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COBRA: The Normandy Campaign» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Slugging it out in the Bocage rss

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Matt Irsik
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Cobra, the Normandy Campaign(S&T #251), is a remake of the Cobra game that appeared in S&T a few decades ago and was redone in a boxed format by TSR/SPI. This version is different in that the game has been expanded to two maps and includes a campaign scenario covering the D-Day invasion as well as the breakout.

Components
Unlike the first two versions of Cobra, this one has two maps along with counters using the standard NATO symbols along with a combat factor and movement rate. The maps are better than average, but at least two thirds of the top map is taken up with the order of appearance chart, destroyed boxes, and combat/terrain tables, leaving little play area other than the beaches and the Cherbourg peninsula. The counters are usable, with the SS in black, British in red, U.S. in green, and the Germans in grey. The grey German counters have very difficult to read unit ID numbers on them(light grey on grey) which adds to one of the bigger problems with the game; the set up.

First, the game was clearly designed with the breakout scenario in mind, so the counters pretty much have the starting hex numbers on them for that scenario. However, if you want to play the full campaign(and who wouldn’t?), then be prepared for an exercise in frustration. The SS and British units are pretty easy to set up as you can clearly see the red and black units on the reinforcement track printed on the map and the green U.S. units aren’t too bad. However, the hex numbers on the counters have nothing to do with most of the campaign game, adding to the confusion when you try to find out where they go. The problem is with the grey German counters as you literally have to hunt and peck through them to place them on the track as they aren’t the easiest to see. Then, you need to refer to the back of the rules for the master appearance/set up chart to find out where the remaining German counters go that you still have left. Finally, you have yet more German counters and you find out that those are only used with the optional rules and/or special situations for German reinforcements. Not the worst set up I’ve ever seen, but far more work than it should have been.

The rules are standard S&T fare, which many of us have become accustomed to throughout the years. I didn’t find any serious problems other than that there are a lot of special rules such as British armor brigades can stack with infantry divisions, the turn one rules, etc., so you will need to go over the various sections carefully. The victory conditions, however, are a nightmare. I think it should have been printed on a playsheet as you need to keep track of replacement points, turns roads are open to Cherbourg, units not withdrawn on time, units that exit the map, and I could go on. After playing this a few times I am convinced that the victory conditions could have been reworked into something more manageable.

Game Play

The turn sequence is pretty basic with reinforcements/replacements, first movement, combat, then a second movement phase for mechanized forces. The German movement is dependent upon the weather, so if it is clear then the Germans can hardly move at all while if it is storms, they get their full movement allowance. Weather also affects the amount of air support that the Allies receive each turn. Stacking is basically one division per hex, except for armored divisions which can stack all of their regiments/brigades in one hex or spread them out. If they are stacked together they receive the divisional integrity bonus of doubling their combat factors in attack or defense, making them very tough customers. The weird part, however, is that they don’t get the bonus when performing overruns!

The Germans are starved for replacements, getting basically one or two per turn while the Allies can receive as many as they wish each turn as long as they pay the victory points for them. This naturally makes the Allies want to attack, attack, attack each turn to grind down the German forces as the Allied units can be restored back to full strength very quickly. However, because of the supply situation, the British and U.S. forces can only do 3-5 attacks each per turn, forcing the Allies to choose their attacks very carefully. You can also carpet bomb up to three times per game, but you cannot attack the hex that turn and you can’t move through it, leaving the Allied player with a pretty useless tactic since it only causes a maximum of two step losses if you roll good, plus you have to designate the hex a turn before. The odds of the Allied player choosing a hex with one German unit in that doesn’t move, rolling two step losses, then having no ZOC to be able to go around it are pretty low.

The game starts out with the paratroops landing while the Allied divisions come ashore. There are no optional deployments, so you’re extremely limited the first few turns and the game follows history closely. The Allies try to get a foothold and seize vital locations before the German forces start rolling in. By mid-game it becomes a slogging match with the Allies trying to cause step losses and slowly pushing the Germans back. Since the Allies can replace losses far faster than the Germans it’s only a matter of time before the German lines break somewhere, then it’s a rush to exit forces off the board. The game play from turn 3 until the end is very good and has a good historical feel with the few hills in Normandy achieving great importance for defensive spots and the fighting near Caen is a real meatgrinder.

Summary
Overall, this is a better than average S&T game and once it gets rolling it is challenging and fun to play. The set up and getting through the first few turns(lots of special rules) is the major problem, but there is a good game in there after that. I think that some things could have been more clearly explained or reworked(the victory conditions/points schedule), but the game does give you a good idea of why it took so long for the Allies to get through the bocage country in the Normandy area. Is it the best D-Day/Cobra game out there? Probably not. It is a decent attempt and if you can pick one up on Ebay for a good price it’s worth keeping.
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Sinner from the Prairy
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North Carolina
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Awesome review!

How does it compare with the boxed version (TSR) Cobra/The Normandy Breakout from 1984?

Thank you in advance
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D T P
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Good review. Spot on!

I've just started playing the game. Your right, set up is a pain and I'm having a hell of a time with those victory points. The first turns were also a bit of a pain due to those special rules.

But once you get past that the game is pretty good! I'll be playing it again. The errata from CSW helped a bit.
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