WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Osprey Games
When most publishers release expansions for a game they normally do them in chunks. Maybe a few new cards and scenarios here, a solo mode there, possibly even a big box storage solution somewhere down the road. Osprey games however have decided to say “forget that nonsense, we’re releasing this all at once!”
So, just for some clarification. Aside from this box I only own a copy of North Africa myself so all solo mode games were only played using that game. The solo system works exactly the same in both games. Similarly all my plays at 4 players were done using Normandy, but again it’s the same principle across both games. Also if you want to see how Undaunted works and see what Jim thought of North Africa you can check out his review here and you get to see his smiling face and who can say no to that!
With that out of the way let’s jump in……you could as well, the box is big enough!
Just for ease I’m going to break everything down in sections just so you can skip to any part that is of a particular interest.
Just like its namesake this box does indeed include reinforcements for each game and for each side.
The main addition for Normandy is tanks and believe me they’re not shy with what you get. Three different types and separate units for some types. Tanks for Normandy work differently to the vehicles in North Africa. Rather than having a separate vehicle card where you can place tokens they work pretty much like a normal unit just with a couple of different keywords. So any Normandy players who didn't take to North Africa's vehicles will probably appreciate how these work and how they don’t add any major new rules overhead.
Normandy also includes specialists that have new combat actions. The tanks add in their anti tank weapons and the other non vehicle units include new attacks and grenades. Rather than targeting one single unit these actually target an entire tile meaning that not only can you hit multiple enemies at once, but also friendly fire is a thing now.
North Africa's main addition is Mines. When you lay a mine it’s placed on the crossover between two tiles on either its anti armour side or its anti personnel side. When an enemy unit of that type crosses those tiles an attack is performed but the defending unit gets no tile or range defence.
Something a friend of mine noticed on our first play was that there was a slight colour matching difference on the backs of the new unit cards. This was more noticeable on the Normandy decks than with the North Africa decks.
This didn’t pose a problem for our group and it’s not been an issue since. I don't think we paid that close attention to the backs as we were drawing the cards. Even if you do notice them when drawing you still won’t know what unit it is your drawing, just what set it’s coming from. I would say for some people this may not be an issue, or even noticeable. Although there will obviously be a number of people that this will be an issue for, which is completely understandable. Osprey are offering replacement cards which you can find in the forums on board game geek.
Nevertheless these units are a great addition to the game. The new keywords don’t add anything too complex to the game and the new simplified tanks for Normandy means that they are easy additions and can easily be taught to new players so you can use these new units and scenarios as soon as you get them.
Joint Operations: Four player mode.
I love the Undaunted games but sometimes getting certain two player only games like this to the table isn’t easy. Now we have a four player variant to help get these great games played more often.
Four player games are actually really simple. Players split into two teams of two and each team chooses one player to be the Platoon Sergeant. Construct all the players decks as per the set up guide for the scenario with each player getting their own deck and personal supply. Both players in a team share a fog of war deck. Players draw cards as per the usual rules but this time the Sergeants draw four and their teammate draws three. Only the leaders cards are used to determine initiative.
The turn order will alternate with the Sergeant who won initiative going first, then the opposing leader etc. The game plays out as normal as per the scenario. When each team's Sergeants play their Platoon Sergeant card (or lieutenant if you're using the LRDG) then they will put it in their teammates discard pile and leadership will transfer to them. Team mates can talk and plan out their turns but all chatter has to be open.
The four player game is great. It’s a lot of fun to be able to talk strategies with a teammate and plan out your moves together. Both team members will both have different deck make ups so you’ll both have similarities in your decks but also skill sets that only you have in your deck. This makes each player's choices unique to them and makes them equally important to how your strategy plays out.
If you’ve already played either game then this is easy to explain and get started. Equally the beauty of this is that it can easily be taught to new players whilst you're teaching the main game. This player mode is actually a good learning tool since you could easily help out a new player on your team rather than sitting across from them and potentially beating them simply due to inexperience. Just remember not to alpha game them!!
