Bolt Action Campaign Sea Lion

The second campaign supplement for Bolt Action Second Edition leaves the road of historic events and goes for the What-If scenario of the Operation Sea Lion. These were the plans of the german forces to invade Britain.

Bolt Action - Operation Sea Lion

Sea Lion is another big expansion for Bolt Action, at least page-wise. At 124 pages it shares the lead with Battle of the Bulge. After covering the desert of Africa, the harsh winter of the Ardennes and several parts of the western front, the battle is brought "home" with Operation Seelöwe / Sea Lion. The operation was real, but never came to existence. There were severe plans by the Nazis to invade Britain in 1940, but the plans were never moved to realisation. This campaign book is set at the new price range of 19,99 GBP or 30 USD, which translates around 25 EUR.

Author of this Bolt Action supplement is Dr. John Lambshead. If that name rings a bell for you, that is not unusual, as he wrote quite a lot of wargaming books - even a book on writing rules for wargaming (Tabletop Wargames - A Designers' & Writers' Handbook) and it is not his first work for Bolt Action either, as the Germany Strikes supplement was written by him as well. Interesting easter egg, the last book he wrote for Bolt Action had a special miniature called "Mad" Jack Churchill, and this one does as well. But this time it is the "real" deal, Sir Winston Churchill.

Bolt Action - Operation Sea Lion

What is it about?
Back in 1939, after the first successful campaigns in western europe, the German Reich made plans on an invasion of Great Britain. Due to the newly conquered areas along the western european coast (from the french canal up to occupied Denmark), there were lots of ports and harbours, that could be used as bases for a large invasion fleet. In reality, these plans were postponed, again and again, during the war. But in this campaign supplement, the plans were put into reality. So on September 21st 1940, the Germans had their own D-Day on Great Britain, landing on three zones south of Dover down to Walmington on Sea. In the timeline of the campaign supplement the Invasion was over after 14 days of fighting, with the invaders beeing pushed back at Dover, captured or surrendered. But why the quick ending? Most of the campaigns in the west were fulfilled in 10-14 days, but on the continent the logistic availability of supplies and reinforcement was much easier to handle, than accross the english canal. Especially when we keep in mind, that the british had the largest fleet at the time and it would be an easy thing for them to cut off the supply lines of the german invaders and causing an inversed Dunkirk scenario in Dover.

So what to expect on the pages? It covers 10 scenarios along these two weeks of fighting, from the coastal raids, taking over smaller cities and even an attemp to kill Churchill (who is covered with rules in this book as well). A third of the book covers new british theatre selectors and units, the germans just count up to 17 pages and the 10 scenarios are rather dense on 10 double pages. There is a double page with new special rules and a brief appendix on using this book as a campaign. The later is not surprising, as Operation Sea Lion was Warlord Games huge summer campaign for Bolt Action.

Bolt Action - Operation Sea Lion

First Impression
If you've read my other reviews on the colaboration of Warlord Games and Osprey, especially with the latest two of the Bolt Action 2nd Edition and Battle of the Bulge, this will be no surprise - the quality of the book is convincing. Proper artwork, good production quality and a very appealing layout. On one side, I'm quite happy to see, that there is room for "alternative" history and what-if scenarios in Bolt Action, but on the other, Operation Sea Lion is very anglocentric. One third of the book is about the british, having all kinds of (sometimes silly) defense units. Homeguards, reinforced units (among them even rules for Dad's Army) and on top of that fortification, tank prototypes (even rules for a TOG 1) and improvised armoured cars and weaponry. For my taste, many of the homeguards, militias and so on could be sumed up with a single entry, like they did with the Volkssturm. The germans receive a few new Brandenburger units, local collaborateurs in form of fascist militias and a couple of invasion barges.
Another thing that I'm not really sold on, are the added special rules. 22 new special rules on a double page. The majority of the supplement focussed on new units and gear based upon the "building blocks" the Bolt Action rules already provided, along with new scenarios and global special rules for specific settings (like night fighting, mud, snow or sand etc.). So this might be a bit invasive.

