Author: Richard Borg
A game which at first sight seems to be rather unusual for DAYS OF WONDER´s current range of products is Memoir `44, a wargame which is centered about the landing of the Allied forces in France in 1944. As might be guessed from the other games manufactured by DAYS OF WONDER, this producer usually seems to see its market line in the broad field of games for families, so I guess that it might be quite understandable that at first sight I was a bit irritated to see a wargame being part of their choice of games.
However, upon opening the box and turning to the introduction of the rulebook it quickly became clear that Memoir `44 actually means no discontinuance of DAYS OF WONDER´s policy, but instead can be seen as standing in line with their other games since - although it may sound a bit strange - it actually can be qualified as being a "family wargame". As a matter of fact, especially my german readers might ask if this terminology is not harbouring an insolvable conflict, but here it must be understood that the german sphere of games and toys is rather different from the products sold in the USA or the UK. Due to Germany`s unique position in history, war-based games are rather shunned in Germany and would not be published by any major german publisher, but in other countries such games actually are seen as being instructive for adults and children, giving insights into history and teaching strategic thinking alike. And as you will see, the rules of Memoir ´44 differ quite considerably from those of classic wargames from producers like SPI or AVALON HILL, since they are not nearly as complex.
At the beginning of a game, the players chose a scenario which they would like to play. There are over a dozen scenarios available in the rulebook, but a much larger number also can be downloaded from the Memoir ´44 website to which a player gets access if he has purchased a game. The game basically is a two-player game with one player taking the role of the Axis and the other that of the Allies. However, it can actually be played by more players if they chose "team play", which essentially means that players split the forces of a side between them and take counsel on which action to take for a turn. Once a scenario is chosen, all playing pieces are set up as prescribed in the scenario description and the game may commence.
An important part of a players preparation for the game is that he will receive a number a randomly dealt tactics cards which will form the basis of a player`s actions. Thus, when a player gets his turn, he now has to play one of the tactics cards from his hand and activate the according units on the gameboard. The gameboard itself is divided into three sections: center and left and right flank. The tactics cards usually refer to these sections by allowing a player either to activate some or all units in one section or even by allowing to activate one or more units in each section. The player then choses which units he wants to activate and then he may move and possibly fight with these units.
The game basically contains three different types of units: Infantry, Armor and Artillery. An infantry unit consists of four figures, an armor unit of three figures and an artillery unit of two figures. The number of figures in a unit says nothing about its fighting strength, but essentially displays how many hits a unit may take (resolved by removing figures from the unit) before the whole unit is destroyed. Before a player gets to solve combat for all his activated units, he first has the possibility to move the units. Depending on their mobility, an infantry unit may move one hex space and still shoot (or move two hexes without shooting), an armor unit may move three hexes and still shoot and an artillery may only move OR shoot. As for movement rules, there are landscape features like villages, forests etc. which are represented by special hexes on the gameboard, and these kinds of landscapes are cumbersome for the units and consequently result in a unit having to stop its move there.
Once the movement of a unit is resolved, it may still fire at an opposing unit if it is within firing range, if there is a free line of sight and if the unit still is allowed to fire (see above). The procedure for resolving the combat is fairly easy itself. The player rolls a number of combat dice which is determined by the type of the firing unit, the distance it has to its target and the type of terrain currently occupied by the target. The combat dice which are rolled actually are special 6-sided dice, not displaying a number but instead showing a variety of symbols (infantry (x 2), armor, grenade, flag, star). A grenade means a hit against any type of unit, whereas an infantry unit can also be hit by rolling an infantry symbol and an armor unit can also be hit by rolling an armor symbol. Apart from special rules, the star always means a miss, whereas each flag rolled means that the attacked unit will have to withdraw one hex towards its owner´s side of the gameboard.
When all combat has been resolved, the active player draws a tactics card to refill his hand and play passes to his opponent. Here it should also be mentioned that the deck of tactics cards does not only consist of the activation cards which may be used the way outlined above, but some unique special cards are included in the deck as well, in most times giving a player a special advantage like and airstrike or the capability to ambush. This adds an element of uncertainty to the game, but - due to the well-balanced capabilities of these cards - the whole game is not thrown out of balance with a player suffering a major loss due to the overwhelming power of a special card. Still, if kept for a moment of need and played at the right time, such a special card still make cause a good degree of harassment to the opposing player.
For each unit which is totally destroyed by a player he will receive a medal which represents a victory point, and there also is the possibility that some victory points may be gained by conquering and occupying strategic positions on the gameboard. Once a player has reached the number of victory points given in the scenario description, the game finishes with this player winning the scenario.
Unbelievable for a wargame, these few lines already give a rather good outline on all basic playing mechanics which need to be learned in Memoir `44. The Commands & Colors Game System developed by Richard Borg which was also used in AVALON HILL´s Battle Cry shows one of its great advantages here, since it keeps a wargame easy to learn without loosing entertaiment value or strategic options. Quite the opposite, in Memoir `44 Richard Borg has developed the Commands & Colors system much further than he did so far, now introducing special units like the French Résistance, German Elite Tanks or English and American Commandos and also adding a good variety of different types of landscape which also influence movement and combat capabilities of the units in play. Finally, the rules have been spiced up a bit by adding interesting specials like taking ground against retreating units or the armor overrun combat which represents the rather offensive punch of a tank strike quite well.
What I really like about this game is that it never forces the players to long search sessions in the rulebook while play is progressing. Instead, the basic rules are quite easy to remember during play and all additional modifications caused by landscape or special rules and units are available for constant review on reference cards which are placed next to the gameboard. To my mind, the system of reference cards is even better than having just one big reference sheet, since this way only the cards needed in the current scenario need to be put at hand so that the current scope of the rules and a player`s possibilities always remain clearly visible. This makes the game especially attractive for playing with children or players who do not like long rules discussions, and that should be a factor more-seasoned players should eagerly appreciate.
An other point worth mentioning is the fact that the game offers nearly indefinite possibilities to enlarge and enhance the rules and to develop self-made scenarios. Already the basic game contains quite a few landscape features and a double-sided gameboard (beach, greenlands) which allow for a lot of variation, but together with the new expansions which I am going to review in detail quite soon the players not just get a game but a fully developed, extendable playing system which challenges the players with an additional bit of creativity.
To sum it up, DAYS OF WONDER did not promise too much in the introduction of the rulebook that Memoir `44 actually was designed to be a "fun, simple and engaging boardgame for the whole family". Richard Borg`s easy-to-handle Commands & Colors system was a perfect foundation for a boardgame which should serve this purpose, and together with the usual outstanding design made by the DAYS OF WONDER team the game rightly received recognition by being awarded several of the highly esteemed boardgames awards worldwide.
Considering the great success of Memoir '44 and the fact that the game - due to its flexible playing concept - is easily expandable, it was no wonder but instead absolutely foreseeable that DAYS OF WONDER would go ahead and publish some expansions for the game. Thus, in fall 2005 DAYS OF WONDER presented two new expansion packs for the game - the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack and Memoir '44 Eastern Front. Both of these sets greatly enlarge the scope of the game, introducing new rules and playing pieces which once again will challenge the players with rather entertaining new options for various scenarios.
As might be guessed by its title, the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack bring the players a broad choice of new terrain hexes which might be placed onto the gameboard to change or expand the types of terrain available in the basic game. The basic game already contained some standard types of terrain like woods, villages, rivers or hills, but now a whole new set of 66 terrain tiles presents the players with many other kinds of sights and obstacles.
On the one hand, a broad variety of new buildings now may come into play. Thus, soldiers holed up in a Fortress will have great defensive advantages by being allowed to ignore all flags rolled against them, whereas a player who has troops in a Lighthouse will get additional chances to call for an airstrike. Other new building options - for example - are a Radar Station which can be used for early warning against a pending airstrike, and Airfield on which a player can land reinforcements etc. Many of the new buildings also show points of interest which are especially vulnerable for sabotage, so a player may blow up a Factory Complex or a Dam if this should be part of his mission objective.
As can be seen, these new buildings not only serve as colourful variations of the landscape, but they surely will become part of a player`s strategy since they may offer various advantages during play. This however also demands some new rules for the game, and thus the included rulebook features a section offering additional bits and extra rules for Sabotage, Airstrikes, Freeing Prisoners, Blowing up a bridge etc which not only allow a proper use of the new buildings but which also serve to increase playing depth and atmosphere.
Still, the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack does not only contain new buildings, but also a good choice of new types of terrain which also have great effect on battle conditions. Here especially the Marshes become a rather cumbersome obstacle, since the movement capabilities of units moving in marshlands are considerably reduced so that these units become attractive targets for artillery. Roads on the other hand increase the movement capabilities of the units, allowing an unit that moves fully along a road to move for one additional space. However, one of the most fascinating new features are Railroad Tracks. Although they do not pose any obstacle in terms of unit movement, the Terrain Pack also contains tokens for a Locomotive and Wagon which may be moved along the track. Here a whole variety of optional rules can be brought into the game, since it is possible to fill the train with reinforcements which may be disembarked on a Railroad Station or to put an Artillery figure into the wagon, thus creating an Armoured Train with considerable firepower and movement possibilities far superior to any standard Artillery units.
Still, the new rules do not even stop with the new terrain pieces. Other tokens and obstacles included with the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack allow the placing of a Minefield, the building of Pontoon Bridges or the introduction of Big Guns with can bring to bear devastating firepower once it has zeroed in on an enemy unit. Another nice feature is that the pack does not only contain new landscapes for continental Europe, but also some landscape features for a Desert which - together with the new Desert/Winter gameboard which can be purchased separately - can be used to recreate battles in Africa.
To sum it up, I only could give you an outline of the many new items you are going to find in the new Memoir '44 Terrain Pack. There still are many more novelties in the box which could not be presented here, so that the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack in the true sense of the word is a real "Expansion" for Memoir '44. Once players have mastered the rules of the standard game, they sure will start looking for new challenges, and here the new terrain pieces and rules coming with this expansion will prove to be a treasure trove of new ideas and possibilities.
In variation to the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack, the Memoir '44 Eastern Front expansion not only features new landscape tiles and tokens for the game but also a full set of Tanks, Soldiers and Artillery which now allow one of the players to take the side of the Soviet Army facing the German Eastern Front.
Here the most essential new rule is that the player of the Soviet Army will have to deal with his Political Commissar, a delegate of Lenin who watches over his military officers. In history, these Political Commissaries were a result of Lenin's paranoia of a military coup against him, and thus he sent commissaries to all his military units to keep close watch on all developments. However, out of fear of the commissaries' unpredictable actions many officers became overly careful and turned into "yes-men", a factor which for a long time proved to be a great hindrance for all kinds of military actions.
In gaming turns, the Political Commissar will have to revise and approve of all orders which a Soviet General wants to take, resulting in the rule that a Soviet General will have to chose his Command Card for the following turn already at the beginning of his current turn. As a matter of fact, this makes it much more difficult for the Soviet player to plan any risky actions or manoeuvres which take more than one turn, since the Soviet player always will have to consider the possibility that his current actions might go wrong so that he rather would like to play a different card the following turn. The only exception to the strict "Commissar"-rule is that the Soviet player may decide to play a small reconing card or a "Counterattack" instead of the card placed under the Commissar, but for all other kinds of Commands the player first will have to play the Commissar's card before any other card can be played.
Apart from the Commissar, the Memoir '44 Eastern Front expansion features an assortment of terrain tiles and counters which all serve to incorporate the situation at the Eastern Front. Thus, the new landscape tiles show a winter landscape with Frozen Rivers and Forests, but also City Ruins, deep Ravines, Trenches and Marshes. Also, there exist rules and counters for Minefields, cumbersome Dragon's Teeth obstacles and special units like Cavalry or Snipers. Here especially the Snipers are worth mentioning, since these single figure units move and act like Special Forces but have a much longer firing range and are rather hard to hit.
To sum it up, both of these expansions add a great deal of strategy and atmosphere to the game without letting the common goal of keeping the game easy to play and fast-paced slip from focus. Even seasoned Memoir '44-players once again will find dozens of new challenges, thus once again giving the players more enthusiasm for playing and increasing the game's replay value. Also, the new expansions - together with the also available Desert/Winter gameboard - quite drastically change the look of the game, a factor which makes the game also quite attractive from the designer's perspective.
After these insights into the two marvellous new expansions, let me finish with some thoughts which I do not consider to have great impact on the playability of the game but which still could have been handled slightly different. What I am talking about is the number of new scenarios which are included in the expansions, since - unlike the basic game which contained 16 scenarios, the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack only includes four new scenarios and Memoir '44 Eastern Front eight new scenarios which partly use tokens from the Memoir '44 Terrain Pack. Here it would have been desirable that both packs should have contained some more scenarios, since players often prefer to chose a scenario and sit down and play to the more cumbersome process of creating a scenario on their own before play may start.
While DAYS OF WONDER certainly offers its website as a place where new scenarios can be found, it also seems a bit of a detour if you have to turn on your computer and look for a scenario before play may start. Also, despite the availability of dozens of new scenarios created by players, there are no additional "official" scenarios available on the website which deal with the new possibilities introduced by either of the two new expansions.
To make the creation of new scenarios easier, DAYS OF WONDER also has released a Scenario Editor which may be downloaded from their website at a cost of 20 US$ (or for free if a player should possess two copies of Memoir '44). To my mind, although software development is not without costs, the decision of not making available a free Scenario Editor for players who have purchased both expansion packs is not quite understandable. A player who has purchased both expansions (and already owns the basic game) should have earned the right for a free Editor to handle these expansions with maximum pleasure, and it is not understandable that DAYS OF WONDER charges such a player a considerable 20 US$ to gain access to the Editor.
Development of Memoir '44 did not stop with the Terrain and Eastern Front packs, but due to the continuing success of the game DAYS OF WONDER once again released a new expansion for the game in summer 2006. The designers have changed locations again, now focusing the game on America's battle against the Japanese in the new Memoir '44 Pacific Theater box. Apart from the obligatory rules and scenarios booklet, this new box once again features a new set of figures for Japanese infantry, armor and artillery, several new terrain hexes, a Night-Attack-Table and assorted counters showing filed bunkers and warships (Destroyer, Aircraft Carrier).
Let us first turn to an inspection of the newly introduced rules, and most outstanding here are the Imperial Japanese Army and US Marine Corps Command Rules. These rules are in effect in almost every scenario taking place in the Pacific Theater and give special capabilities to the troops on both sides. For the Japanese Player, the rules effectively strengthen the role of infantry units, since now Japanese Infantry may attack in close combat with an additional dice (while unit is still fully intact), always ignores the first flag rolled against it and may always move two hexes and still battle. The background for these rules is drawn from the Bushido doctrine, the Japanese Warrior's Code of Honour. The US player on the other hand may rely on the Gung-Ho! cry, a rallying cry of Marines throughout the Pacific Theater. In essence, this strengthens the US player's use of tactics cards with section orders and some special cards, since in many cases he now is allowed to activate one unit more than printed on a specific card.
Next in the list of novelties come the rules for Night Attacks. If a scenario indicates a battle begins at night, the visibility is rather restricted so that only close combat may take place. Likewise, "Air Power" and "Barrage" tactics cards (relying on visibility) may not be used until full daylight. At the beginning of each turn, the US player now rolls for com,bat dice, and for each star-symbol he rolls dawn will progress and enhance visibility for one space. This continues until visibility reaches six spaces - symbolizing full daylight - which allows the removal of all restrictions for Night Attacks.
Some more novelties comes with the included terrain hexes. While a few of them show landscape features which were either known from other expansions or slightly adapted to reflect the Pacific background, others are quite mentionable since they have some new influences on gameplay. Thus, the hexes now feature Hospital and HQ tents, and whereas a wounded unit may receive back lost figures at a Hospital the occupation of an HQ by a hostile unit shortens the original owner's supply of tactics cards by one card as long as the HQ remains occupied. Even more interesting are the caves which now may be found on Mountains or Hill hexes and which may be used only by the Japanese player. The caves on all these hexes form an interlocked network and allow the Japanese player to move his infantry units freely between all these hexes. In effect, this underground system allows the construction of very effective defence system, especially since a Japanese unit still may battle after moving from one cave hex to another.
Quite a few other rules are also included, so that now the US player may use special Flamethrower Tanks and Big Guns and Mobile Artillery strengthen the firepower of artillery units even more. A factor still worth mentioning however are the newly introduced warships. Here the Destroyers may provide offshore artillery support to amphibious landing forces, and in gaming turns the Destroyers may assist in combat with big, long-range guns. The Carrier on the other hand hints at a further expansion which is mentioned in the rulebook and scheduled for release in 2007: the Memoir '44 Carrying Case, including the Air Pack Expansion. It seems logical to include airborne assistance with the Memoir '44 playing options, and thus upon the release of the new Air Pack the players then will find themselves empowered to fly air sorties from Carriers or Airfield Hexes.
Reading about the Air Pack and surveying the already released expansions for Memoir '44, I cannot help getting a feeling of resemblance with the old classic Axis & Allies from MB. However, this resemblance goes only as far as design of the playing pieces and complexity of the rules are concerned, since the rules themselves differ considerably between both games. Luck plays a high factor in each of them, but whereas Axis & Allies quickly develops into a purely tactical wargame with a long playing duration and decreasing historical correctness, the scenario-based playing mechanism of Memoir '44 still allows quick games and always keeps an eye on the history behind each scenario. The new Memoir '44 Pacific Theater box stands in full tradition with all other Memoir '44 expansions released so far, and although the game now loses a bit of its easy playability by the fact that the players more often will have to consult the rulebook to keep in line with the optional rules, this is more than compensated by the increase of playing fun gained by the inclusion of new playing options. Overall, the Memoir '44 Pacific Theater box also is a useful expansion for the game, since it not only shifts the regional playing focus but also introduces the above mentioned new rules which have a great impact on the whole playing system while operating in the Pacific. Personally, I have a feeling the the Air Pack scheduled for next year will have a likewise impact, since airborne operations are just the element missing to represent battles in even greater detail, and thus I just hope that it will not be too long before this new expansion will be released.
A final fact worth mentioning is that the staff at DAYS OF WONDER has revised the availability of the Scenario Editor offered on the Memoir '44 website. The Memoir '44 Pacific Theater now contains a Web Access Code which - together with the code gained from the basic game - offers full and unlimited online access to the Scenario Editor. I rather welcome this decision, since the editor is a very useful tool for developing your own scenarios, and since it can be only used in conjunction with the game I deem it customer-friendly that now the Editor is available for free for players who want to make the most effective use of the available expansions.
It has been a long time since the release of the Pacific Theatre Expansion Pack for Memoir '44, and the ongoing expansion of DAYS OF WONDER's new flagship game Battlelore actually allowed the assumption that the rumoured Air Pack Expansion for Memoir '44 might never make it to the shelves of gamesstores. However, in fall 2007 DAYS OF WONDER proved that they were still supporting their former award winner and its faithful followers, and they finally released the new Air Pack both to introduce planes to the game and to recapitulate all expansions which were released so far.
In comparison to former Memoir '44 Expansions, the new Air Pack only contains the relatively small amount of 8 figures. These (nicely painted!) playing pieces represent different kinds of planes which were used by the nations during WWII, and they come together with transparent plastic stands which allows the players to let the planes soar above the gameboard.
