One of the things that comes up– a lot– in our games is how Mortars suck in Bolt Action (by “mortars” here we really mean “anything firing Indirectly”).
They’re so swingy: when they hit they hit really, really hard and when they don’t they’re just a waste of points. When something boils down to “how good are you at rolling dice,” IMO there’s a problem. It’s also weirdly inconsistent in terms of how mortars fire mortar shells vs. smoke: if you’re firing at the place Unit A is sheltering, Unit A moves and Unit B takes their place… you’ve suddenly forgotten where your mortar was pointing. There’s also nothing differentiating Inexperienced Troops from Veteran Troops when it comes to firing indirectly: club members who have, in the past, fired mortars for a living have expressed dissatisfaction with that. Finally, it’s binary: you’re either trashing a unit with indirect or they could care less.
I really kind of like the way 40K handles this with the blast template and the scatter and the scatter roll being modified by Ballistic Skill… but you can’t do templates in Bolt Action. The rules avoid them, and there are some clear benefits to not having them, so they’re right out.
We chatted through a different approach at Fall In; might as well share it here. Not asserting that this is perfect, or final but this is on track with what I would like to see. (In fact, I’ll tag the parts I’m less than certain about).
Replace INDIRECT FIRE, paragraph 2 with the following:
When using indirect fire, pick a point on the table within the weapon’s maximum range and outside of the weapon’s minimum range and place a marker there. Roll a d6*. Your opponent may move the marker that many inches in any direction, so long as the marker remains between the weapon’s minimum and maximum ranges**.
In subsequent turns, the unit may either choose a new point to fire at (in which case your opponent chooses where to place the marker, as above), or may continue firing at an existing marker: place a new marker d6″ away from a previously placed marker. Placing a new marker does not remove the previous marker; how many markers are left on the table depends on the quality of the unit firing: Inexperienced Troops may leave only 2 markers, Regular 3, and Veteran 4. If a unit already has the maximum number of markers on the table, remove the least recently placed marker****
If a marker is placed within 1″ of a unit, that unit suffers a hit from the weapon. as usual. If a marker is placed within 3″ of a unit, that unit instead suffers a hit from a weapon one step down on the HE chart*****. For example, a Light Mortar 1″ away is HE (D3) and 3″ away is HE (D2). A unit greater than 3″ away is unaffected.
There are no guaranteed hits, but saturating an area with fire makes you more likely to hit units in that area. A unit’s quality is reflected in that they are progressively more likely to hit units in their target area as they range in. Impact on a target unit is no longer binary: there’s a reduced impact from a near-hit.
Thoughts? Comments? Criticism?
* Maybe it should be 2d6. It should be possible that the first shot of a mortar hits its target, but unlikely.
** Or maybe not? Maybe it’s okay to let your opponent
*** Or possibly every unit that may fire indirectly. It’s not like they’re not coordinating.
**** Or any of them, I guess.
***** I’m least certain about this. Maybe the ranges need tweaking, maybe the stepping needs tweaking (down 2 steps instead of 1?), but fundamentally this is where I’m at.