Bolt Action - Operation Sea Lion

Operation Sea Lion provides 10 Scenarios with the following names. The scenarios are split between patrol and battle missions, with the first being recommended for smaller 500 points games and the later for 1.000 points onward.

  • Scenario 1 – Brandenburg Coastal Raid
  • Scenario 2 – On the beaches of Kent
  • Scenario 3 – Raiding His Majesty's Armoury
  • Scenario 4 – Assault on Lympne Airfield
  • Scenario 5 – Luftwaffe Down
  • Scenario 6 – Capture a Port
  • Scenario 7 – Take out the Roadblock
  • Scenario 8 – Hedgehog
  • Scenario 9 – Kill Churchill
  • Scenario 10 – The Filthy Fifth

How does Operation Sea Lion play?
As this is set up in the early war region of Bolt Action, the equipment is comparatively light. As the patrol missions and many of the newly added units are thought for smaller games, Sea Lion is - if you put the new special rules aside - a rather puristic, low key Bolt Action. You have a small raiding party of german Paratroopers fighting against an improvised home guard in a small town, or "Civil war" like battles between militias in the suburbs. For those of you, who may know "A Very British Civil War" (VBCW), Operation Sea Lion is connecting this with Bolt Action. The rules of the new units in this book could be used for a couple of early war or even inter war scenarios, like Spanish Civil War or the tumults of the Weimar Republic.

Other than that, Sea Lion provides german players with an interesting "novelty" or variety - a different point of view. The allied players have dozends of scenarios, where they have landing scenarios, like D-Day or Operation Market Garden and so on. Of course, this is something that can easily be done with the already available rules and scenarios from the rulebook, but this is a less improvised and thought through approach.

Warlord Daily Warlord Daily Warlord Daily

What's next?
Due to the very positive feedback from the community to Operation Sea Lion, it got a second chapter - Operation Gigant / Operation  Sea Lion: The Second Front. Operation Gigant picks up the storyline around D+10, when the invasion turned to fail and continues the winning of the german forces. While this review is published, this supplement is already available.

Beyond that, Bolt Action Campaign New Guinea was recently released in late august / early september, covering the battles in Australasia, with US Americans, Australians and the Japanese participating. Due to the release plan of Osprey Publishing, we are already aware of further supplements for Bolt Action. Later this year, around November, the Road to Berlin will be released and will most likely go more into detail about the very late years of war than Battleground Europe and Ostfront did. As with the IR troops in Battleground Europe, I assume that Road to Berlin might even cover some further prototypes and what-if content.

Bolt Action - Campaign Gigant Bolt Action - Campaign New Guinea Bolt Action - Campaign The Road to Berlin

As mentioned before, this book is very anglocentric and therefore many aspects that are presented, may not appeal to somebody who is not from the United Kingdom. Qualitywise it is nicely done, with the usual beautiful artwork by Peter Dennis and others, along with the proper layout and publishing work. From that point of view, you get a proper product for 20 GBP, but it may not really suit you.

The imbalance of the unit choices is a bit sad to see, as it would have been nice, to see more than just a few Brandenburger Units and be more creative, like they were with the british units. In Campaign Gigant they even added the fictional "Neue Deutsche England Korps", why did this wait for the second supplement? But beyond that, the book gives you a lot of ideas, how militias and other inexperienced units could look like. By that Operation Sea Lion, as the theoretical campaign it is, can be a good starting point for your own what-if campaigns or house rules for those settings that aren't covered by "official" Bolt Action rules yet, like Spanish Civil War and other pre-war settings.

Warlord Games made good use of the supplement, hosting a large summer campaign for the Bolt Action players, including battle reports, weekly reports and an interactive map. Very interesting approach and certainly a welcome change to the usual D-Day until Berlin campaigns, that a very prominent with world war 2 settings.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

Posted by Dennis B.

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