Wargames To Go 16 - D-Day
Mark Johnson
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As always, I keep a geeklist to organize the games I plan to play (or sometimes merely mention) for my next Wargames To Go podcast. Comments & suggestions from listeners and everyone else are welcome!

I've wanted to do a series on D-Day for a long time. It started early in 2014, as I was anticipating my vacation to Normandy that summer. The vacation happened...but the podcast never did. Well, it was overcome by other events, and put on the back burner. I always knew I would get to it sometime. Clearly there would be no shortage of interest in the topic, games to play, books to read, movies to see (again), and so on. Well, that day has finally arrived! I look forward to exploring this topic through wargaming in the months of April-May-June 2018!

-Mark




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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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1. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:1012]
Mark Johnson
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Might as well start with the biggie. Big in the sense that it's one of the landmark games on the subject, as well as kind of big for me to get to the table. But I might be able at GMT's warehouse weekend.
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Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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I have this entire series, and look forward to giving it another try.


Update: Having now played all three, I felt fine selling them along to the next wargamer. There are two main things I appreciate about these games. First, that they’re committed to being small. Besides the half-size ziplock, the counter quantity is very modest. Especially if you discount the various markers, the actual UNIT count is amazingly small. (Too small, in fact.)

The second thing I like is the focus on individual beaches. Between the three games there are five maps—-one each for Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Those maps are obviously distinct. Sure, each one is a beach, but they have important differences. The draws & bluffs are there at Omaha, or the marshy ground beyond Utah, and the river/canal/bridge system beyond Sword beach. The landing beach sectors are included, too, as “setup” hexes for where the allied units come onto the map. So you’ve got Dog Green, and so on.

What I didn’t like so much was the lack of zones of control. That omission, combined with the tiny number of units, comparatively large movement factors, and no supply rules at this scale meant that units raced past each other. As in, once allied units broke out of their initial landing hex, they could easy scoot right past the German defenders and get behind them. For their part, the Germans were generally well-advised to let that happen, rather than pursue/intercept which would remove them from their defense-bonus (and sometimes VP-scoring) coastal villages. Felt very off to me.

I’m not sure about the combat system, either, but that would take some more thought and analysis to really know. Generally attackers inflict hits (or not), but suffer no ill effects themselves. Those hits do nothing at first, then impact the combat strength, and then the third eliminates the defender.
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3. Board Game: D-Day Dice [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:905]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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I think I may have almost everything for this. It should be a good convention/multiplayer option, yeah?


Update: Nothing wrong with this, I just felt it was only a war-themed co-op dice game than an actual wargame. Which is all it purports to me, I’d say. And in that way, we had some real fun with it. I can even see how there’s more real specificity (hard to say historicity) to the different scenarios/maps/beaches than you’d think possible in a simple dice game. But gaining and “spending” soldiers as currency takes me out of the game as anything serious, and the quantity of cards & other special chrome gets unwieldy eventually.
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4. Board Game: Night Drop: 6 June 44 [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:6860] [Average Rating:7.34 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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Was very excited to finally get my hands on this one


Update: Wow, I had a lot of fun with this one. I’m not super confident about this as a historical model of actual events, but it might be. In any case, it most definitely has the right impression of events, with the widely scattered sticks of paratroopers struggling to find each other and regroup before the limited German defenders can organize their roundup. In my one game the Germans would foray out to pick off stragglers, then hunker down in VP hexes to defend them from the Americans as they gain cohesion. The map is great, and the gameplay is great, too. This one stays in my collection and will be one to revisit on future D-Day anniversaries (June fifth for this one!)
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5. Board Game: Victory in Normandy [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:4865]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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Played it years ago. Would be interesting to revisit.
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6. Board Game: Battle for Normandy [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:10959]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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These Attactix games are a mixed bag. Worth a look?
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7. Board Game: D-Day at Omaha Beach [Average Rating:8.26 Overall Rank:485]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Even though it's a solitaire game, I expect I'd play this with a buddy.


Update: Which is what I did—played with a buddy. Which was a great way to experience the game. Both to have a guide through the rules/systems, and to have a partner since you both play the Americans and the game system handles the Germans. Wow, this would’ve been so fun to play with my brother in high school...many moons ago. Now, the solitaire systems are a little too much turning-the-crank for my maximal enjoyment—-after my one play I sold my copy. But I had a great time in that outing. I really like the level of detail about the various draws, the different tides, and all of that tactical consideration for the amphibious invasion.
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8. Board Game: June '44 [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:7784]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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I've got this, and it's August 44 expansion (which I think expands the scope into Cobra, which sounds like a topic for another time).


Update: Honestly, this might be a 4-star game for me. I remember really liking it during my one play, but now I can’t recall exactly why. One cool thing is the scale, both the Allied divisions (with their patches on the counters), and the map scale, which squeezes both the actual beaches, the terrain beyond, the some of the bocage. Just feels like it gets in everything that matters on a very modest map size. The August ‘44 expansion is something I need to try, too.
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9. Board Game: Destination: Normandy [Average Rating:6.08 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Designer Danny Holte specializes in D-Day games. This is his lightest game on the topic, I believe.


Update: I don’t expect a lot of “serious” wargamer to like this one. Nor do I think a lot of novice wargamer would be drawn to this spartan design & presentation. But when you know something about the battle (and OOB), it’s a slick piece of game design to boil things down THIS much and still retain all the right contours (and a couple details) about the historic event. I described it as a “ZOC puzzle” because the real challenge is for the Germans to effect a fighting withdrawal, relying on some terrain and ZOCs to slow up the unstoppable Allies. A game-winning delay is definitely possible. Not sure how much replay there will be with this one, though.
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10. Board Game: Overlord [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:7495]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Picked up this old one from a Consimworld seller a few years ago, IIRC. Designed by John Hill.


