First Look – Undaunted: Normandy app on Steam

Undaunted: Normandy is a wargame/card game combination designed by the excellent designers David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin. It was published in 2019 by Osprey Games and I actually wrote about how excited I was when it was first announced.

Then I never bought it. I think it was mostly the lack of opponents.

During the pandemic lockdown, I went ahead and bought the second iteration, Undaunted: North Africa but have yet to get it to the table.

But I was excited to hear that Undaunted: Normandy was coming to Steam!

Now Bookmark Games, the developer of the digital edition (and developer of the excellent Pavlov’s House app), has given me access to the game in its current Alpha state.

(You can click on each picture to enlarge it)

I repeat, just to emphasize things, that this first look is about the game in alpha, so there will be bugs, there will be things that need to be improved, and there will be changes.

This isn’t even in Early Access yet.

However, even in Alpha state, it’s actually pretty good!

Let’s take a look at it.

The game looks amazing for how early it is in development.

Just to give you a rough overview of the game, each scenario has Americans against Germans in Normandy, and the counters on the tiles (Riflemen and Scouts or other combat units depending on the scenario) are represented by cards in your hand and deck.

Other cards, like the Squad Leaders and Platoon Sergeants, aren’t represented on the board but can you let you do things, like perhaps Bolster more combat unit cards into your deck to make them more resilient (and also give you more options to do things with them).

The map is made up of terrain tiles so the configuration possibilities are endless.

Each round, one of your hand cards is played for its Initiative value (in the top left corner). Whoever plays the highest gets Initiative and plays first that round. Ties go to the player who already had Initiative.

You then have 3 (or perhaps fewer) cards left in your hand and you play them one at a time to do things.

Playing a Rifleman or Scout (or other combat unit) will let you use the counters that are on the board. Scouts can move around scouting tiles, because Riflemen can’t move into a tile that hasn’t been scouted yet, even if the enemy has been shooting at you from it for a while now.

Both counters can also attack enemy units.

When you attack, you are trying to roll above the unit’s defense value on a number of dice (depending on the Attack value of the card played). They get +1 defense value for each Cover point on the tile they’re on (the number on the shield at the bottom of the tile) and also +1 for range (the number of tiles away from the defender the attacker is).

Line of Sight is not an issue in this game.

If you manage to hit with your attack, then a card representing that unit is removed from their deck. First from the player’s hand (which is why you draw up as soon as you finish your actions, so you have something to discard if necessary), then from the discard pile, and finally from the deck (which is then reshuffled).

If no cards for that unit are left in the deck, then the unit is eliminated.

Not good!

Some of the tiles have VP values in them.

Riflemen who are on a VP tile with no enemy units on it can spend an action to control it.

Most scenarios are played to a certain VP value, though some have other requirements (like pinning the other side or something like that).

To take an action, you have to play a card. To activate a combat unit, you have to play a card for that unit. If you have a Rifleman card from Squad A, you can only activate the Squad A Rifleman to do something. The Squad B counter will just sit there.

Then we get to Fog of War cards.

You start with some in your deck already, depending on the scenario. They have an Initiative value of 1, so they’re never going to win you Initiative unless you already had it.

You get one Fog of War card added to your deck for each tile scouted by your Scouts. You can also use your Scout to remove a Fog of War card from your hand or even put a Fog of War card into your opponent’s deck!

There’s a lot more to it, but basically you just follow the scenario directions for setting up your deck and what the objectives are for it. As soon as one of the objectives is achieved, the scenario’s over!

How is the app?

As I said earlier, the app is in very good shape for being in Alpha right now.

Looking at the screenshots, everything is very clear and easy to read. The graphics aren’t the most crisp yet, but it has a nice earthy tone that may be intentional (and thus maybe it won’t be “fixed”).

The attributes of the tiles are very noticeable, with the defense icon at the bottom and the VP value. They look just like the board game’s.

The counters are a little small (though you can zoom the map in), but a great bit of the UI is that you can right-click on a card and it will highlight the unit it’s attached to.

Clicking on a card on your turn (not for Initiative, which I will get to in a moment) will bring it to the right side of the screen and all of the available actions are below it.

This is from the tutorial. The big box with the actions explained won’t show up during the game.

If you can’t do an action for some reason (like not being able to Control a tile because there’s an enemy unit on it), the action will be in red.

The Initiative issue I mentioned above is that once you click on a card for Initiative, it is gone and the game progresses.

I think the game does need a “confirm” button for Initiative card play. When you’re playing a card for its action, you have to choose an action so you have time to decide to play another card.

Not with Initiative. You’d better be sure.

I do like the overall screen layout with all of the various decks available to each side at the top and how many cards in each one.

It shows how many cards are in the supply (ready to be Bolstered), in your draw pile, your hand, in play and your discard pile. It even shows you how many Fog of War cards are left in the supply.

And it tells you how many VP each side has and how many it will take to win!

All in all, the interface and screen is very clear.

Except the action log on the bottom left.

The text is in white, except the colour of the side (Green: American; Blue: German). On the brown background (which I love, looking like you’re playing on a picnic table or something), the white text is extraordinarily hard to read.

I do like (as shown in the picture above) how clicking on a tile will bring up all the attributes of it: Cover (if any), VP (if any), who has scouted it and which units are on it.

That makes things so much easier to keep track of.

You can even turn on 3-D mode for the map by clicking the “M” button on the top right! This showcases the tiles how they are in the boardgame.

You can use your mouse wheel to zoom in or out and drag the map around by clicking and holding the left button.

All of these items have keyboard shortcuts as well.

The other major issue that needs to be resolved is the tutorial.

It basically does explain the cards in your hand and some of the stuff that you need to do.

But it’s not structured like most tutorials, basically saying “play a card” rather than “play this card”. You basically have to go on from there, though when you do something new it does pop up a screen to help you with that.

The Germans do stuff that the tutorial doesn’t really explain either and it all goes by pretty fast.

Thus you do have to read the instructions (or at least browse them) for the game to really know what you’re doing.

I know tutorials are sometimes the last things that are worked on, so I’m sure this will improve.

The game even has online multiplayer, which is really cool except of course that there’s nobody in the lobby (how many people have access to the game so far, and how many would actually be setting up a game and waiting in the lobby?).

Judging by this screenshot of setting up a game, it has asynchronous multiplayer (30 Days is a long time to play a real-time game!) and you can either set it with a password (so no actual game invites, instead you just give the person you’re inviting the password) or leave it open for anybody to join.

Not having played the actual board game, I can’t speak to any gameplay bugs, though I can say that technically it appears pretty stable, at least in solo mode. No crashes so far after playing for a couple hours or so.

Overall, I’d say Undaunted: Normandy looks great for a game that’s in Alpha. As it progresses, bugs are squashed and interface improvements are implemented, I think this could very well be a standout app.

The game has a huge following and is a great crossover between traditional wargames and “regular” games with card mechanics.

Hopefully some of my friends will end up getting this when it does become available and we can get some online multiplayer going.

Some improvements definitely needed, but for an Alpha game I give this game a very positive rating.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

(Thanks to Bookmark Games for the free access to the Alpha)

7 Comments on “First Look – Undaunted: Normandy app on Steam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: