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Subject: One-Page Bulge: Twenty-five years of being ignored. rss

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j b Goodwin

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The Backstory:

I remember the first time I ever saw this game. It was hanging on a peg in a hobby shop. I don't think I even touched it.

I had been a fan of Metagaming Microgames for several years, and my second and third microgame purchases (two of my favorites, Ogre and Melee) were Steve Jackson designs.

So this should have been a shoe-in, but I passed it by with a wave of dismissal. As a Steve Jackson Games microgame, it should have piqued my interest, but there was nothing flashy about it. Yeah, so someone made a Battle of the Bulge game with one page of rules. So what?

So I never got it, and years later the collector in me forced me to eventually get a copy from an eBay auction. I got a copy that was not in very good condition, from a ham-fisted klutz who apparently tried to separate various parts of the game rules and map by tearing it on the edge of a table. I was still ready for this to be a poor purchase, twenty years after I didn't buy it the first time.

Being a crafty kind of gamer, I pieced together the torn parts of the game and made a color-copied, laminated copy of the gameboard and a couple of good copies of the rules (one for me and one for my opponent), and a laminated CRT. A cheap microgame upgrade.

I read the rules through, put the map on my game table at home, set up both German and American forces on their starting positions, and sat back and just looked at the game for a few minutes. I like to do this to contemplate the aesthetics of games, before giving it a solo play to get the rules and tempo down.

And I found myself oddly attracted to this plain little game. It was pretty much a standard kind of microgame. The map was not overly complex or an artistic classic, but it had a lot of the things I'd come to expect from this type of game: roads and bridges, woods, swamp and clear hexes, town hexes, and even a few military objective hexes (ammo and supply depots). And, of course, rivers, especially the Meuse, the goal of the German forces. The pieces for both sides were printed in different combinations of red, white, and blue, and no-frills: undistinguished tank silhouettes and infantry symbols. Two stats: attack/defense strength and movement. Not a lot of pieces (about 120). Pretty much a standard sheet of microgame counters.

But when I set it all up and stepped back, I felt my fingers beginning to twitch. I wanted to play it. The rules were simple enough to begin quickly. Unfortunately, I had to leave the house right then, and put it away (so pieces didn't go wherever they go when you leave them out alone and unattended).

Several weeks later, my wargamer friend met me for our regular game night at the local game store, and we decided to forgo one of the quicker block games in order to play One-Page Bulge. We set it up, I explained the rules briefly, we both scanned the rules briefly, and we started the battle.

The Session:

It turned out to be a much deeper game than I had expected. The Germans start off with a powerful force that runs with some inertia into the waiting American forces. Rivers and woods present charge-slowing impediments to the Germans, and it becomes a meatgrinder as they attempt to cross rivers from bank-to-bank, or fight their way across American-held bridges. The Germans have more powerful units than the Americans, and get reinforcements early in the game, but as the game progresses, the Americans get more reinforcements that come in at critical times and from critical directions. Germans also have to keep in supply by having a continuous line of supply back to the German end of the map or to a captured supply depot.

The German advance was slow and bloody, and it took some time to get a breakthrough, right in the center of the map. By the time that the breakthrough came, there was not much time left to exploit the breakthrough, as the game is timed (as was the original military plan). It became a nerve-wracking race between the German exploitation and race for the Meuse, and the American effort to reinforce and barricade roads to slow the race. American air support harried the Germans at critical points throughout the crawl.

After about two and a half hours, the Allies won, but not overwhelmingly. A few units made it through while staying in supply, but not enough for a German victory. Not the exact historical result, but reasonably so, and it could have turned out non-historically with a few twists in the game. It gave a surprisingly satisfying feel of versimilitude for such a small game.

Why did I like this game?

Simple, but well-designed components that gave a good visual impact and sufficient information to the players.

Simple rules that offer the basics and advanced add-on rules. There were a few small points that we got wrong in the first few moves, but they did not materially affect the gameplay or outcome.

A good feeling of the nature of the battle, and a fairly sizable game in such a small package. I've played larger games that gave me less play, less challenge, or less fun. I felt it had good replayability, and was eager for another shot at the Meuse, as well as wanting to stop the German advance while playing the American forces.

A good gaming experience.

It was inexpensive in its time, and was still inexpensive for me, even buying it from eBay twenty-five years later.

Why might you not like this game?

Inexpensive components: you have to cut out the counters (if you are lucky enough to have a set with uncut counters), and you also have to separate several parts of the sheets containing the map and rules (with blade or scissors, or as we have seen, the edge of a table). Basically, about what you'd expect from a microgame from the eighties. If you're looking for a mounted mapboard and thick gardboard counters, and an actual rulebook, this is not the game for you.

It is a small game as wargames go. If you want a physically big game, lots and lots of varied pieces, or a complex game, this is not the game for you.

It is a wargame, in the classic mold. If you don't enjoy rules that have section titles like "1.02.03," this is not the game for you.

CONCLUSION:

I liked it. I liked the format of these games in their day, and I liked the price, and I liked being able to get a game, learn it, and play it the same day.

This is a game I'd like to see reprinted. It could still be made with better components and sold at an affordable price. I think with better map and counter art and construction, even without updating the rules, this would be a well-received game today.








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Tim Taylor
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Very good review!

I have something to add, maybe only a rumor, but still... I believe I read in an ancient gaming magazine (SpaceGamer?) that this game was designed on a bet (or a dare). In a conversation about inherent complexities within certain gaming situations, someone told Steve Jackson that nobody could make a good Bulge game with only one page of rules. Basically, Steve Jackson's response was, "Oh yeah?" That's why this game has such an odd title, referring as it does to its rules layout.

