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Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy - Battle Pack 2 DLC | Dev Diary

Published on May 16, 2024

Utah Beach has been seen by many in the past as the ‘easy beach’, with minimal casualties experienced by Allied landing forces. It’s for this reason it is sometimes overlooked in favour of Omaha Beach as the go to Normandy D-Day wargaming experience. True, the landings at Omaha were infamously bloody with 2,500 killed, but Omaha didn’t have an Airborne carpet behind it. When factoring in the US Airborne losses in the Utah area, the casualties experienced was equivalent (or higher by some estimates) than those experienced at Omaha in the first 24 hours of operations. To say Utah was therefore ‘easy’ and a pushover so not worth wargaming is sadly misplaced.

Battle Pack 2: Utah Beach for Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is aimed to provide a flowing narrative, following the first week of the invasion of Normandy from Utah Beach southeast towards and just beyond Carentan. The focus has been on historically recreating the situation in this part of the war in early June 1944, rather than trying to design perfectly balanced multiplayer or tournament scenarios. It’s the collection of some well-known engagements an Armchair General would like to play on a rainy Sunday afternoon with a glass of whiskey in one hand and cigar in the other.


Getting the Project Off the Ground

The pack, as you will experience it, had a different makeup at the proposal stage that influenced why Utah Beach was chosen. The initial design document was submitted, and Battlefront got back to me saying proposal had more the flavour of a Module rather than a collection of scenarios. Utah Beach and the surrounding area was chosen as the new elements to be incorporated could all be found in historical engagements that occurred in that area between the 6th and 13th of June. A Module-like release wasn’t going to work for Battlefront as they wanted to marshal their resources towards ++redacted++. I mean I was shocked by the news at first, that ++redacted++ existed and that it was going in ++redacted++ thematic direction. However, when you think about it, Space Lobsters was indeed the only way forward from here.

The Combat Mission Modules involve the work from the whole Battlefront team, while the Battle Packs have been largely the efforts of the Beta Testers, creating additional content using the tools at their disposal within a specific game family. A Module’s scenario content is dictated by the forces newly introduced with that release for that time and region. However, this leaves problems if you want to ever go back and ‘fill in the gaps’ that weren’t possible before. Battle Packs provide us with a chance to do that, go back and create historical scenarios that didn’t align with the content in the Base Game release or the modules that came after. In Battle for Normandy’s case this meant we could create content relating to the engagements between the American Forces from the initial release and the German Forces that were added as part of the Commonwealth and then Market Garden Modules.

After some back and forth, Battlefront liked the proposal as it would focus on mostly infantry centric engagements, where previous Battle Packs had lent more towards armored and mechanised warfare. Don’t worry, there is still a fair share of tanks to play with. The pack however was very Allied side focused, so the final request was to try and balance it out a bit more in terms of providing some German centric content. This meant the two planned campaigns became three.

A final surprise was the announcement of the Pack’s development to the community then and there, right at the beginning and before anything major had been done inside the editor. This was counter to the usual Battlefront process, but this may map help explain why it seems this one took quite a while.

Some of the print media used to help. After all these years, the Osprey series still serves as a great jumping off point for any project.


Maps, Maps and More Maps

The first major task was to make maps. A lot of maps. The planned scenarios to cover meant most of the terrain between the beach and Carentan had to be created. I’m very thankful that the Combat Mission Beta crew stepped up to help recreate some very iconic locations. In total, Battle Pack 2 contains just under 75km2 of brand-new maps. In comparison (but not to diminish that earlier effort), Battle Pack 1: The Great Swan, was released with around 25 km2.

The maps were mostly completed across the first nine months of development using aerial photography and Allied BIGOT maps from 1944 as source material. Master Maps are now a mainstay of any Battlefront release and Battle Pack 2 is no exception. Most of these maps will be provided in full to allow players to create their own scenarios on the same terrain. Variants will also be provided to include versions with German fortifications as per their historical locations. When you open the Utah Beach map itself and look at the fortifications, please have pity on my poor mouse and keyboard – it took a full weekend just to place all those fortifications in line with their historical locations.

A lot of fortifications…

Though we’ve kept the Battle Pack historical, the maps are provided to allow players to do their own experiments and ‘What If’s?’. I encourage players to tinker and maybe replace the Americans with their British equivalents to see how maybe they would have got on at Utah Beach? What would have happened if the US beach landings occurred where intended and ended up in front of a German strongpoint?

The mapping effort for Battle Pack 2.


Creating the Army

While maps were being created, I also started preparing “Master Unit Files” for each of the formations taking part in the region of conflict. Most Battalions from the 2/506th of the 101st Airborne, through to the 1/919 Infantry Regiment of the 91st Luftlande were created in the editor and tinkered with to try and recreate them as they were on the morning of 6th of June. This allowed the appropriate formations to be merged and imported into each scenario when the time came speeding up development at this midterm stage.

This was especially important for the Germans manning the beaches and inland areas as you had to try and get the weapon systems in place for each company and strong point as close to reality as you can in the Combat Mission 2 engine. We’ve had to make some adjustments, but I think we got pretty close with the tools on hand.


