Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord

In the year of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day it makes more than sense, to (re-)visit one of the most infamous operations of the second world war - Operation Overlord. Warlord covered the battles in North-Western Europe with the very first campaign supplement, Battleground Europe, and now comes with a strong focus on Campaign D-Day: Overlord.

Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord Bolt Action - Campaign D-Day: Overlord

While Battleground Europe covers the whole late war from the preparations to the landing in the Normandy, over Arnheim (that was covered in more detail with Campaign Market Garden) and Bastogne (which had a more detailled supplement with Campaign Battle of the Bulge) until the crossing of the Rhine, this book takes care of the very day of June 6th. If you read the intro of the very carefully, two more books are announced, that will cover the break outs from the beachheads by the US Americans, Canadians and British. Above you can see the early cover with an US American paratrooper and the later final cover with an US American GI.

Where the campaign supplements Fortress Budapest and Western Desert just set the record for the biggest books for Bolt Action with 168 each, this one is another level - stunning 216 pages. Not less than 19 scenarios, and a full 30 pages of new units. Pricing is set at 20 GBP or 30 USD, which translates around 25 EUR, and covers for direct customers a special miniature, Captain Colin Douglas "Mad" Maud, with both of his dogs.

It is the first Bolt Action book by author Robert Vella. Haven't found any other publications by him so far, so it might be his first work in that field. But it is unlikely that Warlord Games would let a total "stranger" or newcomer handle a book this epic, so this might just be a very low profile author.

Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord Bolt Action - Campaign D-Day: Overlord Bolt Action - Campaign D-Day: Overlord

What is it about?
It feels a bit silly to explain D-Day, as it is - as said before - probably the most infamous operation of world war 2. It was captured in Saving Private Ryan, in an incredibly long scene, with all it's cruelty, noise and chaos. I have played the D-Day multiple times in the early 00s in videos games like Medal of Honor or Call of Duty multiple times, and was of course part of the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. So you got in touch with it in "current" pop culture multiple times. Anyhow, D-Day or Operation Neptune, was an military operation by the Western Allied forces in Western Europe with the goal to open up a second front against Nazi Germany and remaining forces of the Axis. As Hitler build the Atlantic Wall from the southern border of France up to the northern end of Norway, due have a bulwark against a possible invasion, this was not a simple task. It took years to prepare and was a logistic nightmare. For the success of the operation secrecy was key and a lot of decoys had to be prepared as well, among them Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the enemy. The Germans should be lead to believe, that the landing would take place in the narrow part of the channel, southern France and Norway. Forcing them to spread out their troops thinly, making them more vunerable for a heavy hitting attack. Eventhough Saving Private Ryan wants to make you believe, that it was an American success, the victory was carried by a broad alliance of multi-national forces. British, Canadians, Free French, Polish and even Commonwealth troops supported the landing, either with soldiers on the beach, navy vessels or aircrafts. Because it was not just the landing, it was bombing runs beforehand, it was airborne troops and commandos that were send into the hinterlands to capture or sabotages trategic points, it was naval artillery shooting onto those beaches, it was intelligence services misleading the enemy.
The Third Reich had 50 divisions on disposal in France and the Low Countries, with further troops being drafted / formed in Germany, but no reserves, as the Eastern Front was already taking its toll. The combined Allied army was up against the 7. Armee in Normandy, and as the German soldiers were due to the ongoing war lacking young men, drafting conscripts and "volunteers" from regions like Russia, Mongolia, and elsewhere. Some unlucky fellows among these troops were captured in the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, got captured by the Red Army, forced to fight against the Germans, got captured by the them to be forced to fight the Allies, just to be captured by them. The Wehrmacht provided those troops mainly with unreliable captured equipment and they lacked motorised transport. The veterans, more elite and better equiped soldiers were kept further behind to be deployed where they were needed, but far from action on D-Day itself. More than 10,000 men were wounded on the first day, of which more than 4,400 died in battle just on the Allied side. By 18 June, the German 7th Army alone had lost 97,000 men, including five generals during the operation.

Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord

First Impression
This longest of days, receives a supplement of its own. Incredibly 216 pages thick, more than half of it - 130 pages - covering the 19 (!) scenarios. Stunning 30 pages of new units (to be fair, a lot of variants to cover the special equipment carried and worn on that day for this special mission), along with 17 pages of theatre selectors. As we are now used to having the new units gathered in a chapter of their own, they did the same for the legends as well.
They keep the quality, you can imagine with D-Day being that popular, the amount of artwork Osprey can choose from is vast. Warlord does the same, they show battle scenes with all kinds of terrain, from Sarissa buildings, to the Italeri bunkers and obstacles. You even see some of the ships they offer for Cruel Seas to show the landing on the beach. If a Bolt Action supplement is a burger, Campaign D-Day: Overlord is the one with a double patty, cheese and bacon.
D-Day is the beginning of the end, it is the Götterdämmerung of World War 2 if you will. Thus clearly a desperate, but powerful task that is laying before both sides, so it is no wonder that there is a lot of special gear for the British and US American forces, may it be airborne troops, commandos, engineers and pioniers, and of course a lot of modified vehicles like Hobart's Funnies. On the other side, you have a lot of captured gear with the Germans, French tanks with field conversions, added artillery to be mobile, and other things that were moved to the second line during mid of the war, being rated inadequate for the ongoing war. So we have Somua S35, Hotchkiss tanks, U304(f) and such, along with the poor bastards, they conscripted to fight the front lines along the Atlantic Wall.
And to capture these, you receive a lot of reinforced platoons for the beach assaults and landing, like the British-Canadian joint forces, the airborne platoons and the several replacement and resistance platoons of the Germans. Summing up to a total of 15 new theatre selectors, most of them for the British and Germans.

The new chapter, covering all the legends in the book, is unsurprisingly heavy on the Allied characters. A victory makes heroes and with the German forces being spread along the Atlantic wall or the more known being deployed somewhere rather far from the conflict, no chance to "shine". The British now have profiles for Sir John Howard, Lord Lovat / Sir Simon Fraser, Major Philippe Kieffer, the exclusive miniature Captain of the Royal Navy Colin Maud, Ltn Col Terence Otway and Sgt Patrick McGeever. As for the US Legends, they are Brigadier General Norman 'Dutch' Cota, 2nd Ltn Ronald Speirs (his profile covering his service in Normandy), Staff Sgt Harrison Summers, 1st Ltn Turner Brashears Turnbull III and the famous 1st Ltn Richard 'Dick' Winters (covering the Normandy profile and well known from Band of Brothers). The Germans receive the profiles of two Oberst, Friedrich von der Heydte and Hans von Luck. Beyond these legends a few "Top Secrets" characters are spread across the book, like CSM Stan Hllis or Gefr. Stefan Heinvez.

Every campaign supplement has its appendix of special rules, supporting the specific changes or additions to rules for the scenarios they tell. Among them are of course the very popular rules for minefields and digging in, that we found in several other books as well. Along with amphibious assault, beach and air landings for the attackers (not only paratroopers, but gliders as well and the combat jump rules), and general campaign rules (less exciting than you might think, just "ad-hoc units" / half battle squads, bocage and air surpremacy).

Bolt Action - Campaign Market Garden
The 19 scenarios are listed in chronological order of the day, beginning 0011 hrs, until the early hours of the day. From the airborne drops in the hinterland, up to the landing itself along the different sections of the beach.

  • Scenario 1: Operation Titanic
  • Scenario 2: Pegasus Bridge: The Coupe de Main
  • Scenario 3: Pegasus Bridge: Taking the West Bank
  • Scenario 4: Assault on Merville Battery
  • Scenario 5: Skirmish in the Dark
  • Scenario 6: Brecourt Manor
  • Scenario 7: Objective XYZ
  • Scenario 8: Counter-Attack at Sainte-Mere-Eglise
  • Scenario 9: Neuville-Au-Plain
  • Scenario 10: Utah Beach
  • Scenario 11: Fox Green Beach
  • Scenario 12: Get Off the Beach!
  • Scenario 13: Pointe-Du-Hoc
  • Scenario 14: Frontal Assault on WN 29
  • Scenario 15: Queen Red Beach
  • Scenario 16: Ouistreham
  • Scenario 17: Pegasus Bridge: Hold Until Relieved
  • Scenario 18: Lebisey Wood
  • Scenario 19: La Fiere Bridge

Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord

How does D-Day: Overlord play?
Most of the battles in this book are objective driven scenarios. Not really classical battles, but claiming and / or defending objectives. For example taking out artillery guns or MG nests. This comes along with special or unusual composition of forces, can be partially random. The games themself are ranged between small commando actions up to full size landings. Due to the fact, that these are mostly airborne or beach landings, the amount of heavy equipment on the allied side is rather low, but you have access to veteran / elite squads. As for the quality of the Germans, that is rather mixed. You have some reserve units, that are mixed quality and you have a lot of improvised and captured equipment.

So this actually is inviting for beginning players, as you can play quite a lot of these missions with the content of a squad box each.

 Bolt Action Campaign D-Day: Overlord

What's next?
The next supplement for Bolt Action, being released in August, isn't for World War 2. It is a self-contained book covering the Korean War war from 1950 to 1953. This is one of the first conflicts of the Cold War, between North Korea (with the support of China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (with the support of the UN and principal support from the United States). The fighting ended in 1953, but there was never a peace treaty being signed, so the two countries are technically still at war.

Due to the early announcement / listing of titles through Osprey, we have a preview on the next two campaign books for Bolt Action. For the Campaign Mariana & Palau Islands supplement are several dates from October to December 2019, even February 2020 as possible release dates rumoured. This book covers Operation Forager, a series of battles in the Pacific to free the Islands of Saipan, Guam and Tinian, to enable the US Air force to run air raids on mainland Japan.

The second campaign supplement unveiled is Campaign Stalingrad. It is without any doubt one of the most famous and decivise battles of world war II. The Battle of Stalingrad was the turning point at the Eastern Front, stopping Unternehmen Barbarossa and enabling the Red Army to start their counter offensive. It will be interesting how broad this will be set up and how it will interlink with the already released books of Ostfront and Road to Berlin. The rumoured release date for this supplement is Summer 2020.

And for those who read the intro on page 6 of the book to the end, will have read the announcement of two (!) further books covering the break outs by the US, British and Canadians from the beaches. I know that I mentioned that in the intro, but it belongs in this section as well, so pardon me mentioning it twice.

Bolt Action - Korea Bolt Action - Campaign Mariana & Palau Islands Bolt Action - Campaign Stalingrad

I wasn't expecting them to go that much into detail for Operation Overlord. I was aware that due to the anniversary and such, it would be something special, but this extends the expectations. Quality of the book is on the usual level, no arguing there. I think it is great, that they kept the price, even as this is almost twice as thick as some of the other supplements. This book is more or less a must have for several reasons. First of all, it simply is one of the most iconic battles of the second world war. If you are seriously invested in a world war two game setting, you should at least played parts of this once. And beyond that, as mentioned in how it plays, some of the missions are quite lean, so if you're new to the game and looking on what to buy next, beyond your Armies of book, this is a very rich addition to your collection. You can play them with small armies of just 500 points.

Many of these books are a great template for a gaming or campaign weekend, but this due to the fact, that many things happened simultaneously, are just so good for this. Have the big landing set up for the early after noon and play some of the scenarios in the morning, each deciding about some reinforcement, additional troops, added or subtracted order dice, raising or lowering the training level of specific units. It will be intense, it will take work to prepare, but it will be so worth it. And due to the stress and tension it may cause, it will feel like the longest day. The only thing that I'd would have expected, would be some kind of connection in between these games. There are so many tables and such with each scenario, and they could easily have added modifiers to interconnect those scenarios more. For example if the paratroopers managed to capture the bridge, the Germans will have it harder to bring in reserve in the next game, or if the commandos didn't made it happen to take out the 8,8, the air supremacy in the next battle will be handicapped. Just as an idea.

There are dozends of movies, and hundreds of book written about D-Day. Grab a blu-ray copy of Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, take a look into some of the Osprey books, some cover the operation itself, others the equipment like landing crafts or amphibious vehicles used, and play a game of your own D-Day.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

Posted by Dennis B.

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  1. what is the size of the game above?

  2. 28mm platoon sized.

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