New Game Weekend: Memoir ’44

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I’m about 10 years late to the WWII board game Memoir ’44, but after a few first plays through it this past weekend I’m glad this modern classic is now part of my gaming arsenal. Released by Days of Wonder on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy Invasion in 2004, the game has won numerous awards and remains high in the esteem of casual and serious wargamers alike.

mem44contentsContents of the basic Memoir ’44 game from Days of Wonder

The base Memoir ’44 game runs about $40 and contains over 300 playing pieces. The blue-grey Axis and green Allies tank, infantry, artillery and defensive features look fantastic, and playing with them evokes the little plastic toy soldiers of many a kid’s youth. The reversible game board with a beach on one side and countryside map on the other provides the basic layout for the more than a dozen historic scenarios included in the easily-read rulebook. Scenarios are laid out using hex tiles with various terrain features such as towns, forests, hills, rivers and hedgerows. Each historic game scenario is presented with a clear illustration on how to lay out the appropriate terrain tiles and initially deploy forces on each side.

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Sample Command Cards from Memoir ’44

Command cards and battle dice provide the basic drivers of game mechanics. Cards provide activation of one or more units in the left, right and/or center portions of the board. Infantry may move once and attack or move twice, artillery may move or shoot, and tanks may move up to three hexes and engage in combat. Attacks are resolved with a simple roll of special battle dice which hit units based on the icon results on each die face and what units are present in the combat. Die rolls may also result in misses of forced retreats. When a player finishes their moves and combats, they draw a fresh card and play passes to the opposite side of the board. Games are scored by destroying units or securing objectives like bridges.

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The Sainte-Mère-Église scenario for Memoir ’44

As fairly experienced WWII historical miniatures players with Flames of War, both my son and I were pleasantly surprised by the fun to be had with Memoir ’44. The intro scenario is for Pegasus Bridge which we tackled in about 20 minutes to get a feel for the game. Next up, we tried Sainte-Mère-Église with a fun added feature of actually dropping a fistful of paratroopers onto the board. We both found the command cards to be a good mechanic to represent the effectiveness of delivering orders on the battlefield. In out second game, my son’s tanks lay parked at the corner of the board the entire game since he never drew a card allowing activation of units to his left. We each pulled a couple special cards, allowing things like airstrikes and close assaults to happen as the game quickly moved to a finish in about four or five turns. With the basic rules under our belts, we’re anxious to push on through the remaining scenarios included in the basic rules.

M44terrainContents of the Memoir ’44 Terrain Pack expansion

The scores of  available official scenarios, expansion editions, campaign books and army packs add an amazing amount of replay value to Memoir ’44’s basic rules and mechanics. A nifty online design scenario design tool also allows armchair historians to have a go at creating official-looking games of their own, and I can just imagine the educational possibilities in using it in school settings. Along with the base game, I snatched a copy of the Terrain Pack expansion which offers nearly 150 additional tiles, markers, special unit tokens and four additional scenarios. With the vast expansions of Memoir ’44, just about any interest in the air and land battles of every major front in WWII can be endlessly played and explored.

I realize I’ve just begun with Memoir ’44, and I’m certain to have both my boys playing along with me. There’s so much appeal in Memoir ’44 for kids or adults who have dabbled casually in war-themed board games like Risk or Stratego, plus the added interest of easily replaying historic WWII battles. Quick games, some real history and a fun box of toys — Memoir ’44 brings the complete package to the table.

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