Over the past few years, we have become acquainted with a newer designer who has done several scenarios and variants in C3i Magazine for established systems, but also now has launched several of his own designs named Dan Fournie. We previously have done interviews with him covering a game on the Battle of the Bulge from Worthington Publishing called 1944 Battle of the Bulge, also a game called Drop Zone: Southern France from GMT Games that ultimately was taken off the P500 and with whom he has found a new home (this is mentioned at the end of the interview and we will cover that one when it comes up) as well as 414 BC Siege of Syracuse from Worthington Publishing. His next upcoming game uses the same system as his 1944 Battle of the Bulge and is called 1944 D-Day to the Rhine. We reached out to Dan to get the background on the game and see what it is about.

If you are interested in 1944 D-Day to the Rhine, the Kickstarter campaign has been delayed to Saturday, February 19th but you can preview the project on the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1040417273/1501304934?ref=2ejojg&token=2ce22565

Grant: Welcome back Dan. Now that you have your first official design 1944 Battle of the Bulge finalized and published off a successful Kickstarter campaign how do you feel about it?

Dan: Well, overall I am very pleased. The physical components produced by Worthington Games turned out to be top-notch. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

Grant: What is your new upcoming design 1944 D-Day to the Rhine about?

Dan: The game covers the 10-month campaign in northwestern Europe from the aftermath of the Allied invasion in June 1944 in Normandy to the Allies crossing the Rhine in March 1945.

Grant: What caused you to want to design a game around the D-Day invasion? Isn’t this topic over represented in wargames?

Dan: Well, this game does not center on the invasion, but uses D-Day as a starting point. Admittedly, there are many games covering this campaign, starting with Avalon Hill’s 1961 classic, D-Day (the first game with hexes). However, each game takes a different approach in scale and complexity. Most are division level games. My game is geared to be easy, fast and fun to play, but still allows for deep strategic decision making and allows a player to learn the ins and outs of this historic campaign. 

Grant: What is your focus on this campaign that will set the design apart from others on the topic?

Dan: What sets my game apart is the scale and ease of play. You can play the entire campaign in 2½ to 3 hours. A limited number of counters, large hexes and simple mechanics make it more fun and less work to play. Variable victory conditions and optional rules allow for great re-playability.

Grant: What does it mean that this game is also in the 1944 Series? What mechanics will this game have in common with 1944 Battle of the Bulge?

Dan: It shares the same Resource Point driven combat, movement and replacement systems as 1944 Battle of the Bulge and all the HoldFast Series games. The variable victory conditions, combat dice, motorized movement, command and control restrictions from Bulge are carried over. The game also draws heavily on the original HoldFast Russia, as the time, space and unit scales are more similar.

Grant: What from the history of the D-Day invasion and breakout did you want to make sure and model in the game?

Dan: The main thing I wanted to replicate was the ebb and flow of the campaign—periods of grinding combat such as initially in Normandy and during the winter, as well as the rapid exploitation and pursuit after breaking out from Normandy or crossing the Rhine. The Germans’ hammer blow in the winter marks another dramatic shift.

Grant: What is the scale used in the design? How does scale effect your approach to the game?

Dan: The scale is one month per turn and 25m/40k per hex. Units are both armies and corps. This allows for fast play, allowing for concentration of force while preserving the simple HoldFast mechanic of no stacking—one unit per hex. The players can concentrate on the strategic choices they face, not on masses of counters or complex mechanics. 

Grant: What are the different formations and unit types involved?

Dan: The forces of both sides are divided into three Army Groups. Those army groups have corps (1 or 2 steps) and armies (3 or 4 steps) sub-units, represented by counters. A historical army is represented by 1 army counter and 1 or 2 corps counters. This allows an army to concentrate on a front as narrow as 2 hexes or spread out as wide as 6 hexes. The German side has both infantry and panzer formations. The infantry units include static coastal defense and Volksturm units, regular and elite (such as paratroopers and mountain troops) infantry. Panzer corps and armies have more firepower, mobility and survivability. Allied units are more homogenous. All the Allied units are infantry—there are no armor units. This reflects Allied practice to combine arms at corps and army level, with armor divisions distributed among all the corps. A typical Allied corps represents around 3 infantry and 1 armor divisions. Allied corps and armies are generally superior to German infantry units in combat power and mobility, especially in clear weather when air support is included.  

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? What do the different numbers and symbols represent in the design?

