Handicapping Breakout: Normandy

I’ve been playing a lot of Go lately. Go has a useful handicap method: you start the weaker player with extra moves to balance play. It made me think about how I have managed teaching games of Breakout. I haven’t aggressively handicapped the games, but Go has shown me that it’s a good idea. A handicap game allows an experienced Go player to present different looks to the less experienced player, and it demands some play by the better player that counts on the less experienced player to make mistakes. It works. It creates game tension that’s good for both sides. The less experienced player has an opportunity to “brute force” the more experienced player, and the more experienced player has to play carefully and even aggressively to win a handicapped game.

I propose the following handicap system for Breakout: Normandy. Limit the number of depots available to the German player in the refit phase. Have the inexperienced player play the Allies, and give the German player a number of depots equal to the number of German corps artillery on the board or in the dead pile. That’s one, to start, and two on turn two. You can adjust this up or down, to suit.

Here’s what I like about it. As an experienced German player, I have dozens of little optimizations that I use to challenge an expert Allied player. But when I have only one depot, the extra movement or extra bombardment or assault that I would normally make isn’t available to me. I have to play a slow game, and I have to defend with spent and disrupted units, just like I have to when I’m on the ropes against a top Allied player. I think teaching games with this handicap method can show new players how to execute basic tactics better than I can teach them by coaching their impulses. They need to see the possibilities. They need to analyze the board. It’s pointless for a beginner to analyze a lost position or a virtually impregnable defense. A beginner has to see possibilities. Playing against weakened Germans can help beginners see the game, and present new challenges to experienced German players trying to stave off players with developing skills.

L2 Changes

If you own the Avalon Hill version, we recommend that you upgrade to the L2 version of the game. It has larger counters, color coded for divisional integrity, and the zones at the edge of the map line up with the areas they connect with on the main map. The reinforcement schedule is printed on the L2 board, as well.

The map and pieces are unchanged in the L2 version. The current game can be played with the Avalon Hill set. The major changes are:

  • The Advantage is no longer worth a VP.
  • Naval bombardments do not count as impulses, like air bombardments in the AH version, and naval and air bombardments cannot change the weather.
  • A breakout victory is achieved only by taking control of a Zone.

The Avalon Hill rules can be updated to the L2 rules with the following changes:

9.61 Add “Victorious Assaulting units may not voluntarily retreat.”
9.63 Remove “D. Units may not end their retreat in excess of stacking limits (9.66).”
9.64 Remove “D. Fully-stacked Area (9.66).”
Replace 9.66 RETREAT INTO FULLY-STACKED AREA with: “9.66 RETREAT DISTANCE: A retreating unit must end its retreat in an Area Adjacent to the Assaulted Area, except that it may not end its retreat in a fully stacked Area. If forced to retreat to a fully stacked Area, it must retreat again, using the same retreat restrictions and priorities as before. Units unable to make a legal retreat must absorb any Casualty Points by disruption and/or elimination.”
Replace 11.21 ALLIED LOSSES with: “Whenever an Allied unit is eliminated, the Allied player loses the Advantage if he already has it. If more than one Allied unit is eliminated in an Impulse, the Allied player must lose the Advantage and the German may immediately move the Advantage marker one space in either direction along the Impulse Track for each eliminated unit beyond the first. If the Allies don’t already have the Advantage to lose, advance or retract the Advantage marker immediately one space on the Impulse Track at the German’s option for each Allied unit eliminated.”
Replace 11.22 GERMAN LOSSES with: “Whenever three German units are eliminated in a single Impulse (including a Double Impulse, but not an entire D-Day or Refit Phase), the German player loses the Advantage if he has it. If more than three German units are eliminated in an Impulse, the German player must lose the Advantage and the Allied player may immediately move it one space in either direction along the Impulse Track for each eliminated unit beyond the third. If the Germans don’t have the Advantage to lose, advance or retract the Advantage immediately one space on the Impulse Track for each eliminated German unit in excess of two at the Allied player’s option.”
Remove 11.23 SUNSET DRM.
Replace 11.24 SHIFT LIMITS with: “The Advantage can never be moved more than three spaces per player Impulse or off the Impulse Track regardless of the number of enemy units eliminated (even during a Double Impulse). A player may choose to move the Impulse marker fewer spaces than he is entitled to.”
After 11.4 DOUBLE IMPULSE, add: “Note that the prohibition against attacking the same Area twice in the same Impulse applies only to entry of that Area. Fresh units which begin an Impulse in a Contested Area may use a Double Impulse to attack before or after a bombardment of that Area, or to combine with units entering that Area in a combined Assault.”
Change 12.53 RESERVES. Remove this sentence: “The maximum daily impulse purchase is three per player.” Add this sentence: “Impulse purchases cannot move the Turn marker off the Impulse Track; otherwise there is no limit to the number of Impulses which can be added or subtracted.”
Replace 16.13 CORPS ARTILLERY with: “Corps Artillery (noted by the white oval over its ID) can support any attack made by units of its own nationality. However, whenever more than one Corps Artillery unit occupies the same Area, if one fires, the others must support the same attack at the rate of +1 per unit. One Corps Artillery unit cannot attack while another friendly Corps Artillery unit remains Fresh in the same Area. This means that if Fresh British and American Corps Artillery occupy the same Area, when one fires the other becomes spent without firing.
Add 17.11 Weather Exclusions: A Weather change cannot occur during a Naval or Air Bombardment Impulse.
Add 17.12 Daylight Savings Time: The Advantage marker does not advance on the Impulse Track during a Naval or Air Bombardment Impulse. However, the day can end on a Sunset roll < the current Impulse number during such an Impulse.
17.3 Remove “Unlike all other impulses, however, Air Bombardment does not advance the Impulse marker, although a Sunset DR is still made to determine if the day ends or the Weather changes.” NOTE new 17.12, however, that the day can still end.
19.3 Remove “The number of landing reinforcements and Allied units already in the Beach Area may never exceed ten during each Landing impulse.”
19.4 INTERDICTION Remove the sentence: “Each Allied unit landing at a Beach Area must be stated before any Interdiction is resolved.” Add this sentence: “If the first reinforcement to land in an Impulse is subject to interdiction, any remaining reinforcements to land during that Impulse are subject to the same amount of Interdiction even if the interdicting Coastal Artillery has been spent, disrupted or eliminated in the interim.”
20.1 OVERVIEW Remove the last bullet on bridges changing hands: “Both connecting Areas become friendly-controlled.” Add this bullet: “Both connecting Areas become Free.”
Change 20.3 BRIDGE SEIZURE. Replace “If successful, all other units must pay one additional MF when crossing the seized bridge during the impulse it was seized” with “Regardless of the outcome, all other units must pay one additional MF when crossing that bridge during any Impulse in which a seizure attempt is made.”
Change 20.5 BRIDGE MODIFIERS. Remove “Repair/Demolition drms depend on the status of the two Areas on either side of the bridge.” Add this instead: “Repair/Demolition drms depend on the status of the two Areas on either side of the bridge at the start of the Impulse.”
Replace 22.1 BREAKOUT with: “The Allies win if they achieve a Breakout by controlling a Zone with a supply line to any Beach and can hold it and the supply line till the end of the current day.”
22.2 WEEKLY VICTORY CHECK. Change “The Allies win by having ten or more Victory Points…” to “The Allies win by having 9.6 or more Victory Points…”
22.3 Remove “Allied possession of the Advantage is worth one Victory Point.”

29 May 2019. The published version of this document is now 1.3.
Version 1.2 changes: Added note to section 11.4.
Version 1.3 changes: Removed FAQ items. Refer to FAQ document.