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David G. Cox Esq.
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Breakout: Normandy
Two-player simulation of the D-Day Invasion of France, 1944



Designed by Don Greenwood
Published by the Avalon Hill Game Company (1992)



"Battle is an orgy of disorder." - George S. Patton



Not many guys have one as big as mine!

Of course, I am talking about my collection of games.

Regarding the area/impulse style of game, pioneered by Courtney Allen in Storm Over Arnhem, I have seven in my collection – Storm Over Arnhem, Thunder At Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Monty’s Gamble: Market-Garden, Storm Over Stalingrad, Royal Tank Corps and Breakout: Normandy. I believe that Breakout: Normandy is the best of the games.


The Map



"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." - George S. Patton


The physical aspects of the map are that it is mounted (which means that it is going to lie flat, unlike thin paper and cardboard maps) and the two sections abut at 90 degrees to allow the Cotentin Peninsular and the main Normandy beaches to join and to not have much wasted map space. The map is broken into 60 different areas. It is quite attractive and has holding boxes and charts around the edge.

The really important part of the map is, of course, reading it. A military commander must be able to read a map. Crucial to success in the game is reading the map – there are three different types of boundaries used to divide the map into areas – clear, river and flooded. Everything may cross a clear boundary – only infantry units may cross rivers – nothing may cross flooded boundaries – there are a large number of bridges that cross some of the river and flooded boundaries and up to five units may cross these bridges each impulse.

I find that when playing wargames on maps with hex-grids it is often easier to see the implications of terrain. When playing a game with an area map the effect of terrain on axes of advance and on supply are not so obvious. Both players must look at the map to see where routes exist for supply paths and for reinforcement – the Allies need to know these things so that they can keep their forces moving and the German player needs to know the same things so that he can try to hamper the Allied logistics as much as inhumanly possible.


The Counters



"An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team.
This individuality stuff is a bunch of bullshit."
- General George Patton Jr



Counters in BK:N represent Armour, Infantry, Artillery and there are quite a few general markers as well.

The military units are rated for attack, defence and movement. Regarding attack, there is a wide range in the capability of units – attack factors range from * (they can’t attack by themselves) to 7. The relatively small number of units with a high attack factor represent elite units that can effectively lead an attack (or defence). The majority of units have smaller attack factors or no attack factors and these are used to support an attack (or defence).

The wide differentiation of units’ factors means that each unit has a specific type of job to which it is best suited – part of the commander’s function to put guys to work in the way that allows them to contribute the best they can to the team.


Rules & Charts



"Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man." - General George Patton Jr


The rules are relatively short – most of the rulebook is made up of examples of play, design notes and historical notes. Apart from the actual rules themselves the rulebook is very well written and clearly laid out. The rules are, in my opinion, nothing for Avalon Hill to be proud of. Information is spread around in a moderately haphazard manner and some important rules are difficult to locate. The index of rules is particularly useful and without it the game would be quite difficult to play.

The charts are useful but even some of them are missing a word or two from the rules which means that if you are just learning the rules looking at the charts and tables on the player aid card may give you misinformation.


The Allied Forces



"Always do everything you ask of those you command." - George S. Patton


Generally speaking, the Allied Commander has a lot of things going for him. On average, his units are stronger than the Germans. The Allied Commander has strong support in the way of Naval and Air bombardment that can be used to weaken the German Defence before sending in troops. The Allied Commander has substantially greater access to supplies which are necessary to refit troops at the end of each day. Air supremacy gives the allied attacks an automatic +1 DRM and an automatic –2 DRM to their defences – it also significantly reduces the ability of the German Commander to deploy his troops unless the weather becomes overcast.


The German Forces



"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." - George S. Patton


One of the things that makes BK:N such a great game is the different nature of the two different forces – the armies are different, they fight differently and they have different objectives. There is a wider range of forces in the Wehrmacht. The German Commander needs to use his forces to block and delay the Allies in the first few days of the invasion. At the same time the German Commander needs to put together some strong forces that can be used with devastating force to launch counter-attacks once the weather turns overcast – the overcast weather gives the Germans an extra movement point, stops the Allied interdiction of German units as they move and takes away the Allied DRM’s.


