The Battle for Normandy
GMT’s latest monster game, The Battle for Normandy is an historical game that simulates the campaign that took place in Normandy from D-Day, June 6, 1944 through to the first week of August, 1944. The
Battle for Normandy is an impressive game that comes in an attractive box with the excellent artwork of Rodger MacGowan; the box measures 12 inches by 9 inches by 3 inches.
The Battle of Normandy game components are professionally produced, colorful and of high quality, as with all of GMT offerings. The physical components of the game are as follows:
- · One Scenario Book
- · Five (5) 22×34” full color Maps
- · Nine (9) full color counter sheets – 2520 counters
- · 8-1/2×11” Allied Air Allocation Log (laminated)
- · 8-1/2×11” Axis AAA Allocation Log (laminated)
- · Turn Record Track
- · 8-1/2×11” Terrain Effects Chart (x2)
- · 8-1/2×11” Repl/Recon/Weather chart (x2)
- · 8-1/2×11” German Record Track
- · 8-1/2×11” Allied Record Track
- · 8-1/2×11” Combat Results Table (x2)
- · Dice – 3d6 and 1d10
- · One non-permanent marker
The Battle for Normandy is a Battalion level game that not only has Campaign Scenario; it also has a number of smaller scenarios to get you started. The Campaign Scenario plus the smaller Scenarios that are included with the game are:
- Campaign : 5 maps, 6 June – 10 Aug
- Bloody Omaha : part of one map, 6 June – 10 June
- Cobra : 2 maps (most of play on one though), 25 July – 31 July
- Goodwood & Cobra (combined): 4 maps, 18 July – 31 July
- Operation Epsom : 1 map, 26 June – 1 July
- The Battle for Cherbourg : 1 map, 18 June – 27 June
As noted on the GMT Website (http://www.gmtgames.com) there will be future expansions that will extend the play area south to include the Mortain and Falaise scenarios, and to extend the campaign to late August, 1944.
Now, let’s take a look at the game system that is used in The Battle for Normandy. Upon opening the game box you see a large number of charts, tables and maps which is usually an indication that we are dealing with a more complex game system. Also, when there are more than two 22 inch by 34 inch maps, the question that arises is “where am I going to set up this monster game?”
Well, thankfully in the case of Battle for Normandy (hereafter referred to as BFN) that’s not really true, as the Charts and Tables are definitely more of a game aid, than a ‘set up’ hindrance. As far as the large numbers of maps are concerned, the presented scenarios offer smaller footprints to play the game. The only time you require all 5 maps is for the Campaign Game. However, if you have a computer and the free download program Vassal or Cyberboard and the BFN Vassal module, you can play the Campaign game or smaller scenarios on your computer solitaire or against an opponent. We will delve more into this later.
Let’s look at the Rule Book first. It is 32 pages in length with 22 Sections and an Index. After the obligatory introduction stuff and term definitions we find that the Game Scale is such that each Day Turn is equivalent to about 6 hours (night turns are abstracted to include night and early morning), each hex is 1270 yards and the counters represent mostly battalion sized units of about 800 to 1000 men, or 50 to 80 tanks.
There are two different Sequences of Play depending on the date, now this is where the game system begins to get interesting. If it is the Invasion turn, June 6th, you will use one Sequence of Play for only this day and for the rest of the game you will use another Sequence, this is what I will refer to as the ‘Standard’ Sequence of Play. It is a subtle but extremely important distinction in this game and it really captures the intensity of the fighting that took place on the beaches. To give you an idea of the game action I will outline the Sequence of Play, and give you a link to GMTs website where they provide you with an example of this D-Day action.
Invasion Sequence of Play
The Sequence of Play for D-Day, June 6, 1944 is as follows:
June 6th Night Turn
- Allied Parachute Drop
- Pathfinder Segment
- Airborne Drop Segment
- Roll for Accuracy
- Roll for Direction
- Airborne Movement Segment
- Airborne Combat Segment
- 2. German Airborne Reaction Phase
- German Airborne Reaction Movement
- German Airborne Reaction Combat
This is the way the game deals with the Airborne landings and the German reactions to these Airborne landings.
Next is the June 6th Beach Invasion Turn which consists of the following phases:
- 1. Beach Invasion Phase #1
- Allied Landing Segment (Check for Drift on Phase #1)
- German Defensive Fire Segment
- Allied Fire Segment
- German Movement Segment
- Beach Invasion Phase #2
- (Repeat above for Phase 2)
- 3. Beach Invasion Phase #3
- (Repeat above for Phase 3)
- 4. End Phase
- Allied Regroup Segment
- Place a Beachhead marker at each Invasion Site
- Allied June 6th Naval Segment
- Artillery Recovery Segment
The above segments are how the game system deals with the Airborne and beach landings on D-Day June 6th 1944.
Before we move on to the day turns, let’s examine the Airborne and Beach landings phases. While the scenarios of Bloody Omaha and the Campaign game are the only simulations that use these rules and Sequence at this time, my feeling is that you can create your own scenario just from the Campaign game itself by selecting the other beaches and then concentrating on just that area using the Campaign game setup. You can create your own Victory Conditions with a little research based on historical references and enjoy a number of other scenarios of your own creation. I can see scenarios being created for C3I for us to enjoy in the near future.
The Omaha Beach scenario provides you with the German units starting point, and which allied units landed on the beaches that eventful day. However, you are given some leeway as to where you want them to land (which hex), the breakdown of units from Battalion to Company for smaller unit organization or when to combine them back to Battalions. This provides you with a tremendous amount of flexibility in your attack planning strategy as you attempt to gain a beachhead and drive your forces inland. In hindsight, you get the opportunity to see if you can perform better than the allies did on June 6,, 1944.
Now, let’s tie in the remainder of the Sequence of Play for after the June 6th Invasion Day Turn. The following is the sequence that is followed for each of the remaining turns until the end of the game. Upon completion of the sequence, a day has passed and the turn marker is moved to the next day. The Sequence of Play is as follows:
A. The Night Turn
- Night Inter-Phase (there is a single night inter-phase for each turn)
- Weather Determination Phase
- Mulberry Harbor Construction Phase
- Cherbourg Port Destruction Phase
- Allied Naval Movement Phase
- Move Naval Units
- Flip all Naval Units to their Ready side
- Replacement & Reinforcement Phase
- Both Players Place Reinforcements
- Allied Player Replacement Segment
- German Player Replacement Segment
- Air Allocation Phase
- Both Players allocate Air or AA Points
- Reveal assignments
- Resolve air interdiction
- Place the Allied Ground Support marker on the Daily Ground Air Points Track
- Allied Night Player Turn
- Allied Engineering Phase
- Flip Allied Artillery Units to Ready Side
- Allied Night Movement Phase
- Allied Night Combat/Artillery Phase
- German Night Player Turn
- German Engineering Phase
- Flip German Artillery Units to Ready Side
- German Night Movement Phase
- German Night Combat/Artillery Phase
B. The AM Turn
- Allied AM Player Turn
- Flip Allied Artillery Units to Ready Side
- Allied Movement Phase
- Allied Combat/Artillery Phase
- Allied Mechanized Movement Phase
- German AM Player Turn
- Flip German Artillery Units to Ready Side
- German Movement Phase
- German Combat/Artillery Phase
- German Mechanized Movement Phase
- Allied Armed Recon Air Attack Phase
- End of Turn Phase
- Advance Phase Turn Marker
C. The PM Turn – This is identical to the AM Turn Phases
D. End of Day Phase
- Check for Victory
- Advance Day Marker
As I mentioned above, you can create some exciting scenarios of your own using the Airborne and Beach landing segments together with your own historical research. I’m sure we will see some of these crop up in GMT’s magazine C3I in the near future.
Invasion Turn – Beach Landing Sequence
Now that we have looked at the physical components and the mechanics of the game, let’s look at the game system and the flow of play, both of which are extremely important, as these will determine how this monster game will play.
To begin, we have unique situations that have to be dealt with because of the battle we are simulating, which is an airborne attack followed by a sea invasion. The game mechanics of the D-Day turn provide a unique system that flows smoothly and creates an exciting, stressful action filled turn that keeps the success or failure of the landings in question, often to the last phase. What more can you ask for in a game than the give and take of combat based on the strategy that is employed for the landing of troops as you try to secure your landing site.
Looking at the D-Day sequence, you can see that it is broken into two distinctive phases which are the Night phase and the Beach phase. The Night phase handles the Allied parachute drops which were preceded by the pathfinder units. These units were dropped first to setup and secure the landing zones for the remaining airborne units. However, anytime an airborne unit is dropped, there is the chance that it will drift off course and not land as expected. This is adequately simulated in this game, as well as the drift of the airborne units themselves. Drift is handled in a simple, straightforward manner that works.
Once all your Allied airborne units have landed, they have a limited movement phase followed by combat. Wow! A simple sequence of MOVEMENT followed by COMBAT; remember this, as it will be key to the flow of the game. Following this is the German Airborne Reaction phase which is MOVEMENT followed by COMBAT. (Are your starting to see a pattern?)
We now deviate a bit for the Allied Sea Landings, as this is a bit trickier to simulate though it still deals with Movement and Combat. The sea landings are simulated by choosing which of the allied units are to land, take defensive fire from German units, allied offensive fire, and then there is a limited German Movement Phase. Following 3 of these segments, we have an End Phase, which is taking care of what I will call ‘administrative’ tasks.
The D-Day phases are not cumbersome or confusing, they flow simply from task to task, and more importantly they make sense if you think about them as they are applied to the simulation.
Next, let’s take a look at a ‘standard’ game turn which is what a majority of the game uses. As previously mentioned in the Sequence of Play, a Turn Day consists of the Night Turn, the AM Turn, and the PM Turn. If we break down this sequence and examine the components we find that while there are a number of steps to follow, they are not complicated at all. You can think of the Night Turn as the administrative and logistics phases of the game followed by some MOVEMENT and COMBAT. (Opps! Here we go again, something that actually works.) Here you deal with weather, naval movement, reinforcements and airpower, followed by an Allied and German Night player phase. If you follow the steps as outlined in the sequence, each of the phases flows smoothly and really makes sense.
After the Night Turn, we have the AM Turn and then the PM Turn, which are identical. Here, all we have to deal with is flip artillery units, movement, combat, and mechanized movement. Can it be any simpler? Oh and lest I forget, there is an Allied Air phase because they did have air supremacy during the invasion.
To broaden our understanding of The Battle for Normandy game we should take a quick look at Stacking, Zones of Control, Weather, Replacements/Reinforcements and Supply.
Stacking is handled so simply in this game that once I mention it you never need to refer to the Rule Book again. Simply speaking, the stacking value of each unit is printed on the counter and a maximum of 6 points of stacking is allowed per hex. Hence, anything over that value is subject to the overstacking rule which simply states that units are eliminated.
Zones of Control (ZOC) are pretty standard in the game with the exception of one minor twist. When a unit enters a ZOC it must stop. To leave a ZOC it must pay +2 movement points. However, if there is another unit in the hex with the unit that is to be moved at the beginning of the turn, then this other unit is considered to be “Holding the Line” and it will negate the +2 movement point penalty. You can think of this in the military term of an orderly withdrawal under fire by the unit being moved, hence there are no penalties.
On each night turn the Allied player rolls two six sided dice (2D6) to determine the Weather for the day. The Weather Effects only the Allied player. The effects are on his Combat Supply Points, Combat Die Roll Modifier, Air Availability, Naval bombardment availability, Supply range, and Reinforcements. Now, you may ask yourself, why the weather only has a negative effect on the allied player; because he is always the aggressor in this game. The allied player is the one who must achieve objectives, while the German player defends territory.
Replacements/Reinforcements are controlled through die rolls and the scenario instructions. During the Night Turn there is a phase that deals with Replacements and Reinforcements. Reinforcements enter the game per the Scenario that is being played. Replacements are controlled through a die roll each Night Turn. While Reinforcements are fixed, Replacements are varied which adds a level of uncertainty to the game. There are separate Infantry and Armor Replacements and they are determined through the roll of a 10 sided die (1D10).
The final area that we haven’t looked at is the Supply rules and the effect they have upon the game. There are two types of supply that your units can have in the game and they are General supply and Combat supply. Now, if you are an old grognard like me, there are times that you look at supply rules and cringe, as this is where a game can become bogged down in complexity. Well I am happy to report that the supply rules in BFN are a breath of fresh air in their lack of complexity and straightforward execution as you will see.
Units require supplies to operate at full effectiveness. Division HQ’s that are in supply, can supply all units that are in that division and a Corps HQ can supply non-divisional units. A Division is in supply if it can trace a line of supply back to a supply source (a Corps) within 20 movement points. A Corps is in supply if it can trace a Line of Supply of any length to a friendly supply source. Friendly supply sources for the Allies are the beachheads, and for the Germans they are all highway or road hexes on the east or south edge that lead off the map.
First, to set the record straight, you don’t need Combat supply to attack, but all units must be in General Supply in order to have Combat Supply. Combat Supply allows German and Allied units access to Division and Corps artillery when in combat; air and naval support, however, are available only to the Allies. Combat supply is the same for both sides with the exception that the Allies must spend Combat Supply Points (CSP’s) when using artillery, air, or naval support in combat. The German side has no such restriction.
The Allies receive their Combat Supply from a number of different sources each day. The sources for their supply can be based on the Scenario, Weather, control of Cherbourg, or in the presence of a Mulberry Harbor. CSP’s can be accumulated from turn to turn, which is something you don’t come across more often.
CSP’s used in an attack vary depending on the type of attack that is going to take place. The number of CSP’s required in an attack is based on the number of hexes the defending unit or units are attacking from. The three types of combat that employ CSP’s are Normal Attack, Major Attack, and Defensive Artillery Fire. So, what we have here are special combat situations, where an attack that is employing supporting units of some type, that use CSP’s. Clearly, there is a strategy here to save your CSP’s and use them wisely as the game progresses.
Before playing a sample game to show you how all these rules flow together, there is one final item that I want to talk about. In the past few years, board gamers who have PC’s have seen a proliferation of Play-By-Mail software. The four most popular pieces of software on the market today are Aide De Camp 2 (http://www.hpssims.com/pages/products/adc2/ADC2-Main.html ) which is a commercial program, Cyberboard (http://cyberboard.brainiac.com/ ) which is an open source, Vassal (http://www.vassalengine.org/community/index.php ) which is open source, and ZunTzu (http://www.zuntzu.com/ ) which is also free of charge. Each of these four software packages are specifically produced to allow you to play boardgames, or in our particular case, wargames via email.
A Cyberboard gamebox and a Vassal module are both available for BFN. For the purposes of this review, I am going to use Cyberboard to play a sample game that allows you can see how nicely this game flows from phase to phase. The reason that I decided to pick Cyberboard over Vassal is simply because the Scenarios and the Campaign games are already available and the units are placed on the maps. All you need to do is to place your strong points for the invasion turns for the German player and your gaming.
(Note: A review of all four game systems is being planned for later in the year.)
Bloody Omaha June 6, 1944
Now that we have looked at the design of the historical simulation (game) in depth, and a quick look at PBM (Play by Mail) games systems, let’s see how the game plays. Not having the room to set up the game and leave it for an extended period of time I decided to use the Cyberboard game system for the PC to play a solitaire game.
As I mentioned above, the Bloody Omaha Scenario is available for Cyberboard so that you can immediately load and play. German Strong Points are the only items that the player must manually place on the board. To add an air of randomness to the setup I used the following rule for placement of Strongpoint’s. I rolled a 1D6 and on the following rolls Strongpoints were placed:
1 or 2 1 Point Strongpoint
3 or 4 2 Point Strongpoint
5 3 Point Strongpoint
6 4 Point Strongpoint
After the placement of Strongpoints, the disposition of units on the map was as follows:
Now that we have gone through the Sequence of Play for the historical simulation or game if you want to call it that, I believe that you will agree with me that for a monster game, it is a rather simple sequence that is elegant and captures the essence of stress and excitement of those fateful days in June, July, and August 1944. What it all boils down to is a rather simple MOVEMENT, COMBAT, and MECHANIZED MOVEMENT which is what armored or mechanized combat is all about as the allied forces attempt to secure their landings and the Germans fight to throw them back into the sea.
Battle for Normandy, June 6th to August 1944 from GMT Games is a big game that captures the events that unfolded during this momentous time in history. While the game appears to be complicated, if you break down the Sequence of Play into sections and follow each section, you can learn the game system in no time at all and will find that it is simpler than it appears. Battle for Normandy while a big game with a large amount of counters, is easily manageable. The game comes with smaller scenarios that you can use to learn the game. I cannot give this game high enough praises. While large, it is manageable, while it looks complex, its simple and if you break the Sequence of Play down into its individual components, you will learn the game in no time at all. The Battle for Normandy from GMT Games is an excellent simulation of the June 6th Invasion of Europe.
Available from GMT Games