BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at
 Thumb up

Design Diary: Undaunted: Normandy, or A Euro Wargame for the War in Europe

Board Game: Undaunted: Normandy
Greetings all. At Gen Con 2019, Osprey Games will release Undaunted: Normandy. I thought it would be a good idea to post a design diary to show off some of the background info, design decisions, art, and more.

The Initial Concept

In 2014, I moved from the U.S. to the UK. Just before the move, I started brainstorming the idea of combining elements of deck-building card games with the spatial elements of a board game. I knew I wanted the game to be a skirmish-level game, with the cards tied directly to counters on the board, but I wasn't sure what the exact theme would be. While I was working through some of the initial mechanical concepts, I went on my first vacation after the move — a visit to Normandy. My first stop was Omaha Beach, where my grandfather landed on D-Day +4 with the 30th Infantry Division.

Instantly I had my theme. The game would focus on the exploits of individual rifle platoons within the 30th Infantry Division as they made their way through France.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics
My son and me at Omaha Beach

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics
My grandfather

As SPIEL 2014 neared, I shared some of the initial design concepts for Undaunted on BGG. A user there — Eddy Sterckx — noticed the game and suggested Osprey would be a good fit for the design. Eddy reached out to Duncan Molloy at Osprey and set up a virtual introduction. I met Duncan in Essen and pitched the game to him. At the time, Duncan was just getting things going with Osprey's fledging board game division. He liked the design, but it was a while before he had the bandwidth to take the game on. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until SPIEL 2017 that we made the formal agreement.

Regardless, when I headed home from SPIEL 2014, I had a good feeling about the design. I had already conceived the campaign arc for the game — the 30th ID's actions in France following D-Day — and I had also sketched out some ideas for the first few scenarios, but to properly develop the scenarios and ensure the game was solid, I needed two things: a dedicated blind playtest community, and someone to help me develop the scenarios.

Calling in Reinforcements

The blind playtest community emerged primarily from two places: BoardGameGeek and a dedicated playtest page that I created on my website. Blind playtest reports began pouring in. Although some contained feedback on the core of the game, most of the reports provided invaluable insight about the scenarios that were being developed.

At the same time, I reached out to Trevor Benjamin. He and I had collaborated on other projects and developed a great relationship. It also helped that we were both part of a game designer and playtest group in Cambridge. While I thought the majority of our effort would be solely dedicated to scenario development, Trevor brought with him a fresh perspective and fantastic ideas for improvements to the core of the game.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics
Trevor and I playtest Undaunted: Normandy at UK Game Expo 2015

Gameplay vs. Simulation

One challenge we had throughout the design process was the balance we wanted to strike between gameplay elegance and simulationism. We knew we wanted the game to be quick playing, and we wanted to rely on the overall deck-building mechanism and the multi-use cards to drive the action, while representing concepts like command and control and fog of war.

We debated more than once whether there should be terrain effects to include impact on line of sight. Ultimately we decided that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. For example, if we said that river tiles prevented or hindered movement, what about woods or hills? Depending on the river's depth or width, it could actually be easier to cross than a hill would be to climb. If we introduced line of sight, we'd have to determine how it was drawn, add edge cases, etc. It was a slippery slope, with every one of these elements taking us further from what we wanted: an elegant design that centered on players' control of their platoons through the management of their decks, abstracting their command and control over the platoon.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics
The components for Undaunted: Normandy

From Design to Development

Trevor and I turned over the design to Osprey in 2017. At that point, Duncan Molloy and Filip Hartelius (who has served as the lead designer for the game) began putting the game through its paces. Although there were few changes to the core rules, Filip and Duncan pushed us to improve some elements and polish the edges.

More than anything, though, they challenged us on some of the scenarios. They wanted to make sure that each and every scenario was as good as it could possibly be. Ultimately we had to strip out a few of the weaker scenarios, we improved many that we had already designed, and we added a few new ones.

The Game Comes to Life

By early 2019, the design and development was complete. We began seeing Roland MacDonald's beautiful artwork, which really made the game come to life. When our preview copies arrived in June, we could hardly believe that the game had become a reality.

So that's the story of how Undaunted: Normandy came to be. You can take a look at the rules in this video from Watch it Played, and over the next couple of weeks we'll add more articles to the BGG game page about how we modeled the rifle platoon in the game and how we based the game's scenarios on real world battles.

David Thompson

Board Game: Undaunted: Normandy
Twitter Facebook
Subscribe sub options Tue Jul 23, 2019 1:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}