still fighting the Bulge ...
While most of us are fighting a different type of "bulge"
problem, WBC remains the place for grognards to meet and vie
over the AH classic Battle of the Bulge, 1981 edition.
A few classic style war games are hanging with the newer games,
as they provide an easy sojourn into some tense competition.
Open Swiss Phase
A total of 29 games (up from 17) were played in the preliminary
rounds by 22 different participants, allowing Battle of the
Bulge '81 to crack the 16 player threshold for the second
consecutive doncon. Contributing to this success are two things:
The flexible format pioneered by Larry Lingle, and a bunch of
grognards looking for tournament games to play after they have
been waxed elsewhere. Interviews of many gamers have revealed
that they would rather play a tournament game than an "open
gaming" type game.
The Bulge 81 format consisted of an Open Swiss phase followed
by a Single Elimination phase. The four best players from the
Swiss phase squared off for first through fourth place. The best
players were those who scored the highest based on their three
best games using a formula similar to that used by VIP. A player
received 10 points for a win, one point for a loss and two points
for each victory tallied by an opponent that the player defeated.
A running total of all players scores was prominently displayed
at the Bulge 81 kiosk, with updates posted as each game ended.
The key to this format is the record of the opponent that
a player defeats. In past tournaments, many players hoped to
avoid playing the well known tournament sharks, as play against
them usually ended their chances for a plaque. Not anymore. Players
who racked up three wins in a row found themselves being shadowed
by others who wanted a chance to score bonus points by beating
a front runner. Case in point, Randy Heller, who was at 3-0 and
then later at 4-0: Randy was challenged in short order by Phil
Evans, Steve Likevich, Forest Pafenberg and Bruno Sinigaglio.
Randy lost to Phil Evans and that catapulted Phil up in the standings
with eight bonus points.
Of the 29 games played in the early rounds, 18 were won by
the Germans! This was an eye-opener, as the Bulge81 Tournament
scenario had been running near 50/50 for years. Most experienced
Bulge81 players were convinced that the German success was an
There were many nail biters during the Swiss phase, but undoubtedly,
the most notable game played was the one between Bulge game designers
Bruno Sinigaglio and Ray Freeman. Before this classic "Sharking,"
Ray let everyone know that he hadn't played Bulge 81 for at least
15 years. Ray then proceeded to dismember Bruno, handing him
the worst loss he has ever suffered in the doncon 8-turn tournament
scenario. Ray joined John Grant and Forest Pafenberg as the only
players to garner a surrender from Bruno before the 19PM turn.
Ray eliminated eight American units on 16AM and Bruno threw in
the towel on 17PM after the loss of Bastogne and much more.
To be or not to be in the final four! Randy Heller was just
squeezed out of the medal rounds by the 2002 champ, Steve Likevich.
Steve's win vs. Bruno on Friday earned just enough bonus points
to bounce Randy. In an unusual development, a few doncon team
players wandered over to the game to urge Bruno on against Steve
- the word was out - Steve was one of the infamous "Girly
Men." A flow of epithets about Bruce Reiff and the Ohioers
were tossed about with relish. Dan Dolan from Upper US (North
Jersey) was ecstatic! When Steve took a break, a few gentlemen
were quick to point out to Bruno that he had left an artillery
unit exposed to an auto elim. Now normally, advice like this
would not be tolerated, but discretion was thrown to the wind
in view of the fact that one of the Girly men was involved. Alas,
it made no difference, as Bruno, afflicted with doncon zombieism
and what appeared to be a SARS derivative, had stupidly left
two different arty units exposed to an auto elim. Steve found
John Clarke and Bill Morse fared well, as they became more
familiar with the Bulge 81 game system. Of special note was the
performance of Bryan Eshleman, who passed up a chance to advance
to the medal rounds by instead choosing to shellac some unfortunate
The highest achievers during the Open Swiss phase were as
|1. Phil Evans
|2, Bruno Sinigaglio
|3. Forrest Pafenberg
|4. Steve Likevich
|5. Randy Heller
|6. John Clarke
|7. Bryan Eshleman
|8. Bill Morse
#1 Phil Evans (Germans) vs. #4 Steve Likevich (Americans)
This game was over on 17AM. Phil's Germans rolled badly on
the 16AM turn. In the south 4/12, 9CCA and 28/109 were Engaged.
The key German attacks against 28/110 and 28/112 both resulted
in German advances of one hex only. Two of the 106 Infantry Division
regiments were trapped, but 14 Cav escaped. To make matters worse,
Phil's big attack vs. 2/9&38 was a lousy Dback2. After a
string of unsuccessful high risk attacks on the next two turns,
Phil waved the white flag. There was much consternation in the
Anti-Ohio Camp (i.e., the entire convention) as the nerdy Likevich
defeated another "Better Man."
#3 Forrest Pafenberg (Germans) vs. #2 Bruno Sinigaglio (Americans)
15,625,000 times in 13,060,694,016 chances, or about 1 in
802. This game could only happen to Paffy. The Germans eliminated
NO American units on the 16AM turn. There is no way to adequately
label this as bad. 4/12 got away clean on a Dback 2; 9CCA lived;
28/109 was Engaged; 28/110 a Contact; 29/112 was Engaged, which
is catastrophic for the Germans; 106/424 was Engaged; 106/423
a Contact; 106/422 was Engaged; 14Cav a Dback; 99/394 a Dback;
99/393 a Dback; 2/9&38 a Contact and 99/395 an Aback. At
the end of the American 16PM turn, the US had combat units in
forts in Monschau, Elsenborn, Rocherath-Krinkelt, St.Vith, Clervaux,
Wiltz and Ettelbruck. The Germans surrendered. Good ole Paffy
didn't deserve it. These dice should have gone to Likevich.
Steve Likevich (Germans) vs. Bruno Sinigaglio (Americans)
Dang the Girly Men! Steve rolled superbly in the south, eliminating
4/12, 9CCA, 28/109, 28/110 and getting an Attacker Advance 4
versus 28/112 northeast of St.Vith. This is the optimum of good
rolls for the Germans in the south.
Thus, on the 16AM American turn, Bruno had 28/112 and 9CCR
to hold three open roads not good. Now a normal person
might have thrown in the towel, but dad gum Bruce Reiff was there
cheering for Steve and taunting Bruno. So, on the 16AM turn,
Bruno counterattacked at 1-3 at JJ19, sacrificed 28/112 at JJ24
to block two roads and used 9CCR to hold at KK31. A roll of 3-6
on the 1-3 counterattack would have allowed Steve to capture
Bastogne, Wiltz, Martrelange, Houffalize and Fraiture on the
16PM turn, but no way. Bruno rolled a 2. The Germans were stopped
by the thinnest line ever in the south. In the north and center,
the Americans were forced to give ground in order to slowly shunt
units to the rear and then to the south.
The situation described above repeated itself for the next
two turns. Steve's Germans overwhelmed the units in the south
and Bruno counterattacked the superior German spearheads at low
odds in order to stem the tide, if possible. Successful American
attacks at 1-2 twice at GG22 on 16PM extended the game for another
turn. Successful American counterattacks at 1-1 and 1-2 at EE23
on 17AM again extended the game for another turn. But bad news
at Vielsalm for the US. The most important bridge in the Bulge
81 tournament scenario at FF15 was not blown. Sooner or later
something had to give.
On the German 17PM turn, Steve got awesome advances through
Houffalize and across the Salm towards Parker's Crossroad at
AA17. Time for Bruno to pull a rabbit out of the hat. The 102
Cav with its extra movement factors managed to slip through the
mud and into Houffalize behind Steve's spearheads. In the meantime,
Bruno sent all five US arty units to the Parker Crossroad area,
while infantry blocked the road to Trois Ponts with a successful
1-1 counterattack to hold at FF13. American Infantry also held
the woods at HH13. Steve smugly congratulated Bruno on the move
of the 106Cav, figuring that he was just gonna blow it away on
18AM. At the end of the 17PM turn, Bruno failed to blow the Stavelot
Dump (1-4 required).
