HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDAt 0530 on 16 December 1944, a massive German offensive, code-named “Wacht am Rhein,” jumped off with a violent, hour-long artillery bombardment from 1,900 guns 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 German offensive that would come to be known as the “Battle of the Bulge” had begun.
The German plan was to tear a hole in the American front and then to rush powerful panzer forces through the newly-formed gap. At the center of the American front, Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army quickly broke through General Middleton’s US VIIIth Corps. After a short, sharp fight von Manteuffel’s panzers shattered the American 28th Division and began their drive west through the Ardennes. On the night of 18 December, elements of the 2nd Panzer Division unexpectedly ran into an ad-hoc American unit, Task Force Harper, and a short violent clash erupted. TF Harper could not stop the Germans, and 2nd Panzer soon pushed its way over and through the outnumbered Americans. At this point in the campaign, 2nd Panzer could have swept unopposed into Bastogne, but the Germans bypassed the town, and by the next morning, the opportunity had passed. During the night the 501st Parachute Regiment arrived and immediately took up defensive positions around Bastogne. If the Germans wanted the town now, they would have to fight for it.
The rough terrain and forests of the Ardennes, even today, make off-road movement for both wheeled and tracked vehicles difficult and often impossible. In December, 1944, roads — particularly roads running east to west, and their junctions — were crucial to the German offensive timetable, and seven different roads passed through Bastogne. Although the initial wave of panzers had bypassed the town, the Germans knew that they had to capture Bastogne: possession of this Belgian hamlet was crucial to the continued supply of their armored spearhead driving towards the Meuse. The Allies, also recognizing the importance of Bastogne, had rushed the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division forward to occupy the town and dig in. The newly-arrived American defenders had been ordered to hold Bastogne whatever the cost; the attacking Germans were just as committed to its capture: one of the great sieges of World War II was about to unfold.
BASTOGNE is a battalion-level simulation, based on the MODERN BATTLES Game System, of the critical struggle for control of the Belgian town of Bastogne in December 1944. BASTOGNE is played in game turns, and each game turn is further divided into two symmetrical player turns, each of which proceeds as follows: first player movement phase, and then first player combat phase; the second player then repeats the sequence. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence repeats itself until the scenario ends. Stacking is prohibited at the end of the movement phase, and supply is automatic for both players. ZOCs are sticky: once units become adjacent, they may only exit an enemy unit’s ZOC as a result of combat. All of the games in this series use a “differential” type Combat Results Table, and terrain effects are represented as column shifts on the CRT. Artillery plays an especially important role in this combat system. It can be used to attack (barrage) non-adjacent enemy units either independently or in concert with attacking friendly units, and it can also be used to provide Final Protective Fire (defensive fire) to support friendly units that are under attack.
BASTOGNE offers three scenarios: Spearhead, which depicts the early stages of the battle, 18-21 December (7 game turns); The Relief of Bastogne, which portrays Patton’s attack from the south to break through the German 5th Parachute Division and relieve the surrounded 101st Airborne Division still holding on in Bastogne (9 turns long); and the Campaign Game that ties both shorter scenarios together (18 game turns).
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe siege of Bastogne and the gallant stand of the 101st Airborne Division is arguably one of the great stories of World War II. This historically fascinating game situation, combined with the MODERN BATTLES Game System makes for a fast-moving and exciting game that is easy to learn and play. All of the games in the WESTWALL and MODERN BATTLES series are both simple enough to serve as introductory games for beginners, and still challenging enough to make for an exciting contest for experienced players.
- Time Scale: 12 hours per game turn
- Map Scale: 850 meters per hex
- Unit Size: battalion/battery
- Unit Types: armor/panzer, mechanized infantry/panzer grenadier, armored cavalry/reconnaissance, self-propelled artillery, infantry, airborne infantry, and artillery
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 1½-2 + hours (depending on scenario)
- One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
- 100 ½” cardboard Counters
- 20 ½”cardboard Random Number Counters (included in all of the “folio games” as a substitute for a six-sided die)
- One 8½” x 11” WEST WALL Standard Rules Booklet
- One 8½” x 11” BASTOGNE Exclusive Rules Booklet
- One 9” x 12” card board Game Folio
Recommended ReadingSee 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