King of Prussia
This review of DDOB is written for newbies and those of you who may be considering purchase of this very excellent game. I assume that those of you who don't yet own the game have read the description and seen the photographs of the game's components on Boardgamegeek.com. Allow me to fill in a few more details. My posting is relevant concerning three of the four scenarios included which begin with no U.S. forces on the map.
You command the U.S. Fifth Corps. Your mission is to secure the beach area, and later to move inland in a manner sufficient to establish a beachhead which can be held against expected enemy counterattack (in the days to follow). The game system controls the opposing German forces (via card draws). At your disposal are elements of two divisions (one in the "Easy Fox" scenario), each division being assigned to assault half of the beach (a "sector"). For each sector you command three infantry battalions (twelve companies-- the game counters represent company and smaller units), three armor companies, and several assorted heavy, ranged fire support units. The "west" sector also has a full Ranger battalion plus elements of another.
To accomplish your mission will have to overcome several major obstacles. The first being the enemy's defenses. The Germans are well dug in, with overlapping fields of fire commanding the full width of the beach. There is a row of hexes all the way across the beach which gamers have dubbed "the band of death".
The second problem is the lack of command/control. To move or fire with a unit (or stack-- the stacking limit is two units per hex) requires using an "action". While some movement can occur for "free" in specific circumstances, most other movement and attacks require either being under the command of a higher echelon unit, or, by using a discretionary "action" for each unit or stack. Unfortunately, you only receive two discretionary "actions" per turn in each sector. In addition, none of your two higher echelon units in each sector "hit the beach" until turn six in the "west" sector, and turn eight in the "east" sector. There are two exceptions to this restriction. Your Ranger units can operate independently; and you may receive one or more "heroes" in each sector. A unit with a "hero" can operate independently.
Third, you face the time pressure of being on offense. You only have sixteen turns to be in a position to score enough victory points to win the game (or continue to the "extended" scenario). In addition, the English Channel is literally rising behind your troops. You are likely find yourself having to use precious discretionary "actions" to move your armor units ahead of the advancing tide.
Finally, you have the problem of casualties. As I mentioned above, the Germans are ready for you. In game terms, even if you can hold exposure to "intensive fire hexes" to a minimum, your troops will spend a lot of time in "steady fire hexes". You will take lots of casualties. The problem is if you take too many casualties your units will lose cohesion. Men will forget about objectives-- their only concern will be getting off the beach alive. Hey, how bad can a POW camp be? In game terms, if eight of your line infantry units are sent to the "penalty box" through attrition, in either sector, you lose the game-- immediately!
To win the game you will have to deal successfully with these issues. To summarize-- victory comes from wisely allocating your discretionary "actions"; and optimal risk management.
Strategy Considerations - "West" Sector
Beginning a scan of German strongpoints from right to left, you note that WN70 to WN73 are on the "high ground" and cannot be attacked from the beach (except WN72N). There is a wide gap between WN68 and WN70. WN66N can be attacked from the beach. WN66S is on the "high ground". That wide gap appears to be the weakest point in the defense; but where to concentrate the attack? If you can take out WN68 & WN70 you will open up a four hex gap in the "band of death". If you take out WN66 & WN68 you will open up a six hex gap in the "band of death". In addition, eliminating these latter two WN's will open up access to the les Moulins draw-- something useful in the "extended" scenario.
Observe that WN66S can only be attacked from hex 0921, which can be reached via hexes 0819-0920. WN66N can be attacked from hex 0721 without doubling the defensive "unit strength". WN68S can be attacked undoubled from hex 0824 reached via hex 0825. WN70 will always have its "unit strength" doubled (bocage hexsides). WN71 can be attacked undoubled from hex 0730. WN72S can be attacked undoubled from hex 0632. Finally, WN73 can be attacked undoubled from hex 0433 reached via hex 0334.
Strategy Considerations - "East" Sector
A similar scan of German strongpoints in this sector reveals that the WN's are more evenly distributed. The key position is WN62 right in the center of the sector. If WN62 & WN64 are eliminated a three hex gap in the "band of death" is created. Taking out WN61 & WN62 will open up a four hex gap; plus provide access to to the Colleville-sur-Mer draw. WN60 can only be attacked undoubled from hex 0806. WN62S can be attacked undoubled from hex 0913 reached via hex 0914. WN62N can be attacked undoubled from hex 0813 . WN64 will always defend with "unit strength" doubled. WN65S can be attacked undoubled from hex 0919. Note that this strongpoint should probably be attacked by units of of 29th Infantry moving east via hexes 0819-0720.
