Veteran designer John Butterfield’s Batle of the Bulge ($9.99) is one of the best historical wargames we’ve played. Designed from the ground up for the iPad, it feels perfectly suited to that device – so much so that one of its few flaws is that it isn’t quite as perfect a fit on the iPad Mini’s smaller screen. With it’s Avalon Hill-esque gameplay, appealing and unintrusive winter campaign styling, and inspired mix of original and sampled period music, the main thing we wanted in our review of it was more.
Shenandoah Studio delivers in a new update that includes three additional scenarios (two free, one IAP) and two new AI generals. They’re so confident that the new AIs, modeled on Omar Bradley and Hasso Von Manteuffel, are going to your socks off that each one is a $1.99 IAP. I was initially skeptical of that decision, but having played against each one, I have to say that Von Manteuffel is, as advertized, a tricky bastard. He stole a draw from me in what should have been a clear win for the Allies. When I played Axis against Omar Bradley in the shortest scenario, “Race to the Meuse," I won easily, but I noticed that he’d done a good job of flanking me: if I’d been playing the full Battle of the Bulge scenario, I would have been in a lot of trouble going forward.
The scenarios are more straightforward: “Bitter End" appeals to those with no patience for victory points and conditional wins by playing out to the, ahem, bitter end of the engagement. That’s a feature many players had been clamoring for. There’s also added replayability with “Luck of the Draw" which deviates from history by shuffling starting unit placement and reinforcements. Both “Bitter End" and “Luck of the Draw" are free, and are more oriented to players who want some of the options commonly found in strategy videogames.
For the grognards, there’s “The Endgame," featuring the siege of Bastogne, which some of you may know from Band of Brothers, and famous for Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe’s laconic response to a demand that he surrender: “NUTS!" If you’ve ever wanted to stand with the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, or if want to see if you can break McAuliffe for his impudence, “The Endgame" will let you fulfill that fantasy for $3.99.
The pricing scheme here is clever: Shenandoah has made the content that will appease those who wanted more “bang for their buck" free, while offering more exotic goodies to the hardcore at a premium. In a move worthy of Von Manteuffel, you have to go to the “purchase" screen to get “Luck of the Draw" (for free), thus ensuring that nearly every player will see the premium IAP. The update is also well-timed, bridging the gap between the winter release of Battle of the Bulge and forthcoming El Alamein, which should be giving us a chance to wage war in the desert sometime this summer.