Review Kampen om Norge (Battle of Norway) from Vega Forlag
Art – Eivind Vetlesen
I spotted this game on the Boardgamegeek Essen 2013 list and thought, I’ve got to play!
I haven’t studied much about the German assault on Norway and its always intrigued me. I read about Kampen om Norge and it seemed like it was at the right level of complexity for my taste so I was keen to have my first go at playing a game about this campaign.
From the English rulebook –
Kampen om Norge (The Battle of Norway) is an exciting strategic boardgame for 2–3 players (or teams) about the German WW2 invasion of Norway in 1940.
• Each player takes on the role of the Chief in command of the military forces of either Norway, the Allies or Germany.
• By the use of soldier playing pieces, dice and cards the players fight a battle on the game board, where Norway and the Allies together must try to stop the German advance on Norwegian soil and prevent Germany from occupying the important cities.
• The players must make strategic decisions, manage the resources of the game cards, move their battalions on the board and fight their
opponent for territories.
• The player choosing the best strategy has the greatest chance of success, but being friends with the dice helps too.
* Game board – The map board consists of three different types of areas:
• Land areas
• Sea zones
• Impassable areas
* Rule Booklet
* Booklet with historical info
* 50 game pieces (battalions) – divided into the 3 armies
* 112 playing cards (6 blank cards) – with decks for the three armies as well as Naval ships, with loads of photographs from the campaign. These cards are the heart of the game as managing your cards and using them effectively will impact your operations and combat actions. Action cards can be used at different times during the sequence of play (including your opponents turns).
* 22 “9 April Card ”
* 36 ship cards
* 35 white and 5 black chips
The first thing that you notice is the production quality of the components of this game. The artwork is very nice indeed. The game board has a minimalist approach to the map of Norway. The only terrain shown are water features such as fjords and spaces with uncrossable mountains. Victory Point Cities are also marked on the map. So the map is at the strategic level and terrain plays little part. Not a problem at the strategic level. The map looks lovely and is clearly marked with the areas for movement.
The minis represent German, Norwegian and Allied forces. The sculpts are nice and as good as I would expect to see in a board game. The three armies are very easy to differentiate as each has a separate pose.
The cards are very nicely done, and in this version are in Norwegian. The English rules have all of the information you will need so its not a problem for english speakers.
My only issue with the components as that the cards are too thin and they get a lot of use and will bend and I fear could be damaged so its a good ideas to sleeve them. When there is a reprint, I would strongly recommend that the card stock needs to be thicker. Other than that, this is a very nicely produced game which is a pleasure to look at.
The introduction to the rules gives you a good sense of the very interesting situation. This game can be played by 2 players or 3, each needing to take a different approach to how they will use their units.
Norway’s mission is to defend against the German invasion. The Norwegian army is not the strongest, but time is on their side. They have good defensive cards and the longer they can delay the German advance, the greater their chance of success.
The Allied forces consists of combined British, French and Polish forces. They are treated as a single faction in the game. At the start of the game, they have not yet landed in Norway but they control most of the sea along the coast. The Allies are flexible and unpredictable and have cards that complement the Norwegian cards.
Germany has the strongest army and a superior air force, but they are pressed for time. Germany needs to constantly be on the offensive and have cards that are primarily suited for this purpose. Germany faces two opponents and fits a player who
enjoys planning a big operation and playing aggressively.
The game comes to a conclusion the moment the German players draws the last unused card from his card deck. This represents Germany having used all the military resources available to the assault on Norway. The game ends immediately and the winner is decided. Germany wins the game if they at this point control all the victory cities. Norway and The Allies win if they are in control of one or more victory cities. Unoccupied victory cities are considered Norwegian.
Note – There are shorter campaigns included with the rules which can be played, and in fact I recommend this so that you can learn how to play. The short campaigns are excellent in themselves and an interesting challenge.
Turn Sequence (Phases) Germany performs the first turn.
