Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another Review from BROG #2: AH's D-Day (New version)


THE INVASION'S NEW CLOTHES

D-DAY, by  S.CRAIG TAYLOR

from THE AVALON HILL GAME COMPANY

One 14" x 22" mounted gameboard; 110 counters;  one rules sheet, one Manual Book;  two OB Charts; two ten-sided die; boxed. $21

Mini-review by RICHARD H. BERG

One of AH's best marketing ideas in decades, other than using my picture on the front of the Blackbeard game, was hooking up with the Smithsonian Institute for this series of what amounts to redesigns of all their old, classic, titles that have anything to do with America at war.  The first in the series was last summer's Battle of the Bulge. Now we get a brand-new D-Day. 

Craig Taylor's 1992 version is pretty much a complete overhaul of the old, "classic" D-Day, which was one of my favorite AH'ers. Invasion games are, by nature, always fun; you can change your plan in any number of ways, and few games ever play the same way. And there's always the chance of getting that "rush" from  completely outwitting your opponent.

The Smithsonian Series games come in big boxes, almost as big as the ones that GDW recently unveiled for Tet Offensive and Stand and Die, with a cover by George Parrish that appears to throw in a little something for everybody. If there's a visual symbol of WWII that's been omitted, it was probably through oversight. Unfortunately, while production is infinitely more colorful than the old edition it is to less effect. The now, full-color, mounted map is, for some reason, 1/2 the size of the original. It also covers about twice as much of Europe: the old map gave us France and the Low Countries; the new one runs all the way to Vienna, Prague and Berlin. This is a strange design decision, as the victory conditions are still for the Allies to get across the Rhine, not to vacation with the Hapsburgs. The result is that about 40% of an already small surface is somewhat unnecessary.

Gone are the old "pink-and-blue" counters; now we have "green-and-grays", with a few other identifying color schemes thrown in. We also get several different shapes and sizes: combat units are the standard-size markers, while armor HQ's, air units and markers are Panzerblitz size; and the optional Supreme HQ units are round! Not exactly XTR glitz, but certainly up-to-date and readable. Along with the change in map scale comes a concurrent revision in unit scale; our combat units - and there are only 70 of them -  are now, mostly, corps - not divisions. The Basic rules are on a single, two-sided sheet which probably has more information than the old rules folder. There are a few optional and advanced rules (6 out of a total of 36 pages) in the nicely done "Battle Manual". The manual also contains a brief Bibliography, the usual, good Craig Taylor essay, some pictures, a few charts, etc.

Given the Smithsonian tie-in, D-Day 1992 is obviously a package aimed at a wider audience than your average wargamer. The usual AH ad/folder that accompanies the game seems to reinforce that theory, including, as it does, four "blurbs", two of which are from Singapore and South Africa (Singapore has a really great wargame store, by the way; they have one copy of "everything!") and one from the Pearl Buck Foundation - an unusual source of plugs at best. At the same time, the game is not quite as easy (or simple) as the old D-Day.  While more historically "chromey" - there are optional rules for Mulberries, air rules that are more or less an expansion of the old game's optional Strategic Air Power rule, etc. - the reason for this appears to be more a desire to get away from the old game's style and time-honored, 3-1 AH CRT. The combat system, in fact, is the biggest change in the game - aside from the scale and scope.

The Sequence of Play, while retaining the mold of the old Igo-Hugo system, throws in an interesting overlay of logistics. Under the rather confusing term, "Moves", each player gets a certain number of points which he may use to activate units for movement and attack. In the basic game each player receives a set number of Moves per turn; the optional rules allow them to be acquired based on control of supply sources, HQ's, etc. Playing with those optional rules actually changes the thrust of the game somewhat.

Along with a more logistical feel, the new D-Day comes with a totally different method of resolving combat. There is no CRT! Players total their SP's and add to (or subtract from) their total a variety of terrain modifiers. To this total they then add a dieroll number, with the higher total "winning". If the victory total exceeds the loser's by 4+ points losses (in steps) are taken. This is a rather nice, neat little system, easy to grasp and implement,which will probably appeal to novices more than "classics" aficionados, who tend to be a rather conservative bunch. Craig Taylor, one of gaming's greats, can always be counted on to provide something different and inventive in even the most mundane of games.

And, despite the game's new, spiffy set of togs, this is a pretty mundane affair. It reminds me of one of those mini-items Frank Chadwick at GDW is always coming up with at convention time to try to suck unsuspecting outsiders into the hobby. And D-Day 1992 is really a mini-game, with an applicable playing surface not much more than an 8x11 sheet of paper. It moves along kind of quickly (there are only 12 turns in a game), and there's plenty of action - mostly because putting 50+ combat units into about 200 hexes produces that sort of feel. Balance is pretty dependent on where you invade and where you defend. I ran through it using a pretty historical set-up and found that the Allies could win handily (they got way more than 20 units across the Rhine), but that this "break-thru" occurred only in the 10th turn, after an almost complete Axis collapse.

This is not a game that will appeal very greatly to regular gamers, for whom it will not be enough, or to the "classicists", for whom the changes will be too much. On the other hand, I can't see any reason why someone new to the hobby might not find it interesting. AH's best hope is that the chachka store at the Smithsonian displays it prominently.


CAPSULE COMMENTS:

Physical Quality:  High, if a bit on the garish side. Information very accessible.

Playability:  A simple game that is easy to learn (maybe five minutes) with a few twists that raise it somewhat above "introductory" level. A good solitaire game, although I don't know why anyone would want to do that.

Historicity: Not much, but not a major issue here. Some of the chrome does lend a bit of the feel for the campaign.

Playing Time: Couple of hours. You can probably play two games in one night.

Comparisons:  As "simple", but not as accessible or as interesting as the old D-Day, and not as much fun as the Smithsonian Bulge game. Atlantic Wall or The Longest Day it ain't.

Overall:  While this may be a good game to get for your young nephew/niece, and it does have some interesting logistical overlay, this will not be a "classic".




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