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Reinforcements Arrive and Evolve the Undaunted Series

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin’s Undaunted series from Osprey Games kicked off in 2019 with the release of Undaunted: Normandy, a hooky, 2-player deck-building game that places you and your opponent in command of American or German forces, fighting through a series of missions critical to the outcome of World War II. A year later, Undaunted: North Africa was released and featured additional gameplay elements, along with a new setting in the North African Theater of World War II where players command the British Army's Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) or the Italian forces opposing them.

As I eagerly await the arrival of Undaunted: Stalingrad, the next standalone game in the series which is due out later in 2022 per Eric's announcement in January 2022, I have been enjoying my plays of Undaunted: Reinforcements on a review copy David Thompson graciously hooked me up with.

Undaunted: Reinforcements is a modular expansion for Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa which continues to evolve the Undaunted series with new rules, scenarios, and units. Reinforcements comes in a big chunky box that holds all of the content for both base games and the expansion which is very handy for consolidating shelf space. That being said, I’m still holding onto the base game boxes. Roland MacDonald’s artwork on the box covers is way too good to simply toss them.

Undaunted Gameplay Overview
For those who aren't familiar with the Undaunted series, allow me to briefly describe how these games work and what they're all about before delving into the new additions in Undaunted: Reinforcements.

From gallery of candidrum
Scenario 1 of my Normandy campaign with Jake 08.06.20
Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa are 2-player deck-building games where you command soldiers across a series of scenario-based missions on a modular game board. Each scenario features a different landscape of tiles with different objectives which presents players with a variety of fresh challenges to play through.

The scenario booklets have details for a number of different scenarios that can be played in any order as standalone games, or multiple scenarios can be strung together for a campaign experience. Each scenario includes a historical briefing, each side's victory objective, and a list of different unit cards for each player to create their starting deck and supply.

In your deck and supply, you have combat cards which represent soldiers in your platoon, command cards which represent officers in your platoon, and fog of war cards (deck cloggers) which represent the breakdowns in communication caused by the chaos of battle. For each of the different types of combat cards in your deck/supply, you have a matching combat counter which you control by playing matching cards.

Undaunted is played over a series of rounds where both players play cards to move units, attack opposing forces, and take control of key objective locations. Each round consists of three phases: 1) Draw cards, 2) Determine initiative, and 3) Player turns.

At the start of each round, both players draw four cards from their individual decks into their hands. Then players secretly select one card from their hand and reveal it simultaneously to determine initiative, which goes to the player who played the card with highest initiative number.

The initiative process is very simple rules-wise, but is often an excruciatingly hard decision for both players. Whichever card you choose for the initiative bid is discarded, so you won't be able to take actions with it that round. Thus, you strain your brain thinking about how much you want and need the initiative, but you also don't want to sacrifice a good card that has an action you really want or need to play. The hand management struggles are real in this game.

From gallery of candidrum
Scenario 2 of my N. Africa campaign with Matt 12.10.20
Sometimes it's critical to have the initiative so you can attack before your opponent, which might make or break the game for you. Sure, if you have a fog of war card in your hand, you can toss it in for the initiative bid so you're not losing a better card with actions, but there are many times where having the initiative is extremely important, so that's a gamble. There are also moments where you think through this decision so much and end up playing a higher initiative card, only to discover your opponent played a fog of war card and you could've gotten away with putting a lower initiative card in. Oof! Either way, it's always a fun moment in the game and an exciting reveal when both players flip over their initiative card.

Whoever wins the initiative gets to take actions first with the remaining three cards in their hand, followed by the other player. Each card you play, aside from the fog of war cards, has multiple actions available which gives players flexibility each round. When you a play a card, you choose one action on the card to perform.

There are a variety of movement actions that allow you to move around the board. There are a slew of support actions that let you build your deck, draw more cards, trash fog of war cards or add them to your opponents deck, take control of tiles with objective points, and more. Then there are also a few of combat actions where you can attack your opponents or suppress them to temporarily put one of their combat counters out of commission.

When you decide to attack in Undaunted, you choose a target and determine their defense value, which is the sum of the defense on the counter itself, the cover bonus from the tile it's on, and a range bonus based on the number of tiles away the attacker is from the defender. Then you roll a number of ten-sided attack dice (based on the attack action strength). If any of the die results are equal to or higher than the defense value, the attack is successful. The defender has to find a card matching the attacked unit and remove it from the game. When looking for the card to remove, they start with their hand, then their discard pile, and then their deck. If no cards for that unit are found, then they have to remove the counter from the game board.

