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Undaunted: Reinforcements Makes 2 Great Games Better- Review

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MB Updated February 18, 2022
 
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Undaunted: Reinforcements Makes 2 Great Games Better- Review
There Will Be Games

...and it all fits in one box.

Undaunted – both in its Normandy and North Africa flavors – is a masterpiece. David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin created what is, at this point, the only game with a World War II setting that I want to play. Sure, it’s not as narrative as the seminal Up Front or its relative successor Combat Commander and it certainly isn’t as detailed or rife with historical verisimilitude as heavier designs in this space, but I don’t care. Because I don’t care about gaming World War II anymore.

I think the breaking point for me was when I played Undaunted: Normandy with my son for the first time. I was setting up and I was like “OK, do you want to be the US or the Germans”. He immediately put two and two together – “why would anyone want to be the Nazis?” And suddenly decades of Boomer WWII fetishism (which is often quite close to Nazi fetishism) came crashing down. So I took on the role of the Nazis, bothered the whole time that I was gaming as commanders and soldiers fighting for a racist, fascist regime not unlike that which today’s conservatives are pushing us all toward.

Regardless, he loved the game and still does. And I do too, but I’ve not reviewed it or written all that much about it even though I think it is one of the better games of the past few years. Osprey’s release of the new Reinforcements expansion, which the publisher kindly provided for review, seems like a good opportunity to issue forth on it beyond my socio-political reservations about its subject matter. And I think it’s significant because it’s one of the best expansions I’ve seen for a game in years.

Reinforcements  essentially takes both games and makes them a “big box” version with modular additions, a killer solo mode, a so-so multiplayer option, new scenarios and most importantly storage for everything. I was pleased as punch to recycle the original two boxes with the quickness and delighted that the games are now cohabitating a single box not that much bigger than the old ones. Beyond the logistical benefit of this expansion, it also delivers quite a lot of worthwhile content.

One of the more significant additions is bringing the North Africa vehicle rules, which I think are really fun, to the Normandy. After playing North Africa I felt like Normandy was to some degree a lesser game without tanks and fighting vehicles involved. My son agreed and Normandy was all but shelved in favor of armor, but now here we are bringing tanks to the bocage.  There are new Specialist units for Normandy and four new scenarios accommodating it all, and I especially like that this package effectively updates the first game to be as robust as the second. Mines and air support are also added to North Africa and its four new scenarios, as well as some new units to play with.

I’m not really into multiplayer options where two players control one side, and that remains the case here. This is a head to head game, designed as a head to head game, and should be played as a head to head game. But the option is here if you really want to do a four player game, and with some groups I suppose that could be essential in order to get the game played at all.

The solo mode designed by solitaire maven David Turczi is also a new way to get this game tabled when you can’t muster another player (for example, when my son has gone to bed on a school night). And it is outstanding. With that said, expectations need to be carefully metered here as it absolutely does not simulate the nuances and squishiness of playing with a live human being.  But what it does is create, through a series of triage cards that are unique for each scenario, is a simulation of an AI working toward specific objectives, prioritizing targets, and taking actions that seem mostly reasonable based on the game state. The key, to my mind, is that Mr. Turczi has essentially crafted a solo mode for each scenario rather than applying an all-over system like you might find in other games and it is quite a bit more sophisticated than the “run toward player/attack nearest player” kinds of logic often seen in cardboard AI mechanisms. Each unit type acts like it should, and I think that’s an impressive feat in a tactical wargame such as this.

I’ve really enjoyed my solo sessions and I’ve been thrilled to get this game played more often. I think Mr. Turczi’s work completely captures the spirit of the game, which is crucial. The frisson of bidding valuable cards for initiative that you really need on the upcoming turn is there, as are the tough decision points of how to best use your hand each round. The AI will react to your actions, and it will often surprise you with the kinds of decisions that you’d likely make if you were playing two-handed solo. Sometimes, better than I would, if I’m being honest here.  You’ll run into occasional glitches where you have to make a judgement call or pause to sort out what the best of a couple of choices are for the automated opponent, but I’ve found that it rarely feels “stupid”.

It’s just such a great package overall and I’d go so far as to consider it essential. It feels as if it completes both Normandy and North Africa. It’s like a victory lap for this system, bringing in a couple of new options that enhance play and expand the available content. For newcomers, I’d stick to recommending a look at North Africa first but those interested in this add-on, you do really need to have both previous releases and then we are getting into big bucks. But they’re likely to be big bucks well spent because this is a game with lots of meaningful content which rewards repeated play as players become more skilled with its deckbuilding and tactical manuevering.

Finally, a word about the supposedly mismatched card backs that had some folks demanding replacements and questioning Osprey’s QC standards. I don’t care and neither should you. For sensible players, it will never impact play in any way.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
5.0
Undaunted: Reinforcements
An outstanding expansion that makes two great games even better by adding a solo mode and new options for both.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 137 reviews
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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orton1227's Avatar
orton1227 replied the topic: #331055 25 Feb 2022 09:47
"not unlike that which today’s conservatives are pushing us all toward."

Geez, dude. I've spent my whole life as a progressive, very active politically until 2016 when I realized that my side was the intolerant one acting in imperialistic ways trying to eradicate the conservative enemy. Calling them Nazis and such. I hate that so many drank that kool-aid. Especially in the state of things today where all those politicians telling me that crap are somehow very wealthy, the party even wealthier, living extravagant lives. I'm certainly not a conservative, not by a long-shot. But I can tell you that I find them way more open-minded and compassionate these days. Wasn't always the case. Especially in the 80s and early 90s, but today for sure. Look there's good people all-around, but the ideologies are what needs to change. Pitting us against each other in the name of the ideology for THEIR benefit. Conservatives aren't your enemy. They're your ally. The elite class is your enemy. And unfortunately my former party has become so entwined with corporate elites and produced a real oligarchy I was once afraid (and told to be afraid) that the Right would build. It's good to know I'm not alone either. Most of my progressive friends see the same thing. I know if you open your mind a bit, challenge yourself, you can too. It's all about power. The left wants it badly. The right, well to be honest, the right might want it but is too calamitous to figure out that they might want it.

Trump broke a lot of people's minds. The funny thing is that, having been a progressive for so long, his behavior was like holding up a mirror to ours. I think conservatives fell in love with him (1) because he spoke to the working class while the left clearly despised them, and (2) because he embodied that rude, crude imperialist fighter that progressivism embodies. Even going back to its roots in the social gospel. I grew up Christian and the parallels between the Religious Right and progressivism are uncanny.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #331064 25 Feb 2022 11:23
Welcome to ThereWillBe.Games!

So ... do you like games? Have you played Undaunted?
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #331068 25 Feb 2022 11:41
Ah, yes. The "lifelong progressive" who suddenly did an about face because of the subtle emotional appeal of one Donald J. Trump. Is that something like the Trotskyites who eventually transitioned into neo-cons because they recognized that the struggle was all about power and embraced it? I used to be SWP back in the day, too.

No, that path to absolution doesn't start with embracing the biases of the modern American right-wing in order to "fight the power". (Barnes did make one mistake in using the label "conservatives". since even they don't like that label anymore ) That is, in fact, how a lot of neo-Nazis try to infiltrate hobby groups like furries, modelers and, yes, board gamers. "We're all just hobbyists here! It's us against the 'elite' who want to keep us from believing our own twisted little fantasies and projecting them into public policy!" I always love the "left despises the working class" thing, too. I used to be a labor organizer. I have as many friends in actual, functioning unions as I do in any other sphere of my life. When's the last time you and your "progressive friends" actually spoke to someone who works an assembly line? We struggled for a long time with the drift to the GOP over the "God and guns" appeal, but the problem wasn't detachment from "the left", as much as it was making sure that people felt like they could still make progress(!) in life with those same jobs. Of course, the economic policies (wage stagnation, anti-union, lack of domestic support) that made that difficult were all promoted by Republicans and still are. Have you seen [url=https://rescueamerica.com./11-point-plan/]Rick Scott's 11-point plan[/url]?

Tell you what: Why don't you and your "progressive friends" try a little harder to figure out who you really are and then wear those badges with pride? Most of the Trump-supporting GOP is doing that on a daily basis now. It's not even "saying the quiet part out loud" anymore. They're just saying it. You can, too. It'll be a lot easier than trying to keep up the fiction of being a "progressive my whole life" who only recently had an epiphany.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #331087 25 Feb 2022 17:09
>>>Conservatives aren't your enemy. They're your ally.<<<