Winning the Game

"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom." - George S. Patton

The basic game goes for one week (seven turns). If the Allied player has achieved 10 victory points he wins. Generally speaking the Allied player achieves victory points by taking control of specific towns and cities. To take control the Allied player has to have uncontested occupation of the town – if the Wehrmacht re-enters the town the Allied player retains control unless all his forces are pushed out of the town. The Allied player can score an extra point by contesting 7 German controlled towns at the end of the game. For towns and cities to count they must be able to trace a supply line back to an appropriate beach – the British units must be able to trace back to a British beach-head and the American units to an American beach-head.

A lot of tension develops during the game as the Germans get some good quality reinforcements, the weather becomes overcast and the forces of both sides start to suffer battle fatigue.


Battle Fatigue

"If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened." - George S. Patton


BK:N units have four steps – this is quite an achievement for double-sided counters. When units are fresh they are dark-side up – this means that they can move and shoot during the action phases. When they become disrupted – for either becoming activated and doing something or by being the target of a successful attack – the are flipped over. If they take extra hits they can have either a “Disrupt 1” or a “Disrupt 2” marker placed upon them. If they take any hits after that they are eliminated.

During the Refit Phase, at the end of the day, units can be given supplies to improve their status – a unit’s status can only be improved by a single level each day – this means that if a unit has a “Disrupt 2” marker on it four days will pass before it can be ready for action, and then only if it doesn’t receive any more damage. This means that Commanders have to be very careful to conserve their units – it is very easy for a force to become totally useless if it receives too much damage.

In this game, nothing succeeds like success and nothing succeeds like excess.


Bombardment


"We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way." - George S. Patton

Each impulse players have the choice of activating an area for movement/combat (which means the units in that area can move and/or shoot) or activating an area for bombardment.

The Allied player has Air and Naval Bombardment markers and both players have Artillery units on the board. During regular combat the strength of the attacker is compared to the strength of the defender before dice are rolled. During bombardment the strength of the attacker is compared to the defensive value of the terrain occupied by the defender – the defender’s strength is totally irrelevant. The advantage of this is that many areas along the coast and around Caen have very low defence values – the disadvantage is that a target unit can only be disrupted by one level due to bombardment and no unit can ever be totally eliminated by bombardment.

During regular combat both players have a lot of flexibility regarding how they can use artillery to give combat support DRMs.


The Impulse Phase

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash." - George S. Patton

The main part of each turn is the Impulse/Action Phase. Starting with the German player both players may activate the units in a single area to move and/or combat. Once they have moved and/or fought they are turned face down and won’t be reactivated until the next day at the very earliest.

The first impulse is impulse ‘0’ and the second impulse is ‘1’ and so on. Each Allied impulse the Allied player rolls dice to see if the phase finishes or continues. If the Allied dice roll (two dice) is less than the impulse number the Phase ends. If it is equal or higher the Phase continues – this creates a lot of tension as you don’t know for sure when the Phase will actually finish. Generally the Allied player would like lots of impulses while the German player is usually happier with fewer impulses. Having said that, on one occasion I was the German player and the Allied player made a poor move which left an area open for counter attack – had I taken the area I would have put a lot of American units out of supply – luckily for the Allies, the Phase ended unexpectedly and I was unable to take advantage of his mistake.

One thing is certain, the longer the phase continues the more likely it will be to finish.


Logistics

"Go forward until the last round is fired and the last drop of gas is expended...then go forward on foot!" - General George Patton Jr

At the end of each day there is a Refit Phase and a Regroup Phase.

During Refit supplies are expended to refresh disrupted units. To refresh a unit that is flipped takes only one supply point – to remove a “Disrupt 1/2” marker costs an extra supply point. There are a limited number of supply heads and the further away a unit is from a supply head the more expensive it is to refresh them.

Managing your logistics is an integral part of the game.

Regroup allows you to move units (either fresh or disrupted) to an adjacent friendly area. This can be particularly use to the Allies as it allows them to reinforce some units at the front in uncontested areas. It is also useful to the German player as it allows him to move units without having to activate them, thus conserving supplies at the cost of speed.


The Great Crusade

"There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time." - General George Patton Jr

BK:N is an exciting and tense game. There is much uncertainly in many aspects of the game. Two quite different forces representing equally different ideologies clash.

The game looks good and feels good.

It is a little more difficult to learn than Storm Over Arnhem – in part due to a poor rules book. It has more replay value than Storm Over Arnhem as both players have more strategic options available to them.

The game has long been out of print and is generally quite expensive, even on eBay. If you don’t have a copy and are interested you should certainly consider buying it for yourself – even just as an investment it represents good value for money.