Each scenario has a specific victory objective for each side, which most commonly involves controlling a number of objective points, but in other cases you'll need to take down (pin/neutralize) some your opponents forces to win. In any case, you play round after round until one player wins by completing their victory objective.

From my experience, each game/scenario usually runs 45-90 minutes. Undaunted: North Africa adds vehicles, structure markers, and a few additional actions which makes it a hair more complex than Undaunted: Normandy, but both games are very accessible and have excellent rulebooks, keeping the barrier to entry low.

Undaunted: Reinforcements Modules
• In Undaunted: Reinforcements, the Armour and Armament module introduces vehicles, specialists, new actions, and four new scenarios to Undaunted: Normandy. Each of these new elements add some interesting variation and flavor to Undaunted: Normandy, while being easy to integrate if you have experience with the base game.

Normandy gets a dose of North Africa treatment with the addition of vehicles, however they work differently than the vehicles in Undaunted: North Africa. They function more similar to regular combat units except they have armored defense and cannot be targeted by normal attacks, so you'll need to load up your antitank weapons to take them down.

From gallery of candidrum
German Panther and U.S. Sherman tank battle 'bout to go down

The new Reinforcements Normandy scenarios include new units for controlling the vehicles, as well as Rifleman specialists that have unique combat actions compared to the base game Rifleman units, which tie into some of the new actions Reinforcements brings to the table.

There’s a new Advance action which allows you move a group of counters onto an adjacent tile occupied by at least one friendly combat counter. More movement options are always welcomed in a game where you're trying to beat your opponent to a particular goal. There are also new combat actions that allow you to target vehicles and attack all enemy units on a tile by tossing a grenade (Grenade action).

From gallery of candidrum
The Light Truck and Scout units should tread carefully with these mines...
• In the Under Cover of Night module, you get some similar spice added to Undaunted: North Africa with the addition of mines, new unit types, new actions, and four new scenarios.

Mines are only used in the new Reinforcements scenarios for Undaunted: North Africa. Units that have a Mine action can place mines between two tiles so the mine token overlaps both tiles, or remove mine tokens. The mine tokens are double-sided so you have a choice of placing them on the anti-personnel side which targets enemy soldiers, or the anti-armour side which targets enemy vehicles. In either case, when an enemy moves over a mine, you immediately resolve an attack against the unit that triggered it.

Mines add a whole new strategic layer to Undaunted: North Africa since you can use them to interfere with your opponent trying to move and control tiles with objective points. It's an interesting defensive tool which your opponent will have to strategize around, or ignore them and accept the risk.

There is also a new Air Support action that allows you to take Recon Aircraft and Assault Aircraft units from your supply directly into your hand. The Assault Aircraft unit includes a new Bomb action which lets you choose any tile and and attack all enemy soldier combat counters (including your own!). When you do this attack, similar to Grenade attacks, you perform a separate attack against each targeted combat counter. It can be very effective considering your targets do not receive any defensive range bonus.

• The Joint Operations module includes rules for playing Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa with four players in teams of two with the eight new Reinforcements scenarios. When you play two-versus-two, each player has their own starting deck and supply, and teammates share fog of war cards for their side. From there, the gameplay is almost identical to a 2-player Undaunted game with a few changes and a wee bit of extra downtime in between your turns.

One player on each team, the player who starts the game with the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card is designated as the commander and gets the command token. When you draw cards at the start of a round, the two commanders draw four cards, while the other two players instead draw three cards. Then the two commanders bid for initiative. The team whose commander wins the initiative takes actions first, followed by the commander of the other team, then the other player on the team with the initiative, and lastly, the other player on the team without the initiative.

From gallery of candidrum
A 4-player game of Normandy: Scenario 101: Barenton

Each player has their own units that they control (i.e. Player 1 has Rifleman A and Rifleman B, while Player 2 has Rifleman C). Whenever you would move the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card to your discard pile, you instead move it to your teammate's discard pile and pass them the commander token. In this way, the commander role alternates between players throughout the game.

In a 4-player game of Undaunted: Reinforcements, you can freely communicate with your teammate, but anything you communicate must be open so that your opponents can hear. I found it really fun having a partner to discuss tactics and strategies with, in addition to throwing our opponents some collective trash-talk here and there.

I enjoyed playing Undaunted: Reinforcements as a team game and I love that we're no longer limited to enjoying Undaunted solely as a 2-player game. The 4-player game can be a bit tedious to set up since you have to set up the modular board and build four different decks and supplies before you can get started. Playing with teams changes up the dynamic and feels different than the tense 2-player game. The team experience felt more fun-forward, like a good beer-and-pretzels game with lots of laughs and high-fives.

From gallery of candidrum
U.S. Scout solo card for Scenario 2
• For a more intimate Undaunted experience, the Enemy Unknown module, designed by Dávid Turczi and David Digby, allows you to play any scenario from Normandy, North Africa, or Reinforcements against a bot opponent driven by solo cards.

During setup you choose whichever scenario you want to play, decide which side you want to play, and then set up the game board and your deck and supply as per usual. There may be some minor changes to the normal 2-player setup for the scenario, but in most cases it's the same.

When it comes time to set up the bot, you build a deck for the bot, gather the solo cards for the applicable scenario, and then you create and shuffle bolster decks with the cards in the bot's supply. Instead of bolstering from a supply of face-up cards, the bot takes cards randomly from these facedown bolster decks when taking a Bolster action.

Gameplay for the solo mode of Undaunted follows the same flow as a 2-player game, where you play a series of rounds until one side wins. Your turns are the same as usual, and the bot's turns are driven by the solo cards matching the cards in the bot's deck.

To determine initiative, you choose a one of your four cards as usual, and then you reveal the top card from the bot's deck to compare initiative numbers. If the bot wins the initiative, the bot's initiative card is added to the bot's play area, then you draw three additional cards and place them in the bot's player area, ordering them from highest to lowest initiative level. Then you resolve all four cards as directed on the corresponding solo cards. However, if the bot didn't win the initiative, the bot's initiative card is discarded, then you would take your turn. After, the bot would only resolve three cards.

When it's the bots turn, you resolve one card at a time from highest to lowest initiative. Each card in the bot's deck has its own corresponding solo card, with conditions and instructions you need to follow, similar to flow charts found in many solo wargames. To resolve a solo card, you start with the top condition, and if it's true, you do what it says. Otherwise, you move to the next line and evaluate the same. After you resolve an action for a card in the bot's play area, you discard it.

From gallery of candidrum
LRDG bot cards for Cooperation in Destruction scenario #203

Undaunted: Reinforcements comes with a thick stack of 150 different solo cards! There is a different solo card for each type of card in the bot's deck/supply for each different scenario and for either side. Some of the solo cards are filled with lines of text which may appear daunting, while others are only one or two lines and quick to resolve. In addition to understanding how to interpret the solo cards, there is new terminology and bot-specific rules you'll need to familiarize yourself with. So there is a learning curve here, especially if you're not used to playing solo games with a bot opponent that has a conditional decision process. That being said, once you play a few different scenarios solo, you should be able to zip through the bot's turns very smoothly, since assuming you have the rules down, the flow of the bot's turn is very simple -- draw cards, then resolve them based on the matching solo card's specifications.

Considering you can play any scenario from Undaunted: Normandy, Undaunted: North Africa, or Undaunted: Reinforcements solo, there is so much to dig into with the Enemy Unknown solo module. There are also adjustments you can make to increase or decrease the difficulty level as you experiment with different scenarios and get used to how the bot works.

From gallery of candidrum
All set up to play a N. Africa scenario solo

The Undaunted series continues to impress me with the Undaunted: Reinforcements expansion. It's packed with tons of awesome new content and rules that add so much variety without bogging down a super smooth game system. Plus, the added solo and 4-player team modes give players flexibility to get Undaunted to the table more often, with each player count having its own feel.

The Reinforcements components, rulebook, and scenario books are great too. I really like that the rulebook includes an example of play for the solo mode since it's more complex than the other modules. On the components front, I do have a minor gripe with the new cards though. The colors on the backs of the new cards do not exactly match the original cards. It's not a huge issue, but if it does bother me or interfere with gameplay, I may just sleeve the cards with colored backs so you can't tell which cards are from the expansion versus the base games. This brings up another minor gripe.

While I love and appreciate that the Reinforcements box has room for all of the cards and components for both base games and the expansion, the card trays are already pretty tight with unsleeved cards, so I might have to get creative with fitting everything and keeping things organized with sleeved cards. Again, these are minor gripes that seem insignificant compared to all of the positives aspects of this expansion.

If you're already a fan of this series and you're hungry for more, the Reinforcements expansion is a no-brainer. However, there is tons to enjoy and experience in either base game (Normandy or North Africa).

For a deeper look into the origins of the Undaunted series, check out my Cardboard Creations interview with David Thompson on Undaunted: Normandy:
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