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Subject: D-Day at Omaha Beach: A Bullet Point Reivew rss

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Ryan
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Here are my thoughts after playing four separate games with different scenarios over nearly 21 days. I also played once over a year ago. For perspective, my five games have been scenarios of: one Easy Fox, one The First Waves / Beyond the Beach combo game, two The First Waves, one Effective Allied Bombardment.

What I Like - This will be a long list and in no particular order.

d10-1 The map. It's outright brilliant, novel, and completely appropriate for this game. Everything on the map has a specific purpose. There's no fluff. And while it is extremely utilitarian, at the same time it manages to look aesthetically pleasing (to me anyway). It may look busy at first, but once you understand its construction, the map is easy to comprehend and offers an efficient way to convey information and support your planning.

d10-2 The terrain. I have never been more fixated on the terrain during a game than I have here. The terrain is a challenge in itself. The terrain governs so much in this game: maneuver, cover from enemy fire, combat resolution, etc. In the progression from low tide beach, up to the shingle then up the bluffs or through the pavilion draws to the high ground, the three dimensional nature of the battlefield is represented extremely well in gameplay terms on a two dimensional map. One of the things I appreciate most about this game is the influence the terrain has on everything. When playing, I find myself constantly studying it to discern some weakness in the enemy line or previously unrealized route my troops could utilize.

d10-3 The combat resolution. Unit strength, control of terrain, weapons, and tactics affect combat. Randomness and uncertainty are introduced through German unit and depth counters. As they are randomly placed upside down, you won't determine their strength until your forces probe and attack. Combat is simple to understand and resolve. On top of that, as your units take losses, they lose random weapons. This forces the player to adapt as you will often need to maneuver units that have what you need from one area to another once you determine the type of resistance you face. All in all, I think the combat system is clever and offers an easy way to inject weapons, strength, tactics, and terrain into game system.

d10-4 The tactical considerations. The player has limited actions. How do I use them? Do I barrage a WN in hopes I can give my troops time to advance without taking heavy fire? Or should I instead move up the tanks and other non-infantry units so they aren't lost when the tide rises? Attack - when and where? With who? Often times I will be capable of attacking more German positions than I have actions for; not to mention troops on the beach that need to be moved up. Should I preservation move some units through intense German fire or use a precious action so they can skirt around the most deadly areas? If the player is planning for the extended game, he's also got to have a mind for the future. Where is German resistance stacking up? Where is the terrain to my advantage? Is there a hole I can push through to try and envelope the Germans? The extended game brings a load of new considerations and challenges. German reinforcements act unexpectedly and are capable of using new tactics and weapons against you. They may use mortars, ambush your units, advance from one position to another, reinforce, redeploy, etc. Where are my concentrations of strong troops and leaders and where are they located compared to the enemy's strong and weak spots? How can I inflict the most harm upon them in the shortest amount of time while reducing their capacity to inflict harm upon me? The tactical considerations are deep because a host of previously mentioned game elements combine to offer the player what I think is an amazing amount of depth. There are so many things you can do, but you will only be able to actually do some of them. This is perhaps my favorite part of the game; I've spent a lot of time lost in analysis gauging risk versus benefit, knowns versus unknowns.

d10-5 The mechanics. Everything you need to know is determined by the known elements on the map, quasi-known enemy dispositions and strengths, and the completely random card draws. One deck of (I think 54) cards determines landing success, mine explosions, German artillery attacks, random events, and German attacks and actions. It's concise, sensible, and a pleasure to use. I find the mechanics, whether American unit movement, combat, special event resolution, German attacks, etc. are very well integrated, make sense, and heighten the experience. There's luck, but there are no dice.

d10-6 The rules. I regard the rules as very well written and organized well. I've had very few questions that were not actually discussed within the rulebook. It just takes a finer parsing of the text or someone on BGG to point you in the right direction to understand a few concepts you may initially miss. I think this is one of the more well written rulebooks in my mind from a functional perspective. I rate this game medium-heavy complexity. That's in relation to the other games I'm familiar with. The reason I went with medium-heavy over medium is not because of the character of the rules, but because of the depth of gameplay I feel is present.

d10-7 The player aids. The game comes with some black and white charts/tables as well as a full color section with a few examples of play. All are functional and fullfil their intentions. Having said that, there are some excellent fan made player aids on BGG. I really like the flipbook, though I find I don't need much of the content. There are also some great reproduction of the game charts reorganized and in color. I recommend perusing the aids available on BGG to augment the learning process.

d10-8 The counters. They are functional and easy to use. The font is just right for me and the other information (steps, control capability, entrance turn, weapons, attack strength) is easy t decipher and understand.

d10-9 The challenge. This game is very challenging. Very tense. It tempts me each turn to play just one more because I feel like I'm walking the wire to success; just in reach but so easy to fall off the side. I've only played five games thus far, but I feel like I have to play my absolute best in order to have a chance to succeed. Which I really haven't done yet. This is a tough game; it makes you earn it. I had the opportunity to move into the extended game once. The Germans take on an entirely different and more deadly character at that point. I was struck by the impression that I was playing against an intelligent opponent who was still weighed down by uncertainty and imperfect information. When the Germans redeploy a unit that then leaves a gap in the line you can take advantage of or occasionally happen to concentrate their reinforcements away from a concentration of U.S. strength you'll see what I mean. The AI is consistently tough and unforgiving. It feels more like an intelligent person than any other AI I've played against.


These guys give the game a lot of its challenge. They can be a tough bunch to evict from the bocage or a group of buildings.


d10-1 d10-0 The leaders. I enjoy how leadership is modeled. Heroes, Generals, and Headquarters all have different capabilities. You need them to win but you also need to use them correctly. They're not superheroes. You're not guaranteed to win just because you have them.

d10-1 d10-1 The history. As much as a game can, I feel like this game tries to stay as true to the subject as possible while still offering the player a challenging game. I love history and it is games like D-Day at Omaha Beach that inspire me to read more about the subject they attempt to depict. This is another measure of success where this game rates highly.


American Rangers. Tom Hanks pretended to be one of these tough guys.


d10-1 d10-2 The longevity. Bear in mind that I've only played five games. Yet during that three week run when I played four games and nothing else, I kept wanting to come back for more. But wait, you say. There's only one map and it does not have a modular ability nor any terrain hexes that can be used to vary the geography. Yes, you're correct. But I've witnessed each game play out differently so far. And I look to session reports on BGG and see other players have games that look nothing like mine. There's a lot of randomness in this game that keeps it looking fresh. But it is randomness laced heavily with a deterministic and thoughtful intelligence. On top of that, there are multiple what-if scenarios. I played one and right away you're playing a different game with new benefits but also new challenges. I think this game offers a lot of replayability.

Minor quibbles

d10-1 Heroes. Thus far, I think success depends upon having enough heroes in addition to wise tactical play. You need both. Unfortunately, the entrance of Heroes is entirely dependent on event cards, which are random. I've had games when I received enough Heroes to feel like I had a chance to win. I've had some where I just don't draw them and feel ever more doomed as the game wears on. For a game that requires so much time and takes such a toll with the tension it generates, I have become slightly irked at the completely random nature of Hero generation. I would still like some randomness associated with how many are generated, when they enter, and even where they may be placed. But I want to know that I'm guaranteed to get at least 2-3 Heroes over the course of a game. In the basic game I have 15 chances in which to draw Heroes. In the extended game I have a total of 45 chances (I think). I don't know what the frequency of Hero events are in the card deck, nor will I game the system and look. I just want a guarantee along with some variability. Success depends too heavily upon their presence to rely upon their presence being determined completely randomly.


June 6th, 1944 saw lots of these guys. I just wish they showed up more often in the game.


Who should think carefully about buying this game?

d10-1 Those who don't like too much challenge or who need to win most of the time. This game is not easy on you. And it's not easy on your mind. It's very tense. In fact, the only reason why I wanted to give it a break after my last game (in addition to trying some new games) is that my mind needed respite from the tension and stress.

d10-2 Those who aren't interested in the history. You might enjoy it even if you're not interested. But D-Day tries really hard to be both a simulation and a game. I think it does well, but you may not be that interested in the history and simulation side.

d10-3 Those who demand the best quality components. I have no problem with the components. They're standard war game components. Nice looking enough and functional. Especially the map. But if you want extra large and chunky counters, be warned. They are on the smaller end. They are also harder to punch cleanly from the sprues. My first printing wasn't so bad, but I hear the second printing was not as good of quality. I don't think the components are bad by any means, but they're not high quality. I call them of serviceable quality and I'm happy with them.

d10-4 Those who don't have much space or much time. You can finish the basic game in a few hours once you have a good understanding of the rules. The extended game is much longer. I have been able to start and finish the basic game over several evenings during the work week. The extended game has taken the better part of a week at the same rate. You also need the space (it's not a huge game, but it will demand your dinner table or a large desk.

Who will like this game?

Well, if you find that you're not described in the Who should think carefully about buying this game? section and like what you read in the What I Like section, you should probably buy this game. I mean it. If you are drawn to the historical period, challenging games, an engrossing theme, analytical thought, don't mind some randomness, and have the time and space, this may be the game for you.

I've played more of this game for a sustained longer period of time at once than I have with any of my other games. D-Day at Omaha Beach has made it to the top, or right near the top, of my game collection. This is a keeper for me, and one I hope to play much more of.
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Kevin Myers
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Perfectly said...
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Paul M
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Ryanmobile wrote:
...d10-3 Those who demand the best quality components. I have no problem with the components. They're standard war game components. Nice looking enough and functional. Especially the map. But if you want extra large and chunky counters, be warned. They are on the smaller end. They are also harder to punch cleanly from the sprues. My first printing wasn't so bad, but I hear the second printing was not as good of quality. I don't think the components are bad by any means, but they're not high quality. I call them of serviceable quality and I'm happy with them...

I got a corner rounder/puncher/clipper just for this game, and it was totally worth it. It turned every sharp, fuzzy corner into a beautifully rounded masterpiece. I've since used the clipper on a couple deepthought 18xx games, and have a few others in mind. The cards are great, and so are the counters if you clip them, so don't let component quality keep you from getting this!
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Moe45673
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Clipping these components was worse than stickering Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. I also felt the cards needed to be sleeved (and I'm not a chronic sleever) and sleep sounder for having done so.

So glad I own this one!
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Matt
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This game turned me into a component clipper, but oh boy was it worth it. Beautiful, rich game.

Great review! thumbsup
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Mike Toot
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This is a most excellent review, Ryan! It expresses perfectly what I've found while playing this game. I especially agree about the heroes; if they're not on the beach early, the outlook is not so good for the rest of the landing force.

I also find myself spending *a lot* of time thinking over the options and potential losses of each move. It's so tense it's unbelievable. It's also frustrating as hell to have a great opportunity to shellac several WNs, but have only two counters or stacks with which to attack that turn. Argh!

John Butterfield did a hell of a job with this game. It totally rocks, and earned a 10 from me.
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Chris Valk
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Wonderful, this is. Sale, have you made.
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Ryan
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LaggingEdge wrote:
Wonderful, this is. Sale, have you made.

In case anyone cares, Chris provided the boot to the butt that motivated the review being posted. I had recently posted it to a more obscure part of BGG and he twisted my arm until I cried, "Uncle!" and reposted it here.

Moe45673 wrote:
I also felt the cards needed to be sleeved (and I'm not a chronic sleever) and sleep sounder for having done so.

I should have mentioned that I sleeved my cards as well because they didn't feel quite sturdy enough to withstand multiple shuffles without damage. I'm glad I did.

ipgyst wrote:
I got a corner rounder/puncher/clipper just for this game, and it was totally worth it. It turned every sharp, fuzzy corner into a beautifully rounded masterpiece. I've since used the clipper on a couple deepthought 18xx games, and have a few others in mind. The cards are great, and so are the counters if you clip them, so don't let component quality keep you from getting this!

Verdigris97 wrote:
This game turned me into a component clipper, but oh boy was it worth it. Beautiful, rich game.

