Goonhammer Historicals: Bolt Action Third Edition Rules Wishlist


With Bolt Action 3rd Edition announced for release this late summer, we at Goonhammer thought it was time to gather the hopes, dreams, and hottest takes from our Bolt Action gaming crew on what third edition should look like.

Each of our intrepid WW2 wargamers will address five prompts about the upcoming edition, which should keep the discussion moving forward and avoid getting bogged down in too much minutiae.


How do you feel about Bolt Action third edition dropping this fall?

Alex: Honestly? It’s about time. I’ve been on the Bolt Action bandwagon since its release and the wait for third edition has seemed interminable, especially in the last few years. However, I know there are tons of players who don’t feel this way, especially folks that have only really jumped into the game recently and don’t see any pressing need for a new edition.

For me, personally though, years of dealing with personal rule bugbears and the parade of new units, selectors, and abilities has really made me eager to see a fresh edition with some of the kinks ironed out. The idea of not having to consult a 37 page FAQ to play the game would be such a relief!

Sean: I’m very excited. As a relatively new Bolt Action player (started in the last two years) I was pretty shocked by the rulebook. Coming from GW who have shifted to clear (most of the time) technical writing, the mass of paragraphs, little side text boxes that might contain key rules, and lack of index felt very uninviting. While the “meta” for me might not be stale, like it is for longtime players, I already have my own list of rule bugbears that will hopefully be corrected. There are many things I feel the community is united on that would be easy changes. The sad state of machine guns, armored transports, and big tanks, and the unfairness of “free” units or “rules” spring to mind.        

Momma Negan: I’m personally very curious to see if Warlord will stick to the very basic but thematic lay out of second edition, or maybe we’ll see a more fancy rework. I personally hope that Warlord will make it a bit easier to play armies. The second edition ended up requiring up to four books to play most of an army’s roster (looking at you Germany). So I do hope we see a fix or solution to that issue. Otherwise I would love a bit of a simplification for fixed weapon rules. I’m sure people will yell at me how easy it actually is, but uh, not to me.

NotThatHenryC: I’m glad to hear it. I think the game has grown a little bit stale lately, especially for dead-eyed WAAC tournament junkies like myself. The core mechanics are excellent but it’s let down by pretty dreadful imbalance between units. Many units also perform quite a bit better or worse than they did in reality. The result is that the armies you see on tables at events don’t look at all like the ones that fought in the battles of WW2. 

Michael O “mugginns”: People have been clamoring for it for a few years, and I think after eight years of 2nd Edition this is a perfect time to release third. The game is already super stable, with relatively few rule issues that I can think of. I think since army book 1st editions were kept or 2nd (minus Germany), I think it’s just fine to re-do them for 3rd. These aren’t $50 hardcover things you have to lug around, they’re relatively affordable. I think it’s also a great time to build some more hype around the game, with some edition turnover in major GW games and more people looking at historical games every day.

88mm flak Credit: Alexander Smith
88mm flak Credit: Alexander Smith

What do you think the biggest opportunity Warlord has with Bolt Action third edition?

Alex: I think their biggest opportunity is streamlining. Bolt Action second edition now has over a thousand pages of rules and supplements. Germany alone has over 200 units available to them. It’s completely out of control. Combining, purging, and rationalizing what they have will go a long way to making the game easier to play and collect.

Sean: I think it’s a great time for miniature gaming and WW2 has always been a popular setting. I think an accessible new rules set with a nice release box could really kickstart interest in the game.  

Momma Negan: As with any WW2-era Wargame, there is the opportunity to combine the fun of Wargaming with learning. Obviously we want to learn about the armies we play. I would love for Warlord Games to maybe take a bit of an active stance on fighting historical myth making. While some leeway needs to be there, to make for a compelling game, there shouldn’t be glorification. We can talk about the accomplishments of units and officers to the extent of which they were successful, while not sidelining the historical context, in which they were doing horrible things. Similar to how Games Workshop seems to somewhat trying to get the Fascists and weirdos out of the hobby(with mixed results). Warlord Games should definitely try not to make this game attractive to any of the weirdos who like to pretend certain things didn’t happen. Now I am not saying that Warlord Games is actively pandering to any of these people. They are doing a good job of not falling into some of the traps of historical myth making. But there are certainly more ways and avenues they could pursue. Essentially I just want them to do their best to make this a game in which anyone can feel comfortable.

NotThatHenryC: Well for Warlord themselves this has to be an opportunity to grow the player base, bring more people into historicals and sell lots of plastic soldiers. For us as players I may be going against the majority view here but I’m glad they’re starting from scratch with all the army books. As I already mentioned, I think Bolt Action has an excellent set of mechanics but is let down by the rules for individual units and national special rules. Now they’ll be able to adjust points costs across the board and possibly even alter how unit characteristics work. For example maybe they could give each vehicle a speed and number of turns, rather than having a Bedford truck be as fast and agile as an SAS jeep. I don’t know if they’ll do that of course, but they could now if they wanted to.

Michael O “mugginns”: I think they definitely have an opportunity to shore up some of the armies that have pretty bad special rules – like Italy. I think they have a huge opportunity to further clean up special rules etc. for tournament play – Bolt Action has a huge tournament scene and WLG can definitely benefit from embracing it. A new line of plastics would be amazing, too.

Credit: Alex S.
Credit: Alex S.

What is the biggest risk Warlord has with Bolt Action third edition?

Alex: For me, the biggest danger to Bolt Action’s community and popularity is if the rollout doesn’t go smoothly or takes too long. From their press release it sounds like they’re invalidating all the army books and will have essentially temporary army sheets available for the various factions. As I suspect these will be fairly rudimentary I imagine folks are going to be extremely eager to get their hands on the complete army books for the nation of their choice. 

How long is it going to take to pump out all the new army books? Currently Warlord releases 2-3 supplements a year for Bolt Action. Does this mean it’s going to take several years for everyone to get new army books? In the meantime, are large proportions of people’s armies going to be left without rules? 

Sean: The biggest risk to me is that they are going to try to change too much and alienate their existing player base. At its core the game has interesting mechanics in a well known setting. They don’t need to try and reinvent the wheel, they just need to pump the tires. 

NotThatHenryC: If they’re attempting to rebalance the units in the game then the risk is that they could fail and just create a new meta where different units reign supreme. It’s extremely difficult to get this stuff right, especially when there are so many units to try and balance, so it’ likely that there will be a few issues on launch. This could be mitigated by having regular “patches” to rules and points, but I’m not sure that would be popular.

Michael O “mugginns”: I think a lot has already been said, but the biggest risk to me is that they ignore how the wargaming world has evolved over the last eight years. Players want rules that are organized better, with clean play and balanced armies. Players also want more communication and interaction from the companies producing games. 

Hungarian HQ
Alex S.

What is the one thing you personally want to see more than anything else in Bolt Action third edition?

Alex: A rework of the minor nations. It’s clear that the Armies of Italy and the Axis & France and the Allies were not developed to the same standard as the Armies of… books for the major combatants. The minor nation books are sparse, thin, and full of repeated national rules (something we called out in our national rules review). When they were published, this made more sense, as Warlord didn’t have models or wargaming materials for practically anything in the books.

However, as campaign books have fleshed out more of the war, and as Warlord has released ranges for many of the minor nations (including their gorgeous new French infantry), it’s now well past time for these smaller nations to get a full treatment. I think combining some of the smaller nations in one book still makes sense, however I think countries like Italy and France might actually be worthy of their own independent army books.

For example, Italy fought in four different theatres – North Africa, Greece, the Eastern Front, and of course Italy itself. Meanwhile, France fought in the battle of France, split into Vichy and Free forces, and fought the rest of the war in North Africa, Italy, the Middle East, Indochina, and Western Europe. Seeing each of them get an entire army book packed with units, selectors, and proper national rules would be extremely exciting for me.

For the other minor nations, some expanded selectors, additional units, and proper national rules bundled together in a new army book would be just what the doctor ordered.

Sean: The game to be more historical. See what I did there? By making a vague assertion I can now elaborate on all my own minor points. But really, I want the game to mechanically feel and the points to reflect the actual war. I don’t want flamethrowers teams driving up in a jeep to kill a Tiger tank. I don’t want late war Fallschirmjäger squads with StG 44’s and Panzerfausts assaulting forward in an unarmoured truck while being supported by an early war Panzer I. I don’t want Soviet bomb dogs to be one of the best anti-tank units in the game. I know the mixing of different eras of the war is a contentious issue, but I feel like really these are points issues.  A Panzer I and a panzerfaust are way more efficient points wise than the alternative Tiger tank or light anti-tank gun. For something like the bomb dogs or bamboo spearmen, I like having unusual units in the game, and while I think they should be points costed fairly, I hope the err on the side of caution for these edge cases. I don’t want them to dominate competitive play, because they are the most efficient skew choice.   

Momma Negan: I want to see more National Rules like “Credere, Obbedere, Combattere” from Case Blue. The Rule allowed you to choose one of three effects, which essentially gave you the ability to make your army feel like a specific branch of the military. To explain, we know how except for infantry units, all weapon teams and HQs are essentially blanks, a Waffen SS HQ and a Fallschirmjäger HQ will in most events play the exact same. I would like to see some national rules(or heck just army rules), which allows you to give your HQ special rules that correspond with specific unit types, making it feel more thematic. If Waffen SS squads get an optional fanatic rule, then the HQ should also get the option to do that. If your Gebirgsjäger squad has a Mountaineer special rule, the HQ should probably have too. Right now, some army compositions just feel very flat and the only flavor is infantry squads, while the rest of the army feels cookie cutter. A Second Lieutenant, is a second Lieutenant, is a Second Lieutenant if you catch my drift. I would also like to see them cut down on the unit bloat. A lot of the time, thematically speaking the units make sense, but from a gameplay perspective, there isn’t much difference except an extra man or extra SMG to choose from. I mentioned in the Case Bue review how stuff like Osttruppen and Ostlegionen made sense to have thematically, but rules wise, they were very similar and could’ve just been combined into one. 

NotThatHenryC: I agree with Sean on making the game more historical. I want to see Shermans fighting Pz4s and Panthers, not obscure multi-turreted vehicles from the 1930s that could barely be driven. I want armoured transports to make more sense than soft skins on the battlefield. Basically I want things to have a points cost that reflects their actual value, not what some formula based on the wrong metric (e.g. a vehicle’s durability rather than what it actually does) spits out.

I’d also like more support for different types of play. BA has a good tournament scene, which is great for people like me but, as I’m very often reminded, there are plenty of people who want to recreate historical events or just play for fun. They ought to be represented equally well. 

Michael O “mugginns”: There is a lot I’d like to see with third edition, but one that I just thought of that I haven’t seen elsewhere would be a fully-fleshed out ‘my guys’ campaign where you can build up your squads from green to vets. It would focus on the officer and squad leaders, mostly, and provide little extra boosts along the way. I think it could be really cool and another avenue to play the game. You could even have it be a slow grow thing – where you start out probing positions, then finally get to a full platoon engagement. 

Credit: Alex S.
Credit: Alex S.

I predict Bolt Action third edition will be…

Alex: Safe. I think Warlord Games knows they have a pretty solid system with Bolt Action and will be hesitant to make any major structural changes to it. The fact that they waited this long to put out a new edition speaks to a general acceptance of the rules as they’ve been. Honestly, if they hadn’t been badgered by the community for years about a new edition, I suspect they might not have bothered at all. 

I’m expecting some minor rule tweaks to things like machine guns and smoke, but nothing earth-shattering. I also think the years of waiting for a new edition have built it up in the minds of a lot of Bolt Action players, and I expect there will be some general disappointment from the community in general when not everyone gets everything they hoped for. 

Sean: I agree with Alex; despite my fears, I do think Warlord is going to play it safe. Which in my opinion is good. While I fervently hope they totally re-write the rules to make them more readable and get a copy editor so we don’t end up with another 37 page FAQ, I’m not holding my breath. However, I’m sure they will address many of the current issues, and change up how the game is played. Get your dice bags ready because I am excited to play some Bolt Action!    

Momma Negan: As the two above me said, I don’t think any of my wishes will come true. And it might be for the better, I do come from Warhammer and 40k, where there tends to be a lot of full army customisation on levels, that just seem not to be done that much in historical wargames. 

NotThatHenryC: Yep, that’s probably right. I expect to see evolution, not revolution. On the other hand, the fact they’re losing all the “armies of” books implies that it’ll be a bigger change than second edition was. Whatever they’re doing it either changes things to the point that existing stats don’t work. Or maybe they’re just ditching the Armies of books and starting again to fix issues in those books and army lists, without changing the core rules much at all. 

Michael O “mugginns”: I predict it’ll be good. BA has been a good game for years now and I don’t see them doing a huge sea change as to how it works. Humans and machine guns and tanks can’t work a whole lot differently from each other in different armies. They likely have plenty of Order Dice in their warehouse and don’t want to get rid of that. Alessio Cavatore is a seasoned rules writer now so I think he’ll do a great job.

Bolt Action Soviet Tank in Action


We’ll continue to carefully watch to see what new information comes out about Bolt Action 3rd Edition over the next few months so that we can report on what changes we can expect and speculate on how this might affect gameplay and army construction. 

If you have questions, feedback, or want to let us know your wishlist for 3rd Edition, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at