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A Time for Trumpets   The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games  'Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein' (Operation Watch on the Rhin...

A Time for Trumpets: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games A Time for Trumpets: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

European Theater of War WWII

A Time for Trumpets

 The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944


GMT Games

 'Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein' (Operation Watch on the Rhine), or the 'Ardennenoffensive' (Ardennes offensive) it is called in German. The Ardennes Counteroffensive is the official Allied military name. Please do not call it the 'Rundstedt Offensive'. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the planning. In fact, his answer when he was asked about the plan after the war was, "If Old Moltke had thought that I had planned that offensive, he would have turned over in his grave." Neither Rundstedt or Model, fanatical Nazi that he was, believed the plan had any merit. Josef 'Sepp' Dietrich (who commanded the 6th Panzer Army during the battle) said of the plan "All I had to do was the cross the river (Meuse), capture Brussels, and then go on to take the port of Antwerp. The snow was waist-deep and there wasn't room to deploy four tanks abreast, let alone six armored divisions. It didn't get light until eight and was dark again at four, and my tanks can't fight at night, and all this at Christmas time!" As a side note, Rundstedt said Dietrich was "decent, but stupid". So why is this battle so much in demand many to so many wargamers? It seems that you could find five to ten different company's versions in each wargamers hoard. Well, this was the largest battle that Americans had ever been in (the English were involved also, but not too deeply). The Allies were completely taken off guard by this attack in an area that was considered 'safe' because of the terrain. The German plan was pretty much thought of in Hitler's mind even as the Allies were dashing across France, and it looked like the war would be over by Christmas. The Allied offensive was hamstrung by the lack of supplies, and came to a halt at the German border. The Germans used their phone lines instead of radio chatter etc. So, the Allies did not have their usual Ultra intercepts or much else to judge German intentions. The offensive took the Allies very much by surprise. The German Army was considered a spent force. The schwerpunkt was supposed to be with the 6th Panzer Army at the top of the Bulge. In actuality the U.S. troops, some of them green, mostly fought the SS to a standstill. The greatest penetration into the Bulge was done by the 5th Panzer Army. I will list out the number of troops and AFV's etc. that have to be modeled in the game. These numbers are from the start of the German attack:

Troops - 229,000
Tanks  - 486
Tank Destroyers & Assault Guns - 499
Other AFV's  - 1,921
Anti-Tank Guns & Artillery - 971
6 Infantry Divisions
2 Armored Divisions
Casualties at the end of the battle - 90,000

Troops - 406,000
Tanks - 557
Tank Destroyers & Assault Guns - 667
Other AFV's - 1,261
Anti-Tank Guns & Artillery - 4.224
13 Infantry Divisions
7 Armored Divisions
Casualties at the end of the battle - 98,000

So, GMT has brought this battle once more to the wargamers' table. Let us see what we get. This is what comes in the weighty box:

5 full size game maps (65"x48" total playing area)
12 counter sheets (2304 playing pieces)
1 Rules Book
1 Scenario Book
1 Play Aid Manual
Four 11"x17" player aid cards
Five 8.5"x11" player aid cards
2 dice

 This is GMT Games information on the game from the Rules Book:

"A Time for Trumpets (or ATfT) is a one to five player game depicting Germany’s last offensive in 1944 known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” The Campaign Game includes the period from 16 to 26 December when the Germans had to achieve decisive results.
Game Scale
Each game-turn represents approximately 6 hours of real time.
Each map hex represents a distance of 1 mile across and an area of
about one square mile. The units consist primarily of battalions and
companies plus a minimal number of other sized units.
The Map
The map shows the Ardennes including portions of Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. The map illustrates the most prominent terrain features of this region. A grid of numbered hexagons (hexes) has been superimposed on the map as a means of regulating the movement and positioning of the playing pieces. Also located on the map is a Game Turn Record Track, Off-Board Movement Areas, German Bridge Holding Boxes and depictions of the Terrain Features."

