Review – D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches from Victory Point Games
Designed by Paul Koenig
Development and Graphic Design – Alan Emrich
note – thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game
Continuing with my recent spate of war games, I bring you another World War 2 game, one of a set of games covering the Allied landings during Operation Overlord and produced by Victory Point Games. Paul Koenig has designed separate games looking at operations at the British, Canadian and American beaches, which are arguably, the most well know amongst war gamers, if not students of military history.
“Beer and pretzels” games are games that are easy to play, tend to have very few rules, clear mechanics and can be played in a short time period. These games tend to be well suited for busy gamers who struggle to invest time in deep and “heavy” war games (conflict simulations). D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches a game for 2 players ages 12+, is definitely a “beer and pretzels” game and is yet another example by Victory Point Games that clearly demonstrates that traditional hex and counter war games have a place to play in the war gamer’s library.
The components of D-Day – Utah and Omaha: The American Beaches are typical standard for VPG ad you get 2 games, one for the landings on Omaha Beach and one for the landings on Utah Beach and the airborne operations behind Utah Beach. The artwork is standard hex and counter fare and clearly provides you with nice looking, if unremarkable maps covering the key terrain features and counters representing the military units and information on such things as artillery and air/naval support, leadership, hit points, etc. All, east to read except for the unit designations which are quite small. Thankfully, the different units for each division are color-coded so it is easy to see which units are part of the same division.
The mechanics are pretty clear and will be very familiar to experienced war gamers to get into the games quickly and shouldn’t be too difficult at all for those putting their toe in the water with these entry level games.
The game process is as follows:
Landing Phase – The Allied player places his beach landing forces and airborne troops as designated. The really interesting and elegant part here is the very simple way the struggle for the beaches and chaos of the airborne landings is covered. very simply through rolling a die on the June 6 Landing fire table. Depending on the die roll, landing units take hits. through the three turns on June 6th, the chance of taking hits decreases. Very easy, very straightforward. It does just enough to give the allied player a feel for the difficulty the allies troops had in their landings.
Support phase – players can obtain artillery support and for the allies, extra air and naval support chits, again, randomly rolled for. Before you start thinking oh, this is so random, the die rolls help give a sense that warfare has a reasonably sized luck element, no matter how effective your planning is, your troops trained, etc. The interesting thing about the artillery and allied support chits, is that you need to consider how and when to use your finite amount of support. As you might expect, there never seems to be enough support, especially for the Germans who will struggle to bring in much artillery support which reflects the situation and surprise that the allies managed to pull off.
Operations phase -The heart of this phase is the chit pull process as divisions are activated randomly so things are always edgy as you never know in what order you will be able to take your actions. Movement is typical fare, subject to terrain of course and there are no locking zones of control, which means that you need to be careful about unit placement as any gaps in your line are just that; gaps in your line. This makes loads of time as the situation was very fluid with the allies trying to establish beachheads and the Germans trying to throw units at the beachheads without proper coordinatinon due to being caught literally with their pants down by the landings. Combat takes place in three ways –
– Full Fire attack by adjacent units – retreat is optional if units take hits, also the Germans can retreat before this type of combat
– Combined – units that move can conduct a mobile fire attack at 1/2 strength
– Close Combat – units enter the enemy’s hex and if they survive a fire attack, can then assault the enemy unit and force theme to retreat
All of this works pretty smoothly and quickly once you settle into it and in short order you are moving through the game. There are a few optional rules for leadership, rest & refit of units, indirect fire and overruns none of which make a dramatic difference although add a bit more time, but not loads, and flesh things out a little more historically.
Victory is achieved in the Omaha Beach game through capturing towns and cities, eliminating enemy units, German units surviving, and exiting the map. For the Utah Beach game, its the same except exiting the map.
The Omaha Beach game is a straightforward prize fight with the landing troops struggling to punch their way through the beach defenses of Bloody Omaha. The Utah Beach game is different as the German beach defenses aren’t as difficult to overcome and you also need to manage your airborne units behind the beaches who are fighting to capture key towns.
Did it work for me?
This is a very solid “beer & pretzels” game system, ideal in its intention to make simple, playable games which give you a sense of the D-Day operations. The ebb and flow of the battle is there without getting consumed by the mechanics. These games are meant to be played and enjoyed at a simple level, not analyzed for minute detail. They remind me of the heyday of the SPI Quad games which were elegant and still stand up as fun games. I would absolutely recommend these games to new war gamers and those wanting to taste the wonderfulness of war gaming. Experienced players looking for a light alternative to their conflict simulations or a vehicle to introduce newbies need look no further.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10
Sure if you want to introduce your kids to war gaming.
For more information about Victory Point Games go to – http://victorypointgames.com/