Dan: Each counter has a national color, and the NATO unit-type symbol square in the center of a counter has its army group color. Unit type symbols include panzer and infantry, and infantry types include regular, airborne, mountain, coastal and Volksturm. There are 3 numbers on each counter: first, the dice rolled in combat (DRC) number; second, the step or strength point (SP) #; and third, the units movement point (MP) #. Historical corps and army designations are included on the sides of the unit type symbol. Finally, every army has the commander’s name.

Grant: How is the beach landing portion of the battle handled? Why did you feel this was appropriate?

Dan: For a quick start to the standard game, the Allies lead armies are simply placed on the historic Normandy invasion beaches, and free play begins with the German’s response. But players can also game the beach invasions using an optional rule. You can play out the Normandy landings or if you use the optional free invasion rule, you can land at other locations such as Brittany or the Pas de Calais. The actual mechanics of an invasion are played out using standard combat rules. The Allies have naval gunfire and airborne counters to support the invading units.

Grant: How is the invasion of Southern France handled and how does this effect the course of the game?

Dan: Southern France in not on the map (in order to maximize the playable area where the main campaign was fought). So, Operation DRAGOON is considered an automatic Allied success in August. This triggers the entry in September of the remnants of German Army Group G from the southern board edge, followed by the Franco-American forces of 6th Army Group. The Allies may draw supply from the southern board edge, reflecting the logistic value of the French ports of Marseilles and Toulon.

Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?

Dan: D-Day to the Rhine uses the same basic sequence as Holdfast and Bulge 44:

Phase 1: German reinforcements and replacements. 

Phase 2: German movement and combat. 

Phase 3: Allied reinforcements and replacements. 

Phase 4: Allied movement and combat. 

Within Phases 2 and 4, each unit may move and attack, or attack and then move, to create fluid and free-flowing maneuver and combat.

Grant: How does combat work?

Dan: It’s the Holdfast System: one RP is expended to attack the unit in a target hex. Combat is simultaneous so both players roll at the same time. The attacker totals the number of dice to roll for the attacking units, and modifies that total by any terrain, supply, and support effects. The defender then totals their dice, adding dice for any terrain modifiers and reducing dice if out of supply. The players roll their dice. A hit is scored, just as in Bulge 44,on opposing units for each symbol that is rolled that corresponds to an opposing unit’s type. The air symbol hits more than one unit type. Hits are applied simultaneously. It is a simple, fast process without the need for CRT’s or complex calculations.

Grant: How are the number of Air Units for the Allies determined? Any distinction between the silhouettes of bombers and fighters in these counters?

Dan: Initially we had 4-7 Allied tactical air units that could be placed to support combat within their army group and 1 bomber. Play-testing revealed a simpler method with custom dice having an air symbol. During the clear weather months, Allied units score hits on panzers or infantry whenever rolling the air symbol. 

Grant: What benefit does the Bomber provide that is different than other Air Units?

Dan: The bomber unit is powerful, but risky. The Allied player may use the bomber to conduct carpet bombing and rolls 2 dice. However, if both dice miss, he must roll 1 die against his own attacking units.

Grant: How are Airborne Units used? Why are they limited in their mission capability?

Dan: After looking at the historical use of airborne in this campaign (Operations Neptune & Tonga at Normandy, Market-Garden at Arnhem and Varsity across the Rhine) we reached three conclusions: 
(1) airborne drops were only made in fairly static situations. It was too difficult to plan, prepare and execute a complex airborne landing when the combat situation was fluid. So, the Allied airborne units are restricted to supporting invasions and river crossings; 

(2) it took months to recover from losses, prepare units and plan and execute major landings. So, the airborne units are restricted to at most three major operations; and 

(3) clear weather was necessary for a major drop. 

The Allied player may also bring in his airborne as a regular ground combat unit during the winter.

Grant: What role do Leader Units have in the game?

Dan: As an optional rule, each Army group commander has a counter and a special capability. For example, Monty has Set-Piece Battle – add +1 DRC to an attack by one in-supply unit of 21stArmy Group; and Student has Determined Defense – add +1 DRC to a defense by one in-supply infantry unit of Army Group H. Army commanders’ names on the counters don’t have a game effect, but they help bring the history to life.  

Grant: What area does the map board cover of Western Europe?

Dan: The game board shows a map of most of France, all of Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg, and western Germany to about 100 miles east of the Rhine. Switzerland is on the southern edge.

Grant: How are Resource Points determined and how are they used by each side?

Dan: German RP’s are received according to a set schedule, as in all the HoldFast games. The Allied player also has a gradually increasing number of RP’s scheduled, with an important difference. The Allied player can increase his RP level by capturing ports. This makes the German fortified ports key objectives, just as in the real campaign.

