Ardennes ’44 (2nd Edition)
The Battle of the Bulge
In December, 1944 after a period where rain, snow and fog blanketed the area, three German armies unleashed 26 divisions against a thinly held American line in the Ardennes forest of Belgium and Luxembourg. This is the situation that is simulated by the “mini-monster game”, Ardennes ‘44 that has been designed by Mark Simonitch and available from GMT Games.
The components of this game consist of:
- 2 full color maps (each 22”x34”)
- 3 sheets of counters (570)
- 2 Player Aid Cards
- 1 Rules Booklet
- 1 Die
The original game was published in 2003 and this 2nd Edition reprint arrives with two full size maps, more combat units (a few less markers), color player aids, and a Patton Counterattack Scenario. Also, the campaign game can be extended from Dec 26th to Dec 30th.
Campaign Game Setup
This Second Edition is an excellent improvement over the 2003 original release of the game. It is easy to see that the change to all color in this version vastly improves the look and feel of the game. If you are a World War II gamer, this is surely a version of the famous battle you will not want to miss.
Ardennes ’44 is an Operational level game with each game turn representing approximately 8 hours of real time. Each hex on the map equals about 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) from side to side. The individual counters in the game represent battalions, regiments or brigade sized units.
Sequence of Play
The Sequence of Play in Ardennes ’44 truly provides players with an idea of chaotic events that unfolded in December 1944. This Sequence has the German player moving first, followed by the Allied Player. The Sequence that each side will follow is:
- The Artillery Supply Phase
- The Fuel Shortage Phase (German Turn Only)
- The Bridge Phase
- The Movement Phase
- The Rally Phase
- The Combat Phase
- The Traffic Marker Phase
- The Supply and Surrender Phase
- The Victory Check Phase (Allied Turn only)
Once each player executes this sequence a full turn has elapsed and the Game Turn marker is advanced one turn.
There have been many games designed over the years about the Battle of the Bulge and some have been more complex than others. This particular edition I would say is middle of the road, but what makes it an outstanding game are some of the rules that take the special situations that occurred in this battle into consideration.
The rule book is divided into sections to facilitate learning the system of play. They are presented such that the rules build on each other till you have the full game mechanics, including advanced and any optional rules. The sections of the rule book are:
|1. Introduction||21. Tank & Recon Units|
|2. Game Pieces||22. Artillery Units|
|3. The Map||23. Supply & Surrender|
|4. Sequence of Play||24. Traffic Markers & Bottleneck Hexes|
|5. The Artillery Supply Phase||25. Night Turns & Replacements|
|6. The Fuel Shortage Phase||26. Breakdown Units|
|7. Building and Blowing Bridges||27. Special Units|
|8. Stacking||28. Weather|
|9. Zones of Control||29. Turn 1 Special Rules|
|10. AOC Bonds||30. How to Win|
|11. Basic Rules of Movement||31. Scenarios|
|12. Strategic Markers & Truck Markers||Optional Rules
32. Fuel Dumps
|13. Reinforcements, Entry Hexes, Off Map Boxes and Blocking Positions||33. Roadblocks|
|14. Basic Rules of Combat||Patton’s Counterattack Scenario|
|15. Combat Modifiers||Player’s Notes & Bibliography|
|16. Combat Results||Designer’s Notes|
|17. Retreats||Extended Example of Play|
|18. Disruption, Broken, and Rally||Counter Scans
|19. Advance After Combat||Reinforcement Schedule|
|20. Disengagement & Removing Engaged Markers||Index
Extended Sequence of Play
One of the more unique situations that occurred in this historical situation was the German fuel shortage. One of the objectives for the German high command was to capture fuel depots that were located in the Ardennes forest. The German tanks only had enough fuel to last them a few days when their campaign began and they knew for this operation to be a success, they would need to capture allied supplies.
The Fuel Shortage situation is handled in Ardennes ’44 through the use of dice and referencing two charts. The German player doesn’t begin the Fuel Shortage check until December 19 on the AM turn which is Turn 7. When called for by the Sequence of Play, the German Player will roll two dice and refer to two different tables. If the results indicate that a mechanized division is out of supply, then all units in that division are considered out of supply. This is a simple but effective rule, to account for the supply problems that were indicative of the German attack.
Traffic Markers and Bottlenecks
Each player can place any available Traffic Markers that are in the Traffic Marker Holding Box in an attempt to impede movement of the opposing player. Besides traffic, these markers represent German commando teams, SNAFU’s, psychological disruption or air interdiction. The effect of Traffic Markers is to increase movement into the hex by two movement points. As you can imagine, this is a perfect way to hold up and disrupt an opponent’s plan by interdicting his movement.
Building and Blowing Bridges
During the “Building and Blowing Bridges” phase, players may destroy or rebuild bridges. Bridge demolition can occur during the friendly Bridge phase or during you opponents Combat phase. Here again, the procedure to determining the outcome of this phase is simple. All the player needs to do is roll a die and consult a chart. Again, this is a simple, but effective procedure.
Combat in Ardennes ’44 is a simple process just like many of the other rules. First of all, only the Phasing Players adjacent units may declare an attack. These attacks are completely voluntary and no unit is ever forced to attack. Defending units can only be attacked once per Combat phase unless the units are executing a Breakthrough. Attacking units can designate their attacks in any manner desired.
The Combat Procedure is a simple 5 step process. These 5 steps are:
Defender may roll for Bridge Demolition before the attack takes place.
The combined strength of all attacking units is compared to the combined strength of all defending units (plus any Defensive Combat Bonuses) and the result is expressed as a numerical odds ratio rounded down to adapt to one of the odds ratios found on the Combat Results Table (CRT).
The Attacker, followed by the Defender declares which Artillery units will be supporting the attacks.
Beginning on Turn 15, if a German attack takes place during a Clear Weather Turn, the Allied player must roll a die and refer to the Jabos Table. This table will define the number of column left shifts that is applied to Allied Defensive Air Support.
After all column shifts are applied, a die is rolled and the indicated results are applied immediately.
The new version of Ardennes ’44 is definitely an improvement over the games original version. Changes made in the second version are such things as:
- Map Changes
- Counter Changes
- Numerous Rule Changes
The number of Rule Changes and clarifications included in this version are just too numerous to list individually.
Also included with the Second Edition of Ardennes ’44 is a new scenario. This Scenario is the “Patton Counterattack Scenario”. This scenario takes a look at the exciting situation of December 22nd 1944, which was when both sides were on the brink to make strong attacks. This is an excellent scenario that immediately throws players into the thick of the action.
The mini-monster game of Ardennes ’44 is a new and corrected look at the famous Battle of the Bulge. While the original game was published in 2003, I cannot say enough how this new version is an improvement over its first edition. While there have been numerous other boardgames devoted to this subject over the years, if you are a World War II gamer, you deserve to give Ardennes ’44 a serious look, and I don’t think it will disappoint you.