On the 18AM support phase, Bruno placed Allied Air Support
on 102Cav and just enough Arty Final Protective Fire to permit
the Germans to get a 4-1 with no DRM. Of course, the Germans
took the 4-1, expecting to eliminate the 102Cav on a roll of
1-4. On a roll of 5, the 102Cav would die on the American turn.
On a roll of 6, the Germans would have 72 factors stuck in an
Engaged and there might be some muttering in Ohio. Another rabbit
appears. Steve does his best to ignore the Engaged vs. 102Cav
and again congratulates Bruno on the move. Bruce Reiff recognizes
the hold-at-all-cost move and thinks about playing real war games
like he did in his youth. In another interesting development,
Steve rolled a 4-1 Contact versus the heavily supported 2/23
infantry unit on FF13.
The desperation moves were going in the Allies favor, but
the dam could have burst on any of the last five turns. The Germans
must attain four Victory Conditions to win the finely balanced
eight-turn doncon tournament scenario. On 18AM Bruno decided
to leave two units in the fort of Bastogne (1VC) as an impediment
that would eventually fall. Also, the Germans were surely going
to eliminate 18 or more Allied combat units (1VC). An Allied
plan was hatched: Hold Eupen, Trois Ponts, Parkers Crossroad
and the Ourthe River Bridgeheads, blow the Stavelot dump but
give up Stavelot (1VC), and eliminate more than three German
mech/arty units. If the Germans lose three or less mech/arty
units, that counts as 1VC.
Why this Allied plan on 18AM? The Germans had already lost
one mech unit in an exchange and at the end of the German 18AM
turn, three arty units were holding the FF15 bridge. No big deal,
except that the Contact vs. 2/23 on FF13 allowed 2/23 to move
FF14-EE15. Any result other than Contact would have prevented
that move. Those six infantry factors plus 30 US arty factors
(all the US arty in the game) resulted in an automatic elimination
of the three German arty units at 6-1 odds. Steve managed a few
expletives at this revolting development and realized that even
though he was kicking butt, there was a chance that he could
now lose the game. The Girly Men were silent, except for Bruce
who sadistically snickered at his compatriot's misfortune. At
the end of the 18AM turn, the Germans had none of the four VC
needed, and one of the expected VC (lose three or less mech/arty)
was now unattainable. However, there was mild consternation for
Bruno as the 18AM turn closed with an unsuccessful attempt to
blow the Stavelot Dump (1-3 required). There would be another
chance on 18PM (1-2 required).
On the German 18PM turn, Steve realizes that the Germans will
probably not capture Parkers Crossroad. The Germans redirect
everything possible towards Trois Ponts and Stavelot. Steve rolls
an exchange versus the Bastogne fort. One of the two units in
the fort survives, so it will hold for another turn. The 102Cav
in Houffalize also dies in an Exchange. The Germans move adjacent
to Trois Ponts and Stavelot, but the Americans hold both at the
end of the turn. The American Plan is now obvious. One US unit
remains in Stavelot. All others are needed to make sure that
the fort in Trois Ponts does not fall on 19AM or 19PM. At the
end of the 18PM turn, the damn Engineers fail to blow the damn
Stavelot Dump. The chance of the dump surviving the three demolition
rolls was 1 in 9. Except for Steve, the Ohioites are not gloating
they do not yet know that the devil has helped them.
As the 18PM turn ends, the Germans still have none of the
four Victory Conditions. On the 19AM German turn, Bastogne falls
(1VC), Stavelot falls (1VC), the damn Stavelot Dump is captured
(1VC) and the 18th Allied Unit is eliminated. Bruno completes
his 19AM turn and then surrenders on the Support Phase of the
19PM turn. Steve repeats as Bulge 81 Champ and proves that he
is one of the best Bulge 81 players in the world. The Ohioans
are jubilant. Bruno, Bruce and Steve discuss the added pressure
the team championship brought to the Bulge 81 tournament game.
The Ohio Goons earn a friendly measure of respect.
Grognards, Inc.: Bruno Sinigaglio
(left) and Bill Scott do battle in the Bulge.