"Just drive down that road, until you get blown up" - General George Patton, about reconnaissance troops




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Dan Owsen
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Nice review. I keep thinking about trading my copy, but then sanity prevails and I tuck it back into my collection for later. cool
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Steve Herron
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You always do nice reviews, I appreciate your efforts. You cant see it very well but my East Tennessee State University microbadge is a Buccaneer.
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Lee Massey
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Great review! I like the way you use quotes from General Patton! Very impressive!
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WAN CHIU
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Thanks for justifying me trading for it. Gosh i can't bear to punch it.. but punch it I must.
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Mike Owens
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Well done. This is a great review of a great game that is, sadly, from a bygone era. They don't make games like this anymore.
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Brad Miller
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Nice review.

Just wish I could:

1. Make it through the rules, and end up with an accurate understanding of them.

2. Find an opponent. Set up Storm Over Arnhem to try to get my son interested. Didn't work too well, but we shall see.
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Brandon Pennington
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I finally got a copy of this this year, so I am excited to get it to the table. Great review!
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Windopaene wrote:
1. Make it through the rules, and end up with an accurate understanding of them.


Read the rules once - read the examples of play and double check things you are suprised by. As you play the game use the index to locate stuff. There is a good play summary as a BGG file by Promuso - use it.

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David G. Cox Esq.
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sherron wrote:
You always do nice reviews, I appreciate your efforts. You cant see it very well but my East Tennessee State University microbadge is a Buccaneer.


Thank you for your kind words - I appreciate them.

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byrdy p
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Thank you for reviewing one of the best Wargames ever published.
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Brad Miller
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da pyrate wrote:
Windopaene wrote:
1. Make it through the rules, and end up with an accurate understanding of them.


Read the rules once - read the examples of play and double check things you are suprised by. As you play the game use the index to locate stuff. There is a good play summary as a BGG file by Promuso - use it.



Oh, I've read the rules more than once. It's the "Mandatory Assault" rules and such that I just can't internalize. All the other stuff is pretty straightforward, having played SoA and TP:S...
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mummykitty wrote:
Nice review. I keep thinking about trading my copy, but then sanity prevails and I tuck it back into my collection for later. cool
Mail me when sanity fails you.
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Lee Massey
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chooche wrote:
Quote:
Thanks for justifying me trading for it. Gosh i can't bear to punch it.. but punch it I must.





Punch it out and play it! You will feel much better!
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Andy Daglish
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"We can still lose this war." - George S. Patton

Storm Over Arnhem, Thunder At Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Monty’s Gamble: Market-Garden, Storm Over Stalingrad, Royal Tank Corps and Breakout: Normandy: which are unalloyed successes? The one that came closest was Thunder at Cassino, which amongst other desirable feartures outdid ASL in its subtle and simple portrayal of the various qualities of the Imperial forces. By contrast Breakout: Normandy does well if you ditch either the understanding or the belief that its a good boardwargame. It may be a good abstract game, as here you are very much playing the rules and not the history. Turning Point: Stalingrad had many of the same problems but it didn't quite fail from the point-of-view of an operational battle governed by a rulebook that described an essentially tactical system. Breakout: Normandy does, despite those little Renault tanks and 6th Airborne assaulting the gun emplacements, which here present a bewildering change of level.

Quote:
The relatively small number of units with a high attack factor represent elite units


For units read sub-units, and this is another of the game's failings. Panzer Lehr or LAH are not really threats to the enemy of the sort they were in real life, but are represented as a lead unit with a certain amount of dross as back-up, whose combat numbers rarely get used. It may be the case that the tactical games [SOA & TAC] do this better by having lots of identical units.
Quote:
the commander’s function to put guys to work in the way that allows them to contribute the best they can to the team
rather than in their parent units, which is how they actually fought.

Its one of those rulebooks you have to re-read every time you play, and there is nothing in the game that doesn't reside here. It is very hard to know how to use some of the rules, and here the choice of options bestowed by the tactial advanatage is a good example.

Quote:
Generally speaking, the Allied Commander has a lot of things going for him. On average, his units are stronger than the Germans.


The Allies don't have enough units, whereas the Germans have lots of infantry of questionable worth, which is as it should be.

