Rob Bottos and I played Celles, a game about part of the Battle of the Bulge. It is designed by Roger Miller and produced by Revolution Games.
The game has a 22×17″ map, 88 counters, a rule booklet (12 pages) and the charts fit on one sheet which doubles as the back of the ziploc cover packaging.
Each hex is 1 mile, each turn is 12 hours, and units are from 1-3 battalion sized equivalents.
The system is chit pull for activation, with several nice tweaks that make it rise above the crowd:
- Each side has its own pool of chits – as opposed to one common pool.
- Activation is by alternating chit draw. The initiative player goes first.
- As well as the formation chits, each side has several tactical chits. You can use them, or keep them for use later in the turn. They cover replacements, tactical combat advantage, extra activation, and the dreaded Allied air strike.
- You can give up a complete formation activation to activate one unit of your choice.
- Units may be activated several times in the one game turn, or not at all.
- The game turn track records how many activations each side gets. Sometimes a side will have more formation chits than activations. So, a formation may do nothing.
Briefly, what you get is a chaotic situation that you have to master. For example, in our game, I did not draw any of the tactical chits in time to use them for any of the first three or four turns. As another example, to trap my exploiting panzers and cut off supply, Rob drew the wrong formation chits, so had to sacrifice them to get single units going to effect the encirclement. (He succeeded.)
Combat is odds based with modifiers, using a 1d10. The Allies get a daylight bonus from December 25th onwards, representing air superiority. The Germans get a nighttime bonus.
The complete game should last two experienced players about 3-4 hours on their second play through. The first time, as we found, it can take a little extra time to get used to the wrinkles. It must also be said in the game’s favor, that it gets you thinking. What do you do next? It’s on the game side of the game/simulation scale, and a highly enjoyable one at that.
Based on only one play, nothing I say about balance should be taken to have any value other than circumstantial. After a breakthrough to the Meuse, it went downhill for my German forces. I was probably too aggressive, as the US 2nd Armor Division easily cut the advance units to shreds. Next time as the Germans I would ignore the Meuse and, instead, grab the victory point hexes and hope to trade casualties. But I still think it’s tough for the Germans.
Overall it is an impressive package. Good, clear rules, nice systems and a challenge to play well. This would be a great game to use on a novice, to break him or her into the dark arts of wargaming. But I recommend you let the newbie be the good guys.