Strategy games certainly aren’t for everybody. They can be challenging to learn, difficult to play well, and lengthy to complete. Battle of the Bulge, for iPad, is all of these and more. This is not a game for the casual player or those only slightly interested in strategy games. This is a serious game for serious and historically-minded gamers. Battle of the Bulge sticks slavishly to its historical background, for better or for worse.
The game begins with a tutorial that is quick to scare off the less-than-serious. It consists of several pages of instructions, details, and controls. You may want to read it twice to make sure you’ve gotten everything clear, but even then it’s unlikely you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll really need to get into this game and start playing before you learn everything. For a tutorial, we would have preferred something more interactive and less like a manual. In an age of interactive digital media, tutorials shouldn’t be this boring.
In the actual game, you’ll have two options: Race to the Meuse or Battle of the Bulge. While the game itself doesn’t clearly explain the difference between these scenarios, each option determines which part of the battle you will be playing. You can also select Axis or Allies, which also determines how you will be playing. Finally, you have several options of opponent AI personality. Each personality will have a different tactic for victory.
Your goal isn’t simply to destroy the enemy. You need to capture or prevent capture of a certain area. You’re given limited resources, and depending on which side of the battle you are playing on, you may receive additional units at specific times. As we said, this game sticks closely to the actual battle, so you will need to use the same resources the historic armies had.
Each turn consists of engaging in battle with enemy forces for control of a section of the map or moving troops around. You have several types of troops, from soldiers on foot to armored vehicles. Before you engage in battle, the game forecasts the most likely outcome. Each move you make is important, so you may find yourself taking extra time for the best move possible.
There’s a cold front moving in.
Battle of the Bulge offers various methods of gameplay as well. While you can choose to play an AI opponent, or you can select a pass-and-play game style for local multiplayer. Battle of the Bulge also offers online games.
One of our biggest issues with the game has to be the unfriendly touch controls. The game will often scold you for selecting a unit you cannot move, and the onscreen dialogue remains on the screen even after you select another unit. With the game’s strict directions, we had hoped the onscreen menus and dialogue boxes would be helpful in guiding us through our first game.
While we don’t always focus on price in the App Store, Battle of the Bulge’s current price tag of $9.99 is considerably high, making this a game likely to be played only by those looking for a historic WWII strategy game. We also feel this is a high price for a game with only two playable scenarios. Perhaps a future update will expand the game’s potential.
Battle of the Bulge is a solid strategy game with deep roots in history, but its controls, its rules, and its lack of assistance limit its audience. Unless you are an experienced turn-based strategy gamer, we would advise starting somewhere else.