With the recent 70th anniversary of D-Day, WWII, its heroes, sacrifices, and meaning have come to my mind once again. On the lighter side we also see the WWII movies coming to both the big screen and small screen. The heroism of these movies is what “Heroes of Normandie” is all about; those fearless souls who sprang into action to save their country and lead their men to victory.
Heroes of Normandie is a miniatures game, without actual miniatures, of WWII combat in the style of a Hollywood movie. It pits the Americans against the Germans in scenario based-combat.
There are a lot of components that come with the game. First are the counters, starting with the infantry units. These are double-sided. The back usually is the same unit with reduced traits, from being hit. A few show the unit in a different firing position or in recon mode. All the information about each unit is on the counter. The counter shows the division insignia, combat bonuses, unit name, movement, and Defense. The outline colors show what type of unit it is. Yellow shows and officer, red heavy weapons, and a dark color for heroes.
There are also light and heave vehicles, that are also double-sided and have all the information about the unit on the counter. The flip side of these counters shows the wreck of the vehicle. Destroyed vehicles become obstacles but certain rules may allow them to be removed.
The next counters are the Recruitment Tiles. Each one represents a platoon or an officer. These could give an extra order star; show the units badge, breaking points, cost, and soldiers in the platoon.
Players can add recruitment options to the tile. They can be additional gear, vehicles, support, orders, and character traits. There sides must match the colors on the Recruitment tile in order to be used.
There are also terrain overlays that can be used to create different battlefields. These are buildings, defensive positions, objectives, and other terrain features. Each side also has Hero tiles. Each side has to units and one vehicle hero. These represent the heroes of the war and are what give the game its name.
Each side also has wooden order wooden tokens. These are numbered 1 t0 10 and represent the order a unit has received. Each side also has a bluff token that is blank and used to misdirect the opponent. It does not activate a unit, but tries to confuse the opponent. The last order tokens are the special order tokens.
Each side also has a deck of 76 action cards. There are also a lot of different tokens that are used for various purposes during the game. Some examples of the tokens are suppressed markers, damage markers, destruction, and even the dog Rex, used in one of the scenarios.
The board is modular and there are six different double-sided boards to be used to set up the map. Some terrain features, for example roads and forests, are already printed on the boards. There are a lot of combinations that can be used because of the modular board.
The turn track is used to show the round of the game, initiative and if a certain event occurs during a specific turn.
Set – Up
Set-up will vary depending on what scenario / free scenario the players choose. Players will need to refer to the Scenario Book when they set up the game. If they choose to play a free scenario, check out the rules for recruitment to create the army, choose recruitment options, characters, cards, deployment, and victory conditions. The scenarios included ramp up in difficulty. This is helpful for players who wish to learn the game by slowly adding difficulty.
Players will need to make their deck of cards. The deck should have at least 40 cards. Some cards, like Artillery or Aviation cannot be used if you are not using the recruitment options. Players will draw four cards to start the game.
Initiative is either determined by the scenario or randomly. The player with initiative deploys all their troops in their deployment zone first. After the second player has deployed their troops, the game is ready to start.
Victory conditions depend on the scenario. No game can last longer than 8 rounds and it may be shorter. If the victory conditions are met, or if no player has order tokens to place on their units, then the game ends at the end of the round. To win free scenarios players must earn a certain number of victory points. Points are earned from control of objectives and from damage inflicted on enemy units.
There are three phases to each game round.
1. Orders Phase
2. Activation Phase
3. Supply Phase
During the first phase of the round players place their orders tokens and the bluff token, face-down on their units they wish to activate. Players determine the number of orders by counting the number of stars on their recruitment tiles and units. Only units that have been given an order may act during the activation phase.
With the High Command Action card or the Battle Plan recruitment option players may also receive a special order. Players can only have two special orders and can never have more then 10 order tokens.
During this phase, the player with initiative goes first by revealing and activating their order 1. Players then follow in numerical order. Leave the tokens on the units to show which units have been activated. Certain cards can activate units without an order, or who haven’t acted. If they are activated the player should put an activated marker on the unit. These units can no longer perform an action this round. They also cannot move during the Supply Phase. Activated unit can either move / assault or fire. They cannot do both without a card.
