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Subject: Why so many bulge games? rss

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Bernd Caspers
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I´m no military expert, but what´s interesting about the "battle of the bulge"?
The Germans didn´t stand any chance from the start simply because of the lack of fuel, it was a rather stupid "throw away your armored reserves" action, even the Italians(and that says something) would have "stopped" this "offensive", so the "heroic actions of a handful of americans stopped the nazi tide" is more a kind of Hollywood myth.
Maybe it´s so popular with American gamers because Hollywood and their own propaganda makes them belief they for once were the underdog here and they "came back", but with that many material, men and resources available it´s very hard for even the most incompetend commanders to lose.
 
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I think it's popular because it's one of the better known big battles to occur after D-day, at least in the west.

You could say things like "operation sea lion" was an impossiblity but does that mean gamers don't want to try it?

Likewise the battle of leyte, the largest naval battle in history was pretty much going to swing the US way because Japan was hard up for planes, yet the fact that the japanese almost destroyed the central task force around leyte is interesting and something to consider.


Larry Harris, creator of A&A: BOB has said that the Germans really didn't stand a chance so the object it to "do better than the Germans did in real life".

I'm not sure I like that standpoint because what ifs are the reason I play historicals and I want the chance, no matter how far fetched, to win. After all if Hannibal had lost the battle of Cannae, we would be creating games where the purpose was to "inflict more losses on the romans than they inflict on you" because we would all say that 40,000 troops against 80,000 trained romans + allies it would be "impossible" for Hannibal to win, yet he did, so we never put ourselves in the mindset.

Others however, are in it for the pure historical simulation and I understand that they accept the historical improbability of the Germans winning and just want to try it the way Larry does. Either way is fine by me!!!


 
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It is the siege of Bastogne that most Americans (or any serious student of history) find admirable. A small unit of paratroopers are surrounded and hold out against a vastly superior armored force, with nothing but small arms and maybe a mortar or two for support. I'd be real curious to see how you'd react when the Panthers and Tigers start rollin' up to your foxhole, while the .88's rained shells down on ya. 'Nuff said?
 
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j b Goodwin

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I think it is the very desperate nature of the Bulge offensive that is what is so intriguing.

It's not that American believe "their own propaganda." Eveyone who's played a Bulge game knows that the odds are mightily against the Germans in this battle, and that "victory" for the Germans in a Bulge game is to get better than historical results. It's that sense of impending doom that adds the edge to the Bulge games. If you are the German player, you know you're going down, but you must find out how badly you can damage the enemy in doing so, and how long you can last.

The same is true for playing the Allied forces in wargames about the Fall of France in WWII. You can see it coming, and you just can't stop it. Yes, it is frustrating, but it makes for a tense, interesting game.
 
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Peter Bogdasarian
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The other thing that attracts gamers to the Bulge is that one player starts out on the offensive and then the other player counterattacks, which is not always easy to come by.
 
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swandive78 wrote:
I think it is the very desperate nature of the Bulge offensive that is what is so intriguing.

It's not that American believe "their own propaganda." Eveyone who's played a Bulge game knows that the odds are mightily against the Germans in this battle, and that "victory" for the Germans in a Bulge game is to get better than historical results. It's that sense of impending doom that adds the edge to the Bulge games. If you are the German player, you know you're going down, but you must find out how badly you can damage the enemy in doing so, and how long you can last.
The same is true for playing the Allied forces in wargames about the Fall of France in WWII. You can see it coming, and you just can't stop it. Yes, it is frustrating, but it makes for a tense, interesting game.


Agreed. Many of histories great battles were not what we considered balanced, so it's hard to represent that in a game. Yet it's still fun to be the underdog.
 
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Bernd Caspers
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swandive78 wrote:
The same is true for playing the Allied forces in wargames about the Fall of France in WWII. You can see it coming, and you just can't stop it. Yes, it is frustrating, but it makes for a tense, interesting game.


The big difference between the Bulge and the Fall of France is that the Allies had every chance to win/hold off the germans.
They had more men and material, with the germans only advantage having more airpower.
They germans won because they were better soldiers, men to men and on a command level.
This is from a military standpoint of view one of the finest victories of the 20th century.
If this had been an american victory you could by now choose from well over 100 Hollywood movies to watch on FF-Day (Fall of France Day; also known as "F*ck France-Day" in the service ).
 
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Mike Pranno
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The Fall of France... This is from a military standpoint of view one of the finest victories of the 20th century.

Last time I checked, something about the quality of French armor and lack of French leadership had a LOT more to do with that than the German army. Though I do concede that the Germans had one of the best-trained armies on the continent.
 
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Kevin Moody
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Fall of France Day; also known as "F*ck France-Day" in the service
The bad news: Germany's attempts to inculcate cultural and historical sensitivities do not seem to be working.

The good news: More wargames in the future!
 
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Thomas Eager
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The Jakster wrote:
swandive78 wrote:
The same is true for playing the Allied forces in wargames about the Fall of France in WWII. You can see it coming, and you just can't stop it. Yes, it is frustrating, but it makes for a tense, interesting game.


The big difference between the Bulge and the Fall of France is that the Allies had every chance to win/hold off the germans.
They had more men and material, with the germans only advantage having more airpower.
They germans won because they were better soldiers, men to men and on a command level.
This is from a military standpoint of view one of the finest victories of the 20th century.
If this had been an american victory you could by now choose from well over 100 Hollywood movies to watch on FF-Day (Fall of France Day; also known as "F*ck France-Day" in the service ).


shake Ummm...no. The Nazis won through use of combined-arms tactics...the blitzkrieg. A strategy developed, by, of all things, a Frenchman. shake
 
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Richard Irving
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Agreed. Many of histories great battles were not what we considered balanced, so it's hard to represent that in a game.


Most of history's battles are deliberately imbalanced--after all, you are only supposed to attack when you have an overwhelming advantage.

I disagree with the last point. It is EASY to represent a balanced battle in a game, but usually it is not that historically accurate.

In the case of the Bulge, the forces are relatively balanced--most of the advantages the Allies had were neutralized temporarily by surprise and weather. Once the weather improved and the Allies had a chance to respond, the offensive was crushed.

The big problem with the Bulge for the Germans is even if the offensive succeeded, then what? They might have delayed the Western Allies for a few months, but they had to critically weakened the Eastern Front to do it.
 
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Bernd Caspers
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shake Ummm...no. The Nazis won through use of combined-arms tactics...the blitzkrieg. A strategy developed, by, of all things, a Frenchman. shake


Yup, history is full of ironies, a Frenchman invented the Blitzkrieg, an Austrian the Third Reich and a Nazi rocket scientist helped the americans to the moon...
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rri1 wrote:
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Agreed. Many of histories great battles were not what we considered balanced, so it's hard to represent that in a game.


Most of history's battles are deliberately imbalanced--after all, you are only supposed to attack when you have an overwhelming advantage.

I disagree with the last point. It is EASY to represent a balanced battle in a game, but usually it is not that historically accurate.

In the case of the Bulge, the forces are relatively balanced--most of the advantages the Allies had were neutralized temporarily by surprise and weather. Once the weather improved and the Allies had a chance to respond, the offensive was crushed.

The big problem with the Bulge for the Germans is even if the offensive succeeded, then what? They might have delayed the Western Allies for a few months, but they had to critically weakened the Eastern Front to do it.



You're right you can balance any game but you should just do it at the sake of historical acurracy.

I disagree with the only attack with overwhelming odds however. I can't list serveral battles where those with inferior numbers attacked and won.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Another reason, that I haven't seen so far on this list, is that it has traditionally given gamers the opportunity to wield Germany's late-war units (King Tigers, Hummels, etc.), in an offensive against American and British forces.

It also serves (when reproduced faithfully) as a real "puzzle" for the German player, as control of roads and prioritization of units getting through crossroads is critical.

But mostly I think it's because it gives gamers a chance to play with Germany's "best toys", on the front where they were otherwise almost always on the defensive.
 
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"Standing a chance" shouldn't be a prerequisite for a wargame!

If that were the case, you wouldn't see the dozens of American Civil War games available today!



Desparate struggles make for great games.

But you are correct in your comment about "Hollywood" - the TET Offensive was a great battle to turn into a wargame, and there are a couple of good games around. But you're never going to see as many TET games as you will Bulge games!

We'd rather play games about battles in wars we've won rather than wars we "tied".

(btw, apologies for any ignorant comments that have been made on this thread.)
 
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I´m no military expert, but what´s interesting about the "Battle of the Alamo"? The Texans didn´t stand any chance from the start simply because of the lack of soldiers, it was a rather stupid "throw away your best men (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis)" action, even the Italians (and that says something) would have "succeeded" in this "offensive", so the "heroic actions of a handful of Texans stopping the Mexican tide" is more a kind of Hollywood myth. Maybe it´s so popular with American gamers because Hollywood and their own propaganda makes them believe they for once were the underdog here and they "came back (later at San Jacinto)", but with that much material, men and resources available it´s very hard for even the most incompetent Mexican commander to lose.
 
