I’ve had D-Day at Omaha Beach for a while now, and have started it a couple of times. After playing the introductory scenario a few times it was time to go for the whole beach with the regular scenario “The First Waves”. I’m sure most are familiar with DDOB but a little intro from me here. DDOB is a solitaire game designed by John Butterfield and published by Decision Games. This is a game driven by cards, there are no dice. All information that drives the game comes from these cards in an ingenious method, dictating everything from drift on the approach to the beach to German fire, to artillery to which units get hit to German reinforcements. It only took a little while to get used to the sequence and then the game moves along pretty quickly.
On the left (east) of the map is the 1st Infantry Division, landing on Fox Green and Easy Red beaches. To the right (west) is the 29th Division, making their appearance on Easy Green, Dog Red, Dog White, Dog Green and Charlie beaches. The map hexes have colored dots to determine which areas get hit from German fire, and the intensity of said fire. The fire comes from color coded Widerstandsnests which house the German infantry that the American units are slogging up the beach against. Each Widerstandsnest (hereafter WN) has a list of weapons the American units must possess to successfully defeat it. Full strength units have all weapons required, while reduced units have only some of the weapons. The game includes armored units, Headquarters, Generals and Heroes. The First Waves scenario covers the fighting by the US to get up the beach, defeat the WN and get into the draws which give access to the hinterland and is 16 turns. The full game is Beyond the Beach and runs 32 turns, requiring the Americans to cross the inland area and exit.
Every single report I have read from people who have played the game says that it is brutal, and extremely difficult to win…… but it is winnable and when you do finally win, it is a satisfying experience. But then, the actual landing on Omaha was a touch and go thing, and was almost called off by the allies due to the intensity of the fighting, so it certainly shouldn’t be a cake walk. And who wants to play a game that you win all the time, where’s the challenge in that? Yes, I got my butt whooped in my first playing.
Here’s the map, and then a look at both areas.
So, a few things thrown in here to help understand the game. I need 19 points to win. Points are 1 for each WN position controlled by the Americans, 1 for each reinforcement position on the hinterland, and 5 for each draw completely controlled. There are four draws. If either division reaches 8 points of actual INFANTRY units as casualties, the game ends in a catastrophic loss. Each three step infantry unit that is reduced to a single step adds one unit to the catastrophic loss box. I can lose all of the armor, AA, artillery, headquarters and other units I want, but lose enough regular infantry and it’s over. This is the usual method of loss. Not often do the Americans get off the beach.
A look at the draws and WN positions:
The beach consists of beach, shingle, sea wall, pavilion and cliffs. Infantry units have the ability to climb the walls and cliffs and the Ranger infantry units specialize in it so they clamber up just a bit easier. Armor units are not allowed to cross into the upper levels until later in the game. There is low tide, mid-tide and high tide. Any units caught on the wrong side of the tide at the end of a tide turn are eliminated, so move that infantry up at any chance. Each division gets two actions per turn, and certain things give free actions, such as having a hero with a unit, or being in command after the HQ units and Generals finally hit the beach Beach obstacles are in every mid-tide hex and can be cleared in the engineer phase. Any unit that makes landing at mid-tide in an obstacle hex that has not been cleared has the chance to suffer from obstacle mines.
In the last picture, you can see at beginning setup, the only units landing are armored units. That first wave usually suffers terribly just from the landing table.
Alright, here we go.
Of the initial armor units, two were eliminated outright, two were delayed two turns and the other 4 all suffered a step loss.
The second landing group is much larger. I won’t go into detail on every landing, but wanted to show how big some of the landing waves are. After turn 2, fewer units die in the water, but the beach becomes the kill zone.
By turn three, I have cleared a beach obstacle and by an incredible stroke of luck, over two turns, created two heroes all in the 1st division sector. I have also however, taken my first full casualty point of infantry.
By Turn 5, I am making good progress. The two Heroes make the 1st Division beach a bit easier to attack as they provide the units stacked with them a free action. These Heroes make it through my entire game without being hit, some good fortune I do not expect to have happen often. Obstacles are getting cleared slowly. Both beaches are still only at 1 full infantry casualty point each, so looking good.
On the 29th Division beach, things are starting to get a bit crowded, this becomes a problem all to itself as the beach is now a target rich environment. Ranger units are on this beach and get a free action, but they are taking deadly fire regularly. General Cota and his headquarters unit is in the water and will hit the beach just before mid-tide.
Once I get my early arriving units up the beach to beat the tide, it’s about time to start thinking of punishing these Germans. Attempts to target the WN positions early in the game are wasted efforts and eat up valuable actions needed to get up the beach. To be effective, the US units must close with the positions, trying to coordinate with the armor to put a barrage on an enemy position. My Heroes come up big on 1st Division beach. Closing with two enemy positions and getting the job done.
Heroes provide a free action, can stand in for a weapon requirement if you have a reduced step unit with limited weapons and can be sacrificed to keep a unit from being reduced. Very useful.
As I get to turn 6, things are looking up, but I still have a ton of work to do. I have no draws taken and am getting ready to reduce two WN positions, both in the 1st division sector. On the 29th side of things, things aren’t so good. It doesn’t look bad yet but I have a beach full of units that have lost a step. My Rangers are getting a beat-down, and I haven’t closed with the enemy positions yet. Fortunately, General Cota and his headquarters are both on the beach now and can start providing free actions and coordinating tank and artillery barrages.
Turn 7 was probably my undoing. The Heroes and their respective units have taken their WN positions quite handily and 1st Division is in tip top shape. Over at the 29th however, General Cota has got these boys moving forward. We have to get out of these kill zones, but the turn 7 German fire phase brought the pain. The large numbers of units on the beach meant we were going to get hit and they hit virtually every already reduced infantry unit taking my casualty tally from 2 to 5 in one fire phase.
That was pretty much the ball game. My boys would hold out, inching up the beach until turn 10, but the bell finally rung for the 29th as we hit 8 Casualty points. I had 3 victory points at that time, no draws taken and got my clock cleaned on the 29th beach.
On the 1st Division beach, the game ended with my troops beginning the push up to the heights, preparing to assault some more WN positions and making their way to the draws. The Heroes were still among the living and proved how valuable they can be. General Wyman was in the water and would have made landfall on the next turn. This beach had only suffered 3 total casualty points and was in great shape.
Unfortunately, on the 29th beach, even with the presence of General Cota and the Rangers, the turn 7 fire phase was brutal. We had just started closing with the WN and had made one assault when the casualty ticker hit 8. It was pretty crazy how quickly we went from being ok to being in trouble.
Once I got the hang of the game it really moved quickly. The choices are tough. You only get two (non-free) actions per beach per turn, that includes everything; moving, firing, assaulting, everything, so you have to make wise choices. The sooner you get up the beach, the better off you are. The kill zones are mostly in the mid-tide hexes, this is where you will take the most casualties. Barrages are pretty pointless until you get some grunts up to the high ground so you can combine fire factors.
Overall, I like this game. I will be playing some more and posting the AAR’s here.
Thanks for reading.