Saturday, 7 December 2013

Is that a Bulge game...

or are you just pleased to see me?

Its that time of year again, Dark December, and time for romp in the Ardennes. This always brings back memories for me. My first board wargame was Ardennes Offensive by SPI. This came out in 1973 and I persuaded my Mum to get it for me for Christmas. Having spent the previous couple of years poring over my Purnell's History of WW2 battle books, Bastogne, Market Garden and Normandy Beachhead, I'd reached the conclusion that a handful of Minitanks and a couple of boxes of Airfix soldiers were not going to produce the game I was after. I saw an ad in Airfix magazine and for the princely sum of £3.99 I eventually got what I was after. That was a top Christmas and many happy months were spent playing the game.

As an early SPI game it came with a basic three colour map (black, white and blue) and loads of counters. It was, quite simply, the best OOB I had ever seen and immensely changed the way that I thought about WW2.

St Vith and Bastogne hold on, the American southern flank (at the top!) nears collapse
There were some issues with the game, it too easy for the Germans to advance in south as shown in the picture. There were a lot of German assault gun brigades, vastly over rated and a real pain for the Americans. However, the terrain analysis and road movement rules gave a really good picture of the issues faced during the battle. The Germans rarely win in the game which I think sums up its realistic view of the fighting. One notable German win was caused by an error in the timing of the US airborne reinforcements which delayed their arrival in Bastogne. My chums and I thought that showed the strength in the game design.

Although there have been many bulge games since, and I have many of them, this one still holds a real fascination for me. Happy thoughts and memories of family, youth and friends. If I get half an hour this weekend I'll go and have a look at it and say hello. This one is definitely never for sale.