The time is summer 1944. The Sun shines on Normandie. Gentle wind, fields of bright flowers, and in the background, the romantic staccato of machine gun fire in the morning. In these typical French countryside landscapes, thousands of men are about to fight. A few weeks after D-Day, a U.S. Ranger Company lost in Normandie has to confront the terrifying power of the German's Cult of the Black Sun. Allied with an ancient Deep Ones tribe, the Cult of the Black Sun is preparing a dark ceremony to summon the great Cthulhu.
A miniatures game without miniatures, Heroes of Normandie is a fast-paces WW2 strategy wargame inspired by Hollywood war movies. A tactical scale board-game for two players and two armies, with the Germans on one side and the Americans on the other. Shadows over Normandie is the same game, totally compatible and mixable with Heroes of Normandie, but with three opposing armies, the German Cult of the Black Sun, the ancient Deep Ones and the U.S. Rangers.
To begin either game, you will choose a scenario. The scenario will instruct you how to set up the terrain, how to select your army and how to build your deck of action cards. It will also list what you need to do in order to win the game.
The scenarios increase in complexity, so it is recommended to play the first scenario when learning the game. Over multiple scenarios, you will be able to learn all of the rules for the different terrain types, army compositions and action cards. In addition, all of the rules needed for each unit is noted on the individual unit tiles. Once you've played the game a couple of times you will learn what each of the icons means, and eventually there will be no need to reference the rulebook at all.
If you ever find yourself out of scenarios to play, then there are “player-generated clashes” that you can play. These see you setting up the board and terrain how you wish, building your army to a points value agreed with your opponent, and determining the primary and secondary objectives. This leads to an infinitely-replayable game, straight out of the box.
The game itself is played over a number of rounds as specified by the scenario that you have chosen to play. Each round is separated into three phases, with the first of those being the Orders phase. This is where the ingenuity of the game really shows itself. You will receive a number of order tokens, determined by the composition of your army, as well as a “bluff” order token. These tokens are numbered from 1 to 10, with the “bluff” token being blank.
In the Orders phase, both you and your opponent alternate placing order tokens face-down. Then, during the Activation phase you and your opponent alternate activating your ordered units, starting with the unit that received the order token marked 1, and progressing upwards to 10. It's this mechanic, with the combination of the “bluff” order token, that really brings this game to life with strategy and bluffing.
It is during the Activation phase that most of the action of the game takes place. Ordered units get to move and assault, or fire their weapons, in an attempt to defeat their enemies and win the game. The simple act of moving and assaulting with your units opens up plenty of strategic options when combined with the terrain of the battlefield. Units have a Zone of Control on the battlefield, that enemy units cannot move through and assaulting an enemy unit can force them to retreat. If a unit cannot retreat to a legal space, then it is eliminated. It is through these fairly simple interactions that you can spring traps and control areas of the battlefield to increase your chances of victory.
Individual units themselves range from infantry and weapon teams, to light and heavy vehicles. Infantry unit tiles are double sided. When their full-health side takes damage, the tile is flipped. This damaged side shows a reduced number of men in its artwork, reduced combat bonuses to represent the decreased combat effectiveness of the unit, and increased defensive bonuses, to show how much more difficult it is to hit a reduced number of men.
Weapon teams unit tiles have a side to represent them with their weapons deployed in a fixed position, and another to show them carrying their weapons. Much like infantry tiles, these sides have different stats, to represent how accurate and mobile the different configurations are. Some may even include firing arcs, to show that their weapons can now only fire in a certain direction. All of these things increase the strategic depth the game has and how much choice you have when playing the game.
Finally, the vehicle tiles are really special in this game. Vehicles take damage tokens whenever they are damaged, randomly assigned to a certain part of the vehicle. When the vehicle has two damage tokens assigned to one section, it is destroyed. This brings in an element of “push-your-luck” to the game. Vehicles could be a real focal point to the battle, outlasting even the bravest of infantry, or could be brought down by a lucky grenade from an assaulting infantry squad.
The final phase of the game, the Supply phase allows all of the units that didn't activate in the Activation phase to move. This really gives the game a fast-paced feel, in which all units get to at least move each round.
With two games, utilising one simple-to-learn rule set, it's really easy to get infinite hours of fun, just from one of the boxes. Combining the boxes, adding in any one of the many army boxes, terrain packs, scenario packs or expansion packs increases the fun, replayability and combinations you can create with these games.
Check out Heroes of Normandie, Shadows over Normandie, and many expansions available in 12 Days of Gaming today.