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Operation Jubilee: Dieppe, August 1942» Forums » Reviews

Subject: An Illustrated Review of a Disaster rss

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Steve Carey
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INTRODUCTION



Operation Jubilee: Dieppe (OJD) is a solitaire wargame covering the disasterous Commonwealth (CW) raid on the German-occupied French port in August, 1942. The system is a distillation of the award-winning D-Day at Omaha Beach by the same designer, John Butterfield, who has in the past also brought us such solo classics like Ambush! and RAF.

COMPONENTS



The counters are very functional, displaying the unit type, strength, number of steps, Heavy Weapons or Engineer capabilities (or not), and target symbol (triangle, circle, or diamond) for the CW units.

There is no separate play aid (I really wish Decision Games would start including these), so having the magazine/rulebook at your side is a must (or one can copy the few tables/charts themselves on a separate sheet).

Everything here is as one would expect from a professional magazine game.

RULES, MAPS, and CHARTS



The rules total 13 pages, but they are explicit, well-organized, and easily absorbed (especially if you are familiar with the parent D-Day game).

The map, in a word, is brilliant - disconcerting at first glance yes, but the many different colored fire dots completely alleviate having to check line-of-sights (LOS) or fields-of-fire (FOF) during play. After just a few turns, any doubters should have a much better understanding about the innovative concept behind the map design and execution.

The map will need to be cut in half to be laid out properly, a task that some gamers may have an aversion to, but it is necessary and very easy to do.

Several handy charts such at the Terrain Key, Terrain Effects, Barrage, and the Landing Hazard Table, along with several Holding Boxes, are all clearly presented on the map for ease of reference.

GAMEPLAY



Being a magazine game (S&T 265), OJD has chits instead of the cards (which were used in the same system's D-Day design) to control the action. I was dubious of these chits at first, but they actually work out very well. Color-coded, with special action symbols noted, along with the primary CW target symbol, the chits convey just the right amount of information to keep things moving smartly right along.

There's a variety of chits too, not just ones for German Fire (or movement) actions, but special CW Commando activities, random events (starting on Turn Four), the addtion of German Depth markers (think support), and German Gun Battery fire (which can knock out your Transport Points waiting off the beach).

Also unlike the parent D-Day game, all CW units which are not Disrupted can take an action when it's their turn. This differs from the D-Day game where actions were limited and tough decisions had to be made.

When first arriving, CW units may drift, be delayed, or become Disrupted upon landing. The number and placement of Commandos will vary, which also offers a nice (and realistic) feature that throws some chaos at the player.

The main action is on the center Dieppe map, with two smaller wing maps also in play. On each wing map, Commandos are tasked with taking out a single German Gun Battery and then getting the heck out of there. On the Dieppe map, there are a variety of Objectives to try and seize, in addition to a tank wall which will stop your armored units until it is blown (potentially by a random event die roll if an Engineer capable unit is adjacent).

The game system AI is logical as German units fire (there is a Priority Summary in the rules) or move (directional arrows are printed on the map), depending on what color hex they occupy, the color of the chit drawn, and the proximity of CW units. It all makes good sense (but see "Nits" below), and thus the AI usually offers a very credible opponent.

Once a certain number of Casualties occur or Objectives are seized, the game switches modes and the player must safely evacuate as many steps of troops as possible. This will often be done under fire as German units move forward. We learned a valuable tactic of leaving a weak (1 step) unit behind as a rear guard in key locations to hopefully keep the Germans away while the lads board the boats to leave in a hurry.

When the game ends, the player sums the number of Victory Points gained (from Objectives) and number of steps Evacuated (from the beaches) and ascertains their level of victory or defeat.

NITS

There are a few very minor counter and map errata items, but nothing that can't be easily dealt with.

For chrome purposes, unit type symbols (infantry, artillery, HQ, etc.) were put on the reverse (unrevealed) side of the German units, which normally wouldn't be a problem, but it can be here. Since German units are also letter-coded for setup, astute players will know what strength value certain units are even before they are attacked. Now this issue can be mitigated if the German unit receives a Depth Marker (which provides varying values of support), but still the potential very much exists for the player to have too much intel on his AI opponent.

There are two larger issues that arise above Nits to Nuts level: the luck factor at the very start of the game, and the CW breakout factor in the mid-game.

The luck factor is that just 1 chit is drawn on Turn One - if it's not a German Fire chit, the CW units walk ashore. Then depending on how many German Fire chits are drawn the next few turns (3 chits are drawn each turn after the first), the CW units can make substantial headway very quickly as they attack and take out German positions. So the first few chit draws are very luck dependent, and they will have a significant impact on the game.

This leads to the second Nuts issue where there are no German reinforcements or units guarding the rear objectives after some passage of game time because all the rear units will have most likely rushed up to the front by then. This allows any CW units who break the front line to casually stroll around the back of the map without any fear at all and routinely pick off enough VPs (25 are needed) for the automatic win. This can even occur with shattered units and/or if Evacuation Mode has already been triggered. When this happens, it doesn't feel like Dieppe at all.

There are only 3 playtesters listed in the credits for this game: the designer, the pubisher, and a DG associated staff member. I'll allow the readers to draw their own conclusions here.

CONCLUSIONS and SUCH



While I thought D-Day at Omaha Beach was too difficult to win, I felt the opposite of OJD (my first two games were CW blow-out wins). I played games both cooperatively and solitaire to make sure we/I were getting all the rules correctly, and we did.

Two quick fixes have now come to light for additional testing, namely drawing up to 3 chits on Turn One, only stoping when a German Fire chit is drawn. This will ensure that some gunfire will be presented to the CW invaders on the first turn.

The other quick fix is not to allow the CW to score Objective VPs once Evacuation Mode has triggerd on the main map. This makes sense as the troops want to leave, and not casually wander around scoring unguarded VPs.