The fact that this means I can play the game more and it’s easy to introduce to new players immediately appeals to me and a lot of people I would imagine.
The only downside I would say is that the four player game can only be played with the included scenarios in this box and there are only four for each game. Now if you add that up and factor in playing both sides and then with the different decks then you could say that technically you could play differently 16 times per game. That’s still a lot of games you can get out of it but if you’re set on always playing a certain side then you may be a bit more limited? The fun scenarios are fun though and they can also be played at two and solo.
Enemy Unknown: Solo mode
Not content with opening up the player count one way, they’ve also gone and done it in the other direction as well.
In solo mode simply pick a game, pick a scenario from either the main book or the book of scenarios in this box, set up the decks for both sides, pick the side you want to play as then take out the corresponding solo cards for your opponents units.
Each unit across both games has its own set of double sided solo cards but you’ll only use one of these for each unit per scenario. Rather than being random though every card side is only used in certain scenarios. This means that each one is optimised for the specific scenario you’ll be playing and should mean that a unit will be doing something each turn. This is a lot better than what can happen with some solo games where the A.I. can spend turns standing round on a space looking like they’re in severe need of a sat nav.
You’ll draw your four cards as normal and pick an initiative card then flip over the top card of the bot deck. If the bot goes first they use all four cards, if not then only three. They then activate their cards in initiative order (highest to lowest) by using the solo cards for that unit.
Each card has a set of commands they could potentially do. If the bot is able to do the first command then they do it, if not they do the second one etc. In the solo book for each scenario you’ll also find a list of “dangerous units” which will act as the bot preferred units for it to attack.
I really like the solo mode for these games. The optimised cards for each scenario means that you’re always playing against an interesting and threatening opponent rather than a generalised bot that may suffer in certain situations. Couple this with the fact that there’s solo cards for every scenario over both games and the ones in the reinforcements box and you’re getting a lot of games out of these cards, and that’s if you only play as one side!
I will say that this solo mode has a big learning curve. Even the rule book says that you should make sure you’re familiar with the normal rules before jumping into the solo mode and I would definitely agree. I’d played North Africa a couple of times before I sat down for the solo mode but being the rebel that I am I ignored the good advice that the designers had spelled out for me. I realised that my rebellious way was going to be my downfall when I was surrounded by four rule books! Now with more plays of both regular games under my belt things are definitely on the easier side but just be aware that your first few solo games are going to be that bit longer and will have you flipping through the rules trying to get a handle of things.
Whether or not you think this learning curve and the slight bit of extra set up is worth your time depends on your interest or solo gaming in general. If you only play solo games out of curiosity now and then, then maybe this is one to best leave in the box. If however solo gaming is your thing or this is a way to help you get the game played then this would definitely be one that’s worth getting your teeth into.
The last thing in this box is, well, the box itself. The reinforcements box will fit all the contents of both Normandy and North Africa, as well as the stuff already in this box, obviously. As I said up top, I don’t own Normandy but when I was testing out the four player game round a friends house we did a test fit with both games and everything fits in there just as it should and it works as well as any third party solution would do. As a warning though, Sleeved cards won’t fit into the regular slots provided. They fit width wise but they won’t fit the other way. They will fit in the box but you will have to use one of the other slots. I don’t tend to sleeve a lot of cards so for me this won't really prove an issue if I ever come to own Normandy. It’s a shame though because if you're going to sleeve any type of game then deck builders are at the top of the deck.
Is this a must buy? If everything here sounds like something you would use then I think this is well worth it. The extra games modes give me a lot more opportunity to get these great games to the table. The extra units add some more variety to your games and the storage solution works well (aside from the above mentioned) and means you no longer need to decide which game to take to game night because they’re both going to be in one handy box.
If you're only interested in parts of this expansion (I know solo gaming isn’t for everyone) then it would depend on what parts of this you’re interested in and what sort of value you place on those.
For me this is a great addition to Undaunted and the fact that it encompasses a lot of different modules and a great storage solution in one expansion make this well worth it. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of this box so far and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.