The fuck they are. I am absolutely their enemy. No exceptions.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #331109 26 Feb 2022 14:47
Game review only entices dumbfuck American politics arguments :huh: ... I didn't even bother reading it after seeing what it generated.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #331110 26 Feb 2022 15:57
It's not an "argument." It's someone dropping in here to try insinuating himself into a community to see if he can get people to rally around bullshit about how we'd all be better off if we stopped the "elites" from preventing us from being genuine libertarians (aka fascist assholes.) It happens all the time and the best thing to do is present a united front that either says "We don't tolerate that shit" like MB and I were trying to do or talk right past them about the original piece that was written like dysjunct tried to do. Your post, attempting to just piss on the whole exchange, doesn't do anything but vaguely generate sympathy for what they are trying to do (e.g. "Don't bring politics into our games...! Except, you know, these politics about people trying to prevent us from keeping things lily White and male...?")
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #331137 27 Feb 2022 16:48

Jackwraith wrote: It's not an "argument." It's someone dropping in here to try insinuating himself into a community to see if he can get people to rally around bullshit about how we'd all be better off if we stopped the "elites" from preventing us from being genuine libertarians (aka fascist assholes.) It happens all the time and the best thing to do is present a united front that either says "We don't tolerate that shit" like MB and I were trying to do or talk right past them about the original piece that was written like dysjunct tried to do. Your post, attempting to just piss on the whole exchange, doesn't do anything but vaguely generate sympathy for what they are trying to do (e.g. "Don't bring politics into our games...! Except, you know, these politics about people trying to prevent us from keeping things lily White and male...?")

The mature thing would have to ignored it rather than turn it into another unrelated shit storm, as we have been told by moderators and site owners on previous occasions - but it seems that directive gets ignored depending on the point of view.
And piss-poor attempt at trying to make me responsible for letting them off the hook, perhaps my post could just have been "yawn - another bunch of dumbfuck yanks fighting their polarized political crusades ... again".
How about beating on Putin rather than each other.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #331139 27 Feb 2022 17:17
Barnes's post brought up politics explictly in his review. Someone decided to engage that, so did Jackwraith. No one started talking about virtue signaling and various right wing tropes that lead down the exact same road so I let it continue at my discretion, nor was there an extended insult session besides some oblique political haranguing at each other.

If Barnes's post hadn't opened the door and/or the response had been some sort of annoying shit about cancel culture I'd probably say it's thread jacking and do something.

And yes, my moderating is quite subjective. It's the internet in 2022.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #331140 27 Feb 2022 18:16

southernman wrote: The mature thing would have to ignored it rather than turn it into another unrelated shit storm, as we have been told by moderators and site owners on previous occasions - but it seems that directive gets ignored depending on the point of view.


Yeah, we've seen how well "ignoring it" works on this side of the pond with people whipped into enough of a frenzy to have attacked the Capitol building, with many of them insisting that they were trying to "save America". No more. A lot of people ignored the rants in Germany in the 1920s, too. No more. I know you're probably one of those "just ignore them so you don't bring politics into my games" types because you're a relatively wealthy White English guy who, consequently, has a ton of advantages over people who don't have the luxury of that status. That gives you the privilege of saying "just ignore them." But the problem we're having right now in the US is front and center, so we can't just "ignore it", as it will only get worse. So, you just go ahead and keep up with your "mature" responses from your very comfortable position and the rest of us will actually take some responsibility for our society, thanks.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #331142 27 Feb 2022 22:36
“Orton1227” hasn’t logged into the site since his drive-by pooping three days ago, so it’s not like it was a good-faith attempt to engage in discussion. He was trolling and had no intention of joining our little chummy nerd community, or contribute to it in any meaningful way. He deserved to be called out and shut down.

If he actually comes back and talks about games instead of his transparently dumb political hobby horse, I’ll apologize. But his points are still objectively stupid — as if the pasty basement-dwelling “Jews will not replace us” dorks are “the elite” that we need to unite against. So fucking moronic.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #331144 27 Feb 2022 23:53
He was also going EXACTLY by the right wing instigator playbook…”just asking questions, I’m a reasonable dude, actually I’m kind of a victim of the intolerant left”, etc. This is how they infiltrate spaces- they fish for others to latch on to their reasonable, “fair” comments and it eventually grows into full blown right wing bullshit and before you know it your space is choked with them.

If he does come back I won’t apologize because as far as I am concerned he is not welcome here and I don’t give a shit about his comments on games. These people have to be barred at the door, full stop.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #331145 27 Feb 2022 23:56
>>>>How about beating on Putin rather than each other.

Just this weekend at CPAC, a US conservative conference attended by many Republican politicians, Putin was cheered. They chanted his name. So beating on conservatives who view him as a politically incorrect white messiah IS beating on Putin.