Each unit has a certain movement. The number in the blue arrow on the counter represents this. Units can move that number of spaces on the board (unless limited by terrain). Units may move vertically. A unit can also pass through a friendly unit but cannot end in the same space as another unit. Each infantry unit has a zone of control over the spaces around it. Certain terrain can affect this zone of control. Another unit can enter or exit this area, but cannot pass through it.
A vehicle’s is usually larger than one space. If a two-space vehicle moves, count the number of spaces from the front of the vehicle when moving forward and from the back when moving backwards. It can rotate 45 degrees, in addition to its movement. They can also rotate while stationary. This costs one movement point. If it ends vertically, it is still occupying only two spaces. If either space is inaccessible, the vehicle can end diagonally. Enemies can freely move next to a vehicle, as they have no zone of control. They are also not affected by an infantry unit’s zone of control.
A vehicle can also pass through an enemy infantry unit. If it ends its space on one, the unit is displaced into an adjacent space. If there are no free space or it cannot move it is eliminated and removed from the game.
Units that have the assault special ability they may engage in melee against an enemy infantry or vehicle. They must attack from an adjacent free space and respect movement rules. To show an assault, players should place the attacking counter overlapping the target. The enemy units zone of control does not stop an assault.
To resolve the assault, the attacker rolls two dice and keeps the highest result. To this result they add any combat they have plus bonuses from cards. The defender then rolls 1 die, or two if they also have assault. They add their combat bonuses and defense, plus card bonuses if they have them. The player with the highest result wins.
When the attacker wins, a defending infantry unit with skull symbol visible is eliminated; otherwise they are flipped to the other side. They also must retreat one to three spaces away from the attacker. If they cannot move they are eliminated. The attacking unit moves into the defenders space. A defending light vehicle is destroyed is turned to their wrecked side. If a heavy vehicle is damaged, the location must be determined, but it does not retreat.
If the defender wins, the attacker takes a hit. A unit with the skull symbol is eliminated otherwise it is flipped over. The defender does not move. If there is a tie, both remain on their spaces from before the combat began and no one takes damage.
A unit can fire if it doesn’t move. They can only fire on certain units, as shown on their counter. Vehicles with several weapons can use all of their weapons and can hit different targets. Some vehicles can also fire while moving. They usually fire at a disadvantage.
Units must also have line of sight to fire at an enemy target. Line of sight is traced from the center of the attacking unit to the center of the defending unit. Terrain can block line of sight. If there is a red triangle with a x then line of sight is blocked.
Most weapons have unlimited range. Beyond seven spaces they suffer a -2 penalty to their combat value. Diagonals may be used to count range. Count the targets space but not the firing units space. Units can also fire 360 degrees unless they have a limited fire arc.
To see if they are successful, the player rolls one die. They add the result to their combat bonus and bonuses from cards. If the result is greater than or equal to the defense value of the unit it is attacking that unit is either eliminated or flipped. A light vehicle is destroyed and a heavy vehicles damage location must be determined.
A result that is greater than or equal to twice the value of the unit’s defense then it is eliminated immediately.
To determine what is damaged on a heavy vehicle the attacker rolls a die. A 1 result is damage to crew and the vehicle can only fire one of its weapons each round. A 2 is damage to the track and the vehicle cannot move. A 3-4 is hull damage. The vehicle receives two suppressed markers and if it was in motion it must stop. A five result is damage to the primary weapon; the weapon is destroyed and cannot be fired. A roll of 6 results in destruction. The vehicle is destroyed and flipped over. A second damage marker of the same type destroys the heavy vehicle.
Cards may only be used during the phase indicated on the card. Players can play as many cards as they wish during a round or action. If a card contradicts a rule, the card overrides the rule. When cards are played simultaneously the player with initiative play their card first. Players will redraw cards at the end of the supply phase so they shouldn’t hesitate to use a card.
This is the last phase of the round. During this phase, units that did not receive an order or activated during the can move. The unit with the bluff token may move. Firing or assault cannot happen during this phase.
During this phase, players discard the bluff tokens and move units. They may discard one suppressed maker per unit. They then resolve actions from cards, abilities, etc. They can then discard cards and re-draw cards. Victory conditions should be checked and special scenario rules applied. The initiative marker is moved on the turn counter and flips it to the other side. If no victory is reached then players play the next round.
Note: There are other rules for terrain, recruitment, equipment, characters, special orders, certain special abilities, and others that I have not covered. These can be found in the rulebook.
There are so many components in Heroes of Normandie. They are, as the game claims, very miniature like. All of the tokens are made of thick quality card stock, and have a great feel and seem durable. The artwork is beautiful, with good coloring and shading. When set up on the board they are easy to read. Even with a lot of pieces on the board, it works well. There is a lot of iconography and it takes a bit to learn and remember it all.
This iconography is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s great that everything in on the tile. Once you learn it, you won’t have to look up the icons. The back of the rulebook has a handy reference sheet (with page numbers). On the other hand, it can be a bit of a deterrent for some players. I admit, that once we had a lot of different pieces on the board I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy controlling so many different troops. If you follow the scenarios in order, the difficulty slowly builds. This makes it easier to learn. Experienced war gamers / gamers won’t have too much trouble but new players may be intimidated, like I was. Even with the iconography I feel this is an entry-level war game.
Some of the pieces also have errors. There is an errata available on Devil Pig Games’ website – https://www.devil-pig-games.com/en/. It isn’t game breaking, and they have offered downloads you can use to fix the pieces yourself. Players should still be aware that these mistakes exist. On the same note some of the tokens shown in the scenario book also didn’t come with the game. They were either replaced with other tokens or didn’t make it to the final version.
There are two custom dice for each player. I like the quality and feel of the dice. The unique symbols for each side are a nice touch.
The modular double-sided game board is nice. Ours were not warped and lay flat on the table. The edges can be damaged if players aren’t careful with them. I like that a lot of the terrain is already printed on the map. There are terrain overlays, like buildings and bunkers but trees and roads are already there, making for less movable parts when you are playing. I have always been a fan of modular boards, as they add to re-playability and give a game a new feel every time they are played. I also like that the map can be large or small depending on how many tiles are used.
The box itself is nice, but it the insert isn’t the great for storage. Kickstater backers did get some nice army boxes but the rest of us will need to come up with a storage solution to keep the pieces and parts from moving around in the box. The newest Kickstarter for the next version of the game does have a nice box insert for anyone interested.
The rulebook is nicely laid out with a Table of Contents and a Player aide on the back. There are a lot of pictures with examples. I should note that the rulebook that comes with the game has been updated / corrected and you can download it from Devil Pig Games’ website once you register. They will have the updated rulebook for sale in the near future, put the PDF is free. Again, this isn’t a game breaker but it is shortcoming. Hopefully it will be fixed in the next printing. There are some translation issues with the rulebook and players may have some difficulty with it. Reading the scenario specific rules helps a lot. Also, as with any game that has a difficult rulebook, just play and a lot of it will make sense. After a few scenarios you won’t need to refer to the rules much.
The player aide is very helpful when you are learning the iconography. There are also page numbers so you can go right to the page you need for more detail.
There are ten scenarios that come with the game. They add difficulty each time so players can learn the rules. It starts by adding complexity with units / vehicles then terrain overlays, explosives, bigger boards, and eventually having players recruit their own armies.
The scenarios aren’t just about eliminating your opponent. For example, “Fining Private Rex” is about the Americans trying to save a dog moving around the battlefield. “Slaughterhouse (5)” is about the Germans controlling a house without the Americans taking possession. This makes for a more interesting and diverse game. We also found that the two learning scenarios are better than many others. They offer random elements that make every play different, so it is fun to replay the scenario. Also, because they are short we have replayed each scenario and each outcome has been unique.
There are already some fan made scenarios out there and Devil Pig seems like they will offer more in a Gazette. Though I believe that some o f the scenarios offered by Devil Pig may require you to make your own tokens.
Heroes of Normandie is a entry level war game with tactical squad level combat. This allows for individual units and even soldiers (the heroes / leaders) on the board. Players are fighting on the small scale, trying to control hill /house rather than fighting an entire battle. The tactical play makes for a shorter game, about 45-6o minutes per scenario. If you have your components sorted, set-up is usually fast and doesn’t add a lot of time to the game.