 The map scale is at one mile per hex. The 65"x48" size makes it a monster, but a monster that has a lot of scenarios that only use one, two, or three of the five maps. The maps are not rehashed ones and have been completely reworked and checked and rechecked against wartime topographical maps. The colors are nicely done, and it is easy to see what terrain is in each hex. The twelve counter sheets (my thoughts are with the grognards that are compelled to clip counters) are very well done and use the typical green for U.S. troops, Grey for the German Army, and Black for the Waffen SS etc.
The counters are larger than you would think for such a big game, and are easily identified. As with any 'monster' game there will be a large amount of counters on the map. The Rules Book is as large as one would expect with such a game. It is sixty-four pages long, including the index. It is in full color and looks like other GMT Games Rules Books. At the end of it are some examples of play. The Scenario Book is sixty pages long. Pages thirty-three to forty-nine have on one side the German and Allied setups for the different parts of the map. Unless I am miscounting there are 13 scenarios in total (they will be below). Each scenario seems to build on the other as far as sticking your toe into this deep pond. The Play-Aid Book is forty-eight pages long. It is filled with full color Reinforcement Charts, Area of Operations, and setups for the End Game Scenarios. The three books are made up of paper pages with no lamination. I assume the cost would have been prohibitive. There are a total of nine Play-Aid cards. These are made of thin cardboard and do have some lamination on them. One has the Allied and German chains of command. Four of them are one-sided and have the German Artillery Park information for each corps. If you want to see a grognard's eyes light up just open up the box in front of him.

These are the scenarios, with maps:

7th Army Scenarios - 3 - 2 maps
6th Panzer Army Scenarios - 2 - 1 map
5th Panzer Army Scenarios - 2 - 3 maps
Campaign Game 
End Game Scenarios:
3 - 1 map
1 - 2 maps
1 - 3 maps

 So, the main point I want to get across is that this game type is as hard to find as a rare gemstone. It is a playable monster game. There are Advanced and Optional rules that bring more chrome or make it easier on the player. Let us look at the game's RuleBook:

"There are three types of rules: Basic, Advanced and Optional. If a
rule is not identified as Advanced, then the rule is Basic. The Advanced rules impart significant, historical facets to the game; they
are intended to loosely drive the progress of the game by interjecting
intelligence as it was known in 1944. By mutual consent, players
should add advanced rules as they become familiar with the basic
system. During the extensive playtesting of the game, the advanced
rules were usually used. Optional rules are provided simply to facilitate ease of play—they are found in rule sections as applicable."

 The game's pedigree goes right back to the earlier days of wargaming. The designer Bruno Sinigaglio was involved with three of the greatest wargaming titles: Battle of the Bulge, Siege of Jerusalem, and Bitter Woods. A Time for Trumpets is an opus that he has been designing for more than forty years. The only thing you can really say derogatory about the game is its sheer size. To set up the maps alone you need a space roughly 6'x4'. When you add in the extra space needed for the Player-Aids etc. it is a sizable area. The beauty of the system and the scenarios is that there are enough scenarios that only use one, two, and three maps. Players will be able to learn and play with any setup they have now in their house. Then if you wanted to, you could join in at a group play at a convention etc. if you wanted to (whenever they happen again).  

 One of the biggest pieces of the game rules is command and control. The Area of Operations rules for the allies ensures that they cannot just willy-nilly advance across the map, and overwhelm the Germans. All of the different Areas of Operations makes it so if an Allied force moves into another Area of Operation it is immediately out of command. The Germans are similarly stopped from bunching together in a large mass. The Allies were incredibly worried about Liege. This city was the linchpin of the Allies' long tenuous supply line. In the Campaign game if the Germans occupy any of the six Liege hexes they win a Substantial Victory. In most of the other scenarios the Germans must occupy different key points on the map. If at any time a German Tactical Victory in the Campaign game happens, a German AFV enters a hex across the Meuse River from Givet to Liege City. If this happens the Scenario Book remarks "The German player should heed Field Marshall Models's words and "get down on his hands and knees and thank God." You can see by that that the German player has to have all the die rolls and luck on his side. The Allied Victory Conditions are to stop the German from getting to any of his Victory Points. This game has everything in it that you want in a game. Some examples are:

Bridge and Combat engineers
Anti-Tank and Heavy Tank Units
Motorized Infantry
Tactical Aircraft
Strategic bombing
Improved positions
Bridge Demolition (The Allies best friend)
Artillery of all kind

I am very grateful to GMT Games for allowing me to review this game. I was tentative at first because of its depth and size. However, the design of the scenarios makes it very easy for a grognard to play out bits of it before trying to swallow the whole game at once. The other point I made, but need to stress, is that this is a playable monster. This is not a game that will sit on your shelf and you will look longingly at it for years before it gets bequeathed to an unsuspecting child or spouse. The game is fine to play solitaire also (very few games are not) for one of us mostly lone gamers. The price for some maybe a sticking point. However, we are now used to paying 2/3 of the cost for A Time for Trumpets for games that do not give you anywhere near the actual components, let alone game play. I was very ambivalent in the past about Battle of the Bulge games. I am not anymore.


Thank you to Marty Sample and Tom Stearns from BGG, for the use of their pictures.

GMT Games:

A Time for Trumpets:

Tiger Leader The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG)   "Tyger, Tyger burning brig...

Tiger Leader: The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG) Tiger Leader: The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game 2nd Edition by Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

European Theater of War WWII

Tiger Leader

The World War II Ground Combat Solitaire Strategy Game

2nd Edition


Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

 "Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
 in the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake)

 Yes, it is a different Tiger, but the response of its enemies is pretty much the same: sheer terror. The amount of Tigers that Germany built compared to the totals of other tanks on each side was quite small. However the Allied soldiers would see them behind every house or large bush. Reading the Allied and Soviet reports, they destroyed 10,000 German Tigers. Germany actually constructed only 1,347 Tiger I's and 489 Tiger II's. Yes it is actually a Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B., not a Tiger II. However, not all wargamers have as much OCD about things as others do. Before we get pigeonholed, we have to remember that you will be in charge of a German Panzerkampfgruppe (Battle Group). You will not only have tanks under your command, but almost every other German land combat unit. It will also be a long time before you see or even dream about Tigers if you play the early campaigns. You may even start the game with Panzer I's. these were no better than any other machine gun equipped tanks from the mid 1930's. So, what does DVG actually give you in the box:

Enemy Units include units from the Polish Army, French Army, British Army, Russian Army, and the American Army.
240 Full Color Cards
440 Full Color Counters
12 2.5" Terrain Tiles
1 22"x 17" Mounted Display
1 11"x17" HQ Sheet
1 Player Log Sheet
1 Full Color Player Aid Sheet
1 10-sided die

 All of the DVG games I have played have four things in common:
1. Everything in them is large and easy to read.
2. When possible they fit everything including the kitchen sink in the box for the player to use.
3. They are all excellent solitaire games
4. Mounted map boards

 I could simply end the review here and say why are you bothering to read this, then tell you to go out and go buy it, case closed. However we have to conform to the standards, so here goes. The map board is well mounted; not a surprise there. The 'hexes' on it are almost as big as the bases for miniature wargame units. In reality they are actually 2.5" wide. The counters are 5/8" in size, and very easy to read. Your counters only have numbers at the bottom, to use in conjunction with the unit cards. The enemy counters have their designation, for example infantry, etc. They also have their Armor Piercing and High Explosive ratings on them. The cards are separated into six decks: Event, Unit, Special Condition, Objective, Battalion, and Leaders. The rulebook is only twenty-two pages long. It is also in full color, and is in large type. Examples of play are scattered throughout it. The one Player Log Sheet needs to be copied. I am not a big fan of manual record keeping. However, in this game it makes sense. DVG has given us so much in the box already that some of it would have to be removed to replace the manual record keeping. The twelve Terrain Tiles are double sided. Their use gives the game extra depth and replayability. 

 These are some of the German units you will be playing with:

Tiger Leader includes the following units:
Panzer I
Panzer II
Panzer III
Panzer IV
Tiger Tank
Panther Tank
King Tiger Tank
Armored cars

 Naturally you will be fighting some of the above and more in your solitaire quest to survive the war. This is a list of the campaigns you are able to fight in:

The Invasion of Poland 1939
The Battle for France 1940
The Battle for North Africa 1941
The Invasion of Russia 1941
The Battle for North Africa 1942
The Fight for Italy 1943
The Fight for Russia 1943
The Days of D-Day 1944
The Final Days in Berlin 1945

 The game has been revised a good bit in this Version 2 release. Let me clarify that. If you own only the original Tiger Leader, there have been changes to the game to make it closer to Sherman Leader in the rules. If you already own Tiger Leader and the upgrade kit, the changes are mostly in the artwork. The upgrade kit fixed the issues that people found with some non-historical rules.

