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Subject: The RDR Systen Heads to Norway. rss

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Tim Parker
United States
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Three greatest chess players ever: Bobby Fischer, Mikhail Tal, and Victor Korchnoi.
Norway 1940 is an operational game of the German invasion (code named Operation Weserubung) with one player taking command of the attacking Germans and the other commanding the allied forces of Norway, Britain, France, and Poland as they try to resist the latest onslaught of the Reich. Each turn, the players can choose from a list of “actions” to move, attack, refit/bring in reinforcements or transfer forces as they try to capture the vital areas of Norway. The game end either with a German automatic victory once they capture the key cities or through the accumulation of victory points.

Playing Time: Despite lasting eighteen turns, the game plays fairly quickly. The biggest slow period is the first three turns when the Germans receive multiple actions rather than the normal one per turn allotted to each player. Since many action involve only one function, the game play moves pretty fast.

Map: The map is an area depiction of Norway and the sea areas that lie between the initial neutral country and the two combatants. Most of the map is taken up by water spaces with only the far right hand side of the map containing Norway as well as unplayable Swedish territory. Along the edges of the map are numerous charts and boxes ranging from the turn record chart to refitting tables to the holding boxes covering different game functions. The map is quite simple and reminds one of one of those old atlas maps that resided in encyclopedias.

Counters: The counters depict the fighting forces of all the nations involved along with a handful of informational pieces and random event chits. The counters are generally speaking good as regards telling which side is which (although the German and Norwegian schemes are a bit similar) but the biggest problem with the counters if the font size used. This is really quite tiny and I found myself several times using a magnifying glass to read the unit identification.

Rules: The biggest issue with this game is the rules. Other parts could be overlooked if the rules worked but after playing the game I feel this is a case of a round peg in a square hole.

The rules are based on the Red Dragon Rising(RDR) game system and cover the usual wargame suspects with the notable exception of no ZOC which, given the nature of the RDR system, makes sense. That being said, there are several problems here.

First, several key rules need clarification. Even before I pushed my first counter I had to go to the consimworld folder covering this game to clear up some crucial elements which, I discovered, I was not only in my confusion. The missing German transports from the initial deployment was annoying but the issue of off map boxes and the home territory of Germany and Britain displayed on the map was especially aggravating. Second, the supply rules felt especially cumbersome. There are nine different rules covering land supply alone and I felt like I spent half my time checking supply and then, if a unit was OOS, it only subtracted one from the combat value. That seemed like a lot of work for very little impact. Third, there are lots of special rules tucked into the text with no supporting charts to give the players for quick reference. For example, to move over mountains requires a die roll and there are three individual cases to consider. There are also all the actions which players can take which again are not organized in any fashion except in the text and within those paragraphs are again some details you need to know that can easily be forgotten. Finally, I think the biggest problem with the rules is the system being used. The rules, which are based on the RDR system(further expanded on in the game Red Dragon/Green Crescent) are really designed for a more strategic level. In those games, there are no supply rules to consider at all; the players need only concern themselves with the possible strategies that might be used in those conflicts. In a strategic game supply can often be built into the rules or, if considered, can be done in a simple manner. But at the operational level, supply becomes more of an issue and has to be taken into account. When you also
consider that the RDR system was inspired by the old War at Sea and Victory in the Pacific games published by Avalon Hill (both of which operative at a strategic and abstracted level) and it seem clear, IMO, that what you really have here is a situation of a square peg in a round hole: a game system that is very cool (RDR) but it does not function well at the operational level.

Things I like about the game:

1 It plays quickly. One of the cool things about the RDR system is how fast game play goes since you are only executing one action per turn and you don’t get bogged down into lengthy movement and combat phases.
2 The game is a nice simulation of the German invasion. So if you want to just get a feel for recreating that event, this game will do just that but the emphasis here is on simulation.
3 The game systems is easy overall but in this incarnation there are just too many specific rules that eventually cause it to bog down.

Things that can be annoying: angry
1 The location of the refit charts and holding boxes make the game difficult for solo play
2 The difficulty in reading the unit designations on the counters. If you are going to have an initial deployment based on unit identification you either need bigger font or bigger counters (both would be preferable, IMO)
3 There are some significant mistakes in the original rules not least of which is the deployment of five transports units on the German side.
4 I had to go to the consimworld folder seeking answers to questions before I even moved a counter! That is never a good sign.

Overall Evaluation: d10-9 = wargame heaven d10-1 =I’d rather staple my tongue to the wall for a month! yuk

Map= d10-5 The map is okay. It is functional but not much more than that. Quite frankly, the numbering of all the sea spaces is annoying and superfluous as there is no reason I can find for them to even need a number designation.

Counters= d10-6 The counters are nice in terms of color distinction and the art work for the planes but from a functional stand point they fail miserably gulp I am still giving them a d10-6 because the artwork is nice.

Rules= d10-3 The rules are bulky and cumbersome. The supply rules feel tedious and there are way too many specific rules for specific situations. While I can understand the need to have rules that correctly cover these aspects of the campaign I think trying to wed those needs to the Red Dragon Rising system was a mistake. At the heart of it all is the conflict of the needs of an operational level game versus a system that was really designed to depict the strategic realm. The gaps in between the theory and reality created a cumbersome framework that is not much fun to play.

Deployment of Forces=
d10-4 I am giving this rating partly because how long it took to figure out what happened to the German transports. I know the Germans did send troops in empty iron ore vessels so at first I thought maybe I had missed something in the rules that took the history into consideration but it turned out to be one big errata FUBAR. Once I got past that, it still took time to read those tiny unit designations.

Overall Rating= d10-5 This game turned out to be on big swing and miss for me. First, the errata along was vexing. Second, the game really didn’t feel like much fun. It felt more like a recreation without the narrative rather than a chance to play with history and explore what if propositions such as quicker British reaction or greater German difficulties. The game just seemed scripted into two acts with act one being German assault and grab what they can while the allies tried to build up forces in Narvik and act two seeing just how long it would take the Germans to drive the out (there felt like little chance of anything else happening). Third, the rules felt clunky and bulky with lots of flipping through pages often in search of answers. Some of that could’ve been mitigated by some reference sheets but none were supplied. Finally they single biggest issue was the misallocation of the Red Dragon Rising system. Trying to fit an operational game into a strategic system was a big mistake.
Bottom Line: It is unlikely I will play this game again anytime soon which is saying a lot because I love the RDR system. Unfortunately RDR does not fit this scenario at all and the result was a clunky set of rules that bogged down and created a bland gaming experience. So in the end, I guess what I am really saying is I need to find a good, used copy of Narvik for the next time I want to explore the Norwegian Campaign in World War II.
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