As we creep up on Origins Game Fair 2015 we’ve been looking over the games we bought LAST year and still haven’t played… we’re very good at finding plenty of games to buy and bring home, not so much the playing. So Heroes of Normandie by Iello/Devil Pig Games has been sitting on our shelf for the better part of a year gathering dust until the hubby dusted it off. He picked it up based on a demo at Origins and his love of WWII gaming – we love our Memoir ’44 and have lots of boxed sets waiting for his retirement to get into.
Heroes of Normandie started off as a Kickstarter production and, unfortunately, it shows. From what I’ve been able to gather (most of the information on the Devil Pig site is in French and even though I’m technically bilingual being Canadian, some of it I can’t figure out) the pledge rewards are late being sent out along with other issues. Iello is putting the core set on the shelves so it is available for general purchase.
In a nutshell – great concept and lousy execution. The idea is fabulous – a fast paced WWII game that requires little setup, plays fast and furiously and doesn’t get too bogged down in the details. It’s always a fight when you do a war game whether you want accuracy or speed and this game, in theory, makes it work. The idea is to imagine more “Kelly’s Heroes” or “Dirty Dozen” rather than a war documentary and on that front it works in a lovely form.
You build your teams using templates and add in units based on how they match the forms, allowing you to work quickly using simple number totals. With all the information on the unit chit you can have a game up and running much quicker than almost any other war game I can recall. The variety of units provide endless variety and the token cliche heroes make it fun while keeping the strategy going.
The fault is in the details – the rules booklet we received had numerous errors with tiles mis-numbered, cards and units listed not in our box and the rules so jumbled up that we’ve resorted to a fan-written version courtesy of BoardGameGeek (a totally faboo site for anyone who plays any type of game – can’t recommend this enough!) that clarifies the rules, fixes up the errors and basically saves the game.
Without this the rules are a hot mess and gameplay is very frustrating. The hubby and I aren’t that dense and we’ve sat through various videos and scraped through scenarios and we’re still getting basic stuff wrong because of the disorganization in the rules booklet. Add to that pages (yes, I said PAGES!) of errata and I can only give a tentative thumbs up to Heroes of Normandie. I love the idea and I love the execution and I love the quick gameplay but the support from Iello/Devil Pig leaves a lot to be desired. One thread I read on BGG noted that DP seems to be okay with the idea of revising the rules as feedback comes in but I’m not comfortable with that – if I buy a game I want it to be complete, I don’t want to keep having to return to the website and downloading new versions of the rulebook because the creators didn’t want to put in the time and effort to get it right the first time. Having to depend on other fans to clean up the messy ruleset doesn’t sit right with me but, as with all things, your mileage might vary.
There are many planned expansions for the core set with specific units along with settings, giving the game almost unlimited replay ability. I’m looking forward to many more games myself because I love the template idea and the idea of a fast paced WWII game really appeals to us. Heroes of Normandie really gives that feel of the classic war movie with the big heroes and plenty of action going on.
If you can deal with the aforementioned hot mess regarding the rules then I recommend HoN to you – if you like to play right out of the box you might find this too frustrating to deal with. While I’m not happy about leaning on fans to rewrite the rules and scenarios to make them coherent you might not mind. But it’s obvious that the rush to publish this game has made the final product suffer and I’m not sure it can continue unless the company cleans up their act. Leaving it up to the fans to return again and again to the website to download yet another version of the rules is just plain sloppy, in my opinion.
So a hesitant thumbs-up for HoN if you love wargaming on a limited scale with certain reservations. We’re heading back to Origins again this year and hopefully we’ll be adding more games to our inventory… who am I kidding – we’ll buy WAY more games and we’ll be opening them a year later, like this one!