101 Airborne: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-08 22:30:03

101 Airborne: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy - Rank B

Developer: Empire Interactive
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Date: 9/30/1998

101 Airborne is a turn based strategy game set during the Normandy invasion of World War II. You're called upon to guide a "stick" (planeload of 18 U.S. paratroopers) through one of nine D-Day missions. This is one of the better examples of the genre, and I consider it an overlooked gem.

There is a massive amount of preparation before you see combat. You must select 18 men from a roster of 48, each with varying biographies, ranks and skill sets. Their abilities are RPG-esque in their depth: intelligence helps spot enemies or land mines, strength dictates movement and toughness, and so on. Skills include proficiency with weapons, throwing grenades accurately, or languages such as French to communicate with the local resistance.

Next up is gear selection. This covers everything from essentials like cleaning patches (to clear jammed weapons) to personal effects such as shaving razors (without which morale drops). The weapons selection is massive, comprehensively covering every firearm and explosive used by the actual 101st Screaming Eagles. Proper selection is vital, as loadouts should be tailored to best suit the mission at hand (a bazooka may be handy for ambushing a German column, or X number of satchel charges may be required to destroy the primary objective). You also don't want to exceed a soldier's encumbrance rating, or he'll suffer movement and combat penalties. All of this operational prep work can be daunting and take forever, so you fortunately have the option of saving your setup or even sending them off with predetermined standard issue gear and random personnel.

Then you jump, and the shit hits the fan. Your soldiers can be injured while landing, or end up in trees. They can miss the drop zone, or find themselves under enemy fire. Equipment bags often disappear into the French countryside. Worst of all, chute failure can take out your troopers before they ever have a chance to join the fight. The first priority is to eliminate any immediate opposition, and to gather your men and equipment together. You need to redistribute gear as necessary - a soldier down to his pistol or trench knife isn't going to be at maximum fighting effectiveness. Next up is fighting your way to the mission objective. These all involve supporting the Normandy landing, by destroying a bridge to deny enemy reinforcements, neutralizing German artillery, etc. I appreciated the attention to historical authenticity permeating every aspect of the game. Secondary objectives may also reveal themselves, by searching dead Nazis or communicating with the French.

Tactically, you have a bevy of options. Your men can run, walk, or crawl. They can take snapshots or carefully aim. They might panic or berserk, forcing you to calm them down to restore control. Basically, each soldier has a set amount of AP (Action Points) with which to execute up to 24 different actions during each one-minute turn. All of this depth comes at the cost of initial bewilderment, but if you have sufficient hardcore patience (walking your men slowly across an empty field can take forever), 101 Airborne is worth the effort. If you're a fan of Band of Brothers (book by Stephen E. Ambrose or the HBO mini-series) and you dig squad driven turn based games in the vein of X-COM: UFO Defense, give it a try. 101 Airborne is, as far as I know, completely out of print with no designs to republish. As of this writing, Amazon resellers are unloading copies for just pennies plus shipping. It's also drifting out there in the foggy haze of the internet, but this game was never very common, and a torrent might be difficult to find.

Learn about Advertising | Learn about Contributing | Learn about Us

Website is © 2005-2008 Direman Press. All content is © their respective creators. All rights reserved.