Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The most fought over locations in wargaming - the Bulge part 1

Here we are in April and there's still snow on the ground. Random thoughts turn to games with a winter theme. So, here we go - maybe the start of a series - the most fought over locations in my game collection; the Battle of the Bulge and Bastogne.

I think my first Bulge game was Battles for the Ardennes. This was an excellent SPI quad game - 4 separate games that combined into campaign games. Although the main game was the 1944 campaign, there was also a 1940 quad game and campaign in the package. Classic Bulge scale of 2 mile hexes and units mostly regiments.  (This view is looking west)

Many an hour was spent moving and fighting through this terrain with my regular opponent at that time. All the ingredients were there - road traffic jams, Allied interdiction, fuel shortages and of course, the 101st at Bastogne. Even if game play needed the 101st elsewhere, it's almost obligatory to send them to Bastogne. 

The maps on my original game are a bit worn with use, so I later bought the Decision Games version. Same game, but slightly different graphics and some unit strengths revised by the games original designer. (Again, picture looking west)
I think Bastogne was my next Bulge game. Part another SPI quad, but this time a common set of rules for different battles. Bastogne features just the fight for the town and surrounding area. A nice little game, with graphics that were standard for late 70's SPI, i.e. quite pretty and very functional. This game had a scale of 850 metres a hex and battalion level units.  (This view is looking north)

Then there was the Avalon Hill remake of their original 60's Battle of the Bulge game, Bulge 81 (because it was released in 1981). This saw a lot of play with club opponents, specially one who was a major Bulge fan. Many nights were spent on this game, and many hours on 'postal' play where we'd just swop moves as we met in passing when we worked in the same building.  

Again, classic Bulge scale of 2 mile hexes and mostly regiment counters. A great game, fast to play and still a favourite.  (This view is looking north)  

Then there was the GDW entry. Point to point movement, based on their brilliant House Divided system. At first it seemed strange, and not too pretty, but it actually worked quite well. I definitely got the impression of the importance of roads. Only so many units can move along each type of road in a turn with divisions able to motor down the red main roads, with fewer units moving on brown seconday roads, and only 1 unit of the black tracks.  

Again, classic Bulge scale of mostly regiment counters. A good game that's often been overlooked.  (This view is looking north) 

And of course, if there's a Bulge game to be mentioned it has to be the mighty Wacht am Rhein. One of the SPI monster games from the late 70's, this did the Bulge at battalion level, 1 mile hexes, 4 big maps and 1600 counters.  

For a time this was the definitive Bulge game. I think it's the only Bulge game where I managed to get some German units of 116th panzer over the Meuse, though because they were so few, I couldn't exploit the situation. Everything else was held up in fighting. I only got to play this once against an opponent as few people would commit to the time to play a monster game.  

A second edition was done by Decision Games but I didn't buy it. I heard comments that they'd made it too complex and forgot that a monster game was still a game. I might buy it someday.

And a sidenote - I got a Russian front game called Korsun Pocket which was based on the Wacht am Rhein system. Also 4 maps at 1 mile per hex and same scale and with a couple of thousand counters.  

And another little SPI game, called simply Bulge. It's almost a complete antidote to Wacht. One small map, division level counters and a novel sequence of play. (This view is looking north). 

I'm going to stop here for now. This takes me up to the end of the SPI and Avalon Hill eras. Seven games so far and another seven to come from the 90's to date.