I heard a lot of good opinions about The Dark Series – that it greatly reflects the reality of the battlefield, that it injects in an elegant way uncertainty in form of chit-pull-mechanics, that this is very much solo-friendly. Having all of this in mind I knew I must try that system – and decided to do it with the latest installment, The Dark Summer about the D-Day Landings and the battle for Normandy in June, July and August 1944. I had very good experiences with author – Ted S. Racier – so my expectations were high!
First things first, couple of words about the game, its mechanics, theme and general course of play. The Dark Summer: Normandy 1944 uses a chit-pull activation system that determines both the order and type of each sides’ actions during the game’s ten turns, covering June 6 to August 21, 1944. The availability of Action Round chits is itself determined by the draw of Weather chits, one per turn, which reflect the importance of weather on the effectiveness of Allied air superiority and Allied shipping across the Channel. Weather also determines the number of German Reaction markers, which allow limited response to Allied actions.
The single map extends from just south of Cherbourg (itself covered by a Cherbourg Box) southwest to Avranches and southeast to Alencon, allowing players to recreate the entire campaign from D-Day to the closing of the Falaise gap in late August. Units are mostly regiment/brigades, with a few battalions, but German mechanized forces are presented as operational kampfgruppen.
Victory is determined by the Allies capturing Cherbourg, exiting units to Brittany and Paris, and preventing the exiting of German units, but the Allies win a sudden death victory if they capture all the cities on the map before Turn 10 and the Germans win a sudden death victory by closing down any three Allied Beaches, two of which must be contiguous. The unknown activation sequence means the Allies cannot take the safety of his landing beaches for granted in June!
We decided that the game will be pretty suitable for three players, as I wanted to introduce both of my wargaming buddies – Kuba J and Kuba G – to this title. We decided to split Allied forces in two (US and British) while third person played as Germans:
- Kuba G being in command of powerful US & French forces
- Kuba J was leading British, Canadian & Polish armies
- and me responsible for Germans – giving possibility to the colleagues to have more comfortable play as I was defending.
For Kuba J that was first hex & counters game so the plan was he will have a reasonably straightforward part of the front line. For Kuba G the challenge was much bigger as he would have to almost immediately attack through the bocage towards Cherbourg.
As always, you can click on any of below images to enlarge it in the new window.
At this moment in time we had to stop our game – still, The Dark Summer is great title to save it mid-game! There is no hidden information, all is visible on map and can be easily continued!
I had opportunity to play solo twice – will not bring all the pictures here, as you had pretty decent report above from our multiplayer session. The play was fantastic, and you really could immerse yourselves in the story unfolding. Some things repeated – like “bloody Omaha”, some were each time different – like where German reinforcements were push.
So far in my plays, the steamroller of Allied offensive – especially in British flank – was always gradually, steadily pushing defenders back. But when the fight ensued in bocage, it was no longer so colorful and especially US losses amassed. Really great solo experience.
Let me now share my initial impressions about the game as a whole:
- I truly believe that chit-pull mechanism and variable weather – but with the historical distribution within 10 turns – are great mechanics to make the game replayable, fun and much more engrossing than standard I-Go-You-Go.
- The chit-pull brings also possibility to play this game solitaire without any special additional rules. I tried this myself twice and will for sure come back for more!
- I really like the components, their esthetics and color palette. Still, the game is pretty cheap for what it brings and definitely if you are price-conscious that would be one of the titles you want to go for.
- The game – although full 10-turns campaign can take a lot of time – is ideal to save in the middle and then restart. With no hidden information, reasonable number of chits, you just make couple of pictures and can continue on another evening.
- The victory points and victory rules are something which slightly bothers me, but I would need at least couple of full games to evaluate them. The VP mechanics for area-control games does not always sit well with me – I much more prefer “objective goals” like take Cherbourg, take Britany, etc.
Of course, this is only couple of observations after 3 games – can’t wait to bring the game more to the table – which I am sure will happen. Stay tuned!