TT
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Barry Kendall
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Actually, the designer was not responding to a dare, but to a challenge issued, as I recall, by someone at SPI to the hobby generally: design a playable Bulge game with not more than one page of rules. Hence the game title.
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Mark Johnson
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Yeah, I understand it was a bet or challenge from Redmond Simonsen (sp?) to Steve Jackson about the impossibility of designing a decent Bulge game with just one page of rules.

I only played it once a couple years ago, but have been meaning to get back to it. Actually, I wondered about trying it again with a component upgrade by making my own counters, using the Bulge '91 map. That'll probably never happen, though. I should just try the original again.

What did you think about how artillery units were abstracted out?
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j b Goodwin

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MarkEJohnson wrote:
What did you think about how artillery units were abstracted out?


For the scale of this game, it worked. It would have been nice to have artillery for "softening up" the enemy, but I felt it was SJ's intention to consider them integrated into the armor units. At this scale, it's not a fine-grained tactical game, so you're just looking for the overall effects.

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j b Goodwin

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I just blew up the map to 125% of original size and laminated it, blew up the pieces to the same size, and it's a much easier game to handle that way. Now the pieces are pretty much the size of PanzerBlitz pieces.
Looks great. I think a lot of the microgames could benefit from this kind of treatment. Who else has done this with their favorite microgames?
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Dave Dentel
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Re: One-Page Bulge: Is the Micro-Wargame Dead?
So is there anyone today publishing micro-wargames a la One-Page Bulge? I mean, can the market support it?

I've seen titles on some pretty esoteric topics (go ahead, laugh -- I was intrigued by one on Polynesian tribal warfare but I wasn't willing to fork over nearly thirty bucks for it.) And I recall some designers who were selling zipper-bagged stuff for about ten bucks apiece, but I think they went out of business. And even GMT (the antithesis of microgaming) wants at least 500 customers to sign on before they'll actually print a title.

Any thoughts out there?
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George Haberberger
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I should start hunting ebay for this, small game are very easy to fit into my life.
 
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ANDY WILSON
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HI THERE, I FOUND THIS GAME IN MY DADS LOFT TODAY... I BOUGHT IT WHEN I WAS IN MY TEENS, MUST BE OVER TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO, IVE THE INSTRUCTIONS AND PIECES BUT HAVE NOT GOT THE MAP/BOARD,,,,shake
WOULD LIKE TO TRY IT WITH MY KIDS IF ANYONE COULD SEND A PICTURE OF THE MAP TO ME andrew.wilson90@gmail.com
I PAID £2.50 AT A HOBBY SHOP IN STEVENAGE HERTFORDSHIRE UK.....
PLEASE CAN ANYONE HELP ME OUT...surprise
OTHERWISE ITS NOT REALLY WORTH KEEPING THE REST OF THE GAME...

THANKS

ANDY
 
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J. Alan Henning
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dave_dentel wrote:
So is there anyone today publishing micro-wargames a la One-Page Bulge? I mean, can the market support it?

I don't think anyone was at the time you asked this, but Victory Point Games now is.
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Andy M
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Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges is pretty close. Two page Arnhem
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j b Goodwin

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Jeffrey Henning wrote:
dave_dentel wrote:
So is there anyone today publishing micro-wargames a la One-Page Bulge? I mean, can the market support it?

I don't think anyone was at the time you asked this, but Victory Point Games now is.


I got "Waterloo 20" from VP Games, and enjoyed it. They hand-produce every game, but the quality is very nice, with die-cut counters, color-illustrated rulebooks, and full-color color maps. Waterloo 20 is the first in a series, and I will be looking forward to playing others of this type and others in this series. I hope the company does well, as I'm a big fan of the microgame format.


moss_icon wrote:
Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges is pretty close. Two page Arnhem

Yes, it's pretty cool. As a free giveaway (you pay for shipping) with a good paper map and nice heavy die-cut counters, it's an outstanding intro to wargaming. I understand that MMP will be releasing a second game of this sort in the (near) future.

Several people have also suggested the "Sergeants" series from Lost Battalion Games, and I tried that as well. Nicely produced, at a price point between Arnhem and Waterloo 20. It's sort of an expandable series of "mini-Squad-Leader" games. Great idea.

Anyone else? Something else good out there?
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Chris Talbot
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swandive78 wrote:
Anyone else? Something else good out there?

I suppose ATO's postcard games might count:

Stand at Mortain
Some Poles Apart: The Battle of the Westerplatte

Ogre is also finally getting a reprint.

Chris
 
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j b Goodwin

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ctalbot wrote:
Ogre is also finally getting a reprint.

Chris


And, since this is one of my all-time favorites, I'm glad to see it coming back; however, it's coming back in an upgraded format (which I'm also glad to see). It's going to cost you a bit more to enter the world of the Ogre soon.
 
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Jeremy Fridy
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dave_dentel wrote:
So is there anyone today publishing micro-wargames a la One-Page Bulge? I mean, can the market support it?

I've seen titles on some pretty esoteric topics (go ahead, laugh -- I was intrigued by one on Polynesian tribal warfare but I wasn't willing to fork over nearly thirty bucks for it.) And I recall some designers who were selling zipper-bagged stuff for about ten bucks apiece, but I think they went out of business. And even GMT (the antithesis of microgaming) wants at least 500 customers to sign on before they'll actually print a title.

Any thoughts out there?


There are a lot of little DTP games out there that will bring back the days of the microgames. Also the Fiery Dragon Counter Strike line has some very interesting wargames in 20 dollar small boxes. Even has a Bulge game. Also has a lot of games on unusual subjects, like Algeria, China in WWII, the Russian invasion of Poland after the Russian Civil War, and more.
 
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