From beach to hedgerows

As I hinted in a previous post, once the action shifts beyond the beaches and begins to move inland, game play in D-Day at Omaha Beach takes on an entirely different character.

In the game’s first 16 turns, your objectives are obvious: Knock out German WN positions and try to open at least one draw in each divisional sector. German forces are generally static, so planning actions against them is a more certain process. Once those early objectives have been met – or nearly so, at least – and your troops begin operating on the high ground, you’ll likely find yourself facing a giant leap into the unknown.

Slow going for the 29th Division.

Slow going for the 29th Division.

Typically at least a few German reinforcements will be scattered around positions on the high ground by the time the game’s turn structure shifts with the arrival of Turn 17. If you’re really unlucky there will be a lot of reinforcements in place. In a way, this makes planning a bit easier – but it also means there will be hell to pay for every VP hex that needs to be captured.

When there are still plenty of German reinforcements available in the off-map boxes, I think a map full of unoccupied reinforcement positions on Turn 17 presents a more daunting situation. The ‘hidden’ nature of the German forces – I literally have no idea where they’re going to pop up next – forces me to use less ‘game think’ and plan activities with a set of concerns closer to what a real-world commander might face.

I like that aspect of the game a lot, by the way. The game system does an excellent job of building some aggravating mobility into the German force scheme.

Lots of open country; not enough guys.

Lots of open country; not enough guys.

German reinforcement positions are liberally placed around the map, so there’s no gamey plan available to avoid them. And because of the German orders that come into play, unoccupied positions are nearly as dangerous to approach as are occupied positions. I particularly dread the ‘Ambush’ order, which may cause an unoccupied position to inflict a step loss on the nearest US unit. I can’t ‘plan’ around something like that – even apparently ‘empty’ terrain can be dangerous.

Until the engineer bases back on the beach have had enough time to expand their engineering zones – which also garrison unoccupied WN positions – there’s also a very real threat that a German ‘Reoccupy’ order will cause a previously defeated WN to come back to life and completely screw up efforts to expand the beach head. So inland operations have to be conducted with an eye toward either occupying defeated positions (which ties up troops) or keeping the positions out of German communications (which restricts any advance dramatically until follow-on troops begin to move inland).

The game emphasizes not just taking ground, but holding it. Unoccupied reinforcement positions that are still in German communications can suddenly turn hostile with the appearance of a German unit and a depth marker. Having a couple of reinforcements beam-in ‘behind’ advancing US units is a true, gigantic pain in the butt.  Positions that project fire zones into the crucial draws are extremely valuable bits of terrain, so I’m pretty neurotic about trying to keep them under US control once I’ve cleared them.

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