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Bolt Action: Alternative House Rules for Hidden Units

5 Minute Read
Nov 4 2018
Using Blinds from Black Ops by Osprey Games in Bolt Action

I have an admission to make. I love playing games of many different rule sets. In fact, I love checking out new rule sets and giving different games a try. The tournament player I once was, would be very disappointed in this statement as it lacks focus on a single game. The casual player that I am now loves the fact that I have the opportunity to check out so many games.

One of the advantages of knowing many rule sets is that you can pull parts of rules from other systems and use them in your casual games.

Today’s post is about doing just that. You can take the rules from one game and experiment with them in other games.

The Dilemma

I love Bolt Action. It is a great game of theatrical style heroics that one can find in the movies. It’s fun, it is quick and it is well supported.

One thing that I don’t like about Bolt Action is the rules for hidden units. Units that start hidden in Bolt Action receive huge bonuses to not being hit when they are in cover. This advantage basically remains until the unit moves or fires.

The problem with these rules is that the enemy knows exactly where your units are at the start of the game. No fog-of-war exists.

Say you have a unit with a PIAT or PanzerFaust hidden in a house. A force with tanks knows to stay away from the short ranges of those weapons. They simply avoid the house – rendering the points you spent on that unit useless. I prefer other systems where the game allows you to surprise your opponent in someway.

Many systems have different mechanisms for this. I am most familiar with the Ambush rules in Flames of War 3.0. There you hold a few units in “Ambush” and those units may be placed on the board during your turn in cover or a certain distance from the enemy. A different game published by Osprey Games also has great rules for hidden units. That game is Black Ops by Guy Bowers. You can likely pick it up for around $18 American if you are interested.

Black Ops

Black Ops by Osprey Games has great rules for stealth and patrol missions. Image from Osprey Publishing’s Webstore.

The Alternative House Rules

In Black Ops, Guy uses something called “Blinds.” This is similar to “blips” in other games. You know something is there, but not what. I am not going to get into the specifics of the rules so there is still reason for you to buy the book (if you wish), but I will give you a usable synopsis.

We basically used playing cards to represent hidden units on the board. We gave each card a corresponding unit.

Just a demonstration on how we used cards to represent hidden units. These would not be hidden from each other, but it shows we used cards to represent the units.

We also added in a couple of “Ghost” cards that would represent that there might be a unit there, but not necessarily. Unlike the official rules, we house-ruled that both sides got a set number of “blind” units.


Changing the “Hidden Units Rule” really changed up the flow and movement of the game. All of a sudden, the tanks did not know where the hidden PIAT Teams were and the Infantry did not know where the MMG Teams were. Both teams played much more conservatively.

There is a unit in the building, but the opponent is not sure what it is.

We couldn’t cheat because we wrote what the unit was right on the cards.

This building has two units side by side with a small rifle team out in the open beside them. What units are there, only the defender knows.

That is the basics of the rules. If you want to check it out, I have a Battle Report on Must Contain Minis where we actually used these rules. You can also check out the book Black Ops.

Black Ops

Black Ops is the second Osprey Games Blue Wargame Series that I bought. It is basically a Kill Team type game set in a Modern or Near Future world. The rules could be altered to fit a number of other settings too (like WW2). Anyhow, the crux of the game is that it focuses on tactical espionage combat. The scenarios include stealthy extraction, surveillance missions, and straight up raids. They have rules for sentries and patrols, but in article I just used the rules for “Blinds” as inspiration for the house rules above.

If you like games where you have to sneak around armed guards, this system might be worth a look for you.

Wrapping it up…

The rules that I presented above are not intended for tournament or competitive play. Instead, I am just presenting something for you to try out in your casual games. Basically, I took the rules from one game and applied them to another for an enjoyable experience. That is one of the many advantages of being a guy that collects rule sets.  😉

If you are into casual games, give the rules in this article a try and see what you think.



Most of the images above come from a Battle Report on Must Contain Minis were these alternative rules were actually used. 

As a final note, I am working on compiling a list of all Miniature Gaming Conventions in Ontario (Canada). If you are in Ontario, please take a look at the list and let me know if I missed anything.

Read more about great Indy and Historical games on my site!


Jacob Stauttener
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