’s Arnold stating “ I’ll be back,” or General MacArthur declaring “ I shall return!” there is something inside us human beings that cheers. For Bolt Action players in and around Salt Lake City, Utah, the return to in-person wargaming events would be met with enthusiasm and an eagerness to once again roll dice with friends. It would be a year and a half after Gajograd 2020, the first of its kind Bolt Action event run in Salt Lake City, could be followed up. In June of 2021, Gajo Games was the site of a Tank Wars tournament, with Shawn Bagley’s Rumble in the Rubble city-fight themed event capitalizing on the enthusiasm in October with
20 players from across the western states participating.
Though efforts to return to the fictional city of Gajograd were thwarted by the state of the world in 2021, 2022 was not able to keep players from once again fighting over the fictional city, despite the best attempts of the Omicron variant. On January 8, 18 players from Utah, Wyoming, Nevada (and even one from Florida!) met at Gajo Games for a three-game, 800point Axis vs Allies Bolt Action event. Players individual scores would be tracked, but their scores would also contribute towards an overall team score. There were awards for the entire winning team (designed and built by our own Gavin Beaton and Mike Adamson), as well as trophies for individual achievements thanks to Gabe Califano. Of the 11 tables set up for the event, two featured specific scenarios and table layouts, which would give the team who was victorious on them a bonus for the following round. One table, known as Gajograd City Hall, featured a compact 4’ x 4’ game of sectors with a scale recreation of Gajo Games as its centerpiece. The City Hall was worth the most points, but had also been rigged to explode by partisans should players roll poorly upon entering the building. The player that won the scenario for this table granted a free upgrade to every lieutenant on his team – second lieutenants would upgrade to first, first to captains, and so on for the next game. The other important table, based off the mountain range that towers over Salt Lake City and dubbed the Wasatch Front, featured rocky terrain and some artillery positions. Units that were issued RUN orders on this table automatically received a pin, but could award their team some Constant Bombardment dice for the following game (see the Stalingrad campaign book for this rule). Players also were given five secondary objectives that they could choose from to earn extra points.
The armies that were readied for the fight featured plenty of variety. The United States, Germany, Great Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, Finland, Italy, China, Japan and French partisans were all represented on the table. After a player briefing at 9:30am, game one kicked off! Scenario one was a modified Sectors with a 12” bubble in the center that was not worth any points, requiring units to move deeper into enemy territory to claim a table quarter. The fighting was fierce as the British 8th army and its cruiser tanks smashed into German opposition on one table, while the Americans tackled the Japanese on another. On the objective tables, the Finns managed to narrowly beat out their American opponents on the last order dice of the game, as the partisan booby trap in the City Hall was set off by the… French partisans, resulting in a draw against a vehicle heavy Italian force. The score was neck and neck after the end of the round with a difference of only 2 points!
After a free lunch that was provided by Shawn Bagley, the teams chose their players for the objective tables and got back to work! Scenario two placed the victors of the first round, the Allies, in a defensive position against an Axis counterattack looking to take back Gajograd and the surrounding area. A modified version of Point Defense placed three objectives on the table of which the Axis players would secretly select one to make their primary objective. They had to take and hold this objective to win the game. They softened up the defenders with an automatic prepatory bombardment, and kept their heads down with the constant bombardment they had earned on the Wasatch Front table in round one. The Italians and Americans clashed in the ruins of one of Gajograd’s industrial sectors as the Soviets and their multiple T-34’s found themselves running up against Finnish panzerschrecks and panzerfausts. Both players in this game managed the double-or-nothing secondary option, netting plenty of extra points for their teams! An SAS LRDG force and its heavily armed trucks met Italian Alpini troops (with plenty of transports of their own) on the Wasatch Front, engaging in a very near run battle that saw the Italians snatch victory from their foes on the last turn. The City Hall managed to stay intact this round as the Soviets swept the center of German armor and infantry. Multiple Axis victories granted them the lead over the Allies, but only by a two game margin!
The third round would be slightly different than the first two. Since there would be no fourth round, the objective tables offered the winning team double points instead of bonuses. The rest of the players played through Meeting Engagement, where destroying enemy units is the path to victory. On one table, French partisans drove a civilian car with a flamethrower team inside right beside a Panzer 4 to attempt to scare off its crew off, but a low roll and a miss meant the team was annihilated with the next German order dice pulled. In a bombed-out urban center, it was a pair of bomb dogs, not the soviet T-34 that turned a Japanese Chi-Ha into a flaming wreck. While the Finns fought through dense jungle to harass an LRDG patrol, an American Hellcat met its doom at the hands of a Chinese cavalry charge. At the City Hall a back and forth series of exploding tanks saw the Soviets win out and gain those crucial double points for the Allies. In the rocky mountains of the Wasatch Front, however, American and German forces fought to a stalemate, resulting in a draw, sealing the fate of the Allied team.
After 27 exciting games of Bolt Action, the final score saw the Allies with 318 points to the Axis 336 – not even a two game difference! The score being close all the day long is exactly what you want as an event organizer. The Axis were led by an all infantry Finnish platoon, claiming four secondary objectives (the most out of all the players) and three wins! A Soviet force with three wins took top spot for the Allies, the Italian Alpini grabbed best Axis and French partisans managed to win Best Minor Power. There were three player-voted awards, Best Theme, Best Painted and Spirit of Bolt Action, who went to a Finnish, German and British force, respectively. Our final award was Bad Day at Bolt Action, which was awarded to the lowest scoring player. Fourteen-year-old Treven wasn’t too excited about it at first – until he saw that the prize was a fully painted U.S. Marines platoon donated by Gabriel Califano! He was more than excited about bringing home an entire army!
At the conclusion of a long day of rolling dice, it was clear that the last two years had not had any effect on the camaraderie of the players in our group. Their excitement could not be hidden by the masks they wore. Seasoned veterans took the newer and younger gamers under their wing, opponents laughed as games came down to the last order dice of the game, and new friendships were made across the 6’x4’ battlefields in Gajo Game’s upper balcony. Though previously not known as a hub for tabletop wargaming, Salt Lake City may very well be on its way to earning that status in 2022. ~~
Huge thanks to our event sponsors: Gajo Games, Rubicon USA, Trenchworx, Wargames Atlantic, Father and Son Gaming, and Tabletop CP! Special thanks to Craig, Chris and the Gajo Games staff for running a top tier venue and storefront, Mike Adamson, Gavin Beaton, Tim Bearden, Doug Hubbard and Gabe Califano for designing and manufacturing 3D printed prizes and terrain for the event, and Shawn Bagley for helping to put on the tournament, supplying lunch, and his dedication to the hobby and community – Jordan