Welcome to the newest installment in “My Top 3 Wargames” series. Today’s publication date is of course intentional and not by chance – we are about to celebrate another D-Day anniversary. To commemorate that great feat – largest amphibious assault ever undertaken – I decided to present my personal selection of favorite games covering that topic.
You will find below all types of wargames: solo, multiplayer, small scale, large scale or covering most of Normandy campaign. Each of them stresses the importance of those initial days when beaches were breached and momentum gained.
So let us see the titles in my selection!
Other articles in the series:
D-Day at Omaha Beach by Decision Game
I will repeat myself like a broken record – I am devoted fan of John H. Butterfield designs. I focus mainly on D-Day series, SpaceCorp and Enemy Action. All those games are pretty procedural, with clear actions designed for the Artificial Intelligence (Bots). I really like the way cards drive the Competition / Germans / Japanese behaviors – you do not have to look up the possible actions in pretty complicated flowcharts. Still, be advised that – especially in case of D-Day – you will face enormously difficult task to deal with. Those titles and its scenarios really try to depict the hardships, misfortunes and difficulties of the landings. But believe me, the joy of achieving even smallest successes is great.
Some more info on game I have chosen for top 3. In D-Day at Tarawa you command the invading American forces against dug-in Japanese defenders, which are controlled by the game system. Tarawa covers the landings on Betio Island in November 1943, and the operations of the US 2nd Marine and 27th Infantry Divisions to clear it — the first heavily contested landing of the Pacific War. The battle for the tiny Island raged for four days and, when it was finally over, fewer than 200 of the 5,000 Japanese defenders remained alive.
Playing D-Dat at Omaha Beach is a very enjoyable experience although do not expect easy wins. The game is tough, you need to be prepared to get a lot of casualties but in the end – once you are more familiar with the map – you see the path and possible axis of attack (read the books about this battle and follow historical axis of advance – pro tip!). The learning curve is painful but satisfaction even greater once you manage to achieve your goals!
More about game:
D-Day Landings for Memoir’44 by Days of Wonder
There are positions where expansions spice-up the gameplay; there are also such add-ons which transform completely the game. I am huge fan of all Commands and Colors games and provided there is a theme-fitting game I was sure to put it on the list 🙂 The choice was obvious – I think there is no second wargame I am playing which underwent such a dramatic change / upgrade / enhancement like Memoir’44.
If you compare the base game from 2004 which in oversimplified way was presenting the World War II in Western Europe, to the way this title looks like today you would blink in amazement with what you see. Everything, literally everything was improved – rules, variety of units, size and depth of maps, strategic and tactical options, etc. Still, D-Day Landings is probably the pinnacle of this change.
Memoir ’44: D-Day Landings (2014) – commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day with a set of six giant battle maps that can be configured and played in small, medium and large set-ups (the whole 6 maps is truly a life-time experience!)
The battle maps in D-Day Landings introduce the “Extended Breakthrough” format, with the maps being 23 hexes deep and allowing players to undertake battles on a scale and scope never before possible in Memoir ’44 (hurray!). The six maps consist of settings for:
- American Airborne
- Utah Beach
- Omaha Beach
- Gold Beach
- Juno Beach
- Sword Beach.
Each battle can be played individually or assembled with its neighboring scenarios for double- and triple-map battles. With enough players (and enough components), you can link all six battle maps to form a giant board that recreates the entire Normandy coast!
Important note is that the game is so huge in size, that it requires at least one copy of Memoir ’44 as well as the Terrain Pack, Equipment Pack, and Winter Wars expansions. The Mediterranean Theater expansion is recommended, though not required. To play a double-, triple- or sextuple-map battle, more copies of the base game or expansions are required. Still, this is effort worth undertaking – no other C&C game allows for such depth and breadth of oerations. Highly recommended!
More about game:
The Dark Summer by GMT Games
Yet one more great game in the “Dark” series. The Dark Summer: Normandy 1944 is the latest in Ted S. Raicer’s WWII operational series wargames. This title uses a chit-pull activation system (very much solo-friendly!) that determines both the order and type of each sides’ actions. The game last ten action-packed turns, covering June 6 to August 21, 1944.
This is position of moderate complexity, but nevertheless covers all the most important elements of the campaign. There are rules for the D-Day Landings, German strong-points and Ost battalions, Allied tac-air and carpet bombing, Allied artillery superiority, German Nebelwerfer and flak guns, etc. All this from one of the best wargame authors – so it is not surprising, I really enjoy it each time it hits the table!
More about game:
Undaunted: Normandy by David Thompson – I love this game and cannot resist putting here; Undaunted: Normandy is a 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. It is set-up mainly during the Normandy invasion, in June 1944. You use your cards to seize the initiative, bolster your forces, or control your troops on the battlefield. While not exactly covering the actual landings and fight on the beaches, this tells the story of what happened just after them.
Normandy 1944 by Mark Simonitch – tactical level title from the master of hex & counter games; Normandy ’44 is a 2, 3, or 4-player, regimental level game of the D-Day landings on June 6th and the battles that raged in Normandy for the next 21 days. During this crucial period the Germans had their only chance to push back the Allied invasion before the preponderance of Allied men and material made the outcome certain. Highly recommended!
I hope above selection of games will inspire you – playing one of those titles on the D-Day landings anniversary is exactly what I am planning to do! Please share your ideas and other titles which you deem worth putting to the list. Thank you!
My choice for best Normandy game would be Normandy 1944: A Bloody Summer. More than any other it gives the flavour of the Normandy battles and packs a load of interesting detail into a relatively small footprint and rule set. I especially like the simple but effective strategic transport rules. You really feel the Germans gathering from across Europe! The rules haven’t translated perfectly from the French so a little patience is needed, but is rewarded by a great little game.
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I would need to try that one!