Breakout: Normandy players have a special bond with the former WBC Convention Director, Don Greenwood. Don has designed a lot of games, but Breakout is on the short list of his best. If you want proof, consider that Don still plays it regularly. Breakout has been at the WBC every year since it was published in the early 1990s. When our numbers started to drop, Don breathed new life into the game with an update published by L2. For years, Don would drop into the Breakout: Normandy tournament for a round or two when he could squeeze a game in around his duties. Some years we didn't see him at all. This year was the first time Don could give his full attention to the game at the tournament, and players are on notice that the sheriff is back. Don owns the 2017 plaque, prevailing in a scintillating final that see-sawed back and forth with two-time champion Kevin Hammond.
Recent play has favored the Allies, but in 2017 the tournament split the 14 games played in Round 2 and later at 7 wins for each side. In all 24 games between experienced players, the Germans prevailed in 15. Because beginners usually play the Allies to have some fun storming the beaches, the Germans took 22 of the 33 total games played. There were 8 magic bridge games documented, the Germans winning 5 of them.
Bids were about nil, with an average of 2 reserve supply to the Germans. Two supply points is only one fifth of one impulse purchase. Bids seem to have been used more for side preference than for balance. The final 3 games had bids of 8 to the Germans, 1 to the Allies, and 9 to the Allies. Second place finisher Kevin Hammond offered the highest bids to each side, giving Scott Fenn's Allies 30 in the Mulligan Round, and Ken Nied's Germans 21 in Round 2. Eleven of the 24 games between experienced players had no bid at all. Only 4 of them gave 10 or more to either side, and 3 of those were offered by Kevin Hammond.
Our numbers shot all the way up to 34 after several years in the mid-twenties. Jason Albert knocked off Nels Thompson's Germans in a magic bridge game. Anthony Daw came from behind to take Merville on the 12th to defeat Kevin Wojtaszczyk. Anthony fell to Don in the next round. Tom Dworschak returned to the tournament. For years, Tom was the highest rated AREA player. He fell to Bob Malcomson in the Mulligan Round, then made it through Rounds 1 and 2 before falling to Nels playing as an eliminator. John Rees knows the game, but he had only played solitaire before joining us for face to face competitive play. His Germans defeated former champ Jim Eliason in the Mulligan Round, proving his bona fides.
After Kevin Hammond defeated Kevin Wojtaszczyk playing as an eliminator to reach the final, spectators hovered around the Greenwood-Malcomson semifinal board to see who would face off with Kevin for the title. The kibitzers were treated to a dicing, as Don’s Allies came off the American beaches and carved up Bob's Germans. After Bob almost resigned his practically hopeless position, Don rolled a 12:2 assault to clear Caen and end Bob's quest for three straight titles.
The Final between Don and Kevin delivered the drama the semifinals. Kevin accepted the Allies and 9 supply. His bombardments and first wave were poor, but in the first of many shifts of fate, the late action on the 6th favored the Allies. Bretteville was cleared, but Kevin had to re-roll a weather change. He regained the Advantage with a trifecta off Omaha early on the 7th, but Don later took the magic bridge. Instead of re-rolling it, Kevin assaulted with his last available point unit, needing +1 to clear St. Mere Eglise and getting it before Don could follow up with reinforcements. Caen was contested and Merville fell on a turn ending double impulse. Kevin worked over Carentan on the 8th and contested it, but Don was able to run through interdiction to shore it up, with 7 of 10 reaching and only one unit disrupted. A final bombardment whiff by Kevin stabilized Carentan for the moment.
But the center barely held. Don tried to run most of Lehr to Foret under flak cover, but none of them made it. Foret would hold, but Tilly fell, and on impulse 6, Kevin assaulted Caumont at 6:6 against a single spent defender and made a clearing roll. The 2:7 re-roll ended the day and saved the area and the game for Don.
After all of that back and forth, with Merville and Tilly in Allied hands, the game would hinge on Carentan, as so many do when top players meet. On the 9th, Don sent units of the 12th SS and other defenders to the sector, and Kevin cleared Isigny (we learned from Mark Gutfreund that it rhymes with “Disney”) and softened Carentan with bombardments. Kevin launched 4 more Carentan bombardments on the 10th, getting a little better than par. He also contested Caumont, but Don's counter bombardment there ended the drama in the center and Catz fell. Next Kevin cleared St. Jean, but his roll changed the weather, giving him an agonizing choice. Don's Zone E reinforcements were ready to move up in the wet. Kevin re-rolled it, clearing St. Jean without changing the weather. But his very next roll changed the weather anyway, and Don's Fallschirmjagers moved into position.
Carentan had two fresh German artillery at the start of the 11th. Don had to reinforce it to start the turn, and Kevin's naval bombardment scored even dice, and his 9:4 corps artillery bombardment wrecked Don's carefully shepherded counterbattery with a +6 roll. Observers expected a re-roll, but Don held onto the Advantage and took his lumps. Kevin hit Carentan twice more. A modest up roll on an assault would clear it.
Here started a mad flurry. Don assaulted St. Jean to recontest at 7:9 and got it. Kevin assaulted Carentan at 14:5. His -3 roll gave Don some relief, but changed the weather to clear. Don reinforced Carentan. Kevin hit St. Jean, needing -1 to clear and getting it. Don took a shot to recontest Isigny at 7:8, and he got in. Kevin responded with a clearing attempt, needing only a +1, but his roll failed to clear and ended the day, leaving him facing Germans freshening in Carentan overnight, a supply bottleneck in front of Isigny, and poor regroup options to position his bombardments and assault forces. Without the Advantage, he wouldn't be able to double impulse, limiting his assault strength.
The game had one more surprise to deliver, something our late GM Andrew Cummins would have loved: The Allied air bombardment on the 12th was a mistaken attack, damaging both sides. After naval and air bombardments, Don put his 9th defender into Carentan. Kevin took his shot. He had a 17 strength attack ready. He successfully seized the Catz Bridge to go in at 17:6, needing +1 on the dice twice, Don holding the Advantage option to re-roll, about a 20% chance. Kevin's first roll missed and Don's triumph was sealed.