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Subject: A Mismatch Can Be The Best Match rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
The BATTLE of the BULGE (Second Edition)
Two-player World War Two Battle Simulation

Designed by Bruno Sinigaglio
Published by the Avalon Hill Game Company (1981)

One of the first wargames I played repeatedly was the ’65 version of Avalon Hill’s Battle of the Bulge. It was an exciting, albeit frustrating, wargame. In was different from other ‘classic’ Avalon Hill games because of the nature of the CRT – there were a couple of new results with ENGAGED and CONTACT. While it was an exciting game it was decidedly lacking as far as simulation value went.

The ’81 version of the Battle of the Bulge is clearly a more historically accurate version of the game.

Be aware that 12 months after the initial publication of the Battle of the Bulge, Avalon Hill brought out a second edition which had some quite important rule changes and changes to a small number of counters – there is a file here on BGG which allows you to print out your own updated counters. You can tell if you have the second edition of the game as it has those magic words clearly printed on the bottom right-hand corner of the cover of the rule book.


When I started playing wargames Avalon Hill had the reputation for better games while S.P.I. had a reputation for better historical simulations. BotB ’81 appears to me to be an attempt on the part of Avalon Hill to make a more historically accurate game.

Like all ‘Bulge’ games the situation features two totally mismatched armies. The Germans, with the advantage of greater surprise and force must drive hard and fast for the Meuse River. The United States tries to heroically hold the line with inadequate forces as reinforcements race to the rescue. In this particular version of the game the Germans are at a disadvantage compared to the Allies and should expect to win only around 40% of the time.

The game has several permutations depending upon your preferences. The basic rules are less than 8 pages in length. The advanced rules take up three pages and the optional rules take up another two pages.

As well as a historical tournament scenario which lasts for 14 turns there is a full campaign game which runs for 36 turns from December 16 until January 2. There are two other scenarios which run for 20 turns and have alternative, realistically achievable victory conditions for the Germans.

The rules are not particularly well written and to understand some of the rules fully you really need to read the examples of play at the back of the book, as the examples of play are a little different to some of the rules as they are presented earlier in the book. Issue 19.2 of The General is useful regarding errata for the game.

The game has a different feel to other Avalon Hill wargames of this type.

During movement a unit may move directly from the ZOC of one enemy unit into the ZOC of another enemy unit. This change to the way interlocking ZOCs usually affect movement is something that you have to be careful about. There are still Engaged and Contact results on the CRT. These can certainly be helpful to the defender as they are not forced, in these circumstances, to counterattack.

Use of artillery is important aspect of battlefield management in this game. Artillery can assist friendly units by firing at a range of 4 hexes to add to the attack strength of friendly attacking units or, in the case of the Allied forces, add a smaller defence strength to the combat factors of friendly defending units.

In the advanced rules the attacker has the choice of a regular CRT or using a Blitzkrieg CRT which is less likely to inflict casualties but makes it easier to bypass enemy strongpoints such as was the case historically at Bastogne.

The basic game is very basic but plays quickly. The advanced and optional rules add more realism to the game and can be used to impact on play balance as some rules will favour one side over the other.

The map has a clean look to it and is quite functional.


On the negative side, the CRT is on the back cover of the rule book and the terrain and movement chart/details are inside the back cover of the rule book. The first few turns of the game you will find yourself checking movement rates as the same unit may pay different costs for the same terrain depending upon several factors such as wether it is currently mud or frozen and whether or not your artillery is going to move and fire or just move.

The game is relatively quick and easy to set-up as all the counters have set-up details printed on them and there are OOB cards provided for the two historical scenarios. Set-up cards are provided for the non-historical scenarios in The General (19.2).

If you want a relatively simple set of rules that give a fairly reasonable feeling of historical accuracy Battle of the Bulge could be the one. It is more complex and realistic than any of the other Avalon Hill games of the same title.

It is simpler than both S.P.I.’s Battles for the Ardennes and GMT’s Ardennes ’44.

I feel that it is one of the better ‘Bulge’ games out there and captures the excitement and tension that you would expect when two completely mismatched armies meet.


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A Goldman
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Agree with most of what you say, but I think this is more of a game than a simulation. Biggest flaw is that the Allies cannot dig in around St. Vith and create a Fortified Goose Egg (a phrase many of us know from Panzer Leader) because of the forced combat rule.

I bought the game back in the day after the General magazine ran an article on strategy that showed how almost every hex on the map has a specific strategic value.

The other reason I bought it is that I visited Bastogne at a young age and heard the NUTS story and saw my first multimedia presentation at the museum there.
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