THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE is a historical simulation of the initial stages of the German Offensive against American forces in the Ardennes region of Belgium from 16-30 December, 1944. THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE (BULGE ’65) was designed by Larry Pinsky, and published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1965.


BULGE ’65 is a regiment/brigade simulation of the first fifteen days of the last major German Offensive on the Western Front in World War II. The German Offensive, codenamed “Wacht am Rhein,” jumped off at 5:30 am on 16 December 1944, with a violent, hour-long artillery bombardment along eighty-five miles of the Allied front line in the Ardennes region of Belgium. As soon as the barrage lifted, the 250,000 men and 1,100 tanks of Field Marshal Model’s Army Group B smashed into the dazed defenders of this thinly held section of the American line. The Battle of the Bulge had begun. One player commands the Allies (American and British forces); the other controls the Germans. BULGE ’65 follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player (German) moves and initiates combat; then the second player (Allied commander) repeats the same sequence, ending the game turn. The German player wins by either eliminating all of the Allied units on the game map, or by crossing the Meuse River in strength by the end of his December 28 pm turn, and maintaining his bridgehead in supply through the end of his December 30 turn.

BULGE ’65 offers two versions of differing complexity: the basic game, and the tournament game. Both versions are 30 game turns long. The basic game allows players to quickly familiarize themselves with the game system and get right down to playing. Players usually want to move on to the tournament game as soon as possible: because it is in the tournament rules that a lot of the historical color and feel of the campaign emerges. This more advanced version includes rules on forts and fortresses, isolation and supply, U.S. Air Supremacy, and one-way road traffic. For players who want to increase the realism and detail of the tournament game still further, there are additional optional rules covering Allied Strategic Air Power, armor in engagements, and German supply. These optional rules can be mixed and matched, as the players see fit, in order to make the game more challenging and/or to enhance its play-balance.


BULGE ’65 is a little quaint by today’s standards: the truly off-putting box art (I used to think it had the absolute ugliest box cover ever, until I saw OSG’s PANZERKRIEG); the abbreviated game rules; and the “baby blue” and “frou-frou pink” unit counters would never (one hopes) appear in a game today. And, of course, James F. Dunnigan's written critique of BULGE '65 got the wargaming icon his first two design jobs with Avalon Hill; unfortunately, JUTLAND (1967) and (the truly awful) 1914 (1968) were the result. So, I suppose that BULGE '65's connection to 1914 is another strike against it, at least in the eyes of some gamers. On the other hand, despite the game's many flaws, in its day, it was a real blast to play; even now, after over forty years, I still have a stack of pleasant memories from my many hours battling my way back-and-forth across the game map of this venerable old title. And there's one other thing: while I have probably played BULGE ’65 fifty to sixty times; I’m still waiting to finish my first game of WACHT AM RHEIN (1977).

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 12 hours per game turn
  • Map Scale: 1.5 miles per hex (estimated)
  • Unit Size: regiment/brigade/kampfgruppe
  • Unit Types: armor/panzer, panzer grenadier, armored cavalry, parachute, infantry/volksgrenadier, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-6 + hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Board
  • 195 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8” x 10” Rules Booklet
  • One 5½”x 8½” Battle Manual (with instructions for the tournament game, additional optional rules, and examples of play incorporated)
  • One 8” x 10” Combat Results Table
  • One 8” x 10” U.S. Units Starting Set-Up and Order of Appearance Chart
  • One 8” x 10” German Units Starting Set-Up and Order of Appearance Chart
  • One 5½” x 8” back-printed Game Turn Record Card
  • One six-sided Die
  • One 8½” x 11” accordion-fold Avalon Hill Catalogue
  • One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
  • One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¼” flat cardboard Game Box (“shallow box” version)

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of most of these titles; all six of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.

THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU


  • > "On the other hand, I have probably played BULGE ’65 fifty to sixty times; I’m still waiting to finish my first game of WACHT AM RHEIN."

    Oh my!!! SO TRUE!!!! But I now have to remember not to be DRINKING anything when I read these missives!!!!!

  • I still play my old friend purchased by my Mother(with me there to bug her) at Clark's Dept store(like a K-Mart)back in the day(I'm still trying to figure out how they got AH games for selling.I think Bulge was the only one I saw there)

    At the time I really didn't know about the horrid OB with missing units(The Brit's) but it sure was fun.To this day I still haven't played with the Traffic rule

    Later I got Guidon's Op.Grief updating the counter mix and adding in new rules and then Bulge 81 came along to replace it.But still the game harken's me to take it out of the box every once in awhile to play it.You can't just ditch an old flame so easily :)

  • Greetings Kim:

    As I indicated in the game profile above, BULGE '65 was -- for at least a year and a half during my college days -- one of my all-time favorite Avalon Hill "classics". In fact, I and a couple of my friends played my first copy of the game so much FTF that we pretty much wore it out.

