D-Day Defeats

The dense ‘D-Day 80’ coverage on British TV and radio has shaped my reading and gaming this week. Stephen Ambrose’s Pegasus Bridge has been reminding me just how close Operation Coup de Main came to failure and just how gruesome warfare can be at ground level. And Command Ops 2 has been reminding me just how rusty my Command Ops 2 skills are, and sad it is that Panther Games has never tackled Overlord head-on or produced a squad-level title.

The majority of CO2’s Normandy scenarios are the work of one editor-proficient Belgian fan. Exclusively focused on the British/Canadian portion of the Allied invasion, Bie’s work provides a tantalising glimpse of the Overlord add-on we’ll probably (?) never see from Dave O’Connor and chums.

His creations include two (three if you count the big, four-day ‘Sword to Caen’ scenario pictured above) action-packed recreations of the audacious airborne assault on the bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River, and the German attempts to retake them. While CO2 is too abstract to capture some of Operation Coup de Main’s subtleties (gunboats, commandeered AT guns, and sniping, for example) the flavour and most of the key challenges of D-Day’s dramatic opening act are communicated.

Playing as the Brits, appropriately your main headaches are a serious lack of AT capability, the fairly exposed environs of the crossings, and the fact there are potential threats in almost every direction. The occupiers are hampered by scattered, mostly low-quality manpower and a dribs-and-drabs reinforcement schedule designed to convey the confusion and command paralysis that, in real life, prevented a concerted counterattack in the vital, early hours of June 6th.

An Allied player that fails to secure the T-junction west of the canal bridge smartly is in for a torrid time. Allow Hans von Luck’s ragtag collection of halftracks, SPGs, and tanks to gain control of the short stretch of road linking Le Port, Benouville, and the bridges, and, as I’ve discovered on several occasions this week, there’s a good chance you’ll wind-up with œuf on your face.

Bie’s recreation of Operation Windsor asks even more from an Allied orchestrator. At first glance evicting the enemy from Carpiquet village and aerodrome looks pretty straightforward. It’s only when you start examining the battlefield with the LoS tool or losing advancing Shermans and Churchills to‘88’ fire, that the true complexion of your task hits home.

Rarely a significant issue in the Netherlands, hard-to-read contours can make selecting avenues of advance and defensive positions in CO2 Normandy somewhat tricky. In a perfect world the Australian studio that gave digital wargamers the best operational AI in the business, would, by now, have also provided them with the kind of 3D visuals that make finding dead ground and optimal ambush and recon gathering positions, a breeze. Instead the CO faithful have to soldier-on with camouflaged hills and untiltable maps.

I can’t blame Bie and Panther for all of the D-Day defeats I’ve suffered this week. Strategy Game Studio has also pursed my lips, wrinkled my brow, and dented my confidence. Released yesterday, the £17 (Until June 12. £21 thereafter) SGS Overlord is a standalone TBS very much in the Wars Across the World mold.

Where WATW comes with a single, twenty-turn Overlord scenario and a map that extends no further south than Saint-Lô and east than the Pegasus Bridge, SGS Overlord provides four challenges – Cherbourg (7t), Cobra (15t), Bocage (22t), and Overlord (30t) – and a much roomier venue.

Thus far I’ve only sampled one scenario – Cherbourg – and only played that from the Allied perspective. The back-to-back defeats I experienced last night had more to do with tough win conditions than perspicacious Axis AI, but if the victory hurdles are as high in the longer outings, you won’t catch me complaining*.

* The opposition in Strategy Game Studio/Strategiae titles can be a tad feeble.

Having mused on my lack of success this morning, I’m fairly confident I can produce the goods at the third time of asking. Instead of striving to liberate the entire Cotentin Peninsula (one potential method of gaining sufficient VPs for victory) I think I need to focus solely on reaching and cracking the tough nut is Cherbourg.

Been D-Day gaming this week? If you’ve a tale to tell or a title to recommend, the Corner is, as ever, the perfect place to spill beans.


  1. I got round to playing the demo for the first Company of Heroes six months ago
    ([Legacy Ed.] from Steam works, but you have to download a .dll to ignore Games for Windows Live IIRC)
    The first mission proper is Omaha Beach, and the first phase is getting 40 or so of your troops from the surf, past the Czech hedgehogs, to the base of the dunes. No enemies to engage, just avoid raking MG fire, and artillery if you sit still too long.
    Well.. I was slow and inept and wasteful. I really expected to see ‘Mission Failed’. Finding the squads you could control amid the chaos, frequent unit barks, half understood hints about cover – really, quite a bewildering introduction.
    I played the mission twice and strongly doubt I did any better at that section the second time.

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