Paddy Mayne was our Open Day Special Edition Miniature for 2022!

There’s been an awful lot of interest in the daring exploits of the British Special Air Service (SAS) during the Western Desert campaign of late – I can’t possibly think why! This band of daredevils, misfits, and heroes have captured the imaginations of wargamers (and TV screenwriters!) for decades, and with good reason. Their innovative style of operations, idiosyncratic appearance, and unique equipment make them a painter and modeller’s dream, and they aren’t half bad on the tabletop either! Let’s take a look at how you can build these desert legends and how you can get the best out of them in games of Bolt Action.

Kitbashed SAS infantryman using a Commonwealth Infantry body with all other parts taken from the Commandos sprue.

The SAS units and selectors in the Western Desert Campaign Book gives us a fantastic set of alternative ways to play Bolt Action which replicate such deeds, but first let’s take a look at how you might go about modelling this band of rag-tag desperados. The obvious place to start is with the British Commonwealth plastic boxed set, which handily includes plenty of heads wearing traditional Arab headdresses – these practical desert garments were swiftly adopted by the SAS men to protect them from the harsh sun. With shorts and rolled-up sleeves aplenty, this kit will provide thoroughly acceptable SAS troopers with no extra work required – however, you can always go the extra mile! The distinctive sand-coloured SAS berets can be acquired from the British & Inter-Allied Commandos sprue (with a suitable paint job of course). This sprue also nets you the huge ‘Bergen’ packs (as everyone knows, the mark of a truly elite soldier is a really, really big rucksack) and the vicious Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives. There’s also a Vickers ‘K’ machine gun – originally designed for aircraft use, but beloved of special forces for its high rate of fire. While we’re at it – not everyone in the desert was wearing shorts, either! The battledress-clad Commando bodies go great with Commonwealth arms, and this kind of mix-and-match assembly is perfect for creating a unique force that really nails the SAS look and feel.

These miniatures were built using the Commonwealth Infantry boxed set.
The SAS conduct a surprise raid on an Afrika Korps gun emplacement.

For those real die-hards out there, there are plenty of pictures of British troops in the desert wearing greatcoats – turns out it gets chilly at night! Our metal British Infantry Section (Winter) will provide some fantastic donor bodies – simply swap the heads out for a cap comforter or beret and you’re good to go! The same applies to quite a few Commando and British Army metal character figures – these make great ‘base’ models for some funky conversions. In terms of vehicles, the obvious choices are the purpose-built SAS desert jeeps and LRDG trucks (shown below), which bristle with Vickers ‘K’ and Lewis guns, and have been stripped of all non-essential equipment, loaded with baggage, and sent out to cause mischief and mayhem! For those fancying a conversion challenge, why not consider ‘liberated’ Axis vehicles such as a German Opel Blitz or Kubelwagen; or an Italian vehicle like the AS42 Sahariana or Fiat 626 truck? These could provide an amazing opportunity to flex your painting and modelling muscles. You can also build your own jeeps out of the US ‘generic’ models – perfect for adding variety and making your army stand out in those painting contests!

Now, let’s take a look at the SAS on the Bolt Action tabletop! The Western Desert Campaign Book provides a bunch of new units and a pair of new selectors to represent the SAS (one early, and one later), and is really an essential book for anyone wanting to run them! There’s also a set of army special rules which replace the British national characteristics, making this a fantastic new way to play Bolt Action, with a heavy focus on a mobile, outflanking strategy and a cool pseudo-Recce option for vehicles with the Hit and Run special rule. Let’s see what a sample 1,000 point list might look like, using the later selector:

SAS Reinforced Platoon – Independent: June 1942-April 1943

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)2nd LieutenantExtra Man, Team Medic94
Infantry (Squad)SAS Infantry SectionExtra Man, Team Medic, 5 SMGs110
Infantry (Squad)SAS Infantry SectionExtra Man, Team Medic, 4 SMGs108
Infantry (Squad)SAS Demolition Team2 Extra Men, Team Medic, 4 SMGs101
VehicleSAS JeepForward MMG, Rear twin Vickers K MMGs100
VehicleSAS JeepForward MMG, Rear twin Vickers K MMGs100
VehicleSAS JeepForward HMG, Rear twin Vickers K MMGs100
VehicleSAS JeepForward HMG, Rear twin Vickers K MMGs100
Vehicle (Transport)LRDG 30cwt TruckPintle twin Vickers K MMGs90
Vehicle (Transport)LRDG 30cwt TruckPintle twin Vickers K MMGs90

999 Points, 10 Dice

This is a really interesting list for a couple of reasons – firstly, a ten-dice all Veteran list with six vehicles isn’t bad going at all! While this army will absolutely annihilate any infantry it comes across (seriously, add up how much firepower those jeeps can pump out!), it has virtually nothing that can deal with any kind of armoured vehicle – two HMGs for putting Pins on, but that’s about it. Obviously, this isn’t a list (or a selector) designed for competitive play, but rather for specific missions based in the Western Desert – at that, it excels! Able to outmanoeuvre their enemies and sow destruction across the battlefield, this list is very difficult to pin down – however, if your opponent manages to get to grips with it, or brings some heavy armour, you’ll be in trouble – just like the real thing! For those of a more competitive bent, the SAS do present a fascinating wrinkle for tournament play – many opposing armies just can’t handle the level of mobile anti-infantry firepower, but they require exceedingly careful handling to achieve results.

It’s time to get up to no good in the desert – remember, Who Dares Wins!

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