Edutainment has to be one of the most nauseatingly naff portmanteaus ever, but it could certainly be applied to Battle of the Bulge.
Here's an ace iPad game that captures the spirit, complexity, and tactical depth of high-end strategy boardgames while remaining relatively accessible and genuinely informative.
It's like the coolest - yet most in-depth - history lesson you've ever had.
Lean mean fighting machine
This is a lean, finely honed strategy experience with not a hint of fat to be found on it. Developer Shenandoah must have put it on strict rations and had it doing press-ups at the crack of dawn.
There's just a single main mission on offer here - the titular Battle of the Bulge. There might seem to be a second, but it's actually just a small slice of the big battle for training purposes (or if you want to bash through a 'quick' round).
That might sound a little stingy considering the game costs £6.99, but it doesn't chafe as much as you might expect.
Axis of power
That's because the depth is in the very fibre of the game's mechanics rather than the number or variety of levels.
The battlefield here looks like a cross between a tactical map and a boardgame, with the map split into clear territories. Each turn you can move your units (whether Axis or Allies) from one of these territories into another. If an enemy also occupies this area, you must engage in battle.
There are loads of things that affect the outcome of these battles, including unit strength, experience, the nature of the terrain, and whether they have back-up.
Battles themselves are handled automatically, and are portrayed in the game's typically restrained, minimalistic way - a diagram and a few cursory explosions.
Victory comes at a cost
There are just so many more things to consider in a single game of Battle of the Bulge. If you're like me and not exactly a tactical genius, you will lose repeatedly. Perhaps you overcommitted yourself on one flank, or got yourself bogged down by attacking with an understrength squad.
It's hardcore, then, yet the the simple presentation, helpful tutorial, and comprehensive (if slightly tedious) help files are always there to help you learn.
You'll certainly want to if you have an interest in the real-life battle that this game is closely based on. Battle of the Bulge does a great job of explaining how this decisive battle unfolded.
We'll say again that there's only really one mission here, and we would undoubtedly have liked to see more - if only to see how Battle of the Bulge's finely balanced systems would work on a different battlefield with different terrain.
But you do have the choice of which side to fight as - both of which have very different objectives - and the kind of approach your AI opponent will take. There's also online and local multiplayer on offer, which turns Battle of the Bulge into a full-on boardgame. No one complains that there's only one Risk board, do they?
If you consider Fieldrunners 2 to be about as tactical as you want to get, you should probably give Battle of the Bulge a miss. If, however, you consider yourself a hardcore strategy fan, or are just fond of World War 2 history, we urge you to take a strategic gamble and consider splashing out a little more than you might normally.
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