I've waffled on the nice Oregon Laminations counter clippers I see posted around here. I'd like to do so as I won't use nail clippers anymore. Haven't been able to justify the money yet. Maybe some day.

Thanks all for the kind words and compliments.
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Nicola S
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What an excellent review Ryan!

It is also interesting how I can relate to much of your experience, i.e. playing the game straight for N days. In my case I do not know how many they were, all I remember is that I played some 10 (yes, TEN) times straight. And I did manage to win twice the extended scenario (without variants).

I would only add one point to the "quibbles" list.
A point I experienced several times in my plays. A point which basically made me give up because there was no prospect to win given the time and VP requirements. A point which IS entirely luck driven. A point which is also closely tied to the "lack of heroes" you mention.
That point is: the cards that call for German reinforcements and the "add depth marker" rule.
There were games where I kept on piling depth marker every turn after the previous one had been eliminated and in the long run your guys get hit and you lose key weapons for the newly placed depth marker up to a point where you will not have the right combination anywhere and you are stuck.
I must admit those were 100% frustrating times and I did not have any fun because all of a sudden it just felt plain "bad luck".

The good thing, though, is that the game is SO good, that, as you said, just drags you back for more.

BTW I cannot wait for the next two installments in the series, and my dream remains that he will do something similar for the D-Day airborne landings (if you think about it, it does not make much difference between beach landings and parachute ones...also the scattering and randomness of the units on the ground resembles the drifting and delaying part of the Omaha landings).
The utopia is to then have Utah beach and La Point du Hoc to link everything in a true D-Day monster (finally SOLO from the ground up)...

Thanks again for the review and for making me itching to get this game back on the table soon!

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Christian Holmes
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_viper_ wrote:


BTW I cannot wait for the next two installments in the series, and my dream remains that he will do something similar for the D-Day airborne landings (if you think about it, it does not make much difference between beach landings and parachute ones...also the scattering and randomness of the units on the ground resembles the drifting and delaying part of the Omaha landings).
The utopia is to then have Utah beach and La Point du Hoc to link everything in a true D-Day monster (finally SOLO from the ground up)...





I too am eagerly waiting on the new games. (Shouldn't they be out soon???!!)

What you are suggesting would DEFINITELY be a lot of fun! I would buy those in a heartbeat!
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Nicola S
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Last I saw on DG site, Tarawa is slated for August 2014, Peleliu is now February 2015 (good for the cash, bad for the wait!).

As for the part about Airborne D-Day landings in the Cotentin, the Designer himself replied to my direct question back a few months ago (when he was the "designer of the month") that the idea had some merit (sorry but I cannot find the thread anymore...)

So there is hope

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Robert Fox
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I enjoy the game, but getting the counters punched was tough. It's the first time in over 7 years that I've had to use my hobby knife to get the counters separated without damaging them.

The game itself is worth the effort though. I've had no problems with the quality of the counters once removed from the counter sheet.
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Chris B
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Great review! Reading it makes me think I should take a closer look at this game...
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Jeff Smith
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I finally put my order in for this and after reading your review I can't wait to play!
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Austin Andersen
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One of the best write ups I have ever come across! Thanks a bunch.
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Ryan
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bbblasterfire wrote:
One of the best write ups I have ever come across! Thanks a bunch.

You are welcome a bunch! Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the two enthusiastic thumbs up (your avatar)!
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Paul Heron
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Ryanmobile wrote:

d10-4 Those who don't have much space or much time. You can finish the basic game in a few hours once you have a good understanding of the rules. The extended game is much longer. I have been able to start and finish the basic game over several evenings during the work week. The extended game has taken the better part of a week at the same rate. You also need the space (it's not a huge game, but it will demand your dinner table or a large desk.


For those who don't have the space / time requirements, there's the excellent Vassal module. It's my preferred way of playing Omaha.

A prospective buyer could try out the game on Vassal to find out whether it's a game for them - the rules and charts are available online.

The module even offers Michael Evans' alternative map, which is less busy and easier on the eyes.


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Troy Pollex
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Being new to war games and VASSAL, is there a good guide on BGG on how to use VASSAL?
 
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