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Normandy ’44 – Get Off the Beaches!

Get Off the Beaches

Today we’re looking at the first turn in Normandy ’44 [BGG] [GMT Games]. Clearly, the advice to “get off the beaches” applies, it is a Normandy game after all. We’re actually going to look at a few aspects that I got wrong and what approaches may also work for the first turn as both the allied nations player and as a the German player.

Use Your Advances and Combat

Beach Landing Table

The invasion table gives you Adv2 (advance 2 hexes) results for 1/3rd of the results on the “All Others” column which counts toward both Point du Hoc and each of the Commonwealth beaches. Omaha only gives you a 1-in-6 chance and Utah beach affords you a 50/50 chance of getting off the beach.

You can pretty much write off getting off the beach on Omaha which also has the “Bloody Omaha” rule that can wear down your units with step losses if you roll poorly. That said, each of the other beaches gives you a chance to move beyond the beachhead and attack. In particular, Utah beach affords a great opportunity to cross the causeways and put in an attack on some weaker German units that are otherwise threatening the airborne landing areas. Commonwealth units can also begin their trek to Caen which is the focal point of their area of operations.

Combat strength is halved for the allied units on the turn their units land. Despite this, each beach lands with DD tanks and can earn an armor shift which helps offset which is typically going to be 1-1 odds. If you can manage to even coax a retreat out of a unit and earn an Advance After Combat, the allied player can make the German response a little less effective by preemptively pushing the initial line of resistance back.

Buying Space For Follow-Up Units

These moves buy space for your follow-up units to get on the map during the “normal” allied player’s turn. If your units get bogged down on the beaches, it essentially pushes your reinforcements back until turn two. So, the allied and German players are vying for control of the stem of reinforcements from England that are surely coming.

The Germans are in a weak initial position. They are effectively fighting a Fabian strategy to slow the allied advance into the towns and cities south of the beaches. Reinforcements, at least on turn 1 are hampered because the 21st Panzer only gets 3 of its 5 movement points. Certain units, like those with a black box on their movement rating and Ost units don’t even get to move.

The Germans simply aren’t going to throw the allied units back into the sea barring incredibly poor allied luck. Instead, some room is afforded and understanding the power of the Zone of Control Bonds is their main strength. It forces the allied players to attack in order to push the front line southward. That costs time. Even losses by the Germans are fine, and expected here.

The allied player, on the other hand, has to make even-odds attacks in some cases to ensure freedom of movement as reinforces begin arriving. The additional units are necessary to maximize attacking power.

Plan Your Main Assault Force (MAF)

This is incredibly important. Your Main Assault Force planning is the key to favorable odds. Units not within your MAF will only contribute half their strength and with a maximum effective combat factor limit of 18, you want to get as close to this as you can. Defensive bonuses are generous and dislodging the Germans as they fall back is no easy task.

Identifying and attacking unguarded spots is key for the German player. Since the allied forces will need to mass their units to effectively project their power, there are opportunities to set yourself up for later strikes at the allied Schwerpunkt…the beach engineer units and mulberrys.

The road network in Normandy isn’t great, but there are generally some ways to take advantage of it as the German player to appear weaker by not fully engaging at the front while giving yourself sufficient movement to get “around” the allied advance. That planning begins in the first turn.

Manage Your Supply Points & Artillery

The German player starts with some territorial advantages in the form of pre-existing supply points for their at-start units. They also have artillery in positions where they can affect their first turn combat through artillery shifts. There’s no shame in spending those artillery in your first turn counter-attack following the landing phase. This was a big mistake that I made as the allied player.

CRT Low Odds

Artillery has a range of 5 hexes and for one supply point you get an artillery shift in combat resolution. Given the American Airborne troop quality advantage over all German units with the exception of the Fallschirmj√§ger units, the artillery shift is critically important. Even though the Americans are generally sitting with 2-3 combat strength in the face of 5 or 6 (2:1 initial odds) German combat strength, the defensive terrain in which the Airborne land is favorable. As a result, the odds quickly become 1:1 from terrain alone and then the troop quality shifts the odds again down to 1:2! The artillery shift gets the odds back up to 1:1 which is far more favorable than the 1:2 (as you would guess…lol).

Your Advice?

What’s your experience with the game? What guidance would you give? How have you handled that first turn and what effective strategies have you seen employed for the allied or German forces? Share them in the comments below!

Like this article and want to read another I wrote about Normandy ’44? Check out my rules notes article!

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