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Monday, August 10, 2015

REVIEW: Sainte-Mere-Eglise for Heroes of Normandie

By Sean "Throckmorton" Sarah

By now I hope you've read my review of the base game and early expansions for Devil Pig's table top board game Heroes of Normandie.

For those of you that haven't allow me to do a quick recap.  For those of you that have, sit tight and enjoy a quick refresher.

First note, since my last post the game has won the prestigious Origins Award for Best Historical Board Game and The Origins Fan Favorite Award for Best Historical Board Game. So, it's good to know my love is shared.

Heroes of Normandie is the game of the movie of World War 2, specifically the actions around D-Day and the weeks that follow. The game is played on modular map pieces divided up into squares, much like hexes in other WW2 board games... but they're squares! But this game is markedly different than the hex and counter games from which it draws its lineage for a number of reasons. First, the design is gorgeous and has a high action/cartoony feel to it. Second, it's "visual syntax" the way in which it communicates information to you is the best I've seen in this style game. Finally, it's not a simulation (though it has simulations elements) so much as it is a high adrenaline, tongue in cheek, retelling of some of the best WW2 movies from the 50's, 60's and 70's repleate with familiar heroes both fictional like Oddball in his Sherman and factual like Jack Churchill with his broadsword and longbow.

Thus, with many thanks to my friends at Iello, the American distributor of the game, I was able to get my grubby hands on a review copy of Sainte-Mere-Eglise the first of two new expansions coming out for the game in the very near future.

While the previous full expansion covered the landings on the beaches, this one gives us the night time airborne landings east of the beaches with both 82nd and 101st airborne units included.

Upon first cracking this open I noticed a key difference that made me particularly happy. Previous expansions, including the Rivers Set and D-Day came in a slip case that wasn't the best for storage. This one however comes in full boxed glory meaning I can keep all the relevant pieces together in one place even after I punch out the cardboard bits.

St. Mere comes with a TON of great new rules; the three biggest being night fighting/sleeping rules, airborne/glider landing rules and the ability to blow holes in buildings. Night fighting poses a number of challenges to both sides, limiting visual range to 7 squares (it's normally unlimited unless blocked by LOS bits), it stops aviation assets from working, makes artillery harder to use and makes it easier for hidden units to stay hidden. Additionally, some units in some scenarios will start the game asleep, peacefully unaware of the airborne assault about to drop on their heads.

Building rules see an improvement here as well. Originally you'd have to use a card to hop in a window (only doors had full access) but now your Sherman's and Panzers can blow holes in the bloody things rather than simply tearing them down. Along with this comes large building rules for those buildings simply to big to actually be destroyed, like the church of Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

Finally, your troops with the parachute icon on them can be "Dropped." In essence you're able to hold them off the table until you give them an activation token to be dropped on to the field. This is a pretty simple mechanic where you use one of the blast pattern templates and roll to see which square they land in. It's a neat add on that gives you some extra options as the American player and frankly, I'm excited to give it a try.

The expansion also comes with 6 new missions taking you from the dropping of the pathfinders all the way to the fight at La Fiere.

6 new double sided map tiles to recreate St. Mere and La Fiere

A TON of new buildings, tokens and units.

Including the Church
Image liberated from Devil Pig games

Really, the art design is just gorgeous on these
Image totally stolen from Devil Pig games

Please don't sue me Devil Pig I love your stuff. 

You've got the hero Dutch "Not the Gangster" Schultz

The 508th of the 82nd

The 505th of the 82nd

And the 5 Oh'Duce of the 101st.

Also included... BEUTEPANZERS! You wanted a Renault, you got one son!

All in all I give this set a big thumbs up. The inclusion of night fighting and para-drops is a huge plus for me here. If you've got the box set and are looking to expand I'd say this one is a must buy. The only drawback here is the lack of any German units save 1 hero and the R-35s. But that is easily remedied by picking up St. Mere's sister release, Carentan, which I'll be pre-viewing in my next post.

Good hunting!

Many thanks for the promotional support provided by Iello who kindly gave me this copy to review.  

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