Quote:
To take control the Allied player has to have uncontested occupation of the town


which is very hard if the unit-rich defender doesn't want to relinquish the area, as he can feed in new units. This may be a weakness of the general system, but it worsens as the level increases [its unlikely Caen will fall].

Quote:
nothing succeeds like excess


...except in the NW Europe campaign. Taking disruptions on attacking is a bit depressing.

Quote:
This means that Commanders have to be very careful to conserve their units


but they are not allowed to go all the way and make peace.

Quote:
Bombardment


this works very well, both on its own and in conjunction with the rest of the game.

Quote:
Generally the Allied player would like lots of impulses


Impulses are pure tactical. They didn't work in either Avalon Hill operational game, or others besides, because some big battles are more important than others. In BKN Omaha is regularly the weak sister that is entirely forgotten whilst the battles of Caen and St Mere Eglise are avidly pursued.

Quote:
Logistics


Although this tends to prevent the wholly ahistorical admixture of the two Allied armies, there is in theory nothing to prevent it in the rules, and occasionally orphan units are found in unlikely surroundings.

Quote:
The Great Crusade


appears to have been killed by the Holy Grail mechanic of "card-driven". The popularity of BKN never spawned another similar game, and the same can be said of the much less popular tactical games. Other uses of the system never seem to work [Monty's Gamble reminded me of columns in Africa been sent into the interior one after the other, and "Not War But Murder", the magazine game on the Wilderness campaign, was not unlike aerial armed recon, with killer stacks hunting the map for weak enemies to destroy cheaply].

The overall problem is the basic nature of the system: it has its problems and these seem to be ever-present. It does not have the flexibility of card-driven games, the profusion of which cannot be linked by mutual negatives, and which indeed are continually evolving to higher states. Perhaps one feature suffered by both systems is that you can only ever take one action in one place at one time, although ordering these can become part of the skill of any I GO U GO game, but ever so much more in something like CCA.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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aforandy wrote:
"We can still lose this war." - George S. Patton

Storm Over Arnhem, Thunder At Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Monty’s Gamble: Market-Garden, Storm Over Stalingrad, Royal Tank Corps and Breakout: Normandy: which are unalloyed successes? ...The overall problem is the basic nature of the system: it has its problems and these seem to be ever-present...


Dear bforbrandy,

So I guess you didn't like it?

Da Pyrate


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Andy Daglish
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da pyrate wrote:
So I guess you didn't like it?


6/10. As Cleese said of Chapman, return-to-factory for fixing would be wonderful. But first required is the wit to recognise the problem, and there I see my Geek comment is better than I could manage now.

OTOH its easier to pre-order Simonitch's operational game, which has operational rules, with tank battalions to shun abstraction & keep you closer to the action.

 
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June Hwang Wah
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Thanks for a wonderful review for a wonderful game. One of my favourites.
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Gregory Smith
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This is a great review. Thanks for your efforts. I had laid out the board on my dining room table-- also thinking about whether I want to punch out the pieces-- and decided to look up some reviews on BGG. Of course, every time I look at one of these games, I feel like the bad guy in the Dirty Harry movies: "Are you feeling lucky, punk?" I love the review, but I don't know if I'm feeling lucky enough to play the game. Maybe I'll just set up and play Storm Over Arnhem, which I had already played several times.

Thanks again.

Greg Smith
 
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alex w
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played 2 games a couple of months ago.....the Germans must be very patient and await for oppotunity to bite back....other than that.....is to hold the line and be wise with those supplies....
 
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Severus Snape
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Quote:
Storm Over Arnhem, Thunder At Cassino, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Monty’s Gamble: Market-Garden, Storm Over Stalingrad, Royal Tank Corps and Breakout: Normandy: which are unalloyed successes? The one that came closest was Thunder at Cassino, which amongst other desirable feartures outdid ASL in its subtle and simple portrayal of the various qualities of the Imperial forces. By contrast Breakout: Normandy does well if you ditch either the understanding or the belief that its a good boardwargame. It may be a good abstract game, as here you are very much playing the rules and not the history. Turning Point: Stalingrad had many of the same problems but it didn't quite fail from the point-of-view of an operational battle governed by a rulebook that described an essentially tactical system. Breakout: Normandy does, despite those little Renault tanks and 6th Airborne assaulting the gun emplacements, which here present a bewildering change of level.


More often than not, I tend to disagree with Andy. But here, and the rest of the thread from which this is taken, I feel he has some astute comments.

goo
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