Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One-Page Bulge analysis

Players sitting down for a game of One-Page Bulge know what to expect in a Battle of the Bulge game. The Germans will be starting off with overwhelming force, but face a very tight time schedule and difficult terrain.
Compared to many Bulge games, OPB is pretty friendly to the Germans in its allocation of combat strength. Not counting the Allied air points, which are highly variable, the Americans never actually catch up to the Germans in strength points, even after taking into account all the reinforcements.

The Germans start on turn 1 with 202 strength points on map plus 31 more in turn 1 reinforcements for a total of 233. The Americans have just 108.

By fifth turn the Germans get another 94 SPs, while the Americans only get 80 more. Given probable combat losses it's quite possible for the Germans to have a bigger strength differential on Dec. 20 than at the start.
The last five turns see the ratio change in the American favor, as the Germans get just one more pulse of 27 SPs on turn 8, while the U.S. player sees another 132 points become available during turns 6-10.While the Germans have a strength advantage, the Americans have a significant mobility edge. All the U.S. units are faster than all the German units. In addition, the U.S. units have better access to the road net, while the Germans will often be forced into cross-country moves. Zones of control are not locking in this game, so American units can easily and quickly disengage. About the only factor keeping the Americans from freely trading space for time are the presence of 11 supply dumps behind their lines which are worth victory points for the Germans. Fortunately for the Americans, they have the ability to evacuate and/or destroy those dumps, so they can prevent the Germans from scoping those points, or reduce the amount gained.

As always in Bulge games, the German player has to push ahead ruthlessly in order to have any chance of victory. Compared to most Battle of the Bulge games the Germans seem to have a somewhat better chance of getting something across the Meuse River. This is reflected in the victory conditions, which require them to get 50 strength points over the river for a marginal victory -- the equivalent of two Panzer divisions.

The usual solution is to make the big push is the Fifth Panzer Army sector, basically along the axis of Clerf-Bastogne-Marche-Namur. This was the sector that saw the largest territorial gains in the historical battle. Most German players will ensure they capture Bastogne, rather than bypass it, so supply will be available. The drawback to this approach is that it's the longest way, with an exposed southern flank. It misses all but one small supply dump which is easily evacuated or burned. It relies on getting troops across the Meuse.

An alternative approach is to make the main effort in the Sixth SS Panzer Army sector, which was the historical plan. This requires taking on the strong part of the U.S. line from the get-go and is much more of a do-or-die plan. The drawback is that the terrain is very unfavorable and the American line pretty strong.
On the other hand, there are 42 VPs of supply dumps in the area. Getting one supplied Panzer Division into Liege can be enough to tip into the win column. If the Allied player attempts to burn the dumps and they get captured anyway, they're worth even more points to the Germans, making it worthwhile to even threaten captures. In order for this plan to work, however, the German player has to keep up the pressure elsewhere along the front in order to disguise his aim.

Draws are very possible in One-Page Bulge. In order to win, not just prevent a German victory, the U.S. player has to keep the German total to 19 or less victory points, which means that they cannot afford to let any major supply dump fall into German hands, especially the 1st Army POL dump near Malmedy. The worst case is to start burning the dump and then have it captured anyway, giving the Germans 15 Vps. If the Germans also capture the adjacent ASP then they are almost guaranteed the draw.

It's a very close game, with no "perfect plans" available, but the Germans do have options in OPB they rarely have in Bulge games to try a somewhat different approach than typical.

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