First, there are A LOT of Bulge games: Battle of the Bulge 65 Years Later . What respectable wargamer hasn't played at least a half a dozen Bulge games? My favorites include:
Wacht am Rhein (my first monster)
Ardennes (a very low barrier to entry game; good club/intro game)
Ardennes '44 (Simonitch designs good games)
Hitler's Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge (yes, there were SIGNIFICANT rules issues, but, the designers heart was in the right place)
sadly, I haven't played Bitter Woods (fourth edition) - and I hear that is a game not to be missed.
Joe Balkoski's big honkin beast
Retro Day a few weeks ago...
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across VCS Salerno. Thing that caught my attention was that it uses Joe Balkoski's Operation Typhoon - and that Iron Tide: Panzers in the Ardennes was billed as a successor to that highly thought of SPI game. I think it is a GREAT idea when a fanboy or fangirl takes his or hers favorite game and tries to design a new application of the game - and giving us new chapters in a "favorite story". Hats off to Nathan Kilgore for doing just that.
Anyways, given that I love Bugle games, I that the First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society was on a retro binge in Jan (well, always!), I tracked down a copy. Last week, I called up one of my main gaming mates, Mr.Frick. Dan indicated he had "won a copy" at Consimworld Expo a few years ago and was also wanting to give it a toss. We both got to The Source (our local gaming store) shortly after it opened and began setting up...
Ok, this is old school meat and potatoes I go You go with a few GREAT twists:
two d6; love it. Lots of variability (this is good!).
2. Unknown unit vales.
The heart of the game is that your units come without combat values. At first instance of combat, draw a chit; match the code with your unit - that's its value for the game. VERY COOL!.
Unit...the letter (ex: "A") and color indicates from which cup to draw (red or blue) and what combat value the unit will have during the game...very cool!
Red variable combat value chits...there is also a sheet of "Blues".
3. Operational Feel
Although this is an old school I go You go game, there are a number of twists on the tired basic mechanic. For example, up to 5 stacks can be placed into Reserve Mod - allowing units to exploit holes in the line post combat. If a defender can not satisfy its mandatory losses in battle, the attacker gets to convert each unsatisfied loss into an additional hex of advance. There is also a strategic movement mechanic available if your unit never moves within 3 spaces of the enemy. The effect of these mechanics is to provide some fluidity to the tired hard zoc/I Go You Go/you can't interfere with any move I making game engine we all grew up on.
Iron Tide has a great blue blood SPI/Victory Games pedigree
4. No clutter
Like its "parent game", Operation Typhoon, Iron Tide is clutter free. We messed up a few rules (shift for combined arms is ONE shift for EACH friendly stack involved in the attack vs the way we played it - ONE shift MAX for a combat), but, by the end of the day we "got it"; all good. We also liked how artillery is handled - basically interchangeable (provides a shift per unit). Same with the airpower rules - basically the good ole airpower points and/or Stuka's from The Russian Campaign. Another tip of the hat to the designer; to not clutter up a Balkoski's great parent design.
...BUT...Sadly...there is precious little beloved chrome
You got the german commandos...a couple of other speciality units (150th Invisible Panzers and the Von Der Heydte Parachute Unit), but, not much else. No leaders! No real command/activation friction issues. And, the last demerit is the lack of a traffic jam mechanic in this otherwise fine Bulge game.
Components? Ok. They're functional. Counters readable and have necessary setup/entry info on them. Map? It works; nothing that I would frame and put in a SoHo art gallery. However, I would frame the OOB playaid: that is a beauty and VERY functional.
Roll Tide: Set up and Turn 1
Iron Tide Map
Terrain Effects:Nice key - it's all there on the game map
Grab cities; kill the enemy
At start...green discs are sites of possible fuel dumps...for giggles, we had the Allied player roll and keep the locations secret
Free set up units
Neither one of us had much of an idea where to set up our free deployment units. Of course, we’ve each played quite a few Bulge games, but, you never really know the early game proper space/men/time trade-offs until you’ve been blown out a time or two. So, we tossed units down here are there (hell, it’s a bootcamp!) and off we went to the first attack.