What’s In

When you buy the pack you’ll receive, 8 standalone scenarios, 3 campaigns (2x Allied, 1 x German) and 6 master maps (63.7 km squared), plus fortification and destruction variants for some. There are also some added goodies in the form of mod tagged textures to add some flavour to the scenarios. Uniforms with appropriate patches for the 4th Infantry Division and horizons reflecting the coastline locale.

Airborne forces cross Bridge #3 on Purple Heart Lane

Based on tester feedback so far, the players are progressing through the new content and they don’t appear too hard but not too easy either. A common piece of feedback is reporting trouble because they don’t have the right tools for the job. You’ll find yourself multiple times trying to solve a tactical problem, but you just don’t have that heavy artillery or armoured company on hand to help you blast your way through like in other releases. This is partly where I wanted the challenge to really come from, so you are fighting under the same conditions (or as close as possible) to the invading forces in early June. A sense of vulnerability for your poor pixeltrüppen as they try to push forward in those first few days of the invasion.

Most of the Purple Heart Lane Master Map. The edge of Carentan can be seen in the top centre.

Those Left Behind

Sadly, releases can’t cover everything. If they did, then project creep would quickly become a problem, and you would never get a release. The boundaries for this pack were from almost day 1 to follow the actions of the 4th Infantry Division on D-Day and the 101st Airborne Division through to the 13th of June 1944. The 13th of June could be considered the end of the beginning for the Normandy campaign in this area of operations once Carentan was secured and a linkup between the American beaches had been made. It felt like a natural end point to focus towards. There are a few outliers however to mix it up a bit further, but like everything, a line had to be drawn somewhere.

The focus with going towards Carentan, as mentioned above, was due to the availability of German formations introduced in the subsequent Modules to the Base Game. Going in other directions meant covering content that had already been undertaken in one way or another. A key aspect in the decision making, and maybe overlooked by some, is a knowledge that some Combat Mission community members had already completed extensive work on making scenarios focusing on the 82nd Airborne’s actions in this time period. There’s no need to tread over old ground. It may seem small, but the time taken for a stock release like this, and a community release are the same given we all use the same tools. Releasing something ‘over the top’ of the Community’s own efforts is never desirable – particularly when it was done well. Saying that, it was somewhat surprising to me at least that the actions leading towards Carentan had never been undertaken and completed by the Community over the past decade.

Some things were ideas but had to be dropped to keep the project manageable. Though they still would have fit with the narrative of the Pack, the following were left on the proverbial cutting room floor for various reasons:

  • The fighting at the La Barquette Lock. This one was going to appear initially, but sadly other maps took up more time than expected and we could never get to it properly. Side note, I was working on a scenario and map for this very spot many moons ago when I had a hard drive failure and lost everything. Given the signs this time around I didn’t want to test fate.
  • The actions of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment and Glider Infantry Regiment flanking Carentan from the north. The focus of the Carentan story is always on the causeway and the 502nd. Reading about this secondary attack I did have an inkling of including their exploits alongside the existing scenarios for that campaign. However, it would have meant an awful lot more mapping and time was marching on. There are several times the Glider Infantry do get to shine in this pack and based on tester feedback, they operate differently to their more popular paratrooper cousins.
  • The 506th Parachute Infantry on the 7th of June and their advance towards Saint-Côme-du-Mont. There are quite a few small company level engagements to play out here including the lead up to the doomed retreat and surrender of the I./6 Fallschirmjäger Battalion. Sadly, it just would have made the existing Carentan campaign far too long, while adding the material to the D-Day campaign as an end point would have been anti-climactic. Elements of this do survive as a few of the standalone scenarios.
  • Revisiting Taskforce Raff. The end of the D-Day campaign slots very neatly into the start of the Taskforce Raff campaign from the base game. I did think for a short while do we slot those missions in at the back for the full D-Day experience over the first 24 hours, but it was revisiting far too much and took the attention away from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont objective.
  • Joining everything up into one super campaign for the zealous lot. It was just too big and impossible to manage both as a designer and for a player. But the idea was there for about a day or so.

I list the above because I’m hopeful the community one day decides to step in and help ‘fill in the gaps’ we haven’t managed to get around to with this release. Alternatively, I’d suggest head south and build scenarios about the fighting around St. Lo and Operation Cobra as there is plenty in that area that the game family is yet to reflect. Okay that last one is a bit selfish on my part as I really want to play that! 😊


Finishing Up

As the testing and tweaking continues, as the typos are found and briefing graphics created, it’s clear that it’s been a long road. The first email sent to Battlefront officially with the proposal was in July 2021.  After multiple years of a few hours here, a few hours there, followed by frenzied activity to get things done, the finish line is in sight.

I’m hopeful that Battle Pack 2 provides the Swansong for the Battle for Normandy family after more than 13 years of entertainment. Battle Pack 2 is scheduled for release on the 80th Anniversary of
D-Day, the 6th of June 2024. (Seems kind of fitting).

What’s next? Well, I never thought I’d say this, but I now need to go and research crustaceans, their order of battle and TOE from the 23rd Century. I do wander what has better armor penetration against modern battle tanks, blue lasers or red?


Chad Lennerts

Target Games
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