In Undaunted: Normandy, two players take charge of the American or German forces during World War II and battle it out over twelve scenarios to decide the victor! The game utilises an elegant deck-building system that has players drawing a hand of four cards, bidding for who takes the first turn with one, and then taking actions using the other three cards to move their soldiers, build up their troops and attack the enemy. Undaunted: Normandy, is a tense, light wargame designed by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson, and published by Osprey Games. It is easy to grasp, flows really quickly and the deck building system creates so many tense decisions. Let’s learn how the game plays.
Undaunted: Normandy includes twelve scenarios i.e. battlefield landscapes with varying armies and objectives, and the Osprey Games website also features five bonus scenarios. These all vary in scale and complexity, and while you can tackle them in any order, scenarios 1-5 serve almost as a tutorial for the game system and it’s, therefore, helpful for new players to start at the beginning – we’ll introduce the game using scenario 1!
To set up a game of Undaunted: Normandy, consult the Scenario Book; the left-hand page of each scenario shows a historical introduction, the objectives, the deck composition (the two armies), which army starts with the initiative (who goes first) and some tips/advice, while the right-hand page shows the landscape and the starting positions of all units and objectives.
First, use the picture on the right-hand page of the scenario to build the landscape, also placing starting locations for units, objectives and other tokens. Next, look at the table describing the deck composition for each army on the left-hand page. Take those units that are marked “D” and place the number of “D” cards face-down in a pile – this will be your starting deck. Then, take the other cards for those units, marked “S” in the table, and assemble a tableau of these cards next to you, arranged by each unit; this will be your supply – your reserves that you can bolster into your deck as the game progresses. Finally, take note of the objective – in Scenario 1 you must capture 5 objectives – and place the four dice, and the initiative marker in the middle of the table with the US side up, this shows who currently has the initiative (more on that shortly). That’s it, we’re ready to commence battle!
Playing Undaunted: Normandy
Undaunted: Normandy utilises a concise deck-building system that is simple to learn, but always conjures up interesting and tense decisions. Let’s see how it works.
First, both players draw four cards off the top of their face-down deck. They then look at these four cards and must first decide which one to use to bid for the initiative. The initiative dictates who takes their turn first – often a big advantage. Each card shows the Initiative Value in the top left, ranging from 1 for Fog of War (useless cards that bulk up your deck), to 9 for the Platoon Sergeant (a powerful unit that has two helpful actions to bulk up your forces). Players simultaneously show their chosen card, and the person with the highest initiative value wins the toss; ties are settled by favouring the person who already has the initiative. This seems straightforward, but the card you used for the initiative then cannot be used on your turn and goes straight into a discard card. More powerful cards with higher initiative values will, therefore, help you win the initiative, but then you can’t use them on that turn, so this is a tense compromise between going first or using your more powerful cards.
With the initiative decided, the first player begins to take actions with the three remaining cards in their hand. To do this, players look at the actions (we’ll go through these shortly) below the title and the image of the unit: they must choose only one of these. Players will carry out each action then place the card into their discard pile. Once the first player’s cards have all been used up and placed in the discard, the second player then takes their actions on their three cards and discards them to finish the round. Players then start the next round by drawing four more cards, choosing one for initiative then using the other three as before. Once their deck runs out, players simply pick up their discard pile, shuffle the cards and then place the new deck face down, and we carry on. This system moves really quickly and easily, and once you are familiar rounds can be over in a couple of minutes!
Now we know how players use their decks in Undaunted: Normandy, let’s go through the actions that players will be ordering their units to do. In scenario 1, players are given two battalions of Scouts (Scout A, and B), two battalions of Riflemen (Riflemen A and B), two Squad Leaders (Squad Leader A and B) and a Platoon Sergeant. Riflemen and Scouts are Combat Cards – units who you control on the map – while Squad Leaders and Platoon Sergeants are Command Cards which allow you to build out your deck or further control your Combat Cards, but have no physical presence on the map.
Scouts open up the battlefield, allowing other troops to move between previously unscouted regions. Their main ability is, you guessed it, “Scout” which allows the player to move their scout up to two squares away from their current position placing “Scout Tokens” as they go, enabling other troops to move into these areas, and then taking as many Fog of War cards into their discard pile. Fog of War cards have no actions and the lowest initiative value – they are useless – meant to signify breakdown in communication in a chaotic battlefield. In this way, scouts are essential to unveil the play area, but if used to explore too much will fill up a player’s deck with unhelpful cards that will prevent from drawing helpful ones. Scouts can also “Attack” (more on that soon), “Conceal”, a crafty option that enables players to place Fog of War cards into the opposing players deck, and finally, “Recon”. Recon is very useful as it gives you the ability to remove these useless Fog of War cards; take the Recon action and players remove a Fog of War (it must be in their hand) from the game and, instead, draw another from the deck – this new card can be played immediately.
The counterpart to the Scouts in this Undaunted: Normandy scenario are the Riflemen. Riflemen can “Move” between scouted squares, “Attack”, and, most importantly, “Control”. Most of the scenarios in Undaunted: Normandy require you to move into squares containing Objectives worth an amount of points. Riflemen use the Control action to turn the Scout Token over to the Claimed side, allowing them to capture that objective and earning points that are needed to win most of the scenarios. Riflemen are unremarkable in their combat and movement abilities, but they are the only unit who can claim objectives, so keep them alive!
Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders have no presence on the map, instead they allow you to manipulate your deck and your hand. Both can Bolster – this enables players to take cards from their face-up tableau and add these to their discard pile to give them more options going forward. Platoon Sergeants can then “Command”, enabling them to draw two cards from their face-down deck and use them straight away, while Squad Leaders can
“Inspire”, which allows players to replay a card in their hand. This latter action can lead to devastating combos that are tough for your opponent to predict, often swinging the tide of battle!
With all the actions outlined, the last thing to highlight is attacking – arguably the most tense, heart-in-mouth part of Undaunted: Normandy. Players can take the attack action if they have a rifleman or scout in-hand, and first they must select that counter on the map and count the number of squares between their counter and the enemy counter they’d like to shoot. They add this number to the defence symbol on the enemy counter, and then add on any cover provided by the space (shown by a defence symbol on the square) – this is their target to roll with the dice. Players then roll the number of dice shown on the card (1 dice for riflemen/scout), hoping to reach this target number. If they roll this number or higher (0 counts as a 10), they successfully hit and the target unit is then damaged. The opposing players must first check their hand for a card corresponding to that unit. If it’s in-hand they must remove it and place it out of the game; if not in-hand they check their discard pile then their face-down deck and remove the card, if found. If there’s none of the targeted unit cards left, that unit is destroyed and removed from the game. The mechanic of removing cards from the opposing player’s hand is why seeking to gain the initiative is so important – it’s heartbreaking to plan a devilish turn only for those cards to be shot out of your hand!
Gameplay And Completing Objectives
With all the actions and cardplay in Undaunted: Normandy understood, players are ready to lay waste to each other on the battlefield. Play develops by each army carefully scouting the battlefield using their scout units, trying to avoid taking too many useless Fog of War cards, and then pushing their riflemen towards the objectives. It’s challenging to recapture objectives once your opponent controls them (all units on the objective space must be destroyed before you can control an opposing player’s objective), hence, speed is of the essence and often being the first person to control high-scoring objectives is the key to victory! A player wins once they capture enough objectives to reach the goal number of points, and once players are used to the Undaunted: Normandy system, most scenarios will take around 30-40 minutes.