These two quick fix rules show good promise, and are awaiting further testing before formal endorsement by the designer.

OJD is one of those games that fare better when looked at its sum rather than its individual parts. Game play is smooth, exciting, and fun. Replayability is very good. It plays great both solitaire and cooperatively (divide up the beaches and tasks when more than one player is present), and it tells an excellent narrative too.

With a little more care, this game could have been a gem. But still it is very good, and I just wish the designer (whom I have the utmost respect for) would have received some more support on this project.

The historical event was a major disaster, but this release is a minor victory. All things considered, I've remained interested in this game despite its few faults. The system is excellent, the situation is one that hasn't been over-gamed, and the designer shows us once again how truly talented he is.

My Score for Operation Jubilee: Dieppe is a 7/10.



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Christopher O
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I've had this set up and ready to go twice; on both occasions I had to pack it up partway through the first turn due to space/time requirements.

I'm determined to get at least one play in over the Christmas holidays!

Thanks for the review.
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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Great review!

My very first game was a massive blowout victory, and yet I've heard of others who can't get off the beach. This game seems to have much more random fortunes than D-Day at Omaha Beach.
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Steve Carey
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You're welcome, and thnx.

OJD is one of the better magazine games to come along in recent memory, IMHO.

Try those 2 quick fix rules and see how it goes!
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Michael Rhodes
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I've played this three times, twice with the optional rule that you cant wander around blowing stuff up after evacuation, without that rule a blow out, but in other two games very hard. in one no one got off of blue beach both commando teams wiped out to a man without blowing anything up. I do think there is more variability here than d-day and sometimes you get off beaches really easy other times you get stuck. You have to really watch staking etc as you can get locked in place, but just like D-Day (and galactic empires) a solitaire game i have played multiple times which is rare , plus it can go in bag for business trips *which now I have rules down pat I intend to do.
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Steve Carey
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So Michael, just to clarify after having played three times, would it be safe to presume that you favor the Designer's two proposed rules modifications?
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Wulf Corbett
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Although I've only tried this with the optional rules, in both games those rules were significant. In the first, the first turn would have been unopposed and a bit easy, in both the enforced evacuation would have been a major factor late in the game (although admittedly in the first game I was left with very little to exploit the rear - but I did have one surviving tank! )
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Steve Carey
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
Although I've only tried this with the optional rules, in both games those rules were significant.


I agree Wulf, and it's good to start seeing feedback from others - this game deserves more attention than it's been getting IMHO, and continued feedback should help the Designer make the final call.

Thnx for the input!
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Wulf Corbett
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I think the full D-Day game might be a bit big for me, but I would certainly like to see more smaller games with this system. Which is unusual for me, as, despite playing most of my wargames solo, I usually prefer to simply play a 2-player game solo - most games designed as solo just lack much character for me - the opposition feels (and is!) programmed & predictable. This one felt a bit more unpredictable, while remaining reasonably capable.
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Steve Carey
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
I think the full D-Day game might be a bit big for me


There is an introductory half-map scenario which is very accessible, and I highly recommend the D-Day game overall.

Wulf Corbett wrote:
I would certainly like to see more smaller games with this system.


Two are already in the works for battles in the Pacific.

Wulf Corbett wrote:
Which is unusual for me, as, despite playing most of my wargames solo, I usually prefer to simply play a 2-player game solo - most games designed as solo just lack much character for me - the opposition feels (and is!) programmed & predictable. This one felt a bit more unpredictable, while remaining reasonably capable.


Completely understand and I used to feel the same way (with a few exceptions).
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Wulf Corbett
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Steve Carey wrote:
Wulf Corbett wrote:
I think the full D-Day game might be a bit big for me
There is an introductory half-map scenario which is very accessible, and I highly recommend the D-Day game overall.
Yes, I do like the look of it, but cash is short, and I'd hate to buy the whole game and only play the littlest scenario. It's under consideration.
Quote:

Wulf Corbett wrote:
I would certainly like to see more smaller games with this system.
Two are already in the works for battles in the Pacific.
Not my preference in theatre, but still...
Quote:
Completely understand and I used to feel the same way (with a few exceptions). Are you familiar with www.victorypointgames.com?
For a time, I was buying every game they produced. But then their production rate exploded... wow
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Dave
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I used the two quick fixes and it gives the game a good dose of balance, yet I still continue to do much better than historically. I had two high draws and one tactical success - though the first 3 games without the quick fixes were big CW wins.
I think the no VP after evacuation is a very sound fix. If you heard the call to withdraw you would be very happy to get to the beaches asap and get home.
Perhaps a third fix would be that you cannot draw 3 non fire counters. If you draw a coastal battery first, a commando move second, you cannot draw a depth counter third for example. Keep on picking till you draw a fire counter. I have had a few rounds where the Germans did not fire, just added depth, commandoes moving, coastal battery or random event. This "safe" turn gave the CW lots of breathing room and it does not take much for a few CW moves, attacks, to clear an avenue for VP or prevent more massacres on the beach.
Though I think the best fix would be to change up a few of the fire counters. Some are only two colors - put a third color in.
As a Canadian I am the last guy that wants to see a disaster here. But that was the historical result.....
Though the game is damn good. Green beach is usually very historical, they get some decent penetration but then run out of time. One of the commando beaches is usually a success. Blue - almost always a disaster. It is Dieppe beach that makes or breaks it for me. Good tank barrage rolls to disrupt Germans, few good attacks, and the boys are in. But if things go south and they get hit on the landing craft - oh what a mess.
Having played this game I have ordered Omaha Beach - really enjoy this kind of solitaire game. The randomness of the chits/cards for German moves keeps the tension level high.
Best magazine game I have played.
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