German attacks really faltered on the wings, but, up the gut, the attacks went well; hex 1941 taken. We were already beginning to dig the design: the huge range of possible combat outcomes, relatively low counter density for a mini monster Bulge game, a good game of maneuver, easy move/fight mechanics, etc
Turn 2 > 4
T2 Ends...black cubes are forward german elements
Turn 2 was going VERY well for the Germans, until the allies managed to blow a couple of bridges in the center right of the German advance. It turned out to be just a small fly in the ointment, since the Germans had blown big holes to the north and south of the now destroyed bridges and were able to adjust accordingly.
Blowing bridges...two "1s" in a row!...they call that snake eyes
T3 German start
T3 Allied start...the American line has HUGE holes
Turn 3 resulted in HUGE holes in the weak AMerican line & a complete lack of units to protect even the most critical avenues of advance. Germans managed to push panzer recon into hex 1935 and, into Wiltz. Germans alo blasted thru to 2438 and Vieslam was on the verge of falling. Allies used the few reinforcing units to protect the northern sector of the board and ended up ceding the entire southern portion of the map.
T4 Fuel Dump captured...
....and a BIG Breakthru at Bastogne...game over (black cubes forward elements of german panzers)
Turn 4 resulted in Panzers running wild, capturing fuel dumps and eating schnitzel in Bastogne. We decided a restart was warranted.
So, we had learned a few things about how brittle the American forces were in Game 1. In Game II, the Americans set up their free deployment engineers in key cities (to begin building forts). Artillery was used to block potential advancing enemy units (just place the arty right behind a unit...when that unit needs to retreat, the arty on the road will prevent enemy units from using it). Now, that may result in frying up your VERY limited first turn reserves, so, the American will need to VERY carefully manage.
Game 2 Setup...green cubes are where the Americans deployed their free setup forces
Game 2 Start...black cubes are german attacks
Game 2 end Turn 2
We played a couple of turns into the second game. It did seem like the AMericans were in a significantly better position than our 1st go earlier in the day. We checked the clock and it was nearing 10P. We decided to declare another SUCCESSFUL BOOTCAMP day: we had conquered another fine wargame and had A LOT of fun in the process.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Hats off to the designer and team. Solid, fun wargame. Get yourself a copy. Based on the bootcamp, it cracks my top five Battle of the Bulge wargames list...although... (more chrome demanded!). Would like to play the whole campaign on a long weekend with mates and see if it survives rigorous, epic play. Additionally, I'm also looking forward to VCS Salerno - got to pick up one of those at The Source this week...if Rabid Bob has remembered to order it!
Additional 1st MN/Sawatdee Session reports: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports
- Last edited Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:10 am (Total Number of Edits: 7)
- Posted Mon Feb 9, 2015 7:53 pm
The new VCS Salerno game using this system has chrome and more chrome. Pack train supply, naval gunfire, anti-ship missiles, amphibious landings and much much more. The base system is still there but you will get your wish for chrome and find a lot to keep your head spinning.
I haven't played a complete game yet but I made a few moves to get familiar with the system. It looks like Salerno has as long of a play time as Operation Typhoon.
Your great report has me interested in Iron Tide! Thanks for the write-up.
- Last edited Tue Feb 10, 2015 3:22 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Feb 9, 2015 11:49 pm
Your great report has me interested in Iron Tide! Thanks for the write-up.
My work is done.
thanks for this session report David. It's very inspiring and makes me want to take my old copy out of the shelf.
Glad you enjoyed; we only scratched the surface. I would really like to play the whole damm campaign...probably via Vassal.
No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! NO MORE SYSTEMS!
You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!
Is this the same system at work in Victory in the West? The whole ABC markers sure look like it.
P.S. ...I am an idiot! I should click my own link!
- Last edited Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:03 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:02 pm
It's close if you like the old system. Lots of people like the upgrade my system accomplished and it's growing. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/63823/vcs-salerno