Heroes of Normandy – First Look!
LNLP’s latest release in the newly-renamed Lock’n’Load Tactical System landed on our doorstep. ~
Michael Eckenfels, 10 December 2015
Disclaimer: I am the co-host of the GrogCast, the podcast for GrogHeads.com. As of this writing, our podcast is sponsored by Lock ‘n Load Publishing, the producer of this game. I just wanted that said up front before I dive in. This game truly does look excellent, and that’s my gamer/writer side talking, and is not influenced at all by LnL’s sponsorship of our little podcast. Now, on with the article.
Unboxing articles are kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I get to open this brand new game that usually has just come off the production line and get to be one of the first to lay eyes on physical components. On the other hand, I have no idea what I’m looking at, so I cannot speak to the components; your guess is indeed as good as mine in some cases. Still, it’s pretty cool to take a look at these things.
This game, Heroes of Normandy, is a game in LnL’s Tactical System, and simulates the battles in France in 1944 following the D-Day landings. I have had experience with LnL’s product during Mark Walker’s reign as leader, but that was many years ago. I’ve also not been much of a tactical gamer ever, having cracked my skull against a metaphorical wall whilst playing Squad Leader solo back in the late 80s…that entire experience somewhat soured my outlook and I almost immediately immersed myself in grand strategic games (both PC and board) after that. However, over the last many years, this has slowly but surely been changing.
When GH told me I’d be getting this game for an unboxing, I immediately took to BGG and other sites to find out as much as I could about it…and saw that truly there’s very little out there. (By the time this is published, likely that will have changed. For now, though…yeah, not much.) Looking at the pictures on LnL’s website and those they posted to BGG and elsewhere, as well as checking out the price tag – $89.99 as of now – it was pretty obvious this is a monster game.
Click images to enlarge
When the box arrived, it was heavy. I mean, HEAVY. It felt like a brick was in the box. So when I opened it and found a thin box inside…I was somewhat mystified.
Also, confused, because the picture of the GI on the cover is…well, I know LnL has a penchant for putting workers and supporters on game counters so I have no doubt this “GI” on the cover is one of those. However, it is a decidedly creepy look. There, I said it. In fact, this pic reminds me of Uncle Paul for some reason. If you don’t know who that is, don’t look it up, it might get you in trouble.
Back to the rest of the box…it’s very thin (ed note: “thin” refers to the depth of the box, not the thickness of the cardboard from which the box is manufactured), but indeed heavy, and there’s a LOT of components to this game so they must be packed in there pretty tightly. Either that or this is the box version of a bag of holding.
The back cover looks pretty nice; I like the artwork of the German soldier and the color gradient. Very attractive and interesting.
The plastic wrap is removed and the box opened. Good ‘ol Uncle Paul II is looking at me from the box cover as if he wants me to sit on his lap while I peruse these contents. So I quickly put that aside and focus on what’s on top inside the box…
Huh, this is interesting. A ‘Certificate of Authenticity,’ and autographed on top of that? I’ve not seen anything like this before, except for Cee Cee’s little frog-stamped note included in previous GMT games. I always thought Cee Cee’s notes were a nice touch even if they were mass-produced and not individualized. I’m pretty sure these signatures are machine-generated, but even if they are, it doesn’t matter as this is a really nice touch…even if it has nothing to do with gameplay at all.
The first rule book I come across is this Lock ‘n Load Tactical World War II Era 1930-1959 manual. Full color and fairly nice design; the pages are crisp and stiffer than usual paper, giving it a feeling of longevity.
Inside the Tactical manual, we can see the text font. It’s pretty large, which is telling. LnL must think its target audience has bad eyes…and they’d be absolutely right. My own eyesight was probably ruined by reading Avalon Hill legal manuals back in the day, so I appreciate a slightly larger font, to be honest.
The Module Rules and Scenarios manual is also full color and of the same quality as the other manual.
Opening up the Module Rules and Scenarios book reveals more of the same nice, larger font, with color images and examples that are easy to follow and help illustrate the rules.
The Player Aid and Rules Reference cards are actually four-page fold-out documents. Each are also full color and of the same quality as the manuals, which is good since these will probably see a lot of handling during gameplay.
I like how the terrain is spelled out, though it is daunting that there are so many terrain types. It might take a few playthroughs (and possible screw-ups) before it becomes comfortable.
The Reference card looks just as good and from the number of summaries inside, one can tell there’s a lot of things going on in this game. It will be interesting to give it a spin and see how complex it truly is.
Another nice summary card – Weapons, Ammo, and Targets (the Oxford Comma is your friend, folks – shudder). Again, this kind of gives a peek into the system and how complex it looks. Whereas normally I’d be a little off-put by this (time to learn and play is always a precious commodity), the design and use of color is actually drawing me in, mitigating that to an extent.
A close-up of the Weapons, Ammo, and Targets card. I have no idea what I’m looking at here. I’m not a fan of busy counters normally, unless they’re well-designed and clear. These seem to fit both of those bills. Gameplay will ultimately tell, of course.
The game’s Skill Reference Card. Just from a quick skim, it seems these are traits, some of which are one-shots, for Leaders in the game. I like this dimension and what it promises for gameplay.
A Turn Track, as well as places to put both side’s casualties, is also provided. There’s also more rule summaries here, though they seem out of place on a card dominated by turn tracking and casualties. Again, only actual gameplay will tell how useful this all is, ultimately.
The first set of maps is six “Standard” maps, which are 12” x 8”. They’re fairly small, but since there are six of them, several combinations possible. As the game has 30 scenarios, I’m willing to bet most of those combinations are tried.
A close-up of the map. I’m having Squad Leader (first edition) flashbacks…but these maps are much nicer.
And here are six more maps. These are exactly the same as the “Standard” maps, but are much larger, coming in at 11” x 17”, and are called “X” maps. These are apparently included in pre-orders, so if you did that, you’ll get them too. If you didn’t pre-order, LnL says that these larger maps will be available for separate purchase. I really like the larger maps, much for the same reason why I like the slightly larger print. (ed note: the X-maps are not included in the normal box).
For comparison, here’s the Standard maps laying on top of the X maps.
There are six full color countersheets with “over 670” counters total.
A close-up of mostly SS counters. I like the design of all of these counters, and the SS ones in particular look great with the black backgrounds.
A close-up of the U.S.’s counters, with equally nice design. I like the Airborne patch icons on these.
Finally, two large baggies and two dice. I would have preferred more, smaller baggies because I’m fairly anal when it comes to my game storage…so I’ll probably be using some of those snack-sized baggies to store my units for future use. (ed note – use ‘bead bags’ from a craft store, or from Amazon; dirt cheap and lots of options for separating units).