Why another Bulge game? The answer lies in the depth and detail this one brings to the table. The fifth in John Tiller’s Panzer Campaigns series covers familiar ground, but at a level of detail and breadth of scope you’ve never seen on the computer. Spanning the entire Ardennes Offensive at the battalion and company level, Bulge ’44 lets you try your hand at leading the most famous major German offensive in the West. Or, you can step into the shoes of the Allied generals who desperately struggled to halt the onrushing German Panzer Divisions. From Peiper’s SS columns on the Ambleve to MacAuliffe’s hard-bitten paratroopers in Bastogne, if it fought in the Bulge, it’s here for you to command.
Bulge’s 25 scenarios run the gamut from small training battles to the entire epic campaign of 162 turns. Different match ups focus on the 1st SS Panzer Korps, the 47th Panzer Korps, Kampfrguppe Peiper, and the German 7th Armee, and include the famous battles of St. Vith, Bastogne, Rocherath-Krinkelt, Elsenborn Ridge, and the Our bridgehead. There are no fewer than six different campaign variants, starting with the historical version with default Axis and Allied forces. The variants include the release of more German armored reserves, the release of more British troops from XXX Corps, and a combination of both, as well as shorter versions of both the basic campaign and the increased Axis and Allied forces version. There’s also a modified campaign scenario featuring increased tactical flexibility for the armored forces in the game, and increased ability to break down battalions to company level units.
At one kilometer per hex, the map for Bulge ’44 is one of the most accurate and visually appealing ever done for a computer wargame. If you’ve read about a village or a terrain feature in one of the many books about the Bulge, chances are you’ll find it on the game map. With the standard Panzer Campaigns time scale of two hours per daylight turn, the action unfolds in a believable and exciting fashion, in line with historical accounts of the campaign. The variety of unit types covers virtually every type of combat system from anti-aircraft artillery to rocket-armed Sherman tanks, and the troops themselves range from raw Volksgrenadier soldiers to elite paratroopers and SS tankers. You can keep an eye on all of this with four levels of zoom, including two 3D views for getting an appreciation for the lay of the land. And as with all of the Panzer Campaigns games, there are a host of features designed to make viewing the map and controlling your forces as easy as possible. Bulge ’44 has a moderately large number of units, but the map size keeps the density manageable. Roads play a vital role in the game, because cross-country movement is generally futile, particularly in soft or mud conditions. Bridges, particularly heavy ones suitable for tanks, become obvious chokepoints, and thus foci for offensive and defensive battles. One of the joys of playing a Bulge game is this interplay between the forces and the terrain, a synchronicity that provides a much different experience than a game based in the featureless steppes of Russia or the empty sands of North Africa.
One problem with any Bulge game is the historical situation; after all, the Germans undertook a nearly impossible task with insufficient forces and predictably failed in the attempt. Bulge ’44 handles that issue in several ways. The scenarios include multiple ways to boost the German forces and thus their chances for victory. More importantly, most of the non-campaign scenarios are tightly balanced, offering excellent challenges for either side. As a solo game, the campaign from the German side is a wonderful experience, as your hindsight and increased knowledge of the battlefield helps compensate for the historical weakness of the German position. In PBEM action, the dense Ardennes terrain and the game’s fog of war rules combine to make for a tense and uncertain situation for the Allies, who all too often have to guess where the German columns have gone. Overall, each side has a good chance at victory, even if the strategic situation beyond the game’s parameters is not likely to change.
As the Germans, you have more options than might first appear. Yes, you have to plunge through the American front and drive for the Meuse, but how you get there is up to you. There’s little need to emulate the disastrous peregrinations of 1st SS Panzer Korps in your campaign; you can choose a much more effective route for your panzers. Likewise, knowing what’s likely to strike north against your southern flank, you’ll be able to craft a much more substantial response to Patton’s riposte. You have some excellent troops, and some not so excellent troops—your challenge is to use the former enough to break through, yet not enough so they become spent and more like the latter. Balancing the need for the offensive punch your SS divisions provide with the equal requirements for their mobility in the exploitation phase will be one of your key decisions.
For the Americans, the opening rounds don’t leave you with many choices, as your forward elements are fixed in place. Soon, though, reinforcements will start to dribble in, and eventually that dribble will become a flood. Much of your job in the early going will be to shuttle your engineers about blowing bridges in the path of the onrushing Germans, and setting up speed bump defenses to slow down the attack. Luckily for you, you won’t share the historical Allied slowness to accept that this was a major German offensive, nor will you be unaware of the extent of the German armored thrust driving on the Meuse. Still, it will take skill and some luck to put the brakes on a good German player’s early advance. Your time will come in the mid to end game, when the Allied forces begin a massive build up and transition to the offensive.
Getting Started - For the Fatherland
The Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge - Maximum German Effort
The Battle of the Bulge - Increased Allied Forces
The Battle of the Bulge - Maximum Forces
The Battle of the Bulge - Modified OOB
The 1st SS Pz Korps
47th Panzer Korps
The Peiper is Paid
The South Flank
Bridgehead over the Our River
The Northern Flank
The Battle of the Bulge - Short Historical Campaign
The Battle of the Bulge - Short, Maximum Forces Campaign
Elsenborn Ridge Part 1: Rocherath-Krinketh
The Race for Bastogne
The Stand at St. Vith
Elsenborn Ridge Part 2: Beyond the Twin Villages
The Fortified Goose Egg
The Relief of Bastogne
Something for Nothing