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Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First Play and Initial Impressions rss

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Tanner Martin
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I’ve wanted to try this game out for quite a few years. I play A&A D-Day fairly regularly, and I enjoy it because it’s light, simple, and quick. However, I’ve often wanted just a bit more depth; and Battle of the Bulge looked like a nice match. Unfortunately I wasn’t into gaming when Bulge was released, and now it has been out of print for years. It's generally scarce and expensive. However, I finally found a copy for decent money (original retail price) and I decided to give the Bulge a try. This is a quick summery of my first session (as best as I can recall afterward), plus a few initial impressions of the game.

The rules for Bulge are relatively straight-forward; one read-through before the game, plus a couple consultations during the game, were all that were required for me to get a pretty good grasp of the gameplay. The combat rules in particular are very interesting, with hits being assigned randomly to units rather than being chosen by the defender as in most other A&A games. The combat system is slow and a bit cumbersome, often involving rerolling all the “hit” dice, followed by counting out each unit to figure which units took hits. I liked the randomness, but this combat system was definitely a bottleneck in the game. It took about 4 hours to play the game, and a significant part of that was due to assigning hits.

On the plus side, the supply and zone-of-control rules were great. The Allied player had an ample number of trucks, and a stockpile of excess supplies. They could afford to be much more aggressive with bring supplies to the front. Germany, on the other hand, had to carefully guard its few trucks and limited supplies. At one point in our game, a massive Allied air offensive completely obliterated a critical supply depot that Germany had set up to fuel a final rush for victory points. That loss halted the German advance in the south for an entire turn. I found that to be delightfully realistic.

Our game lasted for 7 rounds. Germany played a fairly conservative, methodical style for most of the game, and only switched to an all-out aggressive strategy during the final two turns. The Allies played more aggressively, but with an emphasis on defense; their strategy was generally to fall back until they had enough forces consolidated to make a stand in four key areas of the map. One of these areas was actually the city of Eupen, just behind the starting boarder. Because the Allies can feed Northern/Southern supplies into the map from the map edges, they were able to start digging in and counter-attacking on the German flanks very early in the game. Thus, our map ended with a very definite “bulge” in the German advance (especially in the north, where Germany made almost no headway).

The early game found German off to a fairly slow start; although Germany attacked from every hex on turn one, they only managed to clear the target hexes and advance in the south and central portions of the map. In the north, the Allies survived the attack and fell back to Eupen and Malmedy. American reinforcements were mainly deployed to the far north (Eupen) and far south (Martelange). As the game progressed, Germany was able to push ahead in the center; the Allies had to build up their forces back away from the front, in Rochefort and Marche. In the South, the Allies slowed the German advance considerably, while building up a strong fighting force in Libramont and Neufchatesu. In the North, the Germans managed to take Malmedy and push ahead; but the Allies held onto all the cities along the north map edge.

Mid-game saw the Germans advance halfway across the map (and a fair bit further, in the center and south). Most of the forward Allied defenses were forced to pull back to the strongholds in Rochforte/Marche (center) and Libramont/Neufchataeu (south), where the German columns rolled up and a serious slugfest began. In the North, Allied troops seized the initiative and counter-attacked, critically damaging the German force that was prepared to storm Eupen. The Allies had now achieved local numeric superiority in the North, and the Germans had to fall back. At this point, the supply differences between both sides had started to become more apparent. The Allies had ample supplies, although the allied player was very careful to only deploy what supplies were needed and to guard them very carefully. Germany, on the other hand, was in a much tighter situation; they had very limited supplies—and still fewer trucks—which meant that these had to be deployed carefully to the most efficient locations. Because the Allied player was so careful not to deploy any extra supplies, Germany captured precious few supply tokens after turn one. Germany had enough supplies for essential actions, but nothing extra; every token was vital. Moreover, Allied air power arrived in the mid-game and began to disrupt German supply route and target German trucks. Now Germany could no longer send the trucks and supplies to the hexes behind the front lines, and they had to ship their supplies directly to the front where the trucks had better anti-aircraft cover. But this meant that many German trucks were exposed to Allied ground attacks and were pinned down and unable to leave at the end of the round.

The end-game was comprised of the movement phase of round 5, plus rounds 6 & 7. Both sides were suddenly made aware of just how critical the situation was. The Allies were alarmed by the realization that the Germans were only a few victory points away from victory; and the Germans were distressed by the tremendous damage that Allied airpower was doing to their advance. Germany switched into high gear and began moving extra troops up to the north to threaten the victory-point rich cities on the northern map edge. In the center, they began blitzing tanks around the Allied forces. And the in south, the Germans began moved troops and supplies up for an all-out attack on the critical Allied stronghold in Neufchateau. The Allies responded with aggressive air attacks on the German supply depots (including the attack that destroyed the critical depot that was to have fueled the attack on Neufchateau). They reinforced the northern cities, and counter-attacked in the center (and actually managed to drive the Germans out of La-Roche). The situation was tense as turn 6 drew to a close; La-Roche was still German-controlled but closely contested, and Germany needed hold it plus gain two more cities to win. One allied stronghold held out in Werbomont, completely surrounded but well supplied and well-armed. Germany then loaded up all three of their available trucks with every piece of fuel they had and drove them straight the front for one last ditch offensive. It worked; German troops managed to enter Verviers and Neufchateau, and barely held La-Roche. The surrounded allies in Werbomont did hold out, but this was not enough to win the game.

All in all, I enjoyed Battle of the Bulge. It’s a nice step up from D-Day, and works well for a someone like me who is into light wargaming. I wish it were a tad shorter, but it’s still manageable and I can find players who will commit to a 4 hour game. The game mechanics work well overall, and it is a fairly simple and intuitive system. It actually felt surprising immersive and realistic for this kind of game, at least until the end; in addition to combat, you also have to coordinate logistics and plan for the long-term. The end felt a bit “gamey,” however, as the German drive to take the last two cities left them supply-less, poorly-positioned, and highly-vulnerable. Had the Germans be required to hold the cities for a full round, the Allied counter-attack would certainly have demolished them. But given that the game is about area control, I think the end was still satisfactory. It was certainly dramatic and enjoyable. I’ll definitely be keeping and replaying this game.

[Edited for typos]
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Greg Love
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Yes, I picked up a copy of this game very cheaply when a FLGS closed down, and wanted to get rid of their left-over stock.

It is a great Axis and Allies game, which I think is hampered only by the combat resolution system, as you suggest above. Why they went with this system is difficult to grasp, and I wish there was a way (is there?) to do combat with the standard "battle board" method.

Great review, thanks.

Edit: apparently there is a battle board:

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/30256/battle-board

I'm just not clear on exactly how it works, though?
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Terry Maciw
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zombiewarrior07 wrote:
It is a great Axis and Allies game, which I think is hampered only by the combat resolution system, as you suggest above. Why they went with this system is difficult to grasp, and I wish there was a way (is there?) to do combat with the standard "battle board" method.


+1 , just wish there was an alternative combat system that gave the same odds.
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Mike Oliver
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I've owned a copy for a few years but it's still in its cellowrap (could never find an opponent). I have a feeling the battleboard allows players to set their pieces up and fight a battle separately from the main game.

No idea how it works, though. I tried Googling "battle-board", "battleboard" and "battle board" but nothing came up that looked like it was relevant.

If anyone else has any ideas, please respond.

Cheers,
Mike
 
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Martin S
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I'd be interested to see how you played the first round. The Germans (only) allocate supplies for attacks as per normal, but did you allow any attack to be re-directed if the original target hex had just been cleared by a previous attack? Or did you 'waste' the supply tocken as if all attacks were simultaneous?

Chosing the order of attacks is a key part of the game.

BTW you may also want to download the FAQ as this clears up some errata in the rules e.g. ant-aircraft rolls are allocated as normal and not to empty squares as shown in the rules.

I've long since been interested in the Ardennes Offensive (my father fought in it) and I like this game a lot.
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Tanner Martin
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Achtung_Panzer10 wrote:
...did you allow any attack to be re-directed if the original target hex had just been cleared by a previous attack? Or did you 'waste' the supply tocken as if all attacks were simultaneous?


My understanding of the rules are that you declare and pay fuel for all attacks at the beginning of your turn, since the rules say that the fuel tokens are flipped over with the arrows indicating all planned attacks. All attacks are considered simultaneous, and the fuel is lost if the attack cannot be conducted as originally planned. So we did not allow any changes to attack plans.

I did indeed download the errata & FAQ, although I don't think I caught the modified rule for AA fire since we were focused on the printed game manual. I agree about attack order being critical; this game does require a bit more planning than most of the A&A series does. It's definitely a winner in my book!
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Kevin Chapman
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Axis & Allies Developer and Playtester; War of the Ring Editor and Playtester
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mrgeneraldude wrote:
My understanding of the rules are that you declare and pay fuel for all attacks at the beginning of your turn, since the rules say that the fuel tokens are flipped over with the arrows indicating all planned attacks.

You do indeed. However, "your turn" in the Ground Combat phase is simply an attack from one hex, which may target multiple enemy-controlled hexes. The fact that the Allies player doesn't attack on turn one doesn't change the fact that the Axis player attacks with one hex at a time.
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Martin S
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mrgeneraldude wrote:
Achtung_Panzer10 wrote:
...did you allow any attack to be re-directed if the original target hex had just been cleared by a previous attack? Or did you 'waste' the supply tocken as if all attacks were simultaneous?


My understanding of the rules are that you declare and pay fuel for all attacks at the beginning of your turn, since the rules say that the fuel tokens are flipped over with the arrows indicating all planned attacks. All attacks are considered simultaneous, and the fuel is lost if the attack cannot be conducted as originally planned. So we did not allow any changes to attack plans.


Good, that's how we play the Round 1 attacks. It's highly likely that the first attack from one German hex will result in a cleared hex by either a kill or retreat of the Allied unit(s). So the attack from the second German hex is either redirected to antother hex or lost as you say.

A subtle tactical point in the first round is how many die the Germans decide to roll to clear a hex without destroying the Allied supply / fuel tokens.
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