Grant: When are German Resource Points increased or reduced?

Dan: German RP’s begin very low, reflecting logistic problems brought on by Allied air interdiction, and the distance to France. Later in the game German RP’s increase, as supply lines shortened and especially in the winter months when Allied air power is restricted.

Grant: What is Allied Motorized Movement and German Strategic Rail Movement?

Dan: Motorized movement sets the Allied forces apart from the German military in terms of mobility. German infantry was dependent on horse-drawn wagons to move artillery and supplies, and their corps and armies always have only 4 MP. Allied armies also have 4 MP, but most of their corps have 5 MP for tactical movement when in contact with the enemy. Whenever an Allied unit begins movement outside an enemy zone of control, the player has the option to use motorized movement—doubling MP to 8 or 10 and ignoring terrain. This enables maneuvers like the dramatic exploitation across France that followed the breakout from Normandy. German rail movement cost 2 RP’s and works the same as in HoldFast Russia. A unit may move any distance to a controlled city. Rail moves are restricted to one unit per turn, reflecting the impact of Allied air interdiction on the European rail network.

Grant: What is Rundstedt’s Counter-Offensive and how does it play out?

Dan: This is the Ardennes Counter-Offensive or Battle of the Bulge, but of course it can occur anywhere in this game. The Germans built up forces and supplies for 3-4 months in preparation for a major offensive. In the game, the German player may execute Rundstedt’s Counter-Offensive in November, December or January, with increasing force levels over time. He also receives combat and movement bonuses, reflecting the initial surprise they achieved. The Allied player knows a counter-offensive is coming, but not exactly when or where. In play-test Rundstedt’s Counter-Offensive has always been a tense and dramatic event for both players.

Grant: What are the effects to units of being out of supply?

Dan: Units out of supply have their movement and dice rolled in combat reduced. The bigger effect is that if a unit is out of supply at the end of the owning player’s turn, it is eliminated.

Grant: How do players win the game?

Dan: The German player wins by preventing an Allied victory. The Allied player can win a Sudden Death victory by crossing the Rhine River and exiting an Army off the east edge of the board at any time. At the end of the game, the Allied player wins by having crossed the Rhine in force, with all 7 armies, and capturing the Ruhr industrial region.

Grant: What optional rules are available?

Dan: There are optional rules for invasions, variable weather, and army group commanders.

Grant: What scenarios are included?

Dan: As in 1944 Battle of the Bulge, there will be 3 variable Allied objective cards: 

Ike’s Broad Front, Monty’s Narrow Thrust, and the GI’s Dream Home by Christmas. 

There is also a Free Invasion scenario, which allows the Allied player to choose an invasion site other than Normandy, and a short 4-turn Rundstedt’s Counter-Offensive scenario, that begins with the historical deployments in December 1944.  

Grant: What changes have you made to the design through play testing? Please give a few specific answers.

Dan: We started with a good idea how this game would work, but testing led to multiple changes in unit configuration (all corps, all armies, and various mixes), changes to the map (deciding how big a port needed to be on the map, for example), etc. We came up with so many good ideas to improve game play, that game length stretched to over 4 hours. After significant trimming and simplifying, we brought it back down to a more manageable 2½-3 hours. The beauty of the of the HoldFast System is that once you have decided on the basic parameters of scale and unit strength, the flow of the battle can be fine-tuned by adjusting the RP levels.  

Grant: What was the most challenging part of the design? Did you get it right?

Dan: The most difficult aspect was replicating a campaign where the powerful Allied forces could be held up by weaker German forces, then swiftly advance when the German lines collapse, but not be able to just run all the way off the board before a new German line could coalesce. Dozens and dozens of play-test runs, followed by adjustments, allowed us to get the desired results.

Grant: What is next for you?

Dan: Drop Zone: Southern France is ready to go when Worthington can get it on their schedule. I also have a completed solitaire game that is with Worthington now, 414 BC Siege of Syracuse. In the works are a Successors of Alexander game and a Hannibal game. Finally, the next HoldFast Series game I’m considering will be set in Germany—either World War II, in 1945 or World War III, in 1985.

If you are interested in 1944 D-Day to the Rhine, the Kickstarter campaign has been delayed to Saturday, February 19th but you can preview the project on the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1040417273/1501304934?ref=2ejojg&token=2ce22565

We played and reviewed 1944 Battle of the Bulge and you can watch the video at the following link: