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Axis & Allies D-Day: Countdown to H-Hour
Week 2: France Under the Hammer
by Mike Selinker, lead developer, Axis & Allies D-Day

“The German and Anglo Saxon armies have met upon our soil. France will therefore become a battlefield.”

-- Marshal of France Philippe Pétain

As with the last time a column of mine revealed a map, I'm getting out of the way so you can appreciate it. Click on the inset picture to expand it to a full screen. (Please note that the map used in this article is not the final version -- it's the final art but without tags and labels.)

Click for expanded map

There are a few aesthetic similarities between this Todd Gamble map and his map in the revision of Axis & Allies. It looks as if it's been used during wartime, bearing the compass markings and blemishes of a heavy campaign. It's divided into territories and sea zones. There are victory cities clearly marked on the map. Both maps were originally laid out by game creator Larry Harris.

Yet it's quite different, also. The color scheme is nothing like the revised core game. The muted green and aqua tones convey a sense that you are fighting over the peaceful fields of France on a close-up scale that the core game cannot duplicate. Dozens of individual towns, many of them battlegrounds between Allied and German soldiers, pock the map. Fragile roads unite the towns. The land border seems to flow against the sea, giving the feel of water rolling ashore. Against such a serene backdrop, you get a poignant aesthetic for a wargame.

Also, it's very clear who "owns" what side of the board. The Allies start on the top edge of the board, and the Axis on the bottom. As your units move toward the other side, as in chess, you feel a sense of approaching your goals. (Also as in chess, making an overly aggressive move too early will bring you a subsequent sense of failing in your goals.)

The game is centered around the taking of three inland cities. Of course, for the Allies to do that, they must first get ashore.

Areas on the Map

There's a lot to this map, some of which you'll discover on your own. Here are a few key features to look for:

1. Unit Placement Silhouettes

Setup for D-Day is easy. It doesn't require separate charts like the core game. Just place every starting unit on its silhouette on the map board. For example, in this territory, you'd place one German tank.

The units noted on the board aren't the only ones in the game. Some will go on a set of reinforcement boards for later mobilization.

2. Victory Cities

Like the revised Axis & Allies core game, D-Day has victory cities. Unlike in the parent game, all of the victory cities start in the grip of the Axis. The three cities are Cherbourg in the upper left section of the map, St Lô located centrally, and Caen on the far right. Each city is surrounded by a spotlight circle to make it easy to find and to help players remember "this is the objective."

The object of the game depends on which side you're on: If you're the Allies, you must control all three victory cities simultaneously before the end of turn 10. If you're the Axis, you must prevent this from happening. On the left side of the map is a track of squares for monitoring the turn order, as well as spaces for the card deck and discards.

3. Beachheads and Airborne Boxes

This blowup of the Utah Beach area shows two types of special zones in the game. The first is the offshore beachhead on the right, in which the American units assaulting that beach are placed. The second is the paratrooper box, into which US soldiers descend from the sky.

These two types of zones are the only places in which the Allies can reinforce their troops. That means controlling these areas is of paramount importance for the Allies and thus for the Germans as well.

The territory here also shows the silhouette of a blockhouse, the new piece for this game. I'll describe more about this interesting unit in a few weeks. The other ground units in the game are infantry, artillery, and tanks, though I encourage you not to presume too much about them from your experience with Axis & Allies.

4. The Airfield

On the top edge of the map is an abstract zone representing the combined air forces of the United States and United Kingdom. These fighters and bombers launch from England each turn in an effort to give the Allied ground troops some needed relief. Planes return here every turn ... unless they don't make it home.

The Germans don't have an air force; the Luftwaffe is represented in some card activity. That said, the Germans do have plenty of defenses against the Allied air strikes. The air units are also a bit different from those in Axis & Allies, and I'll explain why very soon.

5. Reinforcement Markers

On the bottom of the map are road markers showing the routes that the Axis reinforcements use to get to the front lines. These are the only areas in which the Germans can reinforce their troops, so defending these lines is a crucial part of the German strategy.

The roads themselves are mostly window dressing. You can move between any two territories regardless of whether there's a road between them.

Capturing Victory Cities

The three victory cities drive the game.

The choice of these cities was driven by history. The game begins on June 6, 1944, of course, but it is presumed to cover most of June and July. Cherbourg fell on June 27, Caen on July 18, and St Lô on July 25. With these three key cities in the Allies' hands, the Allies had Normandy in their grasp and could move on toward Paris. If they hadn't controlled these cities by the end of July, perhaps events would have developed differently.

A key decision in the game is what to attack or defend, and with whom. US and UK forces come into the game as neighbors, but they don't have to stay that way. The Americans can peel west toward Cherbourg while the British and Canadians drive south to Caen. The Germans may choose to defend all the victory cities or leave only a token force in one or two while concentrating on the others. There are many roads to victory.

Once you take a victory city, you might not be able to keep it. Remember that territory is controlled only if it's occupied. If you don't have units in the areas you need to control at the end of the turn, you don't win. Annihilating the other side is not good enough if your units don't move into the cities.

I could state much more about tactical play on the mapboard, but I haven't yet explained how the game works. Next time I'll discuss the use and versatility of the cards in the game. See you then.


Catch up on any previews you missed!

Mike SelinkerMike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.

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