Update: This is an old school design, and it just pushed all the right buttons for me. It’s a hex & counter design in the the simpler 1960s style (even though this is from the 1970s, and reprinted in the 80s). Counters are one-sided, even the big units! There are enough of them to make real, opposed battle lines. Was that how the battle for Normandy worked? Seems close enough to me. It’s got just the right sprinkling of chrome in there (i.e. very little) to resonate with the histories I’d been reading (like Air Force support for strategic breakout attempts). That the tough nut of St. Lo and the eventual Cobra end run & breakthru on the Atlantic coast developed seemingly unscripted in my game was a real bonus.
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11. Board Game: Pegasus Bridge: The Beginning of D-Day – June 6, 1944 [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:10136]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Found a few more D-Day magazine games in my collection. I’m eager to try this one, especially, having had a chance to visit this location.


Update: Honestly, the gameplay was even worse than that, but the concept is so cool I gave it a couple stars. The map is utterly fantastic. The glider landing system is super fun, even if you aren’t making any decisions, just rolling dice. But that’s just the beginning of the game and the fun drains out immediately. Too bad.
 
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12. Board Game: Normandie 1944 [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:8774]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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A Vae Victis magazine game for the 55th anniversary of the battle...
 
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13. Board Game: Overlord: 6 juin 1944 [Average Rating:6.18 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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...and another for the 60th anniversary.
 
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14. Board Game: Bradley's D-Day [Average Rating:6.42 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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I’ve got this somewhere, too
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15. Board Game: Airborne Commander [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3493]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Just passing my eurogame shelves I spotted this there, too.


Update: I’m not sure what to think about this one. I’m intrigued, more than anything. It can’t have a ton of replay value, and my few attempts were all blowout losses. Yet it compelling, should be something I could get better at, and has more real paratrooper historical accuracy than a card game has a right to. If it were a big box I’d be selling it on. Since it’s small, I’ll keep it around and try it again next year.
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16. Board Game: D-Day [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:11883]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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I played this long ago. Though I like the idea behind the Smithsonian series (deluxe versions of simple wargames), I haven't loved playing all of them. Gettysburg '88 is a clear favorite, but others...

It's been so long since I played this one, though, that I should try again.


Update: Over the span of many years I’ve tried this game a few times, never really enjoyed it...and yet I want to keep this big box around because there’s something that captures my interest about this scale. The army-scale counters are part of the problem, I’m certain, but it does allow all of the alternative invasion sites to be explored through gameplay. As such, it makes for a fascinating sandbox/model of how the invasion (and especially its subsequent logistics chains) could’ve gone different ways. I’m going to continue to beat my head against the wall with this one.
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17. Board Game: Normandy '44 [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:1238]
Daniel Brown
United States
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Go this one in today. Most likely A more involved game then I want but I hear good things about the game and Designer. I believe I have heard Mark Simonitch on your Podcast.
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18. Board Game: Storm Over Normandy [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:5530]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Like Breakout Normandy, but shorter? Sign me up!


Update: I didn’t get to try Breakout Normandy again, but as long as I have this one I may not need to. Scratches the same itch in a smaller presentation. About the only negative I can say is that I wish the color tone of the map were more green, less yellow. (As someone who lives in the Golden State of California where most of the year our fields are dry, my impression of Normandy is that it’s GREEN, even in August. It gets rain, doesn’t it? There you go.) I guess it would solitaire ok, but it was handy that I got to play this one with a buddy who took a liking to it, too. Perhaps we’ll have a rematch sometime.
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19. Board Game: Monty's D-Day [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:10044]
David
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How about this old S&T game? I have fond memories of it, and don't remember it as being very complex, although a recent 'companion' game Bradley's D-Day seems to be.
 
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20. Board Game: Breakout at St. Lo [Average Rating:8.50 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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There's a Minden game on the subject?! Sign me up. As I've played some of the other games on this list, I see how the battle for St Lo and Operation Cobra more generally is part of the story.
 
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21. Board Game: Combat Commander: Battle Pack #3 – Normandy [Average Rating:8.55 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.55 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Got to play the Point du Hoc scenario. Lost badly!


Update: I can sure see why so many people love Combat Commander. I like it, too, but I think that’s it—-I like it rather than love it. The same was true for this expansion. The Point du Hoc scenario illustrates the advantages of this game over Up Front (i.e. a real map), but I’m still more of an Up Front guy at heart.
 
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22. Board Game: Heroes of Normandie [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:745] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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Not sure about this one...


Update: You know what? It was a much better wargame than I expected from the comic book artwork. Seriously! The thing is, the type of wargame it does surprisingly well is the type I don’t really care to play: squad level tactical games with LOS, soft/hard targets, and so on. I want an entire battlefield.
 
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23. Board Game: Mortain Counterattack: The Drive to Avranches [Average Rating:6.48 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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http://www.WargamesToGo.com
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Looking for this one.
 
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24. Board Game: Mortain 1944 [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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http://www.WargamesToGo.com
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Another Minden/Graber design
 
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25. Board Game: Assault on Cherbourg [Average Rating:5.57 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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http://www.WargamesToGo.com
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Is this really the only Cherbourg game?
 
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