On the beaches at Normandy

This game, one of my ConsimWorld Expo purchases, is about the Normandy Campaign in WW2. Published by Decision Games, it was originally a magazine game (Strategy & Tactics) designed by Brad Hessel, featuring only the Cobra part of that campaign. It has gone through a couple of updates and upgrades of campaign coverage by Decision, of which this newly released boxed version is the latest, led by Joe Youst.

What you get inside the box are two standard maps, 280 die-cut counters of decent quality, a rulebook, and a separate campaign study booklet, as well as dice and some plastic storage bags.

The quality of the physical components is good – especially the map. The campaign study booklet is a worthwhile addition. I would offer two observations on the components.

First, the rulebook uses color coding: “Red for critical points such as errata and exceptions, Blue for examples of play” which is a waste of color. Reading blocks of colored text is not so easy on the eyes. The color could have been put to much better use from a graphical perspective. For example, they could have presented the examples of play in a blue bordered box with ordinary black print. And I am sure a talented graphics/design person could have some up with something better.

Second, the combat units are color coded for nationality. ForĀ  example, the American forces are green and the Commonwealth forces are red. Both include infantry divisions which require a step marker to show losses. These markers are yellow. Yuk. I get that they did not have enough counters to guarantee enough markers in each country color. But why not go for the traditional route of something generic, like gray? It’s a fleabite, but it remains annoying. (Oh, and the counter mix seems to be missing a weather marker. Chalk that one up as another fleabite.)

But what about the game play?

Each turn represents three days, units are mostly regiments or brigades with some battalions, and each hex is three point two kilometers across.

The system is ‘I go, you go’ with an extra mechanized movement phase. There are rules for overrun, divisional integrity, headquarters, supply, and command limits. Those last couple of systems are to stop the pace of the game exceeding what the historical forces were capable of. In addition, there are the expected rules for landings and airdrops. German movement is tied to the weather, reflecting the historical impact of the availability or not of Allied air power. All are straightforward and, in general, the rules are clear. The issue I have is that there are a ton of exceptions and special cases for what you can and cannot do each turn, and this information is spread throughout the rulebook. A composite listing is needed.

That having been said, with a little work on my own, I was able to get up and playing reasonably quickly. The setup was a pain, but it always is.

All set up and ready to go

I started the full campaign game and have run through a few turns. I doubt I will last all the way to the end, but will give it a decent try. So far, my main impression is that while the USA got the headlines with the troubled and bloody landings at Omaha, the Commonwealth forces got the raw deal in terms of the opponents they faced – too many tank formations for comfort!

It’s not the ultimate Normandy game, but it is accessible and fun. How historical is it? My guess – this is not an informed opinion – is that the landings are a fair simulation. However, after that, the usual eye-in-the-sky ability of players will prevent anything like a historical Cobra.

I guess I partly bought this for sentimental reasons as I had fond memories of the original. Overall, it’s not looking like it will be one of my favorite games, but it’s not bad and I’m glad it’s part of my addiction collection.