Updated: Apr 27
With more games of Osprey's Undaunted: Normandy under my belt than I’d care to admit, it was with some trepidation that I approached the box for Undaunted: North Africa. To me, Undaunted: Normandy gets it just right, and although I knew there was more that could be done within the scope of the game, my fear was that in doing more, designers Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson might take away from what to me makes Undaunted: Normandy great – the level of abstraction that still allows you to feel like you’re playing a wargame but without the complexity most of the games in the genre bring with them. I love that I can sit down with a new player, open the box, and within 15 minutes have my opponent entirely engrossed in playing the game without having to stop and re-explain how each mechanic works. So does Undaunted: North Africa keep it clean, but still make it mean?
Oh yes – the knife fight in a phone box aspect is still there but with added texture, so worry not!
As in the original, the scenarios systematically add elements to the game so you can build up learning whilst still playing, but without sacrificing fun. The tank appears in scenario 2, and by scenario 10 you’ve got all vehicles in play on 21 tiles, so the game gradually brings in more to the field of conflict. What's impressive tho' is that you’re never short changed, and these early scenarios are tense and exciting in their own right and never feel like teaching games.
Games are quick, and almost feel like they go even faster here than with Undaunted: Normandy - focus on the wrong strategy and your opponent can quickly bring you to your knees, and the game can be over before you’ve even tried anything, but then the desire is there to just set it up, go again and this time try something else that should just work.
The magic of Undaunted: North Africa tho' is in those sessions where you just need that card draw to move your tank, to take that final objective, for that final man to get clear of the battlefield before he gets mown down. It is in those inevitable and so well constructed moments of pure tension that the magic resides, and this can only be truly experienced by playing the game. And just when you believe you have the cards you need to pull off a tactical miracle, your opponent will catch you off guard with something even more daring, and, your heart racing, you’ll find yourself praying to the dice gods…
What is really wonderful is that the game never gets in the way of these moments. There is no need to trawl through pages of rules: the game is quick and easy to learn and leaves little room for doubt. Line of sight is simple, range is easy to calculate, and movement quick and easy, and you’ll rarely ever have to pull yourself out of a game to check something over. Instead you can fully immerse yourself in the heat of the battle.
Undaunted: North Africa is an excellent game with good quality components, a high standard of artwork from Roland MacDonald, and solid tiles, but most of all tense and exciting gameplay. It's a standalone sequel, not an expansion, so you don't need Undaunted: Normandy to play.
(Review by Steve Berger)