In terms of the rules, each scenario determines whether a player may use a plane and which type of plane he may use in the scenario. Each player only is allowed to have a single plane in the air (considering the fact that the gameboard focuses on a relatively small battlefield), and the scenario rules also line out the conditions on which a player may get a plane into action. Usually, each player receives an additional "Air Sortie" card at the beginning of a game, and this card may be used instead of one of the players' normal command cards to fly a plane onto one of the spaces round the outer border of the gameboard. From this point onwards, movement rules consider the plane to be a unit like all other playing pieces, so that it may be moved for a number of spaces when a section card is played which activates the plane.
Depending on the type of the plane, its owner then has the possibility to opt for a specific type of "Air battle" option, ranging from the strafing of enemy units to the granting of ground support or a recon mission. Each of these options has a different impact on gameplay, so that a plane flying over enemy units may reduce their number of figures or render their terrain advantage useless. However, as indicated the types of actions available depend on which type of plane is used, so that it is quite often the case that the players will use their planes for different purposes.
Considering the fact that a plane is activated and moved like other units, it should be pointed out that other factors differentiate planes from normal units. So, a plane never can be attacked normally by other units, but instead its owner has to make an "Air Check Roll" at the beginning of every turn in which he intents to use the plane. The difficulty of this "Air Check" depends on the type of the hex space below the plane, plus an additional increase for enemy units and planes on neighbouring spaces. A number of combat dice corresponding to the difficulty level of the Air Check is rolled, and if any of the dice shows a "Grenade" symbol the plane is considered to be destroyed.
Even other rules are used to represent the fact that a flying plane cannot remain stationary, so that a player with a flying plane is forced to activate and use it every turn. If a player cannot or does not want to comply with this rule, he will have to remove the plane from the gameboard (although such a removal is NOT considered to be a destruction of the plane and thus does not count as a Victory Point for the opposing player). To avoid this rule, a player also may opt to land a plane on a friendly airfield or a Carrier, and from this landing strip the plane may take off again later during the game.
A few more, manageable rules flesh out the final details for the use of planes, and altogether these new rules bring a lot of fresh wind into the game since the players now are forced to regard a scenario from a different angle. Although the use of the planes does not fully change gameplay, they are powerful enough to have a major impact on some decisive actions on the board, so that even experienced Memoir '44 players will feel the new challenge posed by the inclusion of this additional branch of service. And talking about this changed perspective, I have found a good transition to introduce you to the second purpose of the Air Pack: the consolidation of all so-far published Memoir '44 material!
Thus, Richard Borg and the DAYS OF WONDER design crew heeded the pleas of Memoir '44 fans and not only included the planes and their rules, but instead they went a step further and squeezed a fat, 80-page rules and scenario book into the box, so that all 64 official Memoir '44 scenarios could be re-published in a single volume! What is more, they took the opportunity to re-visit all of these scenarios to include parts of different expansions and airplanes whenever it seemed fitting, so that players owning all Memoir '44 expansions now can make real use of all of their playing material! And to keep this "battle of material" efficient and overseeable, DAYS OF WONDER also included a deck of 120 reference cards which represent all kinds of terrains and rules which could be found in the different expansions so that the players now have an easy accessible rules summary available for every scenario they whish to play.
As indicated, the air rules work well and enrich gameplay considerably by giving players an additional challenge which they need to take into consideration. However, I consider all the other playing material included in the Air Pack to be an even greater gift since all these items unite the components from the older expansions in a wonderful and very satisfactory way. Thus, the "Air Pack" can be seen as a way in which Richard Borg gives his kudos to the players who rave remained loyal to Memoir '44 for all these years, and together the new reference cards, the additional terrain pieces and the scenario book are a perfect gift to all avid Memoir '44 players.
Thanks Richard for taking the time to create such a wonderful climax which brings your Memoir '44 series to perfection!!!
While my own prognosis would have been that DAYS OF WONDER would end the successful series of Memoