Wednesday, 6 July 2016


Having indulged in this hobby for many years, I have encountered games along the way that have become 'keepers'. This is usually because I've had a terrific time playing them and have come to admire the way they have been designed, together with their re-playability.

So, without further they are:

#5: FAB: THE BULGE (2008)

Designed by Rick Young and published by GMT, this is a cracker of a simulation of 1944's Battle of the Bulge. No wargamer's collection can pass muster unless it has at least one Bulge game....and if you are seeking to address that deficiency, you can do much worse than this title. The 'FAB' in the title stands for 'Fast Action Battles'. I think 'Fast' is a little too optimistic as the game system can become quite involved. That said, I found it to be logical and intuitive. The game system just feels right.

I really like the way in which divisional units are represented by blocks, while assets - including artillery, engineers, air support and specialist formations - are represented by counters. Available assets can be allocated to battles (designated by areas) and can influence the outcome. Each turn, a certain number of assets - both returned to available and newly arriving as per the reinforcement chart - are put into a cup and drawn. This means you are never really sure as to what assets will be available. Also included among the assets are replacement and event chits. Many of these allow the player to restore depleted units. Others tie in with historical elements in play during the battle. An example here - available to the Axis player - are the Greif team units that can be used to sow confusion behind Allied lines and stymie Allied attempts to blow bridges.

Here are examples of the available chits, taken from the pre-punched counter sheet:

Each player also has a single Special Action block that can be used each turn to carry out a range of special commands. This block represents direct intervention from your Staff HQ. Among its uses are granting additional replacements, retreating before a combat and conducting a breakthrough combat. While this block can be used once each turn, additional Special Action chits can be drawn from the cup for a single-time use.

A clever aspect of the combat system in this game is that the attacker can choose to abort a battle if the consequences of following through will get ugly. The assets have been spent, but the units can pull back to fight another day. Combat also uses Base Success Numbers (which in this case is 5), which are modified up or down by factors such as defensive terrain, use of armour, troop quality and the type of point unit designated by each side.

Overall, I think this is an excellent operational-level system that lends itself brilliantly to a mobile battle such as the Bulge. The FAB system has so far spawned additional titles, such as FAB: Sicily (which I also own but consider too much of a slug fest to really showcase the FAB system) and FAB: Golan, which has recently been released. I look forward to playing this title.

I highly recommend this game.....and system.

While learning up and playing this game, I also enjoyed reading:

Originally published as The Battle of the Bulge by John Toland in 1959, what this book may lack in the depth of its scholarly analysis, is more than made up for by being an energetic, page-turning history of the battle. I just wish it had decent maps! Perhaps later editions attended to this, as I bought a second-hand copy of the 1998 Wordsworth Military Library edition. One of the most fascinating aspects of the battle that I discovered from reading this book, was the sheer lengths the Germans went to, to disguise their preparations and planning for the 'Wacht am Rhein' offensive.

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