Wow! On June 6th, I was reminded that I have the perfect game for that date. June 6th - D-Day. Grabbed my copy of Memoir '44 designed by Richard Borg, a game I've had for a couple of years. Considering all the expansion that are currently available for this great 1v1 WWII game, I've never purchased them. Well I have quickly purchased expansions that I could currently afford in my gaming budget because of my renewed fondness for Memoir. This game carries the history of WWII era plus the amazing pace that's not a long epic miniature game. From set up to take down it takes 1 hour to play a scenario.
You are either the german axis players (remember I only have the base game currently) or the allied forces. Depending on the scenario you will either be a combination or solo country of allied forces from either French resistance, British commonwealth, and or U.S. rangers. This is not a simple game where you get the same amount of actions on your turns as your opponent. Nope, the card dictate how many troops you move and attack with. The cards have two types either Orders, which usual are move one, two or three (sometimes all)unites in either left, middle or right flanks. The other type of cards vary and could be a bonus of attack dice, air barrage or medic.
So on your turn - you play a card. Normally commanding 1,2,3 or all of units in a flank. You can either move one and attack or move two spaces. Your attack strength is not based on stat cards or custom characters, but simply on distance. If you are using an infantry attack range drops off the further your opponent is located. After you roll your opponent does NOT roll. You as the attacking player decide whether it is a hit or a miss, there is no way to block. You must roll a matching symbol to the unit you are attacking. Infantry kill Infantry. Tanks kill Tanks. Grenades are wild. Flags make the unit back up. Stars are misses. The key for me in strategy and where this game beats other roll and move/attack games, is the flag. You roll a flag you must move back towards your line, if you are unable to move back you lose a unit. Amazing mechanic of Memoir. Now depending on the scenario choosen to play you need to obtain 4-6 "medals" (points.) You received these points by kill the last infantry or tank in a squad. That is the basic turn of the game however the other thing that makes me stay up at night thinking about this game is the map.
The map makes the scenario different every time. Some scenarios have rivers that you can't cross. It has hills, forest, and hedges, not to mention man made bunkers and sandbags to help you, by making your opponent rolls less die. The map sells me on the game. I am tempting to make a custom 3d version of a hex map solely for this game. The last game to make me think like that was X-wing Miniature game. However X-wing can not be set up, explained and taught in a hour.
Another huge selling point, is the appeal of all ages. I mean all ages, from young people, to the huge likely hood that I could get my father-in-law to play due to the historic setting. His father served during WWII in the pacific, so I look forward to the Pacific theater pack. Being that I married a history minor, my wife will play Memoir with me. She is not obsessed with the game, and probably does not even fall in her top 25-50 games that we own however, she still understands the basic strategy.
Let's talk about the setting. WWII is still one of my favorite settings for any form of entertainment. The greatest generation seems to pull on the passion plug of my heart. I love to read about it, watch many films, tv shows and documentaries about WWII. Now i can play a shorter game with WWII theme amazing. When I was in elementary school and even in Jr. High I loved playing Axis and Allies (a game I currently do NOT own). Although it was a great game, it was and still is very LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGG. Long - each turn took upwards of a hour. You could literally watch an episode of band of brothers in the time it took for your turn to arrive. Especially if you play as the americans. Although there is a place for long epic, grand scale war simulation of WWII. Memoir captures the story of the battles during the war, not the war itself. Memoir is a fun medium weight battle scenario rich with theme. Highly recommend this game even 10 plus years after its release. I can not wait to get my expansions. I look forward to the day when I update this post talking about how I finally played a simultaneous version of D-Day landings.
Now to the critics who say the game is based on luck. Luck on what cards you are going to receive and what dice rolls you will obtain. I understand your criticism, however I have now played the whole base set campaign and many numerous online campaigns and can tell you that no matter the defeat or success I was always enjoying myself. When the dice roll goes in your favor and you score the unlikely 3 hits out of 3 dice.; you normally jump for joy. On the other hand when you roll 3 dice and they hate you and you have no hits and your opponent jumps for joy is also a fun experience - the later being more frustrating. Rolling dice to me is always fun hit or miss aside. Now the dice seem like the obviously frustration of chance, which they are but the real tough spot is not having the card you need to in order to implement your strategy. This is more frustrating but does not happen has frequent as the dice failing you. Plus i've seen numerous times where not having the cards mean changing your strategy and hoping your opponents card do not counter your strategy.
The one last complaint about this game is point swing. I've seen a timed strategy of a point swing on numerous occasions. Where my opponent has 2 or 3 less points then myself and on their turn, end up winning. As great as Memoir '44 is its biggest flaw is the ability to employ some uncharacteristic infantry strategies and sometimes flat out rewards it. For example say I currently had 3 squads of 2 infantry. Those squads are slowly taking ground on the beach as they are two spaces away from an infantry unit in a bunker, or sandbags (which makes me roll one less die). The uncharacteristic idea is for my opponent to rush some medals and move their squads from the bunk/sandbags in order to get one more attack dice to hopefully gain the victory point. It happen quite often, for people to jump out of the bushes to kill a squad only to surrender their defensive position. The only reason why I say it's uncharacteristic is how many times in WWII did we see the germans take ground during D-Day. In my honest opinion my only complaint about this game is not the amount of luck you need to win, no it's that the game rewards risky behavior. It rewards rush style of play not defensive momentum. Now I will say that without the risky behavior the game would be a lot longer. Although it is a big flaw in the theme not the game. Due to the apparent nature of war, numerous times throughout history wars were lost when you rush for victory. The flaw is solely based on the war type nature of the game, not the mechanics. If you opponent is stupid enough to leave one space between you and them with a half defeat squad then shame on them for terrible strategy.
With all this negative talk I thought I end on a positive. This game is great, the components, which I failed to mention 'til now, are phenomenal, reminds me of a mini version of a bucket of army men I had growing up. I playtime amazing. The strategy that keeps turning in my head. The scenarios that keep racking my brain asking is there a better way to win or is their a way to win (I'm talking about you Allied force on Omaha beach.). Theme is rich including the battle's background which I read every time no matter the opponent. The mechanics and flow of the game are highly enjoyable. This game is a must own for anyone who enjoys WWII even in the slightest. Memoir '44 has earned its current spot on my top 100. #23 Check out the countless youtube videos of Memoir '44. As you purchase your own copy, remember always cut the deck.