TAHGC, THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1981)

Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE ’81 is a simulation of the last major German offensive on the Western Front in the winter of 1944-45. Although the BULGE ‘81 project began as a minimally-intrusive effort to develop an improved set of official rules updates (comparable to the rules rewrites that had already been produced for WATERLOO and D-DAY) aimed at correcting some of the most egregious historical inaccuracies associated with Larry Pinskey’s aging design, THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965); once work on the project actually began, however, it quickly morphed into a major redesign of the sixteen year-old Avalon Hill classic. The version of the game that ultimately emerged from this process was designed by Bruno Sinigaglio, with help from Mick Uhl, and published by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1981. Interestingly enough, about a year after its launch, Avalon Hill decided to significantly overhaul its recently-published game. This batch of important post-publication changes — which was first described in The General — consisted of a set of major rules modifications, some additional scenarios, and a small number of altered (and even a few new) unit counters (mounted versions of which were, happily for the magazine's subscribers, ultimately published in a much later edition of The General). Needless-to-say, later "second edition" printings of BULGE ‘81 were altered to incorporate these changes into the standard game package.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

German soldier in the Ardennes, 1944.
In the closing months of 1944, Allied armies were closing in on the Third Reich from all sides. British, American, and Canadian troops had broken out of the Normandy beachhead and were already pushing up against the Siegfried Line in the West, and in the South, Rome had fallen to the Americans, commanded by General Mark Clark. The news was just as bad from the Russian Front: there an entire German Army Group, under Field Marshal Busch, had been shattered by the Russian Summer Offensive, “Operation Bagration”. In spite of these multiple catastrophes, Hitler had not yet given up hope of reversing the desperate military situation of the Third Reich. Certain that enough time still remained for Germany to turn the tide of the war, the German Führer poured over maps of the various battle areas frantically searching for one last offensive opportunity that might reverse the recent string of German defeats: a battlefield victory that could retrieve the Third Reich’s fortunes long enough for the new German “wonder” weapons to make an impact on the war. In the heavily-wooded section of the German frontier that bordered Belgium and Luxembourg — site of the Germans’ brilliant surprise offensive of 1940 — Hitler finally decided that he had found what he was looking for. The German dictator would attempt to repeat his earlier military triumph by again attacking through the Ardennes. This “all or nothing” military throw of the dice would be Hitler’s last major effort to turn the tide of battle in the west.

Battle of the Bulge, German "Tiger II" tank
The German Offensive, codenamed Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine) jumped off, as planned, 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 German offensive that would later come to be called the “Battle of the Bulge” had begun. The German plan was a simple one: the initial attack would tear a wide hole in the American front; and, once a hole in the Allied line had been formed, then powerful panzer forces would rush through the newly-formed gap and drive deep into the American rear. These advancing panzers, once they had achieved freedom of maneuver, were to force a crossing of the Meuse River, and were then to pivot northwest to seize the port city of Antwerp before the Allied High Command had an opportunity to react. The surprise German seizure of this critically important Allied supply center would isolate the substantial British, Canadian, and American forces north of Aachen. Hitler hoped that such a major defeat might finally force the Western Allies to accept a separate, negotiated peace with the Third Reich.

DESCRIPTION

THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE ’81 is a regiment/brigade level simulation of the last great German offensive on the Western Front in the winter of 1944-45. On 16 December 1944, three German armies struck the lightly-defended section of the American line running through the Ardennes region of Belgium. The Campaign Game begins with this initial German onslaught on 16 December and continues through the 2 January 1945 PM game turn: a total of thirty-six game turns. For those who are short on time, or who want to look at a “snapshot” of the battle, BULGE ‘81 also offers a collection of shorter scenarios that simulate different phases of the larger campaign.

BULGE ’81 is offered in two versions: the Basic Game and the Advanced Game. The Basic Game is intended to introduce new players to the game system, and to familiarize them with the essential features of the movement and combat rules. The Advanced Game builds on the Basic Game by adding both additional units and additional layers of complexity to the simulation.

In both versions of the game, one player controls the Germans; the other player controls the Allies. The game is played in turns which are further divided into a German player turn and an Allied player turn. Each complete game turn represents twelve hours (AM/PM) of real time. The German player is always the first to act, and each game turn follows a rigid “Igo-Ugo” sequence of player actions. In the Basic Game these are: the non-phasing player’s Support Phase; the phasing player’s Supply Phase; the phasing player’s Reinforcement Phase; the phasing player’s Movement Phase; and finally, the phasing player’s Combat Phase. At the end of this series of game operations, the actions are repeated in exactly the same sequence, but with the players exchanging roles. After the second player completes all of his own turn, the game turn ends and the turn record marker is advanced one space on the Turn Record Track.

BULGE '81 makes use of a hexagonal-grid, four-color map of the area in which most of the major actions of the battle occurred. Each hex on the map equals two miles from side to side, and each hex depicts one (or more) of eight different types of terrain: clear, rough, cliff, forest, river, bridge, road, and town. As might be expected, different types of terrain directly affect movement or combat; and some types of terrain will affect both. Towns and river-lines, for example, confer significant combat advantages to the defender. Cliff hex-sides completely block the movement of all units; river and forest hexes, on the other hand, although completely impassible to armor-type units, may be passed over or through by infantry. In addition, road hexes multiply the movement capabilities of all unit types; for example, both Allied and German mechanized units traveling along roads may always move four-times (4x) their regular movement allowance. In contrast, infantry units are somewhat disadvantaged by the movement rules; that is: the road movement multiples for infantry units are reduced if the moving unit begins or ends its movement phase adjacent to an enemy unit. Also, German corps artillery units have their road movement multiple reduced if they are slated to attack on the same turn that they move.

The Basic Game

For novice players, the Basic Game offers an excellent introduction to the simulation’s essential architecture; it is intuitively logical, uncomplicated in its sequence of player actions and, hence, is relatively easy to learn, even for beginners. Most experienced players, on the other hand, will find the overall game system of BULGE ’81 to be both quite familiar, and easy to master. Movement for both sides can take one of two forms: conventional ground movement, and, as already noted, “bonus” road movement. Stacking is limited to three units per hex, and zones of control (ZOCs) are “rigid”, but not “sticky”. Supply is traced by the phasing player to a friendly road, and then along the road to friendly map edge. Because of their more abundant motorized transport, the first leg of the Allied supply line can be longer than that of the Germans. Supply lines are blocked if they are forced to pass through an enemy unit or an empty hex interdicted by an enemy ZOC. As might be expected, the east edge of the map (at game start) is a friendly supply source to the German player, and the west, and north and south map edges (that is, those behind the current Allied front lines) are friendly to Allied units.

Combat between adjacent units, under most circumstances (more on this later), is mandatory. However, one important difference between BULGE ’81 and its predecessor is that powerful new corps artillery units have been added to the Orders of Battle (OoBs) of both sides. This is not a trivial change. These artillery regiment and brigade-sized formations — just like their infantry and mechanized brethren — can attack adjacent enemy units normally; however, unlike the other combat units in the game, artillery units (excluding the German nebelwerfers) can also be used to “barrage” non-adjacent positions (up to four hexes distant), either offensively (both sides) or defensively (Allies only, unless the German "15th Army Offensive" is cancelled). In addition, players receive a +1 die roll modification (DRM) for each group of 20 artillery factors that participate in a single attack. [This artillery DRM, by the way, is a big help to the Germans in the early going, but once the Allied reinforcements begin to stream in, the Allies’ ability to concentrate 40+ artillery factors against one target hex really shifts the battlefield dynamic over to the Allies.] Once battles have been designated and final combat odds have been determined, the actual outcome of each separate engagement is resolved by cross-referencing the phasing player’s combat die roll with the appropriate odds column of the odds-differential Combat Results Table (CRT). Not surprisingly, given the designer's starting point, the BULGE ’81 Standard CRT is very similar to that of the original Avalon Hill ‘65 version; hence, Retreats, Elims, Exchanges, Contacts (which require the defender to counterattack or withdraw), and Engaged results (which pin defending infantry-type units in an attacker’s ZOCs) represent the full range of this CRT’s potential combat outcomes.

Battle of the Bulge, American soldiers.
Victory conditions in BULGE ‘81, whether for the Campaign Game or for one of the shorter-duration scenarios, are relatively straightforward; simply stated: one side or the other wins — assuming neither player decides to resign — based on the comparative tallies of German and Allied victory points at the end of the last game turn. Players amass these points by destroying enemy combat units, and also — not surprisingly, given the goals of the German offensive — by seizing and holding certain specified geographical objectives.




The Advanced Game

As soon as players have mastered the rules of the Basic Game, they will usually want to move on to the more complicated, but also more interesting Advanced Game. This version of BULGE ‘81 brings a number of new factors into play: some of these factors are important; some are simply interesting, but all add historical color and excitement to the game.

One important change that appears in the Advanced Game is the introduction of a new alternative "Blitzkrieg" CRT to go along with the Standard CRT. This new Combat Results Table can, at the phasing player's option, be used in lieu of the Standard CRT. What this all tends to mean is that, in the Advanced Game, the Standard CRT will typically be selected when the attacker’s goal is either to capture key enemy-held hexes or to cause battlefield attrition; in contrast, the attacker will usually choose the Blitzkrieg CRT when he/she seeks to dislocate the enemy’s frontline arrangements by side-slipping around, rather than pushing straight through, hostile defensive strong-points. Although the opportunities for using the Blitzkrieg table will tend to be limited, it can, nonetheless, be very effective when the attacker's primary goal is to achieve deep, multi-hex penetrations into the enemy rear (say around St. Vith or Houffalize).

In addition to a new CRT, the Advanced Game also introduces a number of other new rules; these include: rules governing the use of tactical and strategic air power; bridge demolition (several bridges begin Advanced Game already "blown") and construction; the success of the German "Fifteenth Army offensive"; and Fort construction (in towns) and Improved Positions (in other types of terrain). Each of these new design features adds more simulation value to the game situation, but at the cost of increased complexity. Also included in the advanced version are rules for the capture of Allied fuel dumps and alternative rules for British reinforcements.

Besides the addition of new historically-based game elements, each turn in the Advanced Game is more complicated and has more player segments than that of the Basic Game. Thus, the player actions required in the advanced version follow this sequence: non-phasing player’s Support Phase; the phasing player's Supply and Fort Construction Phase; the phasing player's Reinforcement Phase; the phasing player's Movement Phase; the phasing player's Combat Phase; and the phasing player's Engineer Phase. As in the Basic Game, each player completes his own set of game operations, and then play proceeds to the next game turn.

Finally, in addition to the standard rules, the Advanced Game also offers a collection of “optional” rules — for those players who want to maximize the game’s color and content — that cover historical “might have beens” as diverse as the German early commitment of the SS Panzer forces, the German airdrop behind American lines, Otto Skorzeny’s special 150th Panzer Brigade, Steilau commandos, additional limitations on British force commitment, and even restrictions on armor in the attack.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

American soldiers, Ardennes forest road.
My personal interest in The Battle of the Bulge goes back a long way. The original Avalon Hill game, THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE ’65 — despite its truly ghastly box art, oddly-colored (baby blue and frou-frou pink) counters, and Larry Pinsky’s surprisingly unlucky guesswork when it came to the battlefield’s terrain, the Ardennes region’s road net, and the two side’s Orders of Battle — was, hands down, my favorite game during my early college days. In fact, I probably played the original “brown box” Pinsky version, seventy to eighty times before my enthusiasm finally shifted to titles dealing with the Russian Front. Not surprisingly, other publishers, attracted by the innate drama of the historical situation, also took on the subject with varying degrees of success. For awhile, in fact, it seemed to me that virtually everyone in the hobby who fancied himself a serious game designer had to take at least one “crack” at designing a game about the Battle of the Bulge. In the case of Avalon Hill, it took the “boys in Baltimore” sixteen years, but even they finally got around to publishing an updated and historically much more satisfying simulation of the battle than the fun, but deeply-flawed original.
German grenadiers, Ardennes, 1944 

In BULGE ’81, I think that, considering the origins of his project, Bruno Sinigaglio did a very nice job of modeling the critical elements of the fighting in the Ardennes during the winter of 1944-45. His decision to simulate the battle at the grand-tactical (regiment/brigade) level is hardly unusual, but it is, nonetheless, a scale that seems to work well for this particular battle. Of course if it didn’t, why would so many game designers’ keep returning to it when it comes to the Battle of the Bulge? Admittedly, no dramatic innovations show up in this game, but neither is the game system weighed down by any real design clunkers. [Note: the choice, on the part of the designer, to keep the game mechanics relatively simple was, as Bruno noted later in 'The General', a conscious one: it was aimed at insuring that the new game was both accessible to beginning players and easy to play by mail. That being said, the “Blitzkrieg” CRT can be seen as a way for the designer to introduce some of the simulation sizzle of “mechanized movement” into his design without actually adding an additional movement phase to the game’s relatively uncluttered turn sequence.] In fact, all things considered, the game has a surprising amount of simulation value given the simplicity of its underlying design platform. Bad weather, supply, Allied fuel dumps, the critical importance of bridges and roads to the German advance; in short, everything that a player familiar with the battle might expect to find is present in Bruno’s design.
General George S. Patton
Graphics-wise, Bruno’s redesign is vastly superior, literally in every way, to the earlier version. For starters, unlike of the amateurish (if not downright ugly) cover of the original, the Roger MacGowan box art is actually visually appealing. Moreover, the game’s counters — with different colors for American and British units, and for Wehrmacht, SS, and Luftwaffe units — is a big improvement over the off-putting pink and blue of the Pinsky original. The game map, although a trifle stylized, is unambiguous and does a good job of representing the difficult terrain and hence, the importance of the road-net and certain towns in the Ardennes. The designer’s clever idea of using artillery “fire counters” for keeping track of (offensive and defensive) fire missions is also a nice feature, and one that would have greatly benefited artillery fire allocation in SPI’s ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ (1977). The Rule Book is nicely done, and the heavy card-stock game charts and tables are clear and easy-to-use. If I have any complaint at all, it is that the Terrain Effects Chart is printed in the Rule Book and not as a separate game chart.


Supreme Allied Commander
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, France 1944
Last but not least, BULGE ‘81 is eminently playable, fast-moving, and, perhaps just as important, can be finished in a single afternoon. Even better, the Basic Game is (with a modest amount of effort) readily accessible to novice players without being too simple to appeal to more experienced gamers; something that cannot be said about a lot of other titles on this topic. In addition, once the Basic Game has been mastered, the Advanced Game contains enough historical detail to please any but the most demanding students of the battle. Thus, although BULGE ‘81 is certainly not my all-time favorite game on the Ardennes Offensive, it is, nonetheless, at least among my picks for the top five; and given the number of games that have been published on this topic over the years, that’s really not a bad showing for a thirty-year old title. And, of course, those diehard players who are really interested in the operational nitty-gritty of this winter battle should probably be playing ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’, or one of its several descendants instead of this game, anyway.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 12 hours per game turn (AM and PM game turns)
  • Map Scale: 2 miles per hex
  • Unit Size: team/battalion/regiment/brigade
  • Unit Types: armor/panzer, motorized infantry/panzer grenadier, armored cavalry/reconnaissance, infantry, parachute infantry/fallshirmjӓger, glider infantry, corps artillery, nebelwerfer, commandos, air unit markers, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-6 + hours (depending on game version and scenario being played)

Game Components:

  • One (two section) 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Board
  • 377 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8” x 11” Rules Booklet
  • One 8½” x 11” Game Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with Sequence of Play Chart, German Bridge Construction, Commando Recognition, Bridge and Oil Dump, and Strategic Bombing and Air Supply Tables incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” German Order of Appearance Chart
  • One 8½” x 16” Allied Order of Appearance Chart
  • One six-sided Die
  • One 5½” x 8½” Avalon Hill Game/Parts Price List
  • One 5½” x 8½” The General Magazine Subscription Ad Slick
  • One 5½” x 7” Customer Response Card
  • One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¼” flat Cardboard Game Box

Blog Posts

TAGC, BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965)
SPI, THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE (1973)
SPI, BASTOGNE (1976)
SPI, ‘WACHT AM RHEIN’ (1977)
OSG, DARK DECEMBER (1979)
GDW, ROAD TO THE RHINE, (1979)
TAHGC, FORTRESS EUROPA (1980)
GDW, ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES,(1982)
TAHGC, BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1991)

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

13 comments:

  • Great article. I really enjoy your thoughtful blogging.
    I just started reading "Rudder : From Leader to Legend" by Hatfield. Great details regarding the 109th.
    Which was fitting as I just finished a video on the 110th using the old TCS system - The Relief of Marnach.
    Here is a little snippet of the battle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCsSsejFSOY

  • Greetings Sharp:

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Regarding the regiments of the US 28th Division that fought in the Ardennes, clearly Lt. Colonel Rudder's 109th Regmt. acquited itself very well, particularly during the early days of the battle.

    Thanks also for the heads-up regarding the "youtube" video; I'll have to take a look at it.

    Thanks again for your interest and

    Best Regards, Joe

  • So - any chance of a 'compare and contrast' with 'Bitter Woods'?

  • Greetings Russ:

    Your question is a natural one. In some ways, BITTER WOODS represents the natural evolution of traditional "Igo-Ugo" regimental/brigade level World War II games. In fact, the first time I really looked at the game, I was struck by how many different elements from other games had found their way into its basic design architecture: leaders (ala PANZERKRIEG and COBRA); armored silhouettes (thanks to SPI, CGC, and GDW); a CRT with elements from BULGE '65, WAR IN EUROPE, and THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN; handy printed unit set-ups (just like THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE); and, of course, step-reduction. All in all, I think that the designer basically tried to work in every idea that he personally liked from these other games into his own treatment of the "Battle of the Bulge". And for that reason, BITTER WOODS is still very appealing to many old-timers like me who are not particularly enthusiastic about the current trend towards more and more "card-driven" and/or "chit-driven" games.

    On the other hand, since I have already written more than half a dozen profiles of different "Bulge" games, it may be a little while before I finally get around to some of the newer titles. Remember, there have probably been more than four dozen titles on the Ardennes Offensive published since you and I first entered the hobby, and there sem to be more new games on this popular topic coming out every year!

    Finally, since I have already written on BULGE '91, and both Randy Heller and Bruno Sinigaglio are friends of mine, at some point I will probably have to do a profile on BITTER WOODS (at least the 1st edition), as well. When it comes to a comparison of Randy's and Bruno's games, however, that little exercise will undoubtedly have to wait until a number of my more pressing projects are finally out of the way.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    I collected and occasionally played wargames in the 70s, losing interest with the folding of SPI. Now that I wish to engage again (being much older and semi-retired) I feel overwhelmed by the choices. Here's my problem...what are the best simulation(s) for the major battles and theaters?

    I'd love to see you post a list of the top one or two games in several catagories - especially for those games that are of mid-complexity AND offer historical accuracy and what ifs (e.g. Cobra?).

    I know there are lots of new games you have not reviewed, but I don't even know what games are considered by the hobby to be the new landmarks.

    For example, after reading your reviews might be something like this?

    -Normandy and after:
    Cobra w/ expansion pack for D-Day
    Breakout and Pursuit

    How about these WWII events?

    Theater wide conflict on Russian Campaign?
    Battle of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk?
    Midway?
    Pacific Campaign?
    France 1940?
    And of course, the "Bulge".

    Mind you, I am not big on tactical gaming, love operational and theater wide sims.

    Thanks,

    Mark H. (hopefully there is only one Mark H.).

  • Greetings Mark:

    Thank you for visiting; I appreciate your interest.

    I sympathize with the quandry in which you now find yourself. Even a brief visit to Boardgamegeek or Consimworld can overwhelm a new or returning gamer with the sheer volume of wargame titles that are currently available in the marketplace. Things are, indeed, very different from the seventies. Even worse, except for "DTP" games, most contemporary commercially-published titles tend to be breathtakingly expensive compared to the games you remember from your early days in the hobby!

    One major problem with the project you suggest, however, presents itself, almost immediately; and that is that there are now a great many more "game platforms" in common use by designers than back in the seventies. Now, for example, besides traditional Igo-Ugo "hex and counter" games, there are now "Impulse" games such as 'BREAKOUT: NORMANDY' or 'WHITE DEATH'; Card-Driven-Games (CDGs) such as 'HANNIBAL' or 'FOR THE PEOPLE'; "Chit-Driven" games (whether used for untried units or for unit or headquarters activation) like Richard Berg's 'BORODINO'; "Block-Based" games such as 'HAMMER OF THE SCOTS' or 'EASTFRONT II'; I could go on, but I think that you get the idea.

    What all this really means is that, unless you have the time and resources to try a lot of different titles, then you really have to selectively try a few examples of these different types of games and then make up your mind as to which ones you really enjoy, and which games you'd just as soon not pursue. Which, of course, brings us full-circle back to your question as to which titles to try! And, given the focus and subject matter of this blog -- when it comes to this issue, at least -- I can really only offer a limited amount of help.

    The main obstacle to my making a general habit of offering the recommedations that you suggest is that, because there are a number of other sites that already offer high-quality reviews on contemporary games, I tend to focus my efforts on those titles that are either long out of print, or that I feel might be of particular interest to my readers. Moreover, fairly or unfairly, some of the currently popular game systems just don't appeal to me personally. This doesn't mean that there is necessarily anything wrong with a game like 'WE THE PEOPLE', for example, but only that it really isn't my personal "cup of tea", as they say.

    I guess what I am really saying is that, more than anything else, you probably have to decide what you are looking for in a game, and then check various sites -- hopefully, including this one -- to get a feel for those unfamiliar titles that, based on their core game engine, seem like they would be a good match to your individual tastes.

    On a more positive note, I probably should add that I will be, from time to time, publishing posts that, at least partially, match your current gaming needs. For example, I have recently managed to restore to my directory an unfinished essay on East Front "monster" games that I had actually started work on a couple of weeks ago (I usually work on three to five different posts at any given time); when I finally complete and publish this essay, you should find that it includes a discussion of some of the 'BIG' East Front games that are currently enjoying fairly wide-spread popularity within the hobby.

    Finally, as time goes on, I will, I'm sure, add a few more of the newer titles to my list of reviews. However, for the time being at least, I still have quite a few "old" games to work my way through before I get to some of our contemporary game designs.

    Thanks again for your interest and good luck in your search for those games that suit you, personally. In the end, our taste in games (like in everything else) is always going to be subjective, anyway.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Perhaps I asked for too much, but after reading so many of your reviews (and checking out recent titles) I suspect our tastes are similar. I am pretty sure card games are not my favorite, nor are blocks (or chits for activation). That said, perhaps I could convince you to offer a few of your favorites in a few catagories?

    In particular, you said that Bulge 81 is not your favorite, but in the top 5. What might be the other four?

    Perhaps what I am seeking is more of favorites list, than any comprehensive analysis.

    Sorry for being a pest...

    Mark H.

  • Greetings Again Mark:

    Regarding medium-complexity games on the Battle of the Bulge, I can offer a few suggestions that, if nothing else, may help to point you in the right direction.

    Among newer titles, you should probably look at 'ARDENNES '44' and 'BITTER WOODS'. Both are traditional "hex and counter" games and both actually play very well. I should also note that the maps and OBs for both games are also reasonably good. If I have any criticism of these two titles, it is that I personally find the counters a little on the garish, busy side, but both titles -- in spite of a certain amount of contemporary "chrome" -- should remind you of the games that you played in your youth.

    When it comes to older titles, obviously 'BULGE '81' is probably a pretty safe bet. It has a very traditional game engine which means that you should be able to transition from the 'Basic' to the 'Advanced' game very quickly. 'DARK DECEMBER' is another interesting, but oddly disppointing title. The game system should be very familiar to you; unfortunately, the map is (in my opinion, anyway) a truly hideous combination of "pumpkin" yellow and "electric" green, and the rules are a bit on the quirky side. Nonetheless, Danny Parker does offer up a few intriguing ideas with this game. I should note, by the way, that this title should probably be well down on your list as it is probably going to be fairly hard to find. Dunnigan's 'THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE' may or may not appeal to you; it is certainly vintage 70's SPI, but it does present an interesting (if somewhat peculiar) take on the battle. Finally, there is Frank Chadwick's "point-to-point" treatment of the Bulge, 'BATTLE FOR THE ARDENNES'. This game, on its face, seems like it shouldn't work, but it actually turns out to play pretty well. It and 'THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE', however, suffer from one major defect: neither game offers anything in the way of shorter scenarios; thus, for both of these last two titles, it is basically the full campaign, or nothing.

    I hope that these suggestions are of some help.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Mark:

    One correction to my previous comments: the GDW game that was designed by Frank Chadwick titled 'ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES' not 'BATTLE FOR THE ARDENNES'! I guess I'm getting forgetful in my old age.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Yes it was a help - it gives me a good start. Thanks much...
    Mark

  • Greetings Again Mark:

    I'm glad that I could be of help.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • BB81. A birthday present from my wife back in 87.

    I dropped out of my first wargaming period around '82. Mostly it was the fault of S&T and their promoting of silly computer wargames in their magazines (long surveys they had in their magazines back then).

    I still remember questions like: would like a conversion of War in the East to your TRS 80 (with 8K or 16 K memory ...) yeah right : 8K memory ... Sigh.

    After having beaten Pac Man and saw the utter fail of AI in games like Chris Crawfords Eastern Front on the Atari 800 I was coming back to wargaming with this game and - as I didn't find any opponents - Ambush. Great 2nd wargame period. And like you say: THE BOX ART of BB81 is epic as is the "feeling" of the board. Love it.

  • Greetings BenBos:

    When I first heard that Avalon Hill was going to rework BULGE '65, I was a bit skeptical about the project. The original game had been one of my all time favorites during my college years, and I didn't really like the idea of anyone tampering with the basic design of this World War II "classic". However, Bruno Sinigaglio (and Mick Uhl) did an excellent job of updating the original without, I think, changing the older game's exciting dynamic. All in all, a very successful redesign of one of my favorite old games. And I should also add that the box art for BULGE '81 was a great improvement of that of the original.

    Best Regards, Joe

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