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Bernd Caspers
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Sinister Dexter wrote:
I´m no military expert, but what´s interesting about the "Battle of the Alamo"? The Texans didn´t stand any chance from the start simply because of the lack of soldiers, it was a rather stupid "throw away your best men (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis)" action, even the Italians (and that says something) would have "succeeded" in this "offensive", so the "heroic actions of a handful of Texans stopping the Mexican tide" is more a kind of Hollywood myth. Maybe it´s so popular with American gamers because Hollywood and their own propaganda makes them believe they for once were the underdog here and they "came back (later at San Jacinto)", but with that much material, men and resources available it´s very hard for even the most incompetent Mexican commander to lose.


Not bad .
You´re right, I have no interest in Alamo games.
I disagree on the Italians though, make that the Austrians, they were the Italians of their time.
 
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Kurt La Botz
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The Answer is "What If" simple! That's why we play.
 
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mcpranno wrote:
Last time I checked, something about the quality of French armor and lack of French leadership had a LOT more to do with that than the German army. Though I do concede that the Germans had one of the best-trained armies on the continent.


Actually the quality of French tanks was for the most part better than that of the Germans (the French at this time, after all, were considered to have one of the better armies in the world); the main problem was that entire units of tanks moved freely for the Wehrmacht and SS, while the French armor was divided up amongst the infantry, ala WWI. The French were totally unprepared for the new "Blitzkrieg" warfare.

There's definitely no dispute about the breakdown of the French chain of command. They were dead in the water, by comparison.
 
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Geez Jackster, did you have a bad week or something? Looks like you just want to argue about everything! First the Battle of the Bulge, then an insult to French (ok I laughed a bit when I read that), next an attack on the US moon shot, and finally a personal attack on Dixter (which I noticed you intelligently deleted). To answer you original question, why a game about the Battle of Bulge, Because it was a dramatic move. The same goes for the Alamo. The drama makes it fun to recreate as BubbaK put it "What if". If the Germans had just put down their weapons and surrendered that isn't very dramatic or fun to recreate. See, it’s only fun if a ton-o-lead isn't flying and there's a lot of dying.
 
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Barry Kendall
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Collecting Bulge games is a hobby-within-a-hobby for me. The situation is interesting: a veteran, well-equipped force making a last effort to buy time in a losing strategic cause; spread-out, inexperienced or battle-weary defenders trying to slow a massive assault out of nowhere; command and commitment issues on both sides (Montgomery-Bradley on the Allied side; armor or infantry first on the German); unpredictable weather; challenging terrain; commandos and atrocities; and a darn good soundtrack (whoops, that was the movie).

I like to compare Bulge games to see what salient issues the designer decided to emphasize, and which fell to Ockham's Razor. I like to see how designers handle road congestion, supply, combined arms support, and hard-to-define elements like weather, morale, and interference from higher command. I like to see how the forces are represented on both sides, at what level, and how different unit types interact both offensively and defensively.

With a well-known battle like the Bulge, it is possible to compare design strategies and game design problem solving with a common starting point.

On the historical side, I've thought several times while reading comments on this topic about the old "20/20 hindsight" proverb. We may happily lean back in our chairs, swallow our pretzels and comment about what a lost cause the German attack was, how obvious it is that they couldn't win, and how dull a game with such foregone conclusions is.

At the time, it was far less obvious. If Eisenhower doesn't send the 101st forward without its winter gear (many troops were loaded on trucks without either their overcoats or their helmets), Bastogne falls before they get there.

If the 82nd doesn't fight an equally desperate action further north, the Meuse is breached. If Eisenhower doesn't subordinate American pride to necessity and give Montgomery command of the northern shoulder, XXX Corps probably hangs back around Antwerp instead of barring the Meuse and freeing American units for a counterattack.

If Patton doesn't disengage Third Army in two days and turn north, Bastogne is not relieved before January 1 and the German southern "shoulder" is fortified before he arrives.

If the exhausted "Bloody Buckets" of the 28th Division and their green replacements don't sacrifice themselves as a speed bump, the southern attack is at the Meuse in two days.

