The Deadly Woods
The Battle of the Bulge
Designed by: Ted S. Raicer
The following is taken from Wikipedia and provides an excellent concise look at the Battle of the Bulge. Wikipedia can be found at https://www.wikipedia.com.Background
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, was a major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II which took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region between Belgium and Luxembourg towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy the four Allied forces and cause the Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers’ favor. The Battle of the Bulge remains among the most important battles of the war, along with Stalingrad, Operation Overlord, Monte Cassino, and Midway. It marked the last major offensive attempted by the Axis Powers in Europe. After their defeat, Germany would retreat for the remainder of the war.
The Germans achieved a total surprise attack on the morning of 16 December 1944, due to a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance due to bad weather. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces: they remained largely unreplaced throughout the war. German personnel, and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (the concluding stages of the engagement) had also sustained heavy losses. The Germans had attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions that grounded the Allies’ superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive, around Elsenborn Ridge, and in the south, around Bastogne, blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success. Columns of armor and infantry that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This, and terrain that favored the defenders, threw the German advance behind schedule, and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. The farthest west the offensive reached was the village of Foy-Nôtre-Dame, south east of Dinant, being stopped by the U.S. 2nd Armored Division on 24 December 1944. Improved weather conditions from around 24 December permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. On 26 December the lead element of Patton’s U.S. Third Army reached Bastogne from the south, ending the siege. Although the offensive was effectively broken by 27 December, when the trapped units of 2nd Panzer Division made two break-out attempts with only partial success, the battle continued for another month before the front line was effectively restored to its position prior to the attack. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were out of men and equipment, meanwhile survivors retreated to the Siegfried Line.
This is the first time in 40+ years of reviewing wargames, that I am starting a review of a game by quoting the Designers Notes. I am doing so, because the designer asks some interesting questions and provides equally interesting answers.
“Why Another Bulge Game? The Battle of the Bulge, along with Gettysburg and Waterloo, is one of the most covered topics in our hobby. In the classic chicken and egg scenario, I think the egg of public interest in these topics has produced the chicken of many designs on each. And part of that is each of us has our own “ideal” game on these topics, so both customers and designers are motivated (switching metaphors) to keep scratching that itch. (As an aside, having now done games on Gettysburg and the Bulge, I feel I shall have to do my take on Waterloo at some point.)”
To continue quoting Teds Designers Notes, “So, what was I looking for that The Deadly Woods provides the others didn’t? Smaller footprint for one thing; some of the best games on the topic are two-mappers and while I enjoy a small monster game myself (see The Dark Valley) in general my preference is for one map. I also wanted a game covering the entire campaign, including the Allied counteroffensive to eliminate the Bulge. This is included in some-but not all-previous Bulge games, but generally as an option. I wanted a design where the Allied attacks were an intrinsic part of the game, where the German player has to think about what happens after his attacks stall, rather than just calling it a game at that point.
Finally, the Igo-Hugo sequence of most of them tends to result in somewhat stylized play, where surprises are more a matter of unlucky die rolls than uncertainty over who can get where when. (I exclude John Butterfield’s Enemy Action Ardennes, which is however both a pretty big footprint and a considerably more complex game.) The chit system in The Deadly Woods removes some of the chess-like maneuvers of other Bulge designs, introducing more of the chance and chaos that so-marked the course of this battle.”
The Deadly Woods covers the Battle of the Bulge from December 16, 1944, to January 15, 1945. It is designed as a two-player game but is also highly suitable for solitaire play.
The Scale of Deadly Woods is that the hexes used are approximately 3 miles across, each Turn represents 2 to 4 days and Units are typically regiments, brigades, or regiment-sized Combat Commands or Kampfgruppen (KG). The game map represents the areas of the Ardennes Forest where the campaign was fought.
The contents of this game are as follows;
- one play map (22×34”)
- one and a half counter-sheets (264 5/8-inch counters)
- one setup map
- one six-sided die (boxed games)
- one game box or Ziploc bag
- one rulebook
- three player aid cards
Sequence of Play
The Sequence of Play for the game is followed from Turn 1, December 16 – 17 or until either an early end to the game has occurred, or to Turn 12 which is January 12 – 15. Deadly Woods’ Sequence of Play is;
- Asset Availability/Special Reinforcement Phase
- Replacement Phase
- Action Round Phase
- Victory Check/Clean-Up Phase
A description of what actions occur during each of the game phases is presented below.
Asset Availability/Special Reinforcement Phase
The first phase in the sequence of play is the Asset Availability and/or Special Reinforcement Phase. While it is a mouthful to say or read, it is a simple phase to perform.
Allies may deploy the US Delay assets onto the map if they are available. The Allies may also remove or deploy the US Engineer assets if available. The Allies may place the Allied Traffic asset if available on Turns 1-3. If the Allied Traffic asset is available on Turn 1, it is placed following the German Move round.
The Germans may deploy the German, Operation Greif asset, to the map if it is available on Turns 2 through 4. The Germans may also deploy the German Motorized marker to the map if its available.
Finally, you can move the Special Reinforcements, from the current turn on the Turn Record Track (TRT) to the Allied Asset Box on their front (available) side.
Next, we have the Replacement Phase. Each player may replace steps lost in combat. The number of steps that may be replaced by each side is printed on the Turn Record Track (TRT).
Action Round Phase
Following the Replacement Phase, there comes what I consider the most important phases of the game, the Action Round Phase. The Initiative Player chooses one of their chits to play first. The remaining available chits for both sides for that turn are placed in the Action Cup for random drawing or held in hand per the Action Chit Availability chart.
The Initiative Player conducts the 1st Action Round, and then players conduct all Action Rounds as they are drawn from the cup.
Victory Check/Clean-Up Phase
At the end of the turn, players will check the Scenario Victory conditions to determine if the game has ended. If the game continues, players conduct a few clean-up steps to reset markers for the following turn.
Initiative and Action Rounds
Initiative and the Action Rounds in Deadly Woods are extremely important and work hand in hand with one another.
The German Player has the Initiative on Turns 1 to 5. If, at the start of Turn 6, the Germans control a minimum of three VP hexes that are in supply, they again have the initiative on Turn 6.
Deadly Woods Setup
Following this, the Allies have the Initiative on Turns 7 through 13.
The Action Round phase is where a majority of the decisions on movement and combat takes place in the game. Each turn, a certain set of Action Round chits that are listed on the Action Chit Availability Chart, is available to each player. The initiative player must choose one of their side’s Action Chits to begin the Action Round phase. The remainder of both sides’ Action Chits are then mixed in the Action Chit cup and randomly drawn after the first Action Round.
So, as you can imagine, the ability for the Initiative Player to selectively choose which Action Chit will be played at the beginning of a turn, can be a huge advantage for that player during a turn. This allows the player with the initiative to dictate the action for the remainder of the turn.
As chits are played, they are placed on the Action Round Track on the map as a reminder.
Victory Check/Clean-Up Phase
At the end of the turn, players will check victory conditions to determine if the game has ended
depending on the scenario conditions. If the game continues, players conduct a few clean-up
steps to reset markers for the following turn.
Stacking refers to all Combat units that are placed in a hex. The maximum combat units allowed in a stack is one division which consists of one to four units of that division, plus one unit not of that division. British and US combat units may not stack together and Units of
different US Corps may not stack together.
The following are the stacking limitations of Deadly Woods.
· All Stacking limits apply at the end of each Movement Round
· Stacking limits apply after advance after combat.
· Stacking limits apply at the end of Retreat.
If a hex is over-stacked after any of the above conditions, the owning player immediately eliminates sufficient units to bring the hex within the stacking limits.
Otherwise, any number of units may enter or pass through a hex during a turn.
Supply is very important in Deadly Woods just as it was in the historical campaign. Supply is handled simply but very effectively in this game. The Allied units check for supply at the following times during a game turn.
- at start of any movement
- at the instant of combat (attack or defense)
- when taking replacements
- units of the US 106th Infantry Division during Clean-Up Phase of Turn 2.
The German units check for supply when.
- The German “Supply Check action chit” is drawn
- when taking replacements
The German Supply Check Action chits are added to the Action cup with all the other chits as specified on the Turn Record during every turn starting with Turn 2.
A unit is Supplied if it can trace a line of no more than 5 hexes to a road and then along the road to a friendly entry area hex. The entry hexes are yellow for the Allies and blue for the Germans. Any number of units can trace supply to a single entry area hex. When tracing supply, at no point in this trace may the line pass through the following:
- a Forest hex (except along a Road)
- through a hex occupied by an enemy unit
- a non-negated enemy ZOC
- across a blown bridge or unbridged River hexside
As you can see with the supply rule, each side has different supply concerns. The American Supply is immediate whereas the German Supply is controlled with the German Supply Check Chits and If both Chits have been drawn this turn, they know they do not have a worry about supply the rest of the turn.
Deadly Woods is the latest game in the Battle of the Bulge series of games that began with Battle of the Bulge as the first game design from Avalon Hill in 1965. Deadly Woods by Ted S. Raicer from Revolution Games is a new and interesting look at the Battle of the Bulge which took place in game time from December 16 – 17, 1944 to January 12 – 15, 1945. What makes this game unique is not just one item. It is the Chit Pull System combined with the simple method of calculating Supply and the Germans never being quite sure of when they will be required to check for supply and you can a winning combination.
Deadly Woods is a challenging game that is simple to learn and play but a tough nut of a game to master. It may not seem immediately apparent, but Deadly Woods has an extremely high replay value. Its high replay value is due to the Chit Pull game system design and the manner in which supply is handled in the game. Overall, it is a fast-moving game system that will keep gamers increasingly on the edge of their seats wondering if they will meet their victory requirements. Finally, this is an excellent and competitive game that can be played at Game Conventions because it can be played within a few hours and the outcome can be decisive. Deadly Woods is an excellent game that players can play solitaire, practicing their strategy and honing their skills for the time when they can attend a game show and be competitive in a Deadly Woods Tournament.