The cards add a lot to the game and can be very powerful. Playing a card can dramatically swing game play. Even if you have the perfect strategy, a card played by your opponent could stop you in your tracks. As you play the game more, you will learn the cards and be prepared for this. I really like the cards and the options they give. I even like the random aspect of the cards, as you never know what your opponent may have up their sleeve.
Because the game is a system, this means that it is extremely expandable with terrain features, different units, scenarios, an so forth. In theory the points system ensures that play is balanced. But war in reality, and in movies, isn’t always balanced.
As you add diversity to the game it gets even better. Different units, cards, and options really open up the game and make for exciting plays. Using your cards wisely and effectively, the more cards you have, adds some hand management elements to the game. With more cards in the deck, we didn’t always have cards in hand that we could use that turn, but we didn’t necessarily want to discard them either.
The interplay of cards, terrain and modifiers allows for some of those heroic war movie moments. One point can make a big difference during combat, and modifiers are very important. Using the terrain can also give players a tactical advantage. I kept trying to hit my husband’s tank during one scenario. I could only hit the most heavily armored front of the tank, but moving wasn’t an option since time was running out quickly. I kept missing because of that one point, and I only ending up hitting him with the help of a card that let me use the lower defense value. All of these factors lead to some interesting decisions.
What Makes Hero’s Different?
When my husband first showed me Heroes of Normandie, I thought it was just another WWII game and we already have a few of those. I wasn’t sure about it and wanted to know why I should add this to my collection.
Heroes of Normandie is a lot lighter and quicker than many of the other tactical WWII games we have. It is also a much more light-hearted war game with its homages to War Movies and famous actors. This isn’t a deep and accurate simulation of a battle; don’t expect that when you play.
It is a lot smaller scale than Memoir 44, which was the first game that game to mind when I saw Heroes. Also, unlike Memoir 44 and other similar games, most of the terrain features are already on the board. These make for a simpler, quicker set-up and less fiddly feel. While the units are ascetically busier, once you know all the icons you won’t need to look at a book or card to know everything about a unit; even ones you haven’t yet used. I think this adds a bit of efficiency to the game.
There is so much variety in just the base game with the leaders, heroes, units, artillery, machine guns, and vehicles. While this may be added as expansions to some other war games, they don’t usually start with so much variety.
It is also interesting that the inter-spaces of the squares of the board game into play for explosives like grenades. You throw a grenade at the inter-space and it affects the four squares around it. I haven’t seen this before, thought it be used in other games, and I really like it. It was a good design decision for the game.
The game also plays a lot quicker than many other war games. The game can only last eight rounds. The ebb and flow of the game does end up telling a story as your troops run around trying to rescue a dog while at the same time avoiding the Germans.
I like to be limited when I play war games either by card play or by number of units. Too many units take away from the fun and I do not usually enjoy large-scale war games. As we starting playing with more advanced units and a larger numbers of units, I got a little worried. The cards don’t limit your game play and I thought I would be overwhelmed and stop enjoying the game. The order tokens saved it for me. This was the limiting factor I wanted. They help me narrow my focus. I could only give orders to a certain number of troops and they can only move or shoot. You can still move all your units each round. Units that were not activated can move during the supply phase, so nobody gets left behind.
Heroes of Normandie is a very enjoyable entry-level war game. The tokens give the game a miniature feel, without the actual miniatures. You will still need to sort out the components, but they will take up less room. Hollywood Movie fans will enjoy the movie references. Those looking for a less serious WWII game will enjoy the theme.
The flexible system offers the ability of endless expansions. There are even rules sets for Dust Tactics and Cthulhu. There seems to be good support for the game from the publishers and Devil Pig’s website is a bit of a hub for the game.
There are a few mistakes that shouldn’t be dismissed. It seems this mistakes are being or have been addressed.
Once you know the rules and icons, the game plays smoothly and efficiently. A lot of people will enjoy the customization of being able to build a unique squad. Others will enjoy having set squads and scenarios. The base game comes with so many components and options, but like any good system more is on its way.
Designers: Yann et Clem
Artist: Alexandre Bonvalot
Publishers: Devil Pig Games, Iello, Play Well Games, Schwerkraft-Verlag
Game Length: 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up