 The game is both Card and Die driven. The main driving force behind the game is Special Option (SO) points. These are given to you to use from the Objective Cards. You will purchase your units with SO points. The Leader games from DVG are not supposed to be a highly detailed simulation of whatever they represent. They are a commander lite simulation of the historical conflict that takes place in their area of focus. They are also eminently fun and great games. Just like any other wargame, people can argue about the different numbers given to each unit in the game. It is really a pointless exercise because each person has his own view of what they should be. When you purchase a wargame you are seeing the designer's thoughts on the effectiveness of each unit. I do have an idea, though. If you do not agree with the designer, then try your own. It is a boardgame that you have purchased. Feel free to fiddle with them as you see fit. However, realize that your own numbers might make the game totally unbalanced. There is a reason the designer used his numbers, and it is because play testing showed which ones represented reality in the designer's mind. 

 The game also comes with Optional Rules to enhance gameplay. There are three of them:

Battlefield Heroics
Flank Attacks

 For Tenacity you can decide to extend a battle by one turn, at the cost of each participating Commander gaining one extra stress point. For Battlefield Heroics, if a Commander's unit is destroyed, he can take over from a KIA, Unfit or wounded Commander from the same type of unit. Flank Attacks take place with a die roll at ranges of 0 or 1. Tenacity and Battlefield Heroics also cost one SO point for each week of the campaign that the rule is used.

 The game tries to be as user friendly as possible. The Sequence of Play is shown right on the top of the mounted map. This is the sequence:

Campaign Set-Up
Select Campaign Card
Select Objective Card
Draw Battalion Cards
Buy Units
Select Commanders

Start of Week
Special Condition Card
Assign Units

Event Card
Place Turn Counter
Place Terrain Tiles
Place Friendly Units
Place Enemy Units

Fast Move and Attack
Roll for Enemy Movement
Enemy Actions
Slow Move and Attack
Advance Turn Counter

Event Card
Battalion Status
Record Commander Stress
Record Commander Experience Points
End of Week

Move Battalions
On Leave
Adjust Special Option Points
Priority R&R

End of Campaign
Campaign Outcome

 The game's rules are easy to understand and the fact that almost all of what needs to be done each turn is right on the map makes it that much easier to remember. The big difference in DVG solitaire games is the fact that you are playing campaigns and not separate scenarios. Many players win games by totally exhausting their troops to win one scenario. If they were forced into a battle again with the same troops, they would quickly lose the second battle. Tiger Leader and its brothers are commander games. The player is forced to deal with fatigue, loss, and all the other problems that a real commander is faced with. If you go into the first scenario with guns blazing you will quickly lose the campaign. The player has to deal with the battle at hand, but also keep looking at the long haul. You must win every battle, and also have a strong force left to fight all of the rest. This game has been tweaked to be even better than its first iteration. Tiger Leader has excellent gameplay and components, not much more can be asked of a wargame. If you are interested in WWII European Theater land combat acting as a commander, then this game is for you.

 DVG was nice enough to send me three expansions with the base game. These are:

Tiger Leader Expansion #1 Blitzkrieg
Tiger Leader Expansion #2 Panzers
Tiger Leader Terrain Tile Pack #2

 This comes with new:

Campaign Cards
Situation Cards
Special Condition Cards
Event Cards
Enemy Battalion Cards
Commander Cards
Enemy Battalion Counters

 This comes with these new items:

Vehicle Cards
Infantry cards
Vehicle Counters
Infantry Counters

 Among the new Vehicle Cards are one for a late war E-50 and E-100

 This set comes with these new tiles:


 You can also purchase a Neoprene mat to play on, and Tiger leader Terrain Tile Pack #1.

 These serve to make this excellent game even more so. Thank you very much Dan Verssen Games for allowing me to review Tiger leader 2nd Edition. I have reviewed about six of their games, and they just keep upping the bar with each new release.


Dan Verssen Games:

Tiger leader 2nd Edition: