Daily iPad App: Battle of the Bulge is brilliant but obscure historical simulation

Battle of the Bulge is a really incredible game that I think a lot of people will overlook, unfortunately. In terms of war simulation games on the App Store, I haven't seen a better game than Battle of the Bulge. As you can tell from the title, it's a full-scale recreation of the legendary German offensive in 1944, the biggest and worst battle fought in World War II.

This title is pure historical strategy gaming bliss, put together by a fledgling studio named Shenandoah Games. It's all turn-based gameplay and plays out like a board game, more or less, with you moving various troops and units around on a 2D game board, making strategical moves as carefully as possible and trying to complete whatever objectives the game throws at you. The depth here just can't be understated: Shenandoah clearly cares a lot about war games and the history of this legendary battle, and as you explore the title on your iPad, you'll be astounded at just what's included here, from a full tutorial to two different modes, full online multiplayer and even historical information and photos to fill you in on the real battle itself. The game itself is simple to play, but very hard to master, and as you can see from this gameplay video, strategy gamers will just plain love it.

But therein lies the problem: The App Store is traditionally filled with casual gamers, and players expecting the shallow thrills of a game like Angry Birds will be hopelessly disappointed here. This is a real strategy war game, so there are no easy moves or simple decisions, and as you might imagine, a deep knowledge of the actual battle and how it played out is fairly important to being successful at this title. A lot of gamers, even strategy fans, will probably be turned off, eventually, given how slavishly devoted Battle of the Bulge is to portraying the titular battle itself.

It's too bad, really, because the game's mechanics are terrific, and I'd love to see this really incredible core strategy game fleshed out into other maps or even settings. Shenendoah's not at fault here at all -- they set out to make a wargame based on the Battle of the Bulge, and they succeeded brilliantly at that goal. If you have any interest in that period of history (or the finer points of WWII strategy at all), the game's well worth the US$9.99 purchase. But it's too bad such great talent was used on a such a narrow focus. Hopefully in the future, we'll see the studio bring their expertise to something slightly more accessible.