"After much fighting, furor and pain the decisive shock has come, the hoped for shock. Of course, it is the Battle of France!”
--General Charles De Gaulle, Leader of the Free French Forces
The blockhouse is the most fearsome image from the battle of D-Day. As the Allied soldiers charged the beaches, they ran straight into heavy fire from these massive cement structures. Bristling with guns and mortars, encampments like Dog One and the Casino etched their names into history with their punishing fire against the landing forces that dared to face them.
So, of course, the D-Day game would make these colossi crucial to the battle. Here, for the first time, is the Axis & Allies D-Day blockhouse, designed by art director Peter Whitley.
Basic Features of the Blockhouse
The seventeen blockhouses in the game are land units, just like tanks or infantry. A blockhouse can fight in combat, but it cannot move. It can be selected as a casualty, though most players avoid this until it's absolutely necessary. A blockhouse can be hit by bombers and naval bombardment, but paratroopers can't damage it on their airborne assault. There are no reinforcement blockhouses, so once a blockhouse is destroyed, you can't build a new one in the basic orders game.
The naval bombardment and bomber strikes merit special attention. These are meant to tenderize some of the blockhouses before the Allies come ashore, but they're not guarantees. Once the Allies land, bombers can't hit the blockhouses any more, because they can't be placed in a zone with Allied forces.
Meanwhile, the blockhouses start knocking off the Allied invaders.
Order Card 9: Blockhouses Fire to Sea
The text of this Axis order is A blockhouse can fire on the beachhead box connected to its zone. Roll one die for each blockhouse against a target Allies land unit. A roll of 3 or less is a hit.
Blockhouses have a new concept in Axis & Allies called "firing arcs." These are marked with red arrows on the map. A blockhouse's firing arc shows which beachhead the blockhouse can hit. Some blockhouses, the ones on the far left side of the map, can't hit any beachheads because the Allies don't come ashore near them.
On this order, the blockhouses each fire one shot to sea. Such a shot targets (that is, the Axis chooses) an Allied unit in the beachhead box connected to the blockhouse's firing arc. A full fifty percent of the time, the blockhouse destroys the unit it's aiming at. Your Sherman crews are going to need snorkels.
As the game progresses, the blockhouses start getting cleared out. Naval bombardment and combat casualties will eliminate blockhouse after blockhouse. When the last blockhouse with a firing arc is destroyed, or when all the Allied reinforcements have come ashore, this card is removed from the deck. The focus shifts from the battle for the beaches to the clashes at the victory cities.
Order Card 10: Allies Land
The text of this Allied order is Move land units from beachhead boxes to adjacent zones.
This is when the beachhead boxes start clearing out. Those units that survived the blockhouse fire move into the land zones by the beachheads -- if they can.
Allied units that land often find themselves immediately embroiled in combat. Since units in territories with hostile units cannot move, they must first clear out every German unit on the beach before more units can come ashore.
Remember that in the last column, I described the stacking limits that apply to every zone: You can't have more than eight mobile land units from your side (Axis or Allies) in a single zone. Sometimes the beaches get clogged with units so that other units cannot come ashore. They are left to suffer in the beachhead boxes, subjecting themselves to more blockhouse fire and preventing other units from reinforcing there. This is especially nasty at Omaha Beach, D-Day's most brutal killing zone, where there are many German units and many American soldiers struggling ashore.
With these limits in mind, you can see how thorny Omaha Beach might be. There are eight American units in the beachhead box and seven German units on the beach -- and that's just at the start of the game.
You can, of course, intentionally leave your forces in the water. Once all blockhouses that can hit a particular sea zone are removed from play, units can safely be left offshore until the battle for the beaches is won.
When all the Allied reinforcements have come ashore, this order card is removed from the deck.
A Time-Sensitive Disclaimer
Every scholar of World War II knows that the beaches were cleared out by the end of the day on June 6th. The game, however, does not presume that time is passing exactly as it did in real life. That would force the battle for the beaches to conclude in less than a turn. A game about D-Day should make the invasion an epic event. It's possible here that the beaches won't be clear until several turns into the game. By then, it's possible that some Allied troops will have reached a victory city.
Of course, this happened in real life too. By 1500 hours on June 6th, a mere eight hours after the invasion began, the 12th Panzer division fell back to the south. This allowed the British troops to get all the way to Caen by the evening. So it is possible to abstract these events into a couple of days. Still, it's best not to demand rigorous historical timing in a game with a turn sequence.
Next time, I'll discuss combat that occurs on land and give you full piece statistics. Yes, a few of them are different. More to come.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
Mike 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.