Clubius Contained Part 21 – D-Day (January 1964)

The biggest present I got for Christmas was from “Santa”, which I knew now was really mom and dad. But mom wanted to keep pretending that Santa was real, maybe for David, because he was still a little kid. Or maybe because mom just liked Santa a lot, even though he was pretend. Like David and I liked our toy soldier Lieutenant Cord a lot, and had a funeral for him when he died and buried him in the backyard, even though HE was pretend. And the presents from “Santa” were always really good ones, so I went along with mom and dad’s pretending.

So for Christmas this year “Santa” got me, actually David and me, an Aurora slot car racing track. It was really neat, because you could hook it together any way you wanted to and it had little controls to drive each of the two cars. You turned this little wheel which made the car go faster or slower. Also I could buy more track from the Kiddie Korner toy store if I wanted to make the track bigger or different, and I could also get more cars too.

It was interesting what made the cars move. Thin lines of metal in the track carried electricity and the cars had these little metal flat parts underneath between the front wheels that touched the metal lines in the track and gave the little motor in the car electricity to make it turn the wheels.

The day after Christmas, dad got this giant “beaverboard” thing at Schlenker’s, and put it on four wood boxes so it was like a really big low to the ground table, and I could leave the track set up on it all the time and no one would step on it by accident like if it was just on the floor. The beaverboard was set up between the TV and the shelves where David and I kept all our toys. On the TV side, was this rug that mom had found at this store called the “Treasure Mart”. Dad liked the rug too because it was cheap. It made it more comfortable to sit on the floor and watch TV, but it also made it more comfortable to sit on the floor on that side of the beaverboard and drive the cars on the track.

We got other presents too, from “mom and dad”, our grandparents, and Aunt Pat. Our Uncle John and Aunt Ruth didn’t get David and I presents, but they sent us money instead. They sent us each five one dollar bills inside a Christmas card. They looked like regular dollar bills except they were stiffer and shinier. Mom said they were new, and the cards said we should go out and buy whatever we wanted with them.

So today when I woke up, I could see David already playing in the backyard. Dad was out there too, doing some kind of digging. David had on his jacket but it wasn’t even zipped up. Dad didn’t even have a jacket on, just a sweatshirt and he was even wearing shorts instead of trousers. The sun was shining, and I could tell by the way the air felt by the window next to our bunk beds that it wasn’t really cold outside. Sometimes in January, even though it was winter, we had days like this. We didn’t have to go to school because it was “Christmas vacation”, and all the schools were closed, even that Eastern place where dad worked as a teacher.

I could see mom and dad’s bedroom door was closed, so I figured mom was “sleeping in” again. It was a kind of strange thing to say, “sleeping in”. If you didn’t sleep in and got up early, were you “sleeping out”. No one ever said that.

I wondered about mom. She didn’t seem like she was happy very much, and she was still staying up late watching TV, that “Tonight Show”, and she seemed more worried now than she used to be. She would get mad at dad a lot and have a “fight” with him, though only a talking fight. She was always mad that even though he had a teaching job he still didn’t make enough money and we couldn’t buy furniture for the living room. He would always say that he’d “do more work on the side”, though I could never figure out on the side of what. Then she would say he was ALREADY working too hard. Sometimes she’d even start crying.

But this morning, all I wanted to think about was what toy I was going to buy at the toy store with that five dollars I got for Christmas. I’d seen Herbie and Gabe in the park yesterday, and they had told me about this “hobby” store called “Riders” that they and their older brothers liked to go to to buy games and models. They said that “hobbies” were things like toys that older kids and even grownups liked to play with. Well now that I was in fourth grade, and had a 22 inch bicycle, I felt more like an older kid, so I thought I’d go there rather than the regular toy stores, like the Kiddie Korner or Hessenauers, that I still liked to go to, but had a lot of little kid stuff too. Hessenauers wasn’t JUST a toy store for kids, it had stuff grownups liked to buy to have fun too, like those “grill” things for cooking food outside.

Herbie told me that Riders was on Liberty street that was near his house. He said that I should ride my bike down Fifth to Bach, then over to his house on Third, and then farther down Third until I got to Liberty. Then I had to go to the right down Liberty under the train track bridge. Since I walked to school every school day, riding my bike there and maybe even farther didn’t sound too far for me. It would be an adventure, I thought, that’s what dad would say. I figured whatever I got I could carry back home in the pressure basket of my bike.

After I got dressed and put a sweatshirt on too, I ate my Cheerios for breakfast by myself in the kitchen. I ALWAYS had Cheerios for breakfast, unless mom or dad made us all scrambled eggs and bacon, but they didn’t do that very much any more, since mom slept in a lot and dad usually had to go to Eastern to teach his morning classes. But I liked that I could make my own breakfasts and lunches and eat them by myself. It made me feel more like no one was in charge of me. When I finished, I put my bowl and spoon in the sink and went out the side door. It really wasn’t cold outside, and I knew because the sun was out, and it wasn’t windy, that it would keep getting warmer. I went back in my room and put on my “Michigan” sweatshirt like the one dad was wearing and then back out the side door.

We kept all the bicycles outside even though they got snowed on because we didn’t have a garage. There wasn’t enough room in the basement to keep them there without them getting in the way, and even if we did, it was too hard for David to carry his bike up the stairs and out the side door. I guess it was pretty hard for me too. As I got my bike untangled from mom’s, David and dad both saw me. Dad stopped shoveling, took off his Tigers baseball cap and wiped his forehead and looked at me.

“Where ya going?” David asked. He sounded more like a regular kid than a little kid now.

“For a ride”, I said, deciding I didn’t want to tell them what I was really going to do. It was “my own business”, as mom or dad would say.

“I want to go too”, David said. He didn’t even ask me if it was okay.

“Nah”, I said, “I’m going to be riding too far and too fast. You won’t be able to keep up on your little bike.” His bike used to be my bike. It had 20 inch wheels and MY bike had 22 inch wheels. David frowned and looked kind of mad.

“If I was older”, he said, “I’d let you ride with ME.” That reminded me of that Golden Rule thing, but I really wanted to do this by myself. I nodded.

“Next time”, I said. Mom and dad sometimes said that to me when I wanted something that they didn’t want to get me. David made a face and shook his head and looked “disgusted”, that was the word my friends and I liked to use a lot now.

“Coop”, dad said, from over where he had been digging, “Watch out for slushy patches in the street or especially on the sidewalks.” I nodded. David had gone back to playing with the dinosaurs and Godzilla on the packed down dirt pile, like he didn’t want to look at me anymore because he was mad.

I rode around the park and then down Fifth street. Riding down Fifth this way was fun, because it was a little downhill, so I didn’t have to pedal unless I wanted to. But this time I did pedal because I was excited to get where I was going. I got to Bach School, which always looked strange on the weekend without all the kids there. I turned right on Jefferson by the school and rode down to Herbie’s street and then down past his house until I got to the big Liberty street. Though I’d seen older kids do it, I didn’t like riding my bicycle on the big streets, so I rode on the sidewalk down toward the railroad bridge. When I got to the end of the sidewalk at each street, I turned right and rode my bike to the first driveway then across that street if there were no cars to another driveway on the other side and then back up that sidewalk and continued toward the railroad bridge. The most fun was riding on the sidewalk under the bridge, though no train went over me.

As I rode up the Liberty sidewalk into the downtown part with buildings and stores instead of houses, I rode past Shlenker’s Hardware and remembered that day back in November when we heard that Kennedy was shot. Mom really hadn’t seemed happy much since then, except maybe for Christmas morning.

I saw the “Riders” sign on the building part above the store part with its big glass windows. I stopped my bike in front and looked in. There was all kinds of really neat stuff behind the big windows. Two kinds of toy trains and tracks. The big “Lionel” kind and the smaller “HO” kind. The tracks were on green stuff that looked like grass with little pretend houses, buildings and trees. The boxes that you could buy with all those kinds of trains in them were right there too, just behind the set up trains on the green stuff.

Then above the trains on shelves were boxes of models you could buy, planes, ships and even those “Weird Oh” models like the one Molly got for me and her stepdad liked to make. They had two model planes that were all put together and painted really nice. One was all brown with those blue circles with white stars in them that I knew from dad’s red World War Two books was an American plane, a “bomber” I think because it had four propeller engines. Next to it was a smaller gray plane with only one propeller engine and that black plus sign symbol on the side with the white edges which I figured must be a German “fighter”. They both looked so neat with all their colors, instead of how the real ones looked in the gray pictures in dad’s books.

I leaned my bike against a light pole, opened the big glass door and went inside. There were shelves and shelves full of boxes, and a long giant glass box thing along the side, like a lot of stores had, with more stuff on shelves under and behind the glass. There was a grownup guy that I figured worked there standing behind the glass thing. He was talking to what looked like an older kid on this side of the glass box who was nodding a lot. They were talking about car models. The grownup man saw me come in but didn’t say anything. I got worried that maybe I wasn’t old enough to go in the store, but then I remembered that Herbie said he had gone in here.

I walked between the shelves and looked at all the boxes on them. There were all kinds of models on one bunch of shelves – cars, ships, planes, tanks, even those “Weird Ohs” and models of comic book guys like Superman and Batman. Other shelves had the boxes of train sets like the boxes out in the front store window, and others had Aurora slot car sets like the one mom and dad got for me for Christmas. Then there were shelves with boxes of games, but not the games in the regular toy stores like Clue, or Parcheesi, or Monopoly, or even war games like Stratego or Conflict.

I saw a blue box that said “Risk” on it, and I remembered Jake had talked about that game, where everyone playing tried to take over the whole world. I figured I might like to buy that one and play it, since it cost less than all the money I had in my pocket. I pulled the box out of the shelf and looked at it. It had a picture of the world behind the giant “RISK!” word and other pictures of cards with either an infantry or cavalry soldier or a cannon on it, and one card with all three. It also had the words “CONTINENTAL GAME”, whatever that was, and on the side it said “10 years and up”, and I knew that meant you were supposed to be ten years old to play it.

“You like war games?” It surprised me when he asked me that. It was the grownup guy who had been behind the long glass thing who worked there, and he had come over next to me but I hadn’t seen him because I was too busy looking at the game. I looked up at him and he looked nice, so I nodded.

“A lot of kids your age like that one”, he said, “Though older kids and even grownups like playing it as well. I play it with my nephews, and they win sometimes!“

He looked at me some more like he was trying to figure something out. “What are you, nine or ten?” he asked. Then I got scared because I was only eight, and I suddenly felt like a little kid again instead of a big kid. I looked at him and didn’t say anything.

“You’re a smart kid, right?” he asked. I nodded.

“I’m sure you can figure it out”, he said, “The rules aren’t very complicated.”

“Do you know how to play Monopoly?” he asked, and I nodded again, “Then I’m sure you can figure it out!” I felt better, like everything was okay and I put the game box back on the shelf.

Next to the stack of “RISK!” games were other smaller game boxes stacked on top of each other and I read the words on the side of each one. One said “TACTICS II”, and then in smaller letters, “REALISTIC WAR GAME”. Another said “Le Mans”, then smaller, “REALISTIC RACING GAME”. Another said “U-BOAT”, then, “REALISTIC NAVAL GAME”. But the one in the stack that really caught my eye said, “D-DAY”, then, “WORLD WAR II INVASION GAME”.

A game about WORLD WAR TWO. Dad had even told me about “D-Day”. That’s when the Americans and the British landed their soldiers in France, and the Germans couldn’t stop them. I had read about it in Dad’s red war books and different library books about the war. Dad also took me to see that movie, “The Longest Day”, at the movie theater. He said it would give me an idea what fighting in a war was like. He said he wasn’t part of the “D-Day invasion”, but started fighting in the war after that when the “Allies”, all the goodguy countries like the US, were ready to cross the Rhine River and attack Germany.

The store guy saw me looking at those games and said, “Ah, the Avalon Hill Games. Really nice military simulations. There hasn’t really been anything like them before.

Then he stopped talking to think, and finally said, “They may be a little advanced for you.” I heard his words but didn’t want to listen to what they said about me or the game. That was the game I wanted.

“But you can open it up if you like”, he said, “And check out the rules, charts and the board to see if you can figure it out.” He pointed at a big table in the back part of the store where there was a submarine model that was like half put together on one half, but space on the other half. “There’s room on that table. Just put everything back in the box when you’re done.”

I nodded fast because I was excited that maybe it would be okay if I wanted to buy that game. I could see the little white thing on the corner of the top of the box that said “Riders” and then “$2.99”, which I knew I could buy with the money I had. I carefully pulled the game out from the other games on top of it, and took it over to the table. On the front was a big red part with big black letters that said “D-DAY”. Below that on the left looked like ripped pieces from newspapers with those big “headline” letters at the top of each one. The headlines were about the D-Day invasion like “1ST PHASE OF INVASION BATTLE WON, ALLIES SAY” and “BEACHES IN FRANCE CLEARED OF NAZIS”. Then the right bottom part was black with words in white letters.

Now YOU change
World War II History
In this realistic
by Avalon Hill

I got worried again. Maybe I couldn’t figure out how to play a game that you were supposed to be 12 years old to play. But I REALLY wanted to, so I laid the box on the table and took the top off, which made a sort of whooshing noise when I did. It smelled new inside, kind of stinging inside my nose.

Like other games I had, the board was folded up, but this one was folded into four pieces instead of just two like other games. That made it harder to open up, but I finally figured it out. It looked like a map, though it didn’t have any roads on it, but it looked like it had lots of cities and rivers. I knew it was France because there was a “PARIS” city in the middle of the map. I was used to games with squares, like Conflict and Stratego, where you moved from one to the one next to it. But this game didn’t have squares with four sides but things with six.

I looked at the pages that said, “D-DAY INSTRUCTIONS”. Then there was a picture of that Hitler guy and other guys in uniforms I figured were German generals, because they looked like the pictures of German generals in dad’s red war books. Next to the picture it said…

An unforgettable day in history … the Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944.

I knew that’s what I had to read to figure out how to play the game. Below that were lots of words and some little pictures with arrows pointing at different parts of them. I was used to reading game rules, though they were usually written on the inside of the top of the box the game came in, and sometimes they were on a piece of paper, but I had never seen as many rules as there were for this game.

Each part of the rules had those “title” words at the top, that were bigger darker letters. The first title was “MAPBOARD” which had all the different stuff that was on the map. It said the map had “hexagons”, but the instructions would call them “squares”. There were “city squares”, “fortress squares”, “fortified zone squares”, “mountain squares”, “sea squares”, “coastal squares”, “inland ports” and “invasion areas”. It all seemed really neat, as I looked for each different kind of “square” on the mapboard. It was interesting that the rivers WEREN’T squares, but blue lines between the squares, so you went across them rather than being on them. And the fortresses looked really neat with the thick red line around them. I just liked the word. Not just a “fort” but a “fort-RESS”. I imagined what a fortress would look like in my mind, some super giant fort with really big walls.

The second title was “ORDER OF BATTLE UNIT COUNTERS”. In other games I had, the instructions called them “pieces” or “pawns”, but these were called “units”. I looked at the sheet of cardboard with all the little square units on it. The rules said the blue ones were Allied and the red ones were German, though the German units looked more pink than red. But they were all super shiny and had little letters and numbers and symbols on them that meant special things. There were headquarters, infantry, armored and parachute units that I already knew about, and the German word for armored was “Panzer”. But then there were two kinds I hadn’t seen before, “static infantry”, which only the Germans had and “armored infantry”, which the Germans called “panzer grenadier”. Then each unit had numbers on the bottom part for attacking, defending and moving.

The third title on the first page of the rules was “PREPARE FOR PLAY”. It had “steps”, which were different than stair steps, but maybe kind of the same, because you did them one at a time and you did them in “order”, that was a word I’d learned in math at school.

I just wanted to play this game so bad, because even though it was just a game, it was a game about something that REALLY HAPPENED. Some of the other games I had played, like Monopoly and Careers and Conflict, were just supposed to be LIKE something that really happened. Also this game wasn’t about how the regular soldiers did the war, it was about how the GENERALS did the war!

I was getting even more excited as I turned the pages to see the second, third, and fourth pages of the instructions. Each new title in the bigger darker capital letters caught my eye; “HOW TO PLAY”, “HOW TO WIN”, “HOW TO INVADE”, “HOW TO MOVE UNITS ON LAND”, “HOW TO HAVE COMBAT”, “ZONE OF CONTROL, “ATTACKING”, “INVASION ATTACK”, “ALLIED REINFORCEMENTS”, “MORE THAN ONE UNIT PER SQUARE”, “MULTIPLE UNIT BATTLES”, “MOVEMENT AFTER COMBAT”, “MOUNTAINS” and “SECOND INVASION”. I looked at some of the writing under each of the titles and I could pretty much read it, so I really felt I could play this game.

It was like I was thinking too much and too many different ways at the same time. I just wanted to keep going, looking at and playing with the game. But I was in this store I’d never been in before, a long way from my house and all the other people in the store, the guy that worked there and four other guys also looking to buy stuff were older kids or grownups. They might be laughing at me or thinking I was “cute”, a little kid looking at stuff for big kids or grownups. I figured I better buy this thing and get out of there!

I closed up the game, liking the way the top of the box made that whooshing noise again as it slid tightly onto the bottom, and took it up and put it on the long glass thing next to where the cash register was. The guy who worked there saw me and came over on the other side of the glass thing and looked at the “D-DAY” game I had put on it.

“Might be kind of advanced for you if you’re only nine or ten”, he said, “But maybe you can get your dad or an older brother to help if you can’t figure something out.” If he hadn’t been a grownup and maybe just been an older kid, I might have told him that I would be nine soon, to show him how much I could be like a big kid. But since he was a grownup I just nodded.

“Maybe read the rules, look at the charts, unit sheet and map first”, he said, “To make sure you can understand them all before you actually try to play. If you punch out the pieces and then decide to return it I can’t really give you a full refund.” I was feeling a little bit mad, but I just nodded, and I could feel my lips pushed together.

“Let’s see”, he said “That’s two ninety nine plus twelve cents tax, so three eleven total.” I pulled three of those new dollar bills out of my pocket and gave them to him. Then I dug out a handful of coins from the bottom of that pocket and gave him a dime and a penny. Dad had shown me how to do this instead of having to give him an extra dollar and get change. It made it feel like I had more money left.

“Exact change”, he said, like he was trying to be extra nice, “Very good. And three crisp new dollar bills. Christmas money?” he asked. I nodded.

Then he got a bag from under the glass top part and slid the game in it and said, “Enjoy your game. The next time you’re in the store and I’m here, let me know how it’s going.” The only reason I nodded was I figured you were supposed to and I didn’t want him to think I was a bad kid, though I was still kind of mad at him.

I took the game in the bag out of the store and pulled up the top gripper part of my shiny silver pressure basket and put the bag and game on the bottom part and let the top part down to hold it there. I rode home the way I came, but more slowly because I kept checking to make sure the game didn’t fall off. It was also mostly uphill going home, so that made it slower too.

When I got home I was super excited. I had done it! I went all by myself on my bicycle with my own money to a big kid and grownup “hobby” store and bought a game that said “for 12 to adult”, big kids and grownups. I figured I could do just about anything now by myself.

David and dad weren’t around anywhere, but my old bicycle, which was now David’s, was gone, so I figured Dad had taken David out to ride it, maybe with Hannah or his new friend Jimmie. I figured that was really good, because I could open up the game and really try to figure it out without David OR dad wanting to see it too. They would probably see it pretty soon, but I wanted to see it by myself first.

I took the game in the side door and went straight down the stairs to the basement. Mom was in the kitchen and saw me go by with the bag.

“There you are”, she said, “Been out shopping?”

Since I had already run down the whole stairs by the time she said it, I said, “Yep”, from the basement really loud so she could hear me.

I heard her voice up in the kitchen say, “Good for you Cloob!”

I put the gamebox on the floor between the office and the TV part of the basement. I was excited to hear the whoosh again as I pulled the top up and off. I took the board out, and unfolded it open on the floor. Again, I just couldn’t take my eyes off the board which was a map with all its rivers and cities and mountains. These were all real places in that “Europe” place where World War Two was and where dad was. I took out the instructions, which I had already looked at in the store, but I knew I had to read really good to know how to play. Then I took out two sheets of stiffer paper. One was blue and said “COMBAT RESULTS TABLE” at the top, the other was white and said “D-DAY TIME RECORD CARD”.

Then there was the other really exciting thing, the sheet of cardboard where the top part was shiny blue and said “ALLIED ORDER OF BATTLE”, and the bottom part was a shiny red and said “GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE”. These were all those “unit” things, all the parts of the real armies for both sides. They all had little boxes in the middle of each unit with symbols inside and numbers and letters all around the boxes. I couldn’t even figure out how to take the units apart, and I remembered what the store guy said about once I took the units apart I couldn’t take the game back and get all my money back. I shook my head and laughed inside my mind. There was no way I would ever take THIS game back, even if it took me a WHOLE YEAR to figure out how to play it.

Then I took the instructions and put them down in front of me as I sat with my legs crossed on the floor. I crawled over andgot dad’s big dictionary book from his bookshelves so I could look up any words I didn’t know. The “MAPBOARD” section was first, telling you about all the different kinds of squares. Also the rivers, which weren’t squares but went between the squares, and other stuff that I was still figuring out like “INVASION AREAS”…

INVASION AREAS: The 7 separate areas encompassed by red lines, each containing its own troop invasion table.

I had to use dad’s dictionary to figure out that word “encompassed”, which meant “surround and have or hold within”. But then I figured out those were those areas with the white boxes and big black capital letters, one saying “NORTH SEA”, “PAS DE CALAIS” and “LE HAVRE”. Then the next one was “NORMANDY”, which I remembered from reading about and dad talking about the war, was where the Allies invaded France. Then two more below “NORMANDY”, “BRITTANY” and “BAY OF BISCAY”, and a last one, “SOUTH OF FRANCE” in the top right part of the map away from all the others. So neat!

The next part of the instructions said “ORDER OF BATTLE UNIT COUNTERS”. It said…

Now study the die-cut Order of Battle Counters. Blue are Allied; Red are German. These counters are you “chessmen”. Hereafter, they will be called Units.

Then there was this picture of one of those units with words around it with arrows pointing at different stuff on the unit like the “nationality”, “size”, “type”, “identification”, “attack factor”, “defense factor” and “movement factor”. The sizes included “Army”, “Corp”, “Division” and “Regiment”, words I already knew from reading all the war books. Other sizes I hadn’t seen before, like “Army Group” and “Brigade”. Some of the types I knew, like “headquarters”, “infantry”, “parachute”, and also “armored” which I knew were the tank ones. Then other types I didn’t know, like “static infantry” and “armored infantry”. I looked at the cardboard sheet with all the Allied and German army pieces on it and saw all the different types. Both teams had infantry, parachute, armored and headquarters, but only the Germans had static infantry and armored infantry.

Then the last part of the first page of instructions said “PREPARE FOR PLAY” and had three steps. The first one was…

STEP 1: Lay the mapboard out on a table. The Allied player sits on the western side; the German player sits on the eastern side.

When I did pretend war, pirate, or Captain Nemo stuff with my soldiers, I played BOTH sides, even if I was playing with Molly, David, or one of my other friends. I was hoping to do that with this game too, because then I could play it whenever I wanted to, and not have to wait for a friend to play too, like with regular games like Monopoly or Conflict.

STEP 2: Punch out the Order of Battle Counters (Units). Allied player places all blue Units in the section of the map marked Allied Units Available in Britain. The German player places all red Units as follows:

So you were supposed to “punch out” these little square “unit” things. I picked up the shiny blue and red cardboard sheet and pushed my finger against one of the parts with those little squares and a bunch came apart from the rest of the cardboard, still hooked to other ones, and I figured out by wiggling each square unit it would separate from the others. It took a while but I did that with all of them.

I looked at all the symbols, numbers and letters on each unit as I unhooked it from the others. Most of the blue Allied units had that “x” symbol in the box which the instructions said was infantry. They all had “4-4-4” below the symbol which meant their “attack factor”, “defense factor” and “movement factor” were all four. They all had two little “x”s on the top of the box which the instructions said were “divisions” and a tiny number on the right side of the box, which was their “identification”. And some had two little letters on the left side of the box which was their “Nationality”. It said that “Br” was British, but it didn’t say what “Fr” and “Ca” were. I figured “Fr” might be France because I remembered that even though their country got captured by the Germans they still had soldiers fighting against them. Most of the units didn’t have those little letters, so those were the American ones. That all made sense with what I had read and dad had told me about the war. France and Britain and those “Ca” guys were the “Allies”.

Then there were the units with the stretched out circle in the box. Those were “armored”, which was the word for tanks. They all had the “XX” on top of the box, so they were all divisions too, and all had “5-5-4” below the box. So five was better than four for attacking and defending, which made sense since they were tanks instead of just guys with guns, but I was a little surprised that the armored divisions weren’t even better than that, like six or seven. Most of them were American too, but some were French or British or “Ca”. One even was “Po”, some other ally I guess.

Then there were the parachute ones. They had the same “X” in the box, but with a tiny “m” thing in the bottom part of the “X” which I guess was like bird wings because the parachute guys came down out of the sky. They were divisions too but they only attacked, defended and moved three instead of four.

Finally there were headquarters. They were all “0-1-4”s, which made sense, since they were the in charge guys, the generals, so they couldn’t really attack anything by themselves, but just told other guys to attack.

The Allies just had the four kinds of units – infantry, armored, parachute and headquarters. Each unit of the same kind had the same factors. But the Germans had six kinds of units; infantry, armored, parachute and headquarters, like the Allies, but also “static infantry” and “armored infantry”. The regular German infantry were either “3-4-3” or “4-4-3”, so they could only move three squares where the Allied ones could move four. I wondered why they couldn’t move as far as the Allied ones.

The static infantry units’ factors were just “1-2-2”, so they were pretty bad at attacking and defending, and couldn’t move very far either. The instructions said that…

All Static Units must be placed on Coastal Squares only.

I looked up the word “static” in Dad’s big dictionary and it said, “Staying in one place without moving, or not changing for a long time.” So I figured these were the soldiers who just guarded the beaches and had those “pillbox” things to shoot out of that I saw in “The Longest Day” movie.

I turned to the second page and read through the rest of the rules. It was interesting that in the “MORE THAN ONE UNIT PER SQUARE” part, it said that the Allies could only put two units in the same square, but the Germans could put three. It said that was because, “The Germans were more tightly organized.”

There were so many rules, I didn’t know how I could remember all of them while I played. But I was so excited to try. I wondered if I could get any of my friends to play this complicated new game with me, or if I played the game by myself I could play both sides. I figured I probably could.


I had made myself a baloney sandwich with mustard for lunch and had brought it downstairs to eat while I kept working on figuring out my new game. I heard footsteps in the driveway crunching on the gravel. Dad and David were home. David opened the side door and saw me down at the bottom of the basement stairs.

“Coop! Coop! We got donuts!” he said really loud and excited, as he ran down the stairs, though not as fast as I did. He looked at me with the game spread out on the floor between the office and TV parts of the basement.

“What’s that?” he said.

“A new game I just got”, I said, still looking down at the game.

“Can I play it too?” he asked.

“I don’t know”, I said, “It’s pretty complicated. I’m still trying to figure it out.” He wrinkled his nose, thinking.

He ran back up the stairs saying, “Dad! Dad!”, again really loud, and then as he turned at the top of the stairs to go into the kitchen and said, “Coop got a new game and it’s pretty complicated and he’s still trying to figure it out!”

“Tattle tale!” I said the words quietly to myself. I didn’t know enough about the game yet to tell dad about it like I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t want him to try to figure it out for me.

“Shall we go see?” I heard dad ask from the kitchen. Dad came down the stairs first followed by David kind of hiding behind him.

Dad looked at me and asked, “So you got a new game?”

Feeling like I was going to have to explain things I wasn’t ready to explain, I puffed my cheeks and blew air out of my mouth and nodded. I wondered if that was what grownups felt when they blew air out of THEIR mouths like that. Dad saw the top of the box.

“D-Day”, he said, “Didn’t know they made games like this.”

“It’s supposed to be realistic”, I said, “With the real map and real armies on both sides. I just got it and I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“I see the map”, he said, and then pointing at all the little square units I had spread out on the floor, “And are those the armies?” I nodded again.

“Yep”, I said, “Mostly divisions.”

“Wow”, he said, then nodding like he was thinking, “I was in the Third Armored Division in Patton’s army.” I already knew that and had found the unit for his division. I picked up the small blue cardboard square from the basement floor and held it up to him.

“Oh my god”, he said, laughing through his nose a little as he looked at it closely through his glasses, “There it is!” He wrinkled his nose a little and asked, “What do the numbers mean? Five five four.”

“That’s the attack factor, defense factor and movement factory”, I said, “All the Allied armored divisions have the same factors, but they’re better at attacking and defending than the Allied infantry. They are four four four. There’re also parachute divisions and headquarters.”

David was standing next to dad now and he started to jump up and down.

“What’s the matter?” dad asked him.

“I have to go to the bathroom”, he said.

“Just go”, dad said, smiling a little and pointing up the stairs, “You don’t have to tell me first. When you gotta go, just go.” David nodded and ran up the stairs and into the kitchen. We could hear his feet running on the floor above us.

“What about the German units?” dad asked.

“Well the German armored move four just like the Allies”, I said, “But the German infantry only move three.”

“That makes sense”, he said nodding, “Most German infantry didn’t have trucks like our guys did and had to march everywhere on foot.” Now that “3” instead of a “4” made sense to me too.

I was enjoying this talking about war stuff with him, like we were both two regular guys. So I kept trying to say the few other things I already knew. “But the German armored units have a bunch of different attack and defense factors. Most of the best ones are those ‘SS’ ones.”

When he heard me say that, I could tell it made him think about something he hadn’t been thinking about. He puffed his cheeks out again and blew air out of his mouth and slowly shook his head. “Those SS guys were horrible”, he said, still slowly shaking his head, “Real Nazis, especially their officers.”

He looked at my eyes and his kind of closed a little bit, like he wasn’t sure whether he should say something. “Don’t tell your brother this”, he said, “He’s not old enough to understand, but my platoon captured an SS Colonel with a bunch of other SS soldiers. When our truck came to take all the prisoners away, he refused to get on, and then his men wouldn’t either. I was in charge, but I wasn’t sure what to do.” He shook his head slowly again and looked down at the ground like he had done something bad.

“I told him to get on the truck or I’d tell my sergeant to shoot him”, he said, talking more quietly and still looking down, “I figured that he’d comply then.”

After looking at the ground a little more, he quickly looked at my eyes and then looked down again and said, “He refused, so I ordered my sergeant to shoot him and he did.”

“Was he dead?” I asked, “Or just wounded?”

“He gave me one last nasty look that I’ll never forget and keeled over dead”, he said, “I can still see his face in my mind.” Then he shook his head really fast for a second, and finally grinned. “But then all his men got on the truck”, he said, doing one of those nose laughs but not sounding happy.

He started to tell me something else but David came running down the stairs and dad stopped talking and patted me on the shoulder. He hardly ever did that anymore, because I didn’t like it, but I didn’t get mad this time.


It was the next day, Sunday morning, and Paul had come over to play, and I was showing him my new D-Day game.

I worked on figuring out and playing the game all day yesterday and even after dinner, and figured out pretty much all the rules, and started trying to set up the German units to defend France from the Allied invasion. I ended up moving the game up onto the beaverboard with the racetrack. I had to push the track down towards the other end of the beaverboard so the game board would fit too.

I had read the part at the end of the rules called “HISTORICAL COMMENTARY”…

GENERAL SITUATION: The Allied forces, although leading in number of units, combat power and mobility are severely pressed for time.

In order to win, Allied forces must breach the line Rhine-Ijssel in force by the 46th week since D-Day and maintain their bridgehead for 4 weeks without interruption. Because of the effects of the German replacement rate which begins at D-Day plus 16 weeks, however, the Allied forces must move with great speed and decisiveness in the early weeks of the campaign.

If Allied forces are not within striking distance of the Rhine by 16th week, the probability of victory swings to the German side.

I had to look up some of the words in dad’s dictionary. “Mobility” was how easily you could move, so that was the thing about all Allied units moving four, instead of three or two like a lot of the German units. “Breach” was breaking through the enemy’s defensive “line”. “Bridgehead” was about getting across a river when the enemy was on the other side. “Decisiveness” was making good decisions quickly. “Campaign” was like actually doing your whole plan for the entire game. “Probability” was whether something would probably happen or not. “Striking distance” was two words, both of which I knew, but I wasn’t sure what they meant together.

But I got that the main plan for the Allies was to keep moving their units toward that Rhine River as quickly as possible, or the Germans would have a better chance to win because they would start to get more extra units, those “replacements”.

Then in a part called “BASIC ALLIED STRATEGY” it read…

The Allied commander must select the initial invasion area with two problems paramount – he must give himself every reasonable assurance of getting ashore, which implies striking the lesser defended areas, but in turn must be sure he has a good chance of reaching the Rhine in about 16-20 weeks, which implies using one of the areas closest to the Rhine but, assuming German is competent, the very ones which will be stoutly defended.

More words to look up. “Reasonable” and “assurance” together was like being pretty sure. “Implies” was an interesting word, meaning you were saying one thing but maybe meaning something else that the other person could figure out even though you really didn’t say it. And “competent” meant you were good at something, like setting up your armies.

Then in the part called “BASIC GERMAN STRATEGY” it read…

In broad terms, the German problem can be stated in two parts:
Crush the invasion very early.
Failing in that, fight a withdrawing battle to the Meuse, Mosell or, at worst, the Rhine.

I already knew where the Rhine River was and I found the other two, which the Allies would get to first. The “withdrawing battle” was interesting, you could retreat but still be fighting at the same time. I guess that was what Lieutenant Cord and a few of his soldiers were doing when he fought all the dinosaurs, even the Martian dinosaurs, and got killed.

The first part depends upon the generosity of the Allied commander. Since the German must, at all costs, stoutly defend North Sea, Pas de Calais, Le Havre and possibly Normandy, his chance of repulsing an invasion is determined by whether or not the Allied forces assault one of those areas. Even if they do, however, victory is far from certain. The German side is blessed by a great many units, but few of them are mobile or of offensive worth.

Thus for the German to be caught on exterior lines – as counter-attack against any beachhead usually places him – is a thing of great peril and creates a “crust” situation. He must hold at all points or be caught in a debacle, as his “edge” units cannot outrun an enemy breakout.

So a “Beachhead” was like a “bridgehead”, except it was on the beach instead of a river. Those last two sentences I could hardly figure out at all, what a “crust situation” was or “edge units” were, even though I knew what all the words meant by themselves.

But I got the basic idea. The Germans would put most of their units along the North Sea, Pas de Calais, Le Havre and Normandy invasion areas. So the Allies probably had to invade Brittany, the Bay of Biscay or Southern France. But those areas were really far from the Rhine River, so that could be a problem. I felt like a general trying to figure out what would be the best plan. I thought about the real war where the Allies invaded in Normandy. Maybe the real Germans didn’t put enough units there.

So I tried to explain all this to Paul, who was really smart, sometimes smarter than I was, even though he was in third grade and I was in fourth. Like when he read through the instructions, HE knew that “striking distance” meant, you were close enough to attack something, which made sense.

“I tried doing a bunch of invasions”, I said, “And it’s all about the Combat Results Table and what you roll on the dice.” I held up the white sheet with that table at the top and the other bigger table at the bottom that helped you figure out the “basic odds”. Paul took it and looked at it carefully.

“What’s ‘A elim’ mean?” he asked.

“Attacker eliminated”, I said, “All the attackers units in the battle are destroyed.” He nodded.

“So ‘D elim’ means defender eliminated?” he asked. I nodded.

“And ‘A’ or ‘D back 2’ means the attacker or defender has to retreat all his units two squares”, I said.

“What about ‘Exchange’?” he asked.

“That one’s more complicated”, I said, “All the defenders units are eliminated, and the attacker has to eliminate some units too, with enough attack factors to be equal to or more than the defense factors of the defender’s units that were eliminated.” He nodded like I was right about it being complicated.

“So”, I said, “When I only put one German static division on a coastal square and the Allies invade with two infantry divisions, that’s eight attack factors attacking two defense factors, which is a four-to-one attack. The Germans can’t win that one, because the best they can do is for the Allies to roll a two, and get an exchange, which destroys the German unit but only one of the Allied units. So the other Allied unit captures the coastal square. Every other roll both Allied units capture the coast square and the German unit is destroyed or has to retreat.”

“That’s not very good for the Germans”, he said. I nodded.

“If the Germans put two static divisions on a coast square”, I said, “Then they have four defense factors and two Allied infantry divisions attack at two-to-one. THEN the Germans have TWO chances of winning, if the Allies roll a six, which is attacker eliminated or a four, which is attacker back two, which eliminates the attacker too, because you can’t retreat into the sea.” Paul nodded.

“But on the other four rolls”, I said, “At least one of the Allied units captures the coast square. Since the two German static divisions have just four defense factors, an exchange still only eliminates one Allied unit.” I liked that I sounded like I knew a lot, specially because I was talking to Paul who always knew a lot too.

“I guess that’s a little better for the Germans”, Paul said, “But still most of the time the Allies get ashore.” I nodded.

“But if I put THREE German static divisions on each coastal square”, I said, “Then they have six defense factors and the two Allied infantry divisions, or even armored divisions, have just a one-to-one attack. Then the Allies capture the coastal square only if they roll just a one or a three.”

“So that one is better for the Germans”, he said, and I nodded.

“That’s about the best the Germans can do”, I said, “Since they can only put three static divisions in a square.” He nodded, but was thinking.

“What if the Allies attack with three divisions?” he asked.

“They can’t”, I said, “They can only put TWO divisions in the same square.”

“How come?” he asked.

“Because the instructions say the Germans were more organized”, I said. He pushed his lips together and tilted his head as he nodded, like he guessed that might be right.

“But if you do it that way”, I said, “Then you use up all your static units defending the North Sea, Pas De Calais and Le Havre areas, even if you only put one in the fortresses and two in the regular cities.”

“Are the red ones fortresses?” he asked and I nodded, “So why do you only need to put one unit there?”

“Because the unit’s defense factor is tripled”, I said.

“How come?” he asked.

“I guess because it’s like a giant fort”, I said, “With walls around the city. The regular cities are good for defending too, though the unit’s defense factor is only doubled in them.”

“Anyway”, I said, “Then you have to use regular infantry and armored units to defend Normandy, Brittany, Bay of Biscay and South France.” I pointed at each area as I said it. “But in the basic German strategy part of the instructions, it says that you really only need to defend Normandy, and not those other areas very much, because they are so far from the Rhine River up here.”

“What does that matter?” he asked.

“Because that’s how the Allies win”, I said, “You have to get ten divisions across the Rhine River up here and keep them there for four turns.” I pointed at the crooked blue line across the top part of the board.

“Way up there?” he asked, like he didn’t think that could be right.

“Yep”, I said, nodding.

“Can I play?” he asked.

“Sure”, I said, “But I’m still kind of figuring it out. Maybe you can help me set up the Germans, and then we can both figure out where the Allies should invade.”

“You mean we don’t play against each other?” he asked, “That’s weird.”

“Yeah, maybe”, I said, “It just seems more fun than one of us taking a long time figuring out how to set up the Germans while the other one just sits there and watches.”

So Paul and I spent most of the morning figuring out how to set up all the German units. Sometimes we had different ideas what to do, like he wanted to put a German infantry unit in Bordeaux, but I thought it was too far away from anything to matter. So we had to tell each other why we thought that way and we’d usually agree in the end.

After we made ourselves peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, we went back in the basement and started figuring out which area the Allies were going to invade. We both knew that the real invasion was in Normandy, but we didn’t have to do it that way if we didn’t want to. That’s one of the things that made this game really interesting, because you could pretend something different than what really happened. Pretend to be the General in charge and make your own different decisions.

We decided to do the Allies invasion at Brittany. When we had set up the Germans there we had only put infantry divisions at the top of the area, in the cities of Avranches and Rennes, and also one in St. Nazaire, which was in the Bay of Biscay invasion area, but also by the top of Brittany.

So on the first turn the Allies got to invade with four Allied infantry divisions and two parachute divisions. We decided two infantry would land in St. Malo and the other two in Lorient, both fortresses that didn’t have any German units there. We weren’t sure, since there were no German units, whether the Allied infantry units could keep moving and maybe all attack Rennes, but I looked through the rules and found under the “HOW TO INVADE” instructions…

6. Inland movement in the invasion week is not allowed. Unit may move no farther than the first Coastal Square they land on.

We had the two parachute divisions parachute in the square next to Nantes but across the Loire River. It was five squares from where the Allied infantry divisions were in St. Malo. We hadn’t put a German unit in Nantes so the parachute divisions could cross the river and capture it. It was a good place to capture, because next turn it could help us capture St. Nazaire. I imagined in my mind all the soldiers jumping out of the planes with their parachutes and then landing on the ground and getting all together, before crossing the bridges over the Loire River into Nantes. I remembered the part in “The Longest Day” with all the parachute guys.


All that week Paul came over after school and we played the game, not playing different teams against each other but playing each team together. On Tuesday we finished that first game we had started on Sunday and the Germans won, which was strange because the Allies won the real D-Day “campaign”.

Did the Allies lose because we were just figuring the game out and weren’t very good generals yet? Maybe it was more important to be a good general if you were attacking than if you were defending. The REAL Allies had good generals like that Patton guy who was dad’s general. But older kids said that the Germans had good generals too like Rommel.

Maybe it was because our Allies invaded in Brittany instead of Normandy. Or maybe it was just bad luck. There was that one time when we did this really big battle trying to cross the Rhine River where the Allies had this two-to-one attack and rolled a “6”, which was an “A elim” and all six Allied armored divisions that attacked got eliminated. Those two-to-one attacks were just “risky”, that was the word Paul used. I could just imagine hundreds of Allied tanks getting blown up and thousands of Allied soldiers getting killed or wounded, losing that battle to cross the Rhine.

In the game we started Wednesday after school, we did the same German setup, as best we could remember it, and had the Allies invade Normandy. We had better luck rolling the dice this time and the Allies ended up winning. And every time I moved dad’s 3rd Armored division I thought of him and his guys driving in their halftracks, maybe dad standing in the back part of the first one, where the mortar was, so he could tell everybody else what to do.

But what if the REAL Allies had LOST D-Day? Since both our dads fought against the Germans in that campaign, would they have been captured instead, or even killed. Would the two of us not have been born?

Paul said that was “weird”. I thought so too.

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