|American soldiers assume defensive |
positions in the Ardennes
The German plan was a simple one: the Wehrmacht would tear a hole in a weak section of the American line and then rush powerful panzer forces through the newly-formed gap; as soon as the leading panzers had forced a crossing of the Meuse River and gained freedom of maneuver, they would then pivot northwest and drive on the Allied supply port of Antwerp.
|German tank, The Battle of the Bulge.|
Subsequent events would show that von Manteuffel’s men had made a costly mistake. The hasty decision to bypass Bastogne, although the local panzer commanders didn’t realize it at the time, had put the whole German offensive in jeopardy. And it was a lost opportunity that would come back to haunt the Germans as the battle wore on.
|American soldiers on an Ardennes forest road.|
THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE is a two-player operational (division/brigade/regiment) level simulation of the decisive period — 16 December, 1944 through 2 January, 1945 — during which the outcome of Hitler’s final desperate gamble — the last great German offensive in the West — was decided.
The playing area of the game map represents the Ardennes, a forested region where the frontiers of Germany, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg all intersect. This was the area in which most of the major action of the historical battle actually took place. The two-color game map is relatively unambiguous, although a few terrain changes are required; these, however, have been noted in the game errata. In addition, for ease of set-up, the historical positions for all of the starting units are printed on the game map.
THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE is played in game turns which are further divided into a German and an Allied player turn. One player controls the Germans, and the other player commands the American and British forces that fought to thwart Hitler’s offensive plans. The German player is always the first to act. Each player turn proceeds in the following order: the Reinforcement Phase; the Supply Determination Phase; the Initial Movement Phase; the Combat Phase; and the Mechanized Movement Phase. On the first game turn only, the Allied player may not move any of his eligible units during the Initial Movement Phase. Interestingly, neither player may move any otherwise eligible units during the Mechanized Movement Phase if they fought during the immediately preceding Combat Phase. For this reason, unengaged mechanized reserves are critically important for both sides.
Supply, as it did in the historical campaign, plays a critical role in THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE; for this reason, the rules governing the determination of supply status for both sides are both detailed and comparatively complicated. Supply effects, on the other hand, are fairly straight forward: “supplied” units operate using their face combat and movement values; “unsupplied” units are halved on attack and in movement; “isolated” units are both halved on defense and in movement, and their attack strength is reduced to zero. Zones of Control (ZOCs) are “rigid” and individual units must halt movement upon entering and may not exit an enemy ZOC, unless stacked with one or more other friendly units. In this case, one unit “absorbs” the enemy ZOC, allowing the other units in the hex to exit or even to infiltrate around the enemy unit’s flanks. Stacking of combat units is limited to one “division equivalent” per hex. There are no artillery units included in the counter-mix; however, the influence of artillery on the battle is neatly reproduced through an abstract but restrictive (for the German player, at least) set of "bridge interdiction" rules. Combat is resolved using an “odds differential” Combat Results Table (CRT), but there are two different CRTs: the Initial German CRT and the Standard CRT. As is typical with the KURSK family of games, combat results tend to be of the “bloodless” variety with most battles producing retreat results (in varying numbers of hexes) for one or the other player. Defender Eliminated and Exchange results do not even appear until odds of 4 to 1, or higher. Terrain Effects are relatively uncomplicated. As might be expected, rivers represent a serious barrier to movement and the “West Wall” hexes multiply the defensive value of defending German units. The most important terrain effect is that of towns: units defending in towns are affected only by DE and Exchange results; all retreat results (whether DR or AR) are ignored. Needless-to-say, this rule has a profound effect on the overall flow of the game.
Victory is determined on the basis of victory points; these points can be amassed by the German player through the capture of geographical objectives, and, for both players, through the destruction of enemy combat strength.
THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE, besides the Historical Game, also offers nine additional scenarios, each of which allows the players to experiment with different set-up and reinforcement options. Conveniently, these alternative game situations have been scored by the designer as to which side they favor, and so can be used to vary lines of play or to adjust play-balance between unequal opponents. There are no “optional rules.”
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
|German soldier in the Ardennes.|
|General Hasso von Manteuffel.|
|General George S. Patton.|
- Time Scale: one day (24 hours) per game turn
- Map Scale: 3.15 kilometers per hex
- Unit Size: division/brigade/regiment
- Unit Types: armor/panzer, armored infantry/panzer grenadier, assault gun, motorized paratroops, infantry, paratroop, engineer, and information counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3+ hours
- One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with German and Allied Victory Point Tracks incorporat
- 255 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8¾” x 11½” Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart, German Initial, and Standard Combat Results Tables incorporated)
- One 7” x 23” Turn Record/Reinforcement Track
- One 8½” x 11” Consolidated Errata & Addenda (as of 31 May 1973)
- One small six-sided Die
- One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment cardboard Tombstone-style Game Box (with clear compartment tray cover)
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