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Posted on Dec 3, 2015 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Battle of the Bulge – PC Game Review

Battle of the Bulge – PC Game Review

By Rick Martin

Battle of the Bulge PC Game Review.  Publisher: Shenandoah Studio Price  $9.99

Passed Inspection: Fun fast play which is easy to learn but challenging to master. Great sound affects and music. Atmospheric. Great value for the price.

Failed Basic:  Unrealistic combat results.  Too simplistic at times. At times very frustrating.

Shenandoah Studios has delved in to the last great German offensive of World War II with their new treatment of The Battle of the Bulge.  Available on Steam for the price of $9.99, this strategy game is a great value for the money.

The system requirements are:

Windows® XP/Vista/7/8 or 10.

Pentium 4 or equivalent

2Gb RAM

512Mb DirectX 9 video card with shader model 2.0

CD ROM Drive (not required for the digital version)

DirectX Compatible Sound Card

Focusing on the December, 1944 battle, award winning game designer John Butterfield’s design is both opulently atmospheric and streamlined minimalistic.  Each unit is a division, brigade or regiment and each turn is several hours of each day of the battle.  The entire battle is represented in the campaign game while four variant scenarios represent a range of specific days from the battle. Each territory is roughly 15 to 20 miles across.

Each unit is listed as either armor, infantry or motorized infantry and each unit is rated for movement, firepower and hit points as well as special abilities. The players can be either Americans or German with A/I taking on one side.  Alternatively, the game can be played two player either by “Play be Email” or by hot seat.

A colorful map of the conflict area is divided in to sectors which can contain up to three units of each side.

Each day of the conflict is broken down in to turns of variable length which allow the players to move all the units in a given sector with the unit’s movement rate depending on the type of unit and the terrain the unit is moving through.  Strategic movement can be used over roads when the move doesn’t encounter enemy units.  Once a unit moves during the turn, it can’t move during any other turn of the day unless it is an armored unit advancing in to a sector after a breakthrough.

When units encounter enemy units, a battle window open up and shows the likely outcome of the battle plus any terrain which may help out the defender of the combat.  The player can then either add units up to three to the combat or “undo” the moves and start over.

When the units are “committed” to the combat or the move, the computer shows the results.  In a battle, the units attack each other and the special effects show smoke, fire and combat results with appropriate sound effects.  If a unit has takes more hits than it has hit points, it is destroyed.  If all the enemy units in a sector are destroyed, the surviving armor units may be able to move an additional territory using the aforementioned breakthrough moves.

During the course of the game, the player is given status reports showing special events such as commando attacks, air power, supply and other command and control screens including a screen showing how far each side is towards achieving victory.  A wonderful feature allows the player to examine the real life events of each day in order to learn about the real Battle of the Bulge.  When the information screens are accessed, the player hears appropriate music for 1944 including songs such as “Lili Marleen”. The atmospherics give the player the feel of being a Divisional Commander reading combat reports from his HQ.

The key to victory for the Germans is to be very aggressive and drive like hell towards the objectives while the Allies must fight until the weather turns and Allied armor reinforcements and air power blunts the German thrusts.

The game itself can be learned by playing the tutorial and reading the manual.  The tutorial is very informative and well developed.  You can start playing the game after less than 20 minutes playing the tutorial.

Supply is very simply and efficiently handled.  If you have open territories which are controlled by your side and no enemy forces are between the supply source and the units, supply is good. Otherwise, the out of supply unit can’t move or shoot and loses hit points every turn.

While the game is very fun and addictive, it does have some flaws which can create a great deal of frustration especially for experienced gamers.

The first thing I noticed was that only the defender gets terrain bonuses during a battle.  This seemed very strange and would have turned the tide of an attack if the terrain benefited both parties.

Also, when you retreat a damaged unit out of combat, you can’t then move in a fresh unit until another fight takes place with the units currently in the territory.  This doesn’t accurately represent the flow of combat.  In addition, I found it frustrating as the combat results don’t seem to take in to account reinforcing the battle. The program always makes you fight with the unit that just moved in to reinforce a conflict with no support from your units which are already there. There should be a way to reinforce your own units when they are being attacked instead of having to sit by and watch them slaughtered even if there are units available to support them.

 

None-the-less, The Battle of the Bulge is great fun to play if you want an introductory beer and pretzels computer game.  I actually won it as the Germans on the second play through.  Now to go back and try and win it from the Allied side!

Armchair General Rating:  86 %

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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