1. Movement –
Phase 1 a) Naval Movement (used in the advanced game)
Phase 1 b) Land Movement – moving into an enemy occupied zone forces mandatory combat
Phase 1 c) Norwegian Sabotage in the German Turn
Phase 2 a) Naval Combat (used in the advanced game)
Phase 2 b) Land Combat – uses dice and various modifiers from the cards played
3. Reinforcements placed on the map
4. New cards drawn up to the hand limit
ITS ALL ABOUT THE CARDS – The coolest part of this game is the card system. The cards for all three armies are the engine for getting things done.
From the rules –
Green and Red Symbols
Preceding the description of every action on a card is at least one symbol with a number on it.
• The number indicates in which phase the action card can be played to achieve that particular effect. The symbol indicates whether the card can be played in your own or your opponents turn:
• Green “play” symbol: Actions preceded by a green triangle must be played in your own turn.
• Red “stop” symbol: Actions preceded by a red square must be played in your opponent’s turn, as a reaction to an action he performs or a card he plays.
• Green circle: Actions preceded by a green circle must be played in your own turn, as a reaction to an action your opponent performs or a card he plays.
Action cards and actions with more than one symbol on it can be played at different times during the sequence of play.
This is a very clever, and user friendly system which gives the players a feel for the options available to the commanders during the Norway campaign. The system is very easy to use and the clarity of the green/red system aids the players and allows you to keep the game flow moving. The cards are used for specific operational actions or can be traded in for reinforcements.
Each army has specific mechanics that are used for their cards which reflect the capabilities of each:
Germany (62 cards)
• 5 action cards on hand
• Must use at least one card every round
• The game ends when the German card deck is used up
Norway (22 cards)
• 3 action cards on hand
• Card deck is reshuffled when used up
The Allies (28 cards)
• 3 action cards on hand
• Must use at least one card every round
• Does not receive any more cards when their deck has been used up, and must then remove 4 battalions from the board
The basic game rules are plenty to get stuck into. They work very well and come together smoothly. There is a similarity to Axis & Allies – type games which if you are familiar with them will make this game a breeze to learn and get into. The card system is the stand-out feature of the game. It doesn’t take long to understand the choices and when you can play them. The limitations of the cards in your hand is subject to the luck of the draw but reflect that commanders couldn’t control everything and had to make the best of resources available.
The advanced rules add the naval units movement, combat and raiding, bombers, fighters, special rules for April 9th covering the German invasion landings and certainly all this does add to the complexity and length of time required to play the game. Having said that, the complexity is interesting as the advanced game is mostly about the naval aspect of the campaign. The German navy definitely has the edge and I think that the German player does have a greater opportunity to win as as not only can they take British ships out of the game but they also impact the cards that the allies have available to them. This is all historical but it does mean things become tougher for the Norwegians/Allies.
Did I enjoy Kampen om Norge?
I can comment on playing Kampen om Norge with the the basic rules and advanced rules and say that I think that it is a brilliant game. The design is clean, and well structured. The rules are clear and its pretty easy to get into. The subject matter is not found in many games at all yet, it is very unusual due to the the mix of military factors involved and the challenges for the combatants. You really get a sense of the risks involved for all sides and that this campaign could have gone either way. It feels very tense with victory on a knife edge. The game looks great and you don’t feel overwhelmed as you might in some of the Axis & Allies games as there are a limited amount of units in play.
The card system is a master stroke and really gives you operational options which are interesting and pushes you to think through how best to use your cards. Having said that, the game turn plays pretty quickly and with a limited amount of units, moves along nicely.
This games avoids the “death by chrome” problem found in far too many war games and gives you just enough historical elements, and most of this is resolved in the cards and when you play them for a specific effect. Really nice. The ability to use card effects during your turn or your opponent’s turn is an interesting and clever mechanic and gives you some interesting choices. The relatively limited amount of spaces and limited movement means the crunch points will be combat led. And yet, its not a static game due to the spread of areas of conflict.
Overall, Kampen om Norge is a lovely game, nicely designed, with nice components. It is a game you can pull off the shelf for a quick game using the scenarios or crack open for a longer game for the main campaign and advanced rules which add the naval game without too much complexity and extra time but do add a deeper coverage of the wider elements in what is a very interesting campaign. I am itching to get this to the table soon and also to read up on the campaign and those two points alone tell me that I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
For more information go to – www.kampenomnorge.no/