Nuts! The Battle of the Bulge was released in 1998 by Decision Games as a card game. HexWar Games now has the rights and released a computer version in 2016, available on Steam. I came across Nuts! at the same time as this other Bulge computer game and decided to look into the card based concept. The $9.99 price tag may have also played a role…
This is an enjoyable game on the “beer and pretzels” level but don’t expect to discover historical truths or maneuver your forces through the snow covered hills of the Ardennes. Unfortunately, the computer game only offers solitaire play against the AI so the social aspect of a card game is missing.
The game interface is easy to navigate though the player will need to remember the icons (pictured to the right). Most symbols are easy to decipher but it took me a couple of clicks to remember what the die icon was for (link back to Steam’s HexWar Games page). Within the game, the other icons are not named or have pop up text boxes but it is all intuitive and is not an issue.
At game start the player receives a series of unit cards, divided by units available at start and a smaller pool of reinforcements. Terrain cards are a nice feature adding variety to the “game board”. For example, the American player may get a river card to be placed wherever it is needed most and town cards that give the defender or attacker certain boosts (the computer only allows the player to place these cards according to the program’s geography (e.g. no placing a Bastogne defense bonus card on the north side of the playing are or a river card in a random location). Finally, there are a host of event cards, many tied into game events or weather conditions, to add randomness into the course of the game and keep game play interesting, .
For my first two games I played as the Germans. I tried the northern sector and could only advance one column west into the American lines. The AI had me stuck in a battle of attrition. Next game I played the southern sector and ended it early with a division at the Meuse.
During play I was thinking that the card game would be more enjoyable and due to the limitation to solo play I have to conclude that anyone that has a chance to get the card game on the cheap should jump at the chance. However, the computer screen is less cluttered than the phone below from BoardGameGeek of a card game:
Notice the lack of a map above. The map in the computer game is a 6 x 6 grid with a column on the left acting as the Muese River objective.
Below is the game at start. Some towns are already on the map (Huy, Bastogne) and a few lines denoting rivers because of cards drawn by both sides. During play some of the rivers will expand if the American player gets hold of defensive cards. There’s also a few bridging cards, both to rapidly build a bridge or demolish them.
On to the fighting. The screen shot below shows German attacking my defenders. Prime benefit of the computer version is that it takes into account all the terrain features and card modifiers.
Looking at the screen shot, combat is conducted from the top down. Artillery fires first and in this case the Germans were free to fire without fear that I would fire back. Even if I had artillery available, during the first turn the American are not prepared to fire back. Any losses inflicted must be removed from your units before moving on to the next phase.
Armor gets to attack next and this screen shot shows the overwhelming amount of infantry attacking my infantry. Notice the American infantry gets the benefit of woods, which adjusts the odds a little and absorbed hits. Just think of the German player with 24 dice in cupped hands about to rolls. Those 24 virtual dice scored three hits on my troops though my defenders did get one hit back.
Finally, take a look at the two red symbols under the German armor icon. The symbols are divisional markers and one of the key aspects of the game to master is unit card management, reason being is that during combat an attacking side can assign up to 4 units maximum or double that if they only use units from two divisions. This takes some work as not all divisions start the game with a full compliment on the “map”.