Monday, April 22, 2013

Heroes of Normandie: Bridging the Gap Between Euro, Rpg-er, and Grognard?

The vast majority of the gaming I participate in on a regular basis is role playing, Euro, or Ameri-treasure. I own a large number of role playing games, and I get to play many of them with my gaming group. I have a sizable Euro and Ameri-treasure collection and am often able to convince my regular gaming group to pause our campaigns to play a quick game of MUNCHKIN, GLOOM, or CATAN. This means I get to play a lot of wonderful games...and yet all this gaming doesn't sate my gaming appetite. You see, I am cursed with a voracious and insatiable ludographic desire to play games from all genre/classifications. In addition to the game genres above, I love miniatures gaming and microscopic chit based monster wargames. It's not hard to find people to play miniature games with, though they do have to be willing to tolerate my "primer gray" armies.

It is nigh impossible to find people who have the time and interest to play microscopic chit based wargames -- even of the less than monster variety.

This is why so many of the chit based wargames include a "solitaire" rating on the side of the box. A lot of us GMT, MMP, DECISION, and old AH and SPI gamers have to be willing to play many of these games ourselves. This is because the chit based wargame can be an intimidating beast. The games often focus heavily on simulation -- accurately portraying a historical event -- instead of playability and that can lead to some extremely complex rules. Check out the rule book for A WORLD AT WAR, which comes in at 192 pages, and you get a small glimpse of what I mean.  Avalon Hill's ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER is similarly intimidating, but the old SQUAD LEADER -- with it's programmed learning system -- is less so.

The other disadvantage that some of these games have is that they are often not very graphically appealing. This has changed over the past decade, but a look at some of the classics of the simulation genre with their abstract unit notations can be off-putting as well.

These limitations led to the near death of the wargaming hobby in the early 90s, but innovations in graphic design and rules have led to growth in the field so that the hobby is now fairly stable. Stable, but for those of us who love it still to small.  This is why "crossover" games are so important.  These are games that fall within the wargame milieu, while also appealing to other gamers. Games like MEMOIR '44 and BATTLELORE (both using the Command & Colors system) are great examples of this kind of game. These two games have simpler rules that appeal to the Eurogamer, while still having customizeability, expandability, and rich enough mechanics to satisfy the wargamer itch. There are other games that cross the Eurogamer/Wargamer line, and there are those that cross the RPG/Wargamer line.  Games like DUST TACTICS have some appeal to RPG gamers and incorporate wargame elements -- though they push players over more toward miniatures gaming than wargaming. If one views DESCENT by FFG as a skirmish game -- which I do -- it too has some crossover appeal.

There aren't many games that try to have Euro/RPG/Wargamer appeal, and it looks like the French Designers at Devil Pig Games are trying to do exactly that with their current Kickstarter campaign "Heroes of Normandie." The game looks like a simple to play Euro/Wargame crossover, and the addition of the ACHTUNG CTHULHU! inspired Cthulhu expansion "Shadows Over Normandy" it looks like they are trying to get the whole trifecta involved.

I'm not surprised that it is a French company that would be among the first to try to come up with a game that crosses all three genre.  The French wargame seen is huge and the wargame magazine BATTLES is one of the best in the business. There is a strong French RPG industry that has seen some of its games, like IN NOMINE, imported to the United States -- though I'm still waiting for C.O.P.S. to find its way to our shores. And Eurogames are exploding in France as they are in the rest of the world.

The Devil Pigs Games crew seem to be leveraging all of the attributes that contribute to the robust wargaming industry in France and bringing them over to an internationally distributed game.  One look at one of the insert wargames in BATTLES magazine, or at the games advertised in the magazine, and you can see that the French gaming industry is doing some amazing things graphically and thematically with their games. HEROES OF NORMANDIE looks to be no exception.  Have a look at these game play videos to see what I mean.  The graphics on the pieces are wonderful, and the statistics on the pieces appear to be easy to understand.  This looks to be a wonderful game.

If only I had an unlimited supply of money.

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