This post represents the Athenaeum’s participation in Game Night Blog Carnival, through which RPG Bloggers post a review of a non-RPG game once each month.
Memoir ’44 is a two-player board/war game which uses the Command and Colors mechanics developed by Richard Borg; the game was named the official game of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. The game was published in 2004 by Days of Wonder.
Supplements enabling the recreation of the War in the Pacific and for aviation combat have also been released, but are not reviewed here.
The mechanics behind the Command and Colors system – which have been adapted to other conflicts for other game titles – are simple. There is a game board, marked with hexagons and divided into left, center and right sections; cardboard terrain hexes, which are placed over board hexes to recreate the terrain of a historical battle; a deck of cards containing order cards for units in different sections and tactic cards that can be played in special situations; a lot of little plastic infantry, artillery and cavalry/armor; plastic battlefield features such as barbed wire, sand bags and “hedgehog” tank obstacles; a set of battle dice; and a scenario book explaining how to lay out the terrain and deploy the units to recreate a battle.
The scenario book for Memoir ’44 divides the cinvasion into 16 smaller engagements, and also provides an option for recreating Operation Overlord in team play, using multiple copies of the game at the same time. To begin play, decide who will assume the role of the Germans and of the Allies, lay out terrain tiles and plastic units as indicated in the book, and have each player draw the number of command cards listed in the scenario rules.
The cards provide a simple but effective means of creating “the fog of war.” First, the number of cards, and therefore command options, given to each player reflect the command ability and/or state of readiness the two sides historically had. In addition, each card gives specific orders to units in one or more sections of the board, or to specific types of units located anywhere on the board. It is therefore possible for one player to have cards enabling a major offensive on her left, while her opponent may have few or no cards to order his units in that section to counter. Thus, even though forces are deployed in the same relative strength and field positions of the actual battle, enough uncertainty remains that history may not repeat itself during play.
Units ordered by playing various cards can move within limits posed by the terrain and fire upon enemies. The number of battle dice rolled during an attack are reduced as range increases and as modified by terrain, and hits are scored by rolling the unit type symbol or a hand grenade symbol on the dice. It is also possible to roll misses and retreat flags, which force enemy units to break morale and fall back.
For each hit rolled, one plastic figure is removed from that unit; when the last unit is removed (or if the unit is forced to retreat off the board or through another unit), the unit is considered destroyed.
Units are represented by two (in the case of artillery), three (in the case of armor or partisan forces) or four (in the case of regular infantry) figures, so not all units can take the same level of casualties.
In order to win the game, a player must collect a specified number of victory medals for a scenario. Typically, one such medal is awarded for destroying an enemy unit, although some medals are placed as objective markers that a player retains as long as he has troops in the hex where the medal was placed.
Assuming that players have a working knowledge of the rules, one scenario takes about 40 minutes to set up and play.
Of course, the game with its expansions can play more battles than are outlined in the D-Day scenario book, and Days of winder staff and enterprising fans have created playable scenarios for literally hundreds of battles in all three theaters of World War II. There are more than 200 official scenarios detailed here, for example.
Between the rules as provided and the uncommonly high level of official and fan support, Memoir ’44 is a very worthwhile investment.
Next Blog in the Carnival: Roving Band of Misfits