Friday, February 25, 2011

Tanks for the Memories: Memoir '44

My wife and I find, by and large, that most of Days of Wonder's games are pretty fantastic. They make quality games with quality components. Their art and design are impeccable. Seriously. Just take a look at Pirate's Cove, Small World, Mystery of the Abbey, Ticket to Ride... these are all beautiful games. Whether or not you like a given one will, of course, depend upon your taste, but I believe any gamer would be hard-pressed to say there wasn't at least one of their games that they just love. Case in point: Memoir '44.

Days of Wonder Memoir, 44'Memoir '44 is solid. Opening the box, a lot of you my age will probably be hit with a little nostalgia to see lots of little green army men (or blue, for the Germans). The basic set includes Infantry, Tanks and Artillery for each side, plus battlefield accessories like sandbags, hedgehogs and bridges. And terrain tiles. Loads of terrain tiles. Hills, forests, hedgerows, rivers... stacks and stacks of hexes to recreate whatever terrain you want. The sheer number of components are impressive, in and of themselves.

Memoir '44 was made by Richard Borg and uses his Command & Colors system. Each player has a hand of command cards, most of which designate a a third of the board (left flank, center, right flank) and a type or number of units. When units attack, special dice are rolled to determine the outcome. If you roll the unit type or a wild, you destroy a model in the unit. Other Command & Color games' dice will be a little different, but in Memoir their six sides are Soldier (x2), Tank, Grenade (wild), Retreat and Star (special). Destroying the last model in a unit garners a victory point, and most basic scenarios end when a victory point total is reached. It is a simple system that is easily accessible, resolves quickly and keeps the game moving.

The game comes with some premade scenarios that are designed to emulate battles of World War II. And this is where it breaks with a lot of board games... the sides are not necessarily evenly matched. I like this, actually... it provides perspective on warfare. None of them are so unbalanced that they are not fun, though. I personally love the historical background on them, and it engages you to try to succeed where your side actually failed, or to try to get history to repeat. There's a lot to learn from this game, and it is no small wonder that this is used in some classrooms to teach the history of WWII.

The game itself is very expandable, as well. My wife and I picked up several of these. There's the Eastern Front, the Mediterranean Theater, the Pacific Theater, the Air Pack, terrain boards, scenarios... I don't think that there are many WWII battles that you absolutely could not approximate with this games. Additionally, there's the Campaign Book, a great supplement that has a couple players play a series of battles, with prior battles influencing future ones. Mostly, that involves troop setup. But sometimes, one side winning or losing a battle will trigger a different next battle. Angie and I played through two different campaigns and had a great time; this is one of our favorite games.

When Angie told me about this game, I was originally a little "meh" about it; more than a little Axis & Allies baggage, likely. I wasn't sure that I would like what would for sure be a extremely long game. But from the first game, we absolutely loved this. I cannot count how many hours we have spent playing this since picking it up shortly after its 2004 release. Oddly enough, my wife likely could. This stands out as the only game she has logged every play of (on the Days of Wonder website). And the play time (usually about an hour) allowed us to quickly switch sides and play out the same scenarios again. Yes, we like it that much. I can remember now how we were so excited that the Air Pack was coming out that we called quite a few stores around the state before locating one an hour away to pick this up at. It's just that excellent.

My verdict on this game is that it is a perfect fusion of a wargame and a boardgame. Borg's Command & Colors system is simple and elegant, allowing turns to progress without bogging down. I love it, my wife loves it. This is a game I am looking forward to introducing my daughter to, as well... the only barrier right now is reading. The cards require a little more reading than Katie is capable of, but I think maybe sometime next year (possibly later this year!) will be the right time to try it out. I've already seen a blog post from someone else whose five year old played another Command & Colors-based game. Exciting!

No comments:

Post a Comment