Executing the attack
Knowing the best point to focus your troops, and be able to do it are two different things in DDOB. This is due to something called "drift". Those naval Yeomen do their best to land the troops according to plan, but there are heavy seas in the Channel that morning. In game terms, men can actually hit the beach several hexes from their target hex. Units will tend to "cluster"-- often far from where you would like to have them. The effect of not being able to control landing points is most acuit in the first four turns when all units are assigned specific "beach landing boxes" by the scenario setup. Later you can at least position units within a landing zone (but they are still subject to drift).
Incidentally, the "drift" factor turns out to be a key feature in making the game so interesting. You can't develop a "perfect plan" to always win the game, because you may not have units in place to execute it. If you like replayablity this game is for you. There are enough random factors that the game will always develop differently each time. Don't be surprised if you try to repeat what you just did in one game (to earn a decisive victory) in the next game, only to see it end in a catastrophic loss. The game illustrates very well why the Americans won the day-- Yankee Ingenuity. Units, small groups, and individuals were able to improvise solutions as needed in a very fluid battle. And, hey, it helps to be a little lucky on those card draws!
Your first task in the game is to get your units across the "band of death". Disrupting WN's with tank bombardment is all you can do early on to minimize the damage. I leave the tanks where they land and use "actions" to bombard instead of moving them. You should consider holding back your infantry at the low tide hexes for a turn or two to allow the tanks an opportunity to score some disruption. You risk creating stacks of "concentrated targets" when the next wave lands, but even when units get across the beach they will sit in "steady fire" hexes. What's the rush? Did I mention that this game is about balancing risk? Very often you will have to move units into the "band of death" and hope that undisrupted WN doesn't fire this turn (a 50-50 shot on that card draw). When you do don't be afraid to stack units even if it causes a 5+ step stack. If that WN fires this turn the units will get hit anyway.
Around turn five things get really dicey. Chances are you have a bunch of infantry sitting behind shingles (no more free "preservation" moves) while the water is already a foot deep where those tanks are, at the low tide hexes. This is when the two discretionary "action" limit has it's greatest (negative) impact. You have to use discretionary "actions" to do almost everything. Spreading tank preservation moves over turns 5-7 allows you to use some "actions" to attack with infantry stacks (by all means stack those infantry units [you'll probably have to anyway-- it gets crowded behind those shingles] so you can effect two units with one "action") or maneuver stacks into position to make "undoubled" attacks. Full strength tanks are always worth trying to save. Don't worry about the "band of death" in this situation-- it's move 'em or lose 'em. And don't just willy nilly sacrifice a one step tank unit (by allowing it to drown)-- it can still contribute "Artillery" and some other "weapons" to an attack. So many options, so few "actions". Did I mention that wise allocation of "actions" is necessary to win this game? You really have to plan carefully in this phase (just before higher echelon units can have a real impact).
You may be fortunate enough in the mid game to eliminate a couple of the WN's. But more likely it is when your "higher echelon units" finally come in you make the transition from just trying to keep WN's "disrupted" to actually destroy, or in game terms, "defeat" them. It is the ability of your command units to grant multiple free "actions" that will enable you to bring enough firepower (and the correct "weapons") to bear to, pardon the pun, turn the tide. You will want to position your "higher echelon units" in "beach landing boxes" (they are not subject to drift) to allow the maximum number of units to get "actions" from them; so spread them, do not bunch them. I'll leave the discussion of DDOB's combat resolution mechanics, and the placement and use of "heroes" for another post. Suffice it, for now, to say that it is the ability of "heroes" to perform "actions" for free plus supply that missing "weapon" of your choice often required to "defeat" a WN, that will tip the balance in your favor in the endgame phase. O.K. O.K.-- that is if you can avoid "catastrophic" loss.
I didn’t think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows -- Bart Simpson
Very nice David!
Great Tips (but really more of a Strategy Guide than a Review?)
I'm still have not won yet. The West Sector is particulalry brutal.
I wonder if delaying units early on in the low tide region will allow infantry to penetrate deep enough beyond the beach later in the game to get 10 points on either beach. I think so, because some infantry often just hunkers down behind the shingle for many turns waiting for the activation anyway. But if you wait too long to head inland, you will not reach to deep in 16 turns. Not even deep enough for the larger East Sector draw.
Interesing idea. I may give it a try.
- Last edited Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:15 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:09 pm
Thanks for the post! Lots of useful suggestions. I'm on my third play of DDOB, and I still have yet to win, but I like some of your ideas and will try them in my next play.
Me, I think I will try to focus more on grabbing undefended reinforcement positions early, since those can be really hard to clear once they're occupied -- and if the Germans do occupy them, they often deny you control of objectives closer to the beach (like WNs) because they project a field of fire northward.