Review: Battlegroup Overlord

Rating: review stars 40

Battlegroup Overlord (BO) is the much anticipated second campaign volume to the Battlegroup Kursk WWII rules that were released last year by Ironfist Publishing. It is perhaps the book that many were expecting to see first, as 1944 Western Europe appears to be the most popular part of World War II amongst gamers.

As the name suggests, Battlegroup Overlord looks at the Western Front in 1944, specifically dealing with the D-Day landings and the Battle for Normandy, up until the defeat of German forces in the Falaise pocket.

ChurchillsThis book is an expansion to the original Battlegroup Kursk book, and so does not contain the main Battlegroup rules – it only has specific new rules pertaining to the particular campaign, such as rules for landing craft, amphibious assaults, beach obstacles and bocage. If you wanted to play Battlegroup Overlord without owning the previous book on Kursk, then you would have to purchase the rules separately (they are available as a smaller format, soft cover book).

BO is effectively two books in one, with each comprising of a similar layout; historical overview, special rules, army lists and scenarios. The first ‘book’ deals specifically with the events of D-Day itself, whilst the second looks at the Battle for Normandy.

The historical overviews are in stark contrast with each other. The overview of the Battle for Normandy covers that main operational highlights over the space of three months in both the British and US sectors, and is covered in five pages. The overview of the D-Day landing themselves covers 21 pages in total and includes a full timeline for June 6th from the start of the airborne landings to the end of the day across all five beaches, 16 pages in all.

Each section has 4 scenarios. The D-Day part has a generic beach landing scenario, plus 3 historical refights (Omaha Beach, the La Fiere Causeway and Breville) whilst the ‘Beyond the Beaches’ section has a generic scenario of a meeting engagement, plus 3 historical refights (Donville, St Sylvain and Fromentel) These games vary in size from Platoon to Battalion level, though most are aimed at company-sized engagements.

The main ‘meat’ of the book are the army lists. There are 13 in total covering British, US and German forces. Almost inevitably, these lists are points driven (as the size of game determines approximately how many points each side has to spend on units) However, the one massive plus around how these lists have been constructed is that they are geared towards building forces that are historical in nature, rather than catering towards the ‘power gaming’ end of points-based armies. I find points systems to be (at best) a necessary evil, but the way the army list construction works here is probably one of the best applications of points systems that I have seen.

spread4

Each army list has an historical overview of the equipment used, such as tanks, vehicles and guns and then their forces are broken down into various components; Command, Infantry, Tanks, Artillery, Defences, Reconnaissance, Engineers, Logistics and Specialist. You can pick units from the various components of the army, depending upon your core (i.e. Infantry and Tank) choices.

Following the army list, there is an example historical unit formation, which gives you some ideas of how various forces were made up.

The armies covered in the book are, for D-Day:

  • British 6th Airborne Battlegroup
  • British Amphibious Assault Battlegroup
  • American Airborne Division Battlegroup
  • American Amphibious Assault Battlegroup
  • German Atlantic Wall Resistance Nest
  • Panzer ‘Ersatz’ Battlegroup.

For the ‘Battle for Normandy’:

  • British Armoured Division Battlegroup
  • British Infantry Division Battlegroup
  • American Armoured Division Battlegroup
  • American Infantry Division Battlegroup
  • German Panzer Division Battlegroup
  • German Fallschirmjager Division Battlegroup
  • German Infantry Division Battlegroup.

So, as you can see, the book covers its subject fairly comprehensively.

It’s well produced – 240 pages, hardback and in full colour, with clear, easy-to-read text and lots of photos, both black and white historical photos and colour model dioramas.

56366803bIt does have a couple of issues. As with Battlegroup Kursk before it, the vehicles have their game stats for the game printed on one page, with details of the speed and armour, plus a note of their weaponry. All the weaponry stats are printed several pages away. Whilst I understand that many vehicles were equipped with similar weapons, and so only printing the weapon stats once does away with much duplication, it also means much to-ing and fro-ing from the reader, as they constantly have to cross reference vehicle with weapon type. The solution we have used before is to create a separate table which combines these two types of game stats together, but it is a shame that we as gamers have to do this rather than some sort of reference being provided.

The second concerns the hobby section, or lack of it. Given the page count, and the fact that the major part of the book would have to be the army lists, I can see that it would probably been a toss-up between whether the history section or the hobby section was included in the book. I found the hobby section in Battlegroup Kursk to be very helpful, so I was disappointed that it was missing from this volume. D-Day and the Battle for Normandy are very well known period of World War II, so I’m not sure what benefit having a full historical timeline of events brought to the publication. I would rather have had a those pages replaced with articles on painting vehicles and making bocage terrain (although these too are catered for fairly widely). As the Battlegroup set of rules are aimed at a wide audience, including first-time players, I would have expected the hobby part of the book to take precedence. However, these articles are much more time consuming to produce, and might have been a victim of time constraints of publication dates, considering how keen Plastic Soldier Company and Iron Fist Publishing would have been to have this available at Salute.

It goes without saying that if you like the Battlegroup rules, and want to play late war Western Front, this book is a ‘must buy’. It’s comprehensive in scope, and might even be the only book you will need for this period, though I expect to see further campaign supplements to cover both Market Garden and the Ardennes offensive in the future.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of these rules

 

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