The Game Board & Terrain: Design Diary #3
Simplicity is a key design parameter of Battle of the Bulge and this applies to the game board itself – the graphic expression of the battleground’s geography.
The Ardennes Forest region of Belgium presents some of the roughest terrain in northwest Europe. The combination of dense forest and river ravines largely limits vehicle movement to roads, rendering the region unsuitable for large scale mechanized military operations.
In the Crisis in Command game system the battlefield is divided into a quilt of large areas – a chessboard of organic shapes that simplify the placement and movement of pieces. Each of these areas actually contain a wide range of terrain abstracted into a single type. In the Battle of the Bulge game, the terrain of each area is simplified into four types:
- Clear — The only terrain type really suited for mechanized warfare. As the Crisis in Command series moves to other battlefields in future volumes, more clear terrain will enable free-ranging movement of mechanized units.
- Forest, representing dense tree cover in rugged terrain.
A road network lays over the terrain, simplified to depict only the major arteries through the region. Key towns and cities cluster around road hubs.
Rivers border many of the areas. Most of the rivers in the Ardennes obstructed movement, due to the gorges through which they flowed, thus making road crossings of rivers critical to movement.
Not all roads and bridges are depicted, again due to the abstracted scale of the game. Thus, even though difficult terrain is represented, any unit can move one space into any terrain. In order to move more than once space in a move, movement must be along a road. In wargames simulating the Battle of the Bulge at a finer level of detail, unbridged rivers and dense forest often prohibit movement.
The importance of key bridges is shown simply by having roads that cross rivers negated if moving into a space occupied solely by the enemy. This takes into account bridge demolition and the time required for repair without the burden of special bridge rules.
Defining the shape of each area was a complex decision process. I wanted the overall quantity of areas to be comparable to a chessboard, yet numerous enough to capture the terrain characteristics of the region. And each area needed to be large enough to allow two opposing sets of three units to fit into each space and still be readable when viewing the entire board on the iPad.
Shapes were developed to channel movement and to represent some of the natural barriers to movement without having to depict them. In parts of the battlefield where terrain restricted movement, I arranged the areas to meet only at a point to prevent direct movement between them (such as between Houffalize and La Roche). Areas connected by minor roads or traversable terrain share an open border (such as between Vielsalm and Lullange). Units will find it easier to enter an enemy occupied space across an open border than across a river.