HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDOn 24 July, 1944 (D + 48) the Allied armies in France, after suffering over 122,000 casualties, had still only managed to gain control of an area that invasion planners had hoped would be in Allied hands by D + 5. All that changed when, on July 25th, the Allies launched “Operation Cobra:” a major offensive that, its architects hoped, would finally break the bloody stalemate on the Normandy Peninsula.
The offensive succeeded beyond its planners most optimistic expectations. On that date General Bradley’s American First Army smashed into Waffen SS General Paul Hausser’s Seventh Army which held the western flank of the German front near the town of St. Lo. After a short, sharp fight, American tanks broke through Hausser’s front and drove into the German rear. For the first time in the campaign, the Allies had gained freedom of maneuver; a crisis now confronted the German OKH: with the rupture in the German front rapidly widening, the survival of all of the German armies defending Normandy — Field Marshal Günther von Kluge’s entire Army Group B — now hung in the balance.
OVERLORD is a grand tactical (company/battalion/regiment/brigade) level simulation of the several distinctly different phases of the battle for Normandy. First, the Allies must fight to establish and hold their initial beachhead on the French coast; second, they must consolidate and expand their lodgment in the face of continuing German counterattacks; and finally, the Allies — if they are to win the battle of Normandy — need to break the German front and, despite fierce resistance, must fight their way through the hedgerows and into the French interior and the German rear.
The game mechanics of OVERLORD are, on the whole, exceedingly simple. Game turns follow the traditional, if uncomplicated sequence: German movement, and then German combat; followed by Allied movement, and then Allied combat. What complexity there is in the design, shows up in the stacking and supply rules. And even these rules are intuitively logical and easy to learn and remember. Despite OVERLORD’s comparative simplicity, however, a number of design features succeed in giving the game a surprisingly pleasant “historical” feel. The game mechanics incorporate rules covering Naval Gunfire, Tactical Air, Carpet Bombing, Weather, Commandos, Armor limitations, and an Armored Cavalry/Recce exploitation advantage. And what is nice about this “rules package,” is that none of the rules have that “tacked on,” last minute feel, that seems to crop up in the rules of so many of the newer titles.
OVERLORD offers the players three possible starting dates on which to start the game: 6 June, 1 July, or 3 August. In addition, the players may end the game on one of three ending dates: 27 June, 30 July, or 30 August. This means that the players may actually choose from one of six scenarios: the shortest lasting only eight game turns; the longest (6 June to 30 August) running 29 turns. In addition to these six scenarios, the game also offers an optional “Rommel Plan” German initial deployment for scenarios beginning on 6 June. When experimenting with Rommel’s “stop them on the beaches” approach, the Allied player will find the fight just to hold onto the beachhead much more challenging.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
OVERLORD occupies an interesting niche among “Normandy” simulation games. It is a game about the most famous amphibious invasion in history, but it makes no attempt to show the actual invasion itself. It is small enough to fit on a table top, and yet it allows players to simulate the entire Normandy campaign from the moments right after the landing, all the way to and including the encirclement of the retreating Germans at Falaise. Even the campaign game, all twenty-nine game turns of it, can be played in a day. But most importantly, it is fun. Unmistakable evidence of Frank Chadwick’s work in the redesign of OVERLORD is clear, but the basic, fast-moving game system has been left intact. And despite the fact that it is not an invasion game, OVERLORD still offers players the excitement and nail-bitingly tense scenarios that characterize the best of the other titles on this subject without anyone having to get wet.
- Time Scale: 3 days per game turn
- Map Scale: 3.5 miles per hex
- Unit Size: company/battalion/regiment/brigade
- Unit Types: armor/panzer, specialized armor, armored cavalry/reconnaissance, lorried infantry/panzer grenadier, infantry, parachute, glider/air landing, Nebelwerfer, bicycle, flak, assault gun, air markers, and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 3-9 hours (depending on scenario)
- One 19” x 25” hexagonal grid Map Board
- 352 5/8” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Axis Scenario Initial Placement Chart
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Allied Scenario Initial Placement Chart
- One six-sided Dice
- One 10” x 13” x 2” bookcase-style cardboard Game Box (with six card board counter trays)
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU