« Official Word: The Play of Command | Main | Official Word: The Odds of Battle »

Friday, September 29, 2006

C&C Games: Memoir ‘44

Memoir '44This series of three articles will look at the other games in Richard Borg’s Commands & Colors series.

The first examines the most commercially successful and well-known to date: Memoir ‘44.

Published 2004 by Days of Wonder. 2 players, ages 8 and up, playing time 30-60 minutes.

Components

1 double-sided hex map, 144 Axis and Allied Army pieces (each army consists of 42 Infantry, 24 Tanks, 6 Artillery and 18 Obstacles), 36 obstacles, 44 terrain tiles, 60 Command cards, 9 Summary cards, 8 battle dice, 2 card holders, 32 page rules and scenario booklet.

Memoir '44The game is of typical Days of Wonder high quality: plastic modelled army men, tanks, artillery pieces and obstacles, linen-finished thick card terrain tiles, four-fold double-sided board, wooden dice, plastic box insert, full colour rules and exceptional graphic design and illustration throughout. The Command cards could perhaps be a little bit thicker and their black edges can show signs of wear, but these are minor criticisms of what is overall an extremely high quality product.

Summary

The second Commands & Colors system game focuses on the battles of WWII. With a relatively simple, yet easily expandable system the base game elegantly recreates and commemorates the battles in Northern France in 1944, and other theatres of WWII in the expansions. In fact it was published in collaboration with the Mission for the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings & Liberation of France.

The board is double-sided, with a green grass texture on one side and a beach and shore on the other, each battlefield divided into three sections: left, centre, and right.

Basic gameplay

ScenarioPlayers set up their forces according to a scenario, which usually recreates a particular engagement of the war. Hex-sized terrain tiles allow the basic board to be customised with hills, forests, rivers, towns etc. The plastic pieces are set up in units: four men form an Infantry unit, three tanks an Armor unit, two artillery pieces an Artillery unit. Each player then receives a number of Command cards. These cards consist of Section cards and Tactic cards. Section cards, when played, allow a number of units in a section, or several sections, to move and/or attack. For example, a General Advance card may allow the player to move and/or attack with two units in each section. Tactic cards allow special maneouvres and actions, for example a Counter-Attack allows a player to issue the same order his opponent just played; an Ambush allows you to attack before your opponent if he engages you in a Close Assault.

During a player’s turn, he plays a Command card and then chooses which units to activate; these units may then move, and once all movement is completed, attack.

Units have different move and attack capabilities; for example an Infantry unit can either move 1 hex and attack, or move 2 hexes and attack. They have an attack range of 3 hexes, and roll 3 dice at a target one hex away, 2 dice at one 2 hexes away, and 1 dice at a target 3 hexes away. An Armor unit is faster and more deadly; it can move up to 3 hexes and still attack a target up 1, 2 or 3 hexes away with 3 dice.

Battle diceAttacks are resolved by rolling special Battle dice with symbols on them; if you roll a symbol that matches your target unit, one figure from that unit is destroyed: for example if you are attacking an infantry unit and roll an Infantry symbol. Units remain at full strength until totally destroyed. For each Flag rolled the target unit must retreat one hex; a Star indicates a miss, a Grenade a hit on any target.

An Infantry unit may also Take Ground by moving into the hex vacated by a unit it destroys or forces to retreat; and an Armor unit may Armor Overrun by doing the same but with the additional advantage of being able to attack again.

Terrain often affects movement and modifies the chance of a successful attack: for example a unit must stop when it enters a forest hex, and an Infantry unit attacking a unit in a forest rolls one less die, an Armor unit 2 less dice.

The basic abilities of units and the affects of terrain are easily remembered, and the system easily accommodates extra layers of complexity or different types of units, terrain or landmarks. In the expansions, a few simple rules can give the game quite a different flavour. For example in the Pacific Theatre expansion, a Japanese unit may ignore the first flag rolled against it, infantry units at full strength close assault with an additional die, and if close assaulting may move 2 hexes and still battle. These few modified rules effectively simulate the character of the Japanese army.

Each scenario sets out how many Victory Points are required to win and any special rules; a VP is won for every enemy unit destroyed, and occasionally for holding objectives.

With two sets, players may place the boards side by side and play huge Overlord scenarios, in which more players may take part by playing in teams. Online support for the game is excellent, with a wealth of official and unofficial scenarios available at the Days of Wonder website.

Expansions

Terrain PackTerrain Pack
66 terrain tiles, 22 landmark tiles, 20 markers, 16 obstacles, 28 Special Unit badges, rules and 4 scenarios.

Winter/Desert Board Map
Double-sided board; snowy expanse one side, desert the other. Brief Campaign rules.

Eastern FrontEastern Front
Russian army (42 soldiers, 24 T-34 tanks and 6 ZIS-3 anti-tank guns), 44 double-sided terrain hexes, 4 obstacles, 10 markers, 14 Special Unit markers, Political Commissar poker chip, rules and 8 scenarios.

The Political Commissar rules, in which the Russian player must choose their next turn’s Command card a turn ahead, give the Eastern Front battles quite a different feel. Lots of cover, minefields and snipers make some of the scenarios gruelling battles of attrition. The snow-covered Winter battlefield (available separately) board is recommended for maximum visual enjoyment of the Eastern Front scenarios.

Memoir '44Pacific Theater
Japanese army (48 soldiers, 12 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks, 6 Type 88 75mm anti-aircraft guns), 44 terrain tiles, 4 obstacles, 10 markers, 14 Special Unit badges, Night Attacks sheet, rules and 8 scenarios.

Some excellent scenarios bring to life the vicious close-combat nature of this theater of war. Night attacks, with visibility changing turn-to-turn, and offshore warship bombardments add extra flavour.

Upcoming Expansions

Memoir ‘44 Carrying Case
Release date yet to be announced. This carrying case will not only hold your base game and all the expansions, but will also includes the new Air Power rules.

Rules Reference and Summary Sheets (Unofficial)

I have created an unofficial rules summary for the base game and a comprehensive set of two double-sided unofficial summary sheets that include all the terrain, obstacles and forces of the base game and all the expansions. They can be downloaded here, along with reference sheets for many other popular boardgames.

(Game component, dice and scenario images Copyright ©2002-2006 Days of Wonder. All Rights Reserved. Game play photograph by Universal Head)