Undaunted: Normandy

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Undaunted: Normandy takes a historic war and mixes it with deck building and a modular board to provide a compelling campaign for two players. Deck building is a mechanic of changing the make up of your own personal deck of cards as you play the game. Unlike most other deck builders, shedding (getting rid of cards from your hand) useless cards won’t be top of your agenda here. The…
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Undaunted: Normandy Undaunted: Normandy takes a historic war and mixes it with deck building and a modular board to provide a compelling campaign for two players. Deck building is a mechanic of changing the make up of your own personal deck of cards as you play the game. Unlike most other deck builders, shedding (getting rid of cards from your hand) useless cards won’t be top of your agenda here. The reason is that casualties received during the game remove that card from your deck. There are some useless cards that simulate the ‘fog of war’ but you’ll have to work around these in other ways! You’ll be using your deck to command your troops across a terrain made up of clearly illustrated tiles. You will want to be as tactical as possible in this movement though as the unit type, terrain type and range all dial into to a target number you must roll for a successful attack. Set up is quick for a deck building game, and the hand management proves more thoughtful thanks to the differences between it and other deck building games. Getting more cards into your deck strengthens the unit of the same name but is also making your deck bigger decreasing the chance of seeing the cards you need turning up often. If you don’t fancy playing through a campaign you can instead set up one off scenarios and switch sides after to get a feel of both. For a small box war game Undaunted offers a lot of gameplay and options. The series is being furthered with a stand alone North Africa game released and a Reinforcements pack that expands both games. Player count: 2 Time: 45-60 minutes Age rating: 14+

Awards

Great For Two
Dice Tower
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • easy rules, quick to learn
  • plenty of tactical crunch
  • elegant deck building mechanism

Might Not Like

  • some scenarios not balanced
  • fair bit of luck
  • theme might put some off
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Description

June, 1944: Through the D-Day landings, the Allies have seized a foothold on the beaches of Normandy. Now you must lead your troops forward as you push deeper into France and drive the German forces back. You will face intense resistance, machine gun fire, and mortar bombardment, but a great commander can turn the situation to their advantage!

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. Use your cards to seize the initiative, bolster your forces, or control your troops on the battlefield. Strong leadership can turn the tide of battle in your favor, but reckless decisions could prove catastrophic as every casualty you take removes a card from your deck. Take charge amidst the chaos of battle, hold fast in the face of opposition, and remain undaunted.

 

undaunted-cover-image

Undaunted Normandy is a 2 player, platoon level, light war game from Osprey Games. It’s set following the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944 and pits German and US troops across 12 scenarios. Each scenario lasting about an hour during which the two sides vie to control key objective points and fulfil the victory conditions of the scenario.

The game combines deck-building with tactical unit movement and elegant but simple rules which deliver a thoughtful but pacey play experience.

Undaunted-normandy-board Credit to – Osprey

Gameplay

Players place the square terrain tiles in an interlocking pattern as determined by the scenario brief. Then they add other relevant battlefield components: their starting units, spawn points and objective markers being the most important. They create their starting deck, and their scenario specific card supply from which they will be able to draft, again based on the scenario instructions. Once they have drawn their opening hand, they are ready to start. The first round of initiative goes to the specified player.

Each turn a player will draw four cards from their deck and then simultaneously and secretly discard one face down to determine initiative for the round – it’s a good chance to get rid of useless ‘fog of war’ cards but their low value is not going to win you back initiative if you opponent discards a higher value unit card in this phase.

Once initiative is determined players take their turns one after another, playing the three cards from their hand. Depending on the card played these will either be troop actions with their unit counters on the board, actions to draw more cards from their deck or actions to draft cards from their supply into their deck.

Units can all move or attack and the type of unit (Rifleman, Gunner, Sniper, etc.) affects these characteristics. All units have other specific special functions such as scouting, concealing or recon. Combat itself involved rolling a number of d10, aiming for a target number. This is derived from the target unit type, terrain it is on and range. Some attacks suppress, which affects future activation, but normal damage is reflected by being forced to return unit cards from the hand/discard/deck to the box. If none remain when you are called on to discard, the unit is then removed from the board; if there are no remaining unit cards for that counter in the supply, it is removed from the game.

Undaunted-normany-components Credit to – Osprey

Decks also contain the useless ‘fog of war’ cards and managing these is another part of the challenge. Scouting terrain tiles, which allows other non-scout units movement access, adds fog cards to your deck. But you can also remove them from the game with a Scout’s recon action; or add them to opponent’s deck with a Conceal action.

The game ends with victory to the first team to capture objective tokens to the total value listed in the scenario or when all opponent Riflemen have been eliminated from the board.

How does it play

The simple answer is it plays really well and is a satisfying pacey small-unit war game, which I heartily recommend. Setup is quick and table presence is fairly compact – I have played this a couple of times in the pub. Turns fly, but there is sufficient tactical depth to make decisions meaningful.

Luck plays a significant role through your draw of cards and in rolling attack dice. The card play is interesting as adding to your deck improves the resilience of units on the board. Increasing the chance of being able to use that particular unit. However, it pads your deck. Thus decreases the likelihood of any other particular card you might want coming into your hand.

The flip side is that as units get hit by enemy fire you have to throw a card of theirs into the box. This reduces the likelihood of being able to access them again. Getting one step closer to removing a unit from the board or discarding it altogether. Balancing deck composition is critical. It is telling that there is the option of transferring cards from you hand back to your supply. As well as the more common route of trying to get cards out of your supply and into your deck.

The fog of war is also an interesting mechanic – it forces selective scouting and means you have to choose carefully where you want your other units to be able to move on the board. Dice rolls meanwhile are modified by circumstances – range, cover and target unit characteristics – so you can mitigate that aspect of luck to an extent. But then, it’s a war game and how many of those don’t have some aspect of luck?

Undaunted-cards

I like the way that the rules expand to include the full array of units gradually as you play through scenarios. machine gun units appear first in scenarios two and three and sniper units appear in scenario four, for example. Consequently, you are not overwhelmed with too many unit specific rules while still trying to get a grip of the basic mechanics and how they play.

One point that needs making is that the scenarios don’t always feel balanced. The first scenario for example seems much easier to win as the Germans. However, I think you have to decide not to let that bug you. No scenario I have found is impossible to win as either side. If you take it in turns to play both sides through the same scenario you can challenge yourself to do better than your opponent when they were in your shoes. The scenarios are based on historical events, so of course they are not all perfectly balanced.

In some ways I could suggest this is a small box Memoir ’44, but while there are a lot of similarities, I prefer the fact that your card draw in Undaunted affects which units you can use but not which part of the board you have command over. My wargame tastes veer toward the lighter end but there is no lack of hard thinking in this game.

While I still prefer 878 Vikings as my ‘go to’ accessible war game, this is a much smaller and quicker option with plenty of crunch. I have played one off scenarios of this as a filler in a games night. Equally, I have spent an entire evening playing a number of scenarios through and trying both sides with each of the scenarios played. I can see why it has had a lot of positive press and it is well deserved.

How to play Undaunted Normandy

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.

Setting Up

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.

Initiative

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.

Player Turns

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!

Player Actions

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.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • easy rules, quick to learn
  • plenty of tactical crunch
  • elegant deck building mechanism

Might not like

  • some scenarios not balanced
  • fair bit of luck
  • theme might put some off