D-Day at Omaha Beach, published and reprinted recently by Decision Games, is a solitaire offering that lets the player take control of the US 1st and 29th Divisions in a bid to storm Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
Designed by John H. Butterfield (of “Ambush!” and “RAF” fame), the game is primarily card-driven. A typical turn will have the player drawing a card to see what happens to his units about to land on the beach, then draw again for special events, and then once more to see which German units fire and what American units are hit. The US player then gets a handful of actions (moving, attacking, etc.) for his units in each division.
In the game’s introductory scenario, Easy Fox, the player has control of the 1st Division as it battles for control of the eastern half of Omaha beach, which includes Easy Red and Fox Green sectors. The scenario goes on for 16 turns and it’s notoriously tough to win. The US player needs to get his men off the beach and take out all the German opposition on top of one of two draws. So not only do you have to get through the death trap waiting for you just off the shore in the form of bunkers and machinegun nests, but you also need to contend with fighting through bocage and into the nearby coastal towns.
Here’s how my own recent playthrough went:
The American tanks are sent out first, launched from the horrific distance of 5000 yards out from the beach amid turbulent seas.
|American tanks sent to land on Fox Green and Easy Red.|
Two of the tank companies are immediately wiped out before even landing on the beach while another is delayed and the remaining two are reduced to half-strength. The two tank units clamber on to the beach and one of them manages to disrupt a German machinegun nest.
|The remnants of the tank companies on the beach.|
On the second turn, the 16th Infantry Regiment starts to land after drifting far to the east towards Fox sector.
|16th Infantry Regiment lands on the beach.|
F company drifts into H company’s landing hex, providing the Germans with a concentrated target. The men start taking casualties immediately. Engineers start clearing the beach to the right of the American landings. I also managed to get a couple of tank platoons on the beach on this second turn.
I had my tanks start to provide cover fire for the 16th regiment as it made its way to the shingle. It had no effect on the Germans.
By the next turn, the 16th has taken even more casualties on its way to the shingle.
Two infantry companies have been reduced to single step strength. If six more companies suffer the same fate, the game is over and I will have lost.
|16th makes its way to the shingle and two tank companies of the 741st follow.|
For my two actions, I sent two tank platoons from 741st tank battalion to follow the depleted infantry towards the shingle and hoped for the best.
Turn 4 arrived and several more companies of men from the 16th Infantry Regiment were arriving. Again, I faced a terrible situation where two companies (K and G) landed too close together and provided a concentrated target for the German machinegunners. They ripped into the American infantry as the soldiers disembarked from their craft. The only positive note, if you could call it that, is that this left my guys huddling at the shingle safe from fire.
|K and G companies land together at Fox Green providing a target for the German machineguns.|
Things were getting desperate and it was time for the US to try and assault WN 61 bunker. Luckily, the event card had given me an extra action this round, so I used both tanks to support an infantry assault on the machineguns by E and L company.
|Infantry and tanks work together to attack the Germans at WN 61.|
After flipping over the German marker, it revealed that I needed bangalores and mortars to successfully defeat it. Luckily, the remnants of E and L companies still had these tools, so the German depth marker was revealed. The marker indicated that it could only be taken out by naval gunfire. So much for luck at that point. I had no naval artillery whatsoever, so I would need to sacrifice an attacker in the coming turns to take it out. This was going to cost me.
Turn 5 came and the beach was looking completely nuts. All of my infantry and tanks had been drifting east with the strong tides so Fox Green was absolutely crowded with guys while Easy Red sector was nearly vacant except for a single reduced tank platoon that had done nothing since the invasion had begun.
|Fox Green has a traffic jam while Easy Red is nearly empty.|
Determined to take out WN 61, I push one of my tank platoons up towards the shingle and out of German intensive fire while sending L company of 16th regiment up on to the bluff to hit the Germans from the flank. This will negate the German’s defenive bonus from the terrain. The new arrivals of I company get shot to pieces on their landing. Anguish.
It’s turn 6 and K company gets raked by machingeun fire and is reduced to a single squad. However, the combined use of tanks and infantry manages to take out the depth marker from underneath the German machinegunners at WN 61. The remaining Germans are disrupted and should be easy to completely clear out by the end of next turn. I currently have suffered 4 major losses of units so I’m halfway to losing the game right now. I need to keep moving and have a bit of luck.
|WN 61 in trouble as American tanks and infantry assault.|
Turn 7 provides a couple of disappointments as a lone infantry company far to the west in Easy Red sector suffers two step-losses. L company from the 16th regiment again gets hit and now I have lost 6 companies total. Two more similar losses and the beach will be closed down by Allied High Command.
The good news, however, is that WN 61 has been taken out and now the way up the draw is clear.
The behemoth of the beach, the WN 62 machinegun bunker, sits just to the right of the main American effort and with several actions available this turn, I sent my freshest units and a tank platoon to the west to start taking it out. Hopefully, the dominoes will start to fall now and the draw will be mine.
|C company and a tank platoon moves towards WN 62 to prepare for an assault next turn.|
At the end of turn 7, the tide rises from low tide to mid-tide, so I ended up losing two reduced tank platoons and a group of artillery that were sitting at the edge of the shore. It’s a tragic loss but I needed to spend my efforts elsewhere on the beach and keep my infantry and tanks moving.
Turn 8 landings start and I finally get an HQ on the beach in Fox Green sector. HQs provide many benefits, the most important of which is to give adjacent units free activations. This puts everything into overdrive for the Americans. We might just be able to pull through yet.
|The 16th Infantry Regiment’s HQ lands on the beach and starts issuing commands.|
The cards are once again in my favor this turn as a hero is created for the 1st Division. I place him with C company of 1/16th to help with the assault on WN 62. In the meantime, the HQ starts sending infantry up across the bluff to take out German reinforcements that have been arriving since this morning.
During the action phase, B and M companies move up adjacent to WN 62 and get ready to take it out in the following turn.
|M and B companies are both adjacent to WN 62 while the remnants of F and I companies move up the bluff.|
In the subsequent turn, M and B companies manage to disrupt the German infantry in WN 62 and remove the depth marker. By turn 9, the Americans in B company move up off the beach and D company, which had landed far to the west in the earlier hours of the invasion, joins up with the main American assault.
The HQ decides to leave the WN 62 assaulters to do their work and focuses instead on moving up on the left side of the map to use his depleted forces and some artillery to hit at the German reinforcements in the bocage near the coast.
|Turn 9 actions. HQ sends I and F companies to the left while three companies on the right start to head off the beach.|
Turn 10 begins and Gen. Wyman, commander of the 1st Division is lined up to land on the next turn. The Americans get another hero, who is placed with D company of 1/16. I decided to put the hero there because they give units free activations. I sort of envisioned the 16th HQ taking care of the German reinforcements to the left while the two companies with heroes acted independently to take on the German reinforcements to the right.
F company and I company are directed by HQ to assault the Germans in the bocage while the HQ itself coordinates artillery fire. Unfortunately, things don’t turn out well. The assault reveals that the Germans are very strong (defense of “3” doubled to “6”). Since the attacking factors are 12, the Germans are given a depth marker, which makes them even tougher to take out.
|I and F companies fail to dislodge the Germans in the bocage.|
On Turn 11, the American units on the right flank make a joint attack with M and B companies to destroy the remnants of WN 62 machine gun bunker. The fight is hardly over as German reinforcements in a nearby village are holding fast.
|The last resistance from WN 62 crumbles as M and B companies take out the machine gun bunker.|
The two companies led by heroes make their way towards the German defenders in a group of buildings just south of the machine gun nest. Neither company has suffered any losses so this could be a very easy battle indeed.
|Americans slowly make their way towards German reinforcements beyond the beach.|
At turn 12, I can see that this game could go either way. It seems likely I’ll take out the German reinforcements on the right flank but I’m having some terrible trouble on the left flank. The HQ will need to shift additional forces over to help its flagging assaults on the entrenched Germans.
M company and B company are sent towards the 16th regiment HQ while the two full American companies on the right can probably handle things on their own, especially since they have heroes with them. The recently landed 6th field artillery is sent up towards the HQ as well to help out with the fighting on the left.
|Units start to shift over east to help out the American assault on the left flank.|
General Wyman starts to send reinforcements up on the right flank to help out the two US companies.
Both companies with the heroes attack the German reinforcements after finally getting into position. However, things go sour.
|Two companies with heroes attack German reinforcements.|
The German unit requires flanking tactics in order to defeat it. Normally heroes can be used to help negate most requirements but this is not allowed with flanking. In order to defeat this unit, I’ll need to assault the Germans from hexes that are not adjacent. This will take time though the clock is steadily ticking towards my time limit.
Eventually, the Americans units are shifted around after taking a couple of step losses but I get my flanking maneuver and prepare for an assault on the German position on the right flank.
|Two companies about to go for an attack on German reinforcements using flanking tactics.|
On the left flank, things seem to be going steady. I have a hero for one of my units now and M company has moved up off the beach. The HQ also has command of field artillery in order to lend considerable firepower to the attack.
|US left flank: HQ and considerable firepower about to attack the 8/2/916 Germans in bocage.|
Tragedy strikes, however, on turn 13 when the 8/2/916 Germans on the left flank fire on the approaching M/3/16 Americans, reducing it to a single step. Eight American units have now been reduced to single step units. The game, for better or worse, is over and the Allied commanders close Omaha Beach. Although my defeat was anti-climactic, I have to concede that I was simply not moving and assaulting fast or smart enough.
Conclusion: What a heartbreaker. If I had managed to hang on for a couple of turns, I’m sure I would have taken out the German reinforcements and at least been very close to a victory. As it stands, it was poor planning on my part and a bit of bad luck that ruined my chances.
The US took some very heavy losses early in the game, probably because of the traffic jam of men and equipment that always drifted to Fox Green. As a result, when I pulled fire cards for Germans in these sectors, the resulting casualties were terrible and mounted rapidly. I think I had the general idea by the end of the game. Having two powerful units to take out one group of reinforcements while an HQ and several units focused on the other seems to be the way to go.