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Posted on Dec 5, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Memoir ’44 – Boardgame Review

By Jeff Edwards

Introduction

Memoir ’44 is a 2-player historical wargame covering the D-Day landings and the liberation of France, designed by Richard Borg and using his renowned ‘Commands and Colors’ game system. Published by Days of Wonder, M44 is unique in its nearly flawless balance of realism, fun, history, and production values. Simply put, M44 is a beautifully produced game and it plays beautifully as well. A typical scenario takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to play, making it an easy choice for shorter gaming sessions. The rules are not as detailed as other wargaming systems, however, they do an excellent job of representing the fundamentals of military gaming: terrain, using combined arms, and command and control.

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Mechanics

The gameplay is turn-based, and is driven by a card-based activation system. The board is divided into left, center, and right sections, with the cards determining in which section a player may issue orders to his troops. The scenario notes specify how many cards each player receives, and typically one player receives more than the other. To conduct his turn, a player selects one card from his hand, and announces which troops he will order. These units then move and fire. The deck also contains several tactics card, which allow players special options, such as launching a devastating air strike or a daring commando raid, or restoring losses to a unit that’s taken casualties. The cards make play extremely unpredictable, as you may not have the proper section cards to carry out a desired attack, or you may suddenly have a more powerful option at your disposal. Memoir ’44 is definitely a game that rewards thinking on your feet, as situations change very quickly.

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A scenario card. The 8 player Overlord scenario.

The actual units are broken into 3 categories: infantry, armor, and artillery. Armor is exceptionally powerful in clear terrain, as a successful close assault on a unit can lead to an overrun attack, giving tanks the unique ability to attack twice in the same turn. Infantry is much better at attacking enemies in difficult terrain, and artillery is fragile but ignores defensive benefits. A good general will have to use artillery to soften up entrenched enemies, infantry to root them out of their positions, and armor to rout and overrun them. The terrain is well-designed and plays a big role in the game. It’s exceedingly frustrating to attack or maneuver into hedgerows, cities and towns are difficult for armor to battle in, and rivers create chokepoints that a skillful defender can easily exploit. Nevertheless, the scenarios are some of the best-balanced I’ve ever seen, and the margin of victory is rarely large whether playing the defender or the attacker.

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