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|PRO||Simple but nevertheless demanding simulation of the Ardennes offensive; very good and well-thought out introductory consim|
|CONTRA||Rules and battle manual don't look not very appealing, compared to the attractive mapboard; "Fuel Points" tend to lead to ahistorical situations|
of the Bulge ('91)
|written by: Andreas Ludwig|
|Graphic Presentation||The map is done very nicely - it offers much detail on the region where the Battle of the Bulge actually took place. It's printed on thick cardboard and is not too large, but providing enough playing space. Each chart important to play the game is printed on the board for easy reference. The quality of the counters is slightly below the quality of the map, but nothing really to complain about. I don't like the rulebook design (both of the basic rules paper sheet and the more detailed Battle Manual for the advanced rules) because of the colour scheme (white with olive), but that's just a matter of taste of course.|
|Rules||The basic rules consist of one double sided sheet of paper and are very well written. They allow a quick start into the game almost immediately. In addition to these basic rules, you get a Battle Manual which provides a good historical overview and information about the battle fought in the Ardennes and some good optional rules which add spice to the basic game. It becomes a much more demanding game this way, compared to the simpler basic rules. There are some typos, but overall the rules are doing a good job in teaching the game mechanics and you can check out typos when you compare the info with the charts on the map (which have the correct printings). Getting the Errata on the internet will also help clarifying any issues that may come up.|
The Smithsonian Edition of this Avalon Hill classic is done with the idea in mind to introduce newcomers into the consim hobby without going to a great extent. When you play the game with just the basic rules, it's in fact just a matter of move and fight sequences, so more experienced gamers may find it somewhat superficial. But for absolute newbies this is exactly the way to go - to get them interested in this kind of boardgaming. As soon as the players have some experience under their belt, they should start with all (or some) optional rules in play. You can combine these optional rules as you see fit, which means you can introduce them step by step if you have the need to do so.
The game played with all rules belongs to the "easy to get into" games, but nonetheless offers very interesting situations for strategic decisions. The three scenarios (start of battle - middle phase - end of battle) allow for setting up the game regarding different demands of time.They are all offering a tense game experience, with the first scenario letting the Allied player face a very strong german opponent, which makes it necessary for the Allies to avoid mistakes or they will lose easily. I think it portrays the historical situation accurately where the last big german offensive was a surprise for the Allies, leading to chaos and confusion on their side - at least for the first days. The last scenario is a bit more on the allied side, making it hard for the german player to stand up the fight to win, but the whole campaign is a very balanced game and great fun.
The units have their own special abilities and limitations (especially considering the different nature of tank and infantry units) and each player has to know about these elements in order to get the most out of his troops and his possibilities. This especially becomes important in respect to the different weather conditions, which affect units in a different manner. Gameplay is fast and without much downtime, combat is simple and based on a combination of unit strength and terrain modifiers, supply plays an important role but doesn't end in detailed micromanaging. Weather, air support etc. provide enough feeling for the historical battle.
|Replay Value||Quite high, mainly because of the three different scenarios with alternating starting positions and for the depth of strategic possibilities offered in this game.|
|Creativity||The Smithsonian Edition of the earlier version of the game from 1981 was successful in bringing down the basic system to a playable level for beginners, without removing the thrill of it. Combined with the historical background information, this is a very good starter for newbies and a fine game for experienced players as well.|
|Simulation Value||Even here the game has some surprises for you, because it's a serious consim about the topic of the Battle of the Bulge and it proves that lite wargames don't have to end as simple games without any historical standards. Of course the game has to make some compromises, but the used abstraction is convincing and reflects the most important details very well.|
|Solitaire Factor||Playable as a solitaire, but more recommended as a 2 player game. When you want to play alone anyhow, then better choose one of the more complex consims which offer more detail for a solitaire study of this battle.|
|Can be compared to||BoB '91 belongs to the Smithsonian Games series and these are some lite consims that try to give some historical information through easy-to-understand wargames. The '81 version of the game is more complex and is often prefered by more experienced players. Bitter Woods is about the same topic, but much more complex. Tigers in the Mist is a less complex Bulge game, but tends to ahistorical aspects, as I was told.|
|Short Opinion||Some folks are quick at hand with their opinion that the '91 version and the entire Smithsonian Series are too simple to be serious consims. But I don't agree, at least not regarding BotB (I haven't played the other games of the series). The game offers a rewarding strategic situation and clever game mechanics which is motivating enough for a game now and then. It will obviously depend on what you actually expect from a wargame. The intention of the Smithsonian Edition by Avalon Hill to produce easy-to-get-into games is much appreciated by us, because we were aware of the problem that people who don't know wargames get intimidated by too complex games. They are in need of such lite consims to close the gap between fun wargames and more complicated consims. This Battle of the Bulge edition clearly shows in a convincing manner that creating games which don't deter newbies is possible and it still offers enough tension for veterans who try to help these newbies getting into the hobby. An important aspect is the great game balance especially in the campaign. The campaign often is won on the edge and keeps the tension for both players up till the end. I personally love this Bulge version, even if there's no newbie at hand to teach ;-)|
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