Bolt Action' players and I have been wondering what happens to all those indirect fire projectiles that miss.  These wonderings have led us to create some optional additional rules.

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What Goes Up Must Come Down - Another post mainly for my fellow wargamers

Posted on Dec 29, 2015 by John Scotcher

Recently, my fellow 'Bolt Action' players and I have been wondering what happens to all those indirect fire projectiles that miss.  These wonderings have led us to create some optional additional rules.

Bolt Action has plenty of opportunity for disaster.  It doesn’t take many games after starting your Bolt Action journey before a well laid plan is thrown into chaos.  An inconvenient drawing of order dice or a few bad roles can turn potential victory into defeat in only a couple of turns. 

Equally, when the odds are in your favour, the game delivers some truly satisfying moments that are food for conversation with fellow gamers for months afterwards.  I’ve told the story of how I took out a squad of US Marines with one inexperienced, pistol armed, German officer and his SMG toting sidekick so many times that even I have grown bored of it.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you here.

The fact is, the rules in BA that mimic the chaos of war are the particular elements that make it such fun to play.  Artillery strike, anyone?  With that in mind, my friends and I have been playing some additional rules recently to add a little more chaos to the mix.

So, onto our additions to the indirect fire rule.  They are simple to add in and thus fit with the spirit of the game.  It all started with a simple question.  If my mortar misses, what exactly happens to the missile?

It has to land somewhere, right?  And surely, there’s a chance it might well land on somewhere inconvenient.  Whether that’s for the opponent I am firing at or myself is where the fun lays.  By adding in these few rules, you can make the landing of any missed indirect fire become an active part of the game.

So to start off, let’s remind ourselves of the official rules.  Any indirect fire hits on a six.  If you miss and choose to fire at the same target the following turn, assuming they haven’t moved, the missile hits on a five or six.  And so on.

To bring in our rules, we wait until an indirect attack has missed, then we note how much it has missed by.  If the ‘to hit’ was a six and the roll was a four, we’ve missed by two.  If the roll was a three, we’ve missed by three, and so on.  Keep that number in mind.

Now we roll a couple of additional dice; one D6 and one order die.  Firstly our D6 – the roll,  plus the distance missed by is the distance from the target that the missile has landed.  The arrow on the order dice indicates the direction.   

So let’s consider a quick example.  My German medium mortar is attempting to zero in for the first time on a Russian sniper.  He’s taken residence on the upper floor of a building, but unfortunately he’s in view of my spotter.  My mortar team fires, hoping for a six.  I role a three, so I have missed by three.  We now need to roll out the miss. 

I roll an order dice.  The arrow is pointing south west on the board.  Towards my spotter!  He’s not actually that far away.  Now I must role a D6 and add the three I missed by.  I role a four.  Altogether that’s seven inches from the original.  Fortunately, my spotter is nine inches away, so he escapes an embarrassing home goal. 

On the next turn, I try again.  This time I roll a four.  That’s only one less than I need.  The miss D6 adds only another two to that and the order dice tells us North West.  There’s no one close.  Both I and my opponent sigh with relief.

On the following turn, I am feeling a little more confident.  The odds are improving and his sniper still hasn’t moved.  I might be in with a chance here.  Unfortunately I roll a one.

In the rules for missing that we play, rolling a one has a special significance.  Rather than being a standard miss, a one represents what we have been politely referring to as ‘a bloody awful miss’ (we’ll call it a ‘BAM’ here to save on my typing). 

Actually we play two rules for a BAM.  Firstly, the player firing must role a one.  Secondly, there must be at least two between the roll and the to-hit number.  Or in other words, you can only incur a BAM if the to hit role is a six, five or four.  If the indirect fire team have zeroed in enough to be within three, we assume that they aren’t total muppets and give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Now, assuming that a BAM is incurred, the rules are the same as a normal miss, the only major difference being that one rolls 2D6 to determine distance instead of 1D6.  So a BAM has a much greater range that it can land in.  Unless that is, you roll a double six. 

In indirect fire terms we call that an indirect fire fubar, and you know how everyone loves a fubar.  In that event, I’d like to offer you a couple of choices depending on your gameplay style.

The first choice as to how to play it is simple.  A double six has the shell exploding in the barrel.  The firing unit is simply out of play.  Remove them and their order die from the game. 

The second, my personal preference, is slightly more involved.  Something has terribly wrong for the firing unit.  Perhaps something spooked them and they moved the barrel at the last minute.  Perhaps the weapon misfired and the shell exploded on the floor just by them.  However you choose to consider it, they are basically hit by their own shell.  In this instance, refer to the damage that the weapon does and roll it out.  The unit might be lucky and manage to stay in the game, or they might not.  Either way, for my tastes it makes the results more interesting than simply removing them from play automatically.

So there you have it.  A simple rule that hopefully goes some way to explain where all those missed shells are ending up and adds another element of the chaos to your game that makes BA so much fun.  Enjoy.

Image credit: Bolt action minatures painted by Andres Amian Fernandez.  For more about Bolt Action visit

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