If the St. Vith "Goose Egg" isn't evacuated in the nick of time, several American divisions are captured and the First and Thirtieth Divisions must hang back and protect Montgomery's flank rather than pressure the northern shoulder.

If the "damned engineers" don't use all their cunning to slow Peiper, he's into open country with heavy tanks and replenished fuel and running for the Meuse crossings.

If the weather doesn't break by Christmas, the defenders of Bastogne receive neither resupply nor air support.

If a certain nurse doesn't distract Fritz Beyerlein for the better part of a day, Panzer Lehr gets into action soon enough to be decisive and keep the momentum going.

Every single event above did, in fact, happen, combining to slow, channelize and ultimately defeat the German offensive. Imagine if some of them had not occurred as they did--all possibilities that can be explored in good Bulge games.

I agree that it is unlikely the German armies could have taken Antwerp. I doubt they could have the shoulders of the penetration against determined counterattacks if these were well supplied.

This assumes that the Allied commanders would have been willing to hazard a cut-off army group in offensive operations rather than husbanding supplies in a defensive mode in the north while rebuilding and redeploying units from the south to attack north and relieve them. After all, SHAEF's last Strategic Reserve at that time was the two airborne divisions committed to the Bulge, and in the 'States, Army Air Force personnel were already being retrained as combat infantry because of growing shortages of replacements.

It also assumes that in the aftermath of a German breakthrough, or even the capture of a corps or two of US troops during the attack, no senior commanders would have been relieved--which is unlikely, in my view. Probably at least Bradley and possibly Eisenhower would have lost their jobs. Given the delay imposed by restructuring command staffs, it is unlikely a significant counterattack could have been mounted before February (and given the weather, it might have waited until March).

At the same time, the attack against the Westwall south of Luxembourg would have been halted to free units for redeployment north. It would have been politically untenable for any SHAEF commander not to make relief of Montgomery's army group his top priority; recall the lack of port facilities to the north at this time and the shortage of transport aircraft.

Churchill's subsequent praise of the American effort in the Bulge can be taken in part as conciliatory rhetoric by an ally, but some of the Bulge veterans I've talked to do not glory in their accomplishments. Mostly they shake their heads and say, "We could have lost it there." It was certainly no foregone conclusion to them.

Given these realities and possibilities, a good game designer can generate a Bulge game full of uncertainty, tension, options and replay value whether the Germans get close to Antwerp or not.
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yep,

These what I mean by what ifs, leading to more what ifs, etc..
 
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j b Goodwin

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The Jakster wrote:
swandive78 wrote:
The same is true for playing the Allied forces in wargames about the Fall of France in WWII. You can see it coming, and you just can't stop it. Yes, it is frustrating, but it makes for a tense, interesting game.


The big difference between the Bulge and the Fall of France is that the Allies had every chance to win/hold off the germans.
They had more men and material, with the germans only advantage having more airpower.
They germans won because they were better soldiers, men to men and on a command level.
This is from a military standpoint of view one of the finest victories of the 20th century.
If this had been an american victory you could by now choose from well over 100 Hollywood movies to watch on FF-Day (Fall of France Day; also known as "F*ck France-Day" in the service ).


Yes, the reasons the campaigns each had one side that was doomed are different, but the effect is very similar: due to politically-compromised war preparations in France, there would be no stopping the German offensive; there was only the question of how bad it would be.

If you are just interested in admonishing prideful American WWII movies, go right ahead, it won't change facts, but if you are interested in why Bulge games are so popular, listen to the responses.
 
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j b Goodwin

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I´m no military expert, but what´s interesting about the "Battle of the Alamo"? The Texans didn´t stand any chance from the start simply because of the lack of soldiers, it was a rather stupid "throw away your best men (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis)" action, even the Italians (and that says something) would have "succeeded" in this "offensive", so the "heroic actions of a handful of Texans stopping the Mexican tide" is more a kind of Hollywood myth. Maybe it´s so popular with American gamers because Hollywood and their own propaganda makes them believe they for once were the underdog here and they "came back (later at San Jacinto)", but with that much material, men and resources available it´s very hard for even the most incompetent Mexican commander to lose.


Dang, I love irony! And sarcasm!
 
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j b Goodwin

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Kevin Moody wrote:
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Fall of France Day; also known as "F*ck France-Day" in the service
The bad news: Germany's attempts to inculcate cultural and historical sensitivities do not seem to be working.

The good news: More wargames in the future!


Once again: Dang! I love irony and sarcasm!
 
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