    Of course, starting with Dunnigan's magazine game, BASTOGNE, new treatments (of varying levels of complexity) of the Ardennes Offensive emerged, on a fairly regular basis from all quarters -- SPI, GDW, Rand, OSG; and, of course, Avalon Hill, just to name a few -- but I still, like you, have a soft spot in my heart for this great (if historically flawed) old game. And, although I have gotten rid of some of my extra copies of this title over the years, I still have one of the old "Big Box" versions left in my personal collection.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I have to say, this classic is still one of my favorite games. Lots of things wrong with it but it is undeniably a good game and lots of fun. I find a lot of newer gamers have a copy of it since it is so inexpensive and readily available online these days. I have probably played it half a dozen times in the last two or three years! In fact, I just came from a game of it with Kevin who enjoys it just as much as I. Sadly, far more than he can palate Grenadier. Fortunately, I have found a new opponent for that one.

    I'm certain that every old time wargamer has a story like this. I never tire of hearing it told or in telling it.

    Here in Denver when I was a kid we had the Bonnie Brae Hobby Shop. Back in the days when there were shelves upon shelves of models of all types, large and small, cases of trains, racks of Estes Rockets, glue and paint and brushes, miniatures and dioramas, eventually that which drew my eye the most were those big thick rectangular boxes on display high on a peg board behind the side counter of the shop. Jutland, D-Day, Gettysburg, Afrika Korps with the strange spelling and the box that evoked deserts as much as Rat Patrol did. That foreign, vaguely known, exotic and distant name "Stalingrad" that exhaled the epic of the vast East.

    I don't know how many times I asked the curt and decidedly non hobbyish old shopkeeper to take his long hooked pole and reach me down the copy of 1914 from 'on high' so that I could look at the scene of the the cavalry charging the machine guns. I can still remember the tension under the old guys impatient smoke swirling in the air between me and his coke bottle gaze as I strained to somehow divine which would be the better second game choice (Midway had been the first- a gift from my sister who had learned it from a boyfriend while away at college) Guadalcanal or 1914, Guadalcanal or 1914.

    This was way back when the customer had no idea what was inside. I just had the cover art to work with. I certainly hadn't seen a General Magazine and SPI games hadn't shown up in the store yet. Soon there would be racks and racks of them. I can't remember if there was shrink wrap on these old games, certainly not on all, but there was at least a slender smoke damaged rubberband that was as inviolable as any seal in the halls of justice. I wound up purchasing them in the order above. Blitzkrieg was next because it had air units, what a thrill! I still had no idea what combined arms were. I hadn't seen the movie "Of Things To Come", which is what the cover reminds me of now.

    A couple years earlier, the first book I ever read covering a battle was on the Battle of the Bulge and I had seen Henry Fonda in the movie of the same name. And it had been not more than a year since I sat in the balcony at the Paramount Movie Theater and watched Patton. Number five was finally Battle of the Bulge. The only thing that delayed me so long from buying it was that drab box. Yea, that was a terrible cover. I started that year reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and ended it sleeping all summer in a tent in the yard reading Slaughter House Five and Sirens of Titan by Vonnegut and smoking cigarettes with a friends older sister. I could get my hands on cigs which made me, very temporarily, quite popular. But I didn't quite playing Battle of the Bulge and and many new games too.

    By the way Joe, 1914 is still one of my favorites too. I hope to get it back to the table again this year.

    For me, Bitter Woods is the state of the art for this battle and for that reason I don't ever play the 81 edition for which BW is the full expression. I have played a bit of Wacht, never finished it either. But I always return to Battle of the Bulge. Its just a good game. Often a nail-biter right up til the end. And a part of my boyhood.

    Finally, on another note, it looks like I may have a lead on Deployment, wish me luck! Regardless, I will take your numerous recommended sources very seriously. Thank you very much.

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  • Greetings Again Lincoln:

    Well, wasn't that special! I was fiddling with my blog's dashboard and accidentally deleted my previous long response to your own nostalgic recollections of BULGE '65. And since I have neither the inclination nor the ambition to reconstruct my earlier comments, I will have to make do with a considerably truncated version of my look back at gaming.

    I will say this: like you, I started in this hobby a very long time ago and, if the truth be known, I am still amazed -- when I actually stop to think about it -- that I have found diversion in moving tiny pieces of cardboard around on game maps for more than six decades. Where, I am compelled to ask, have all those years gone; and so rapidly too?

    Regarding BULGE '65: Larry Pinsky's design was -- even when it was published -- far from perfect; yet, for all of the game's many flaws, it nonetheless still managed to convey more than a little of the historical feel of the battle. Moreover, it was also a lot of fun to play. And, although I did not look seriously at this particular "classic" until I went back to college (after a stint in the Army), it very quickly became one of my favorite titles during that period of my life. Unlike you, I haven't played this great old game in decades; however, that doesn't stop me from taking it down off the shelf once in awhile and setting it up, just for nostalgia's sake.

    When it comes to the newer games that have been published to describe the Ardennes campaign, I find that I currently still like both BULGE '81 and BITTER WOODS. As to which is better? Since I have long been friends with both games' designers, I think that I will keep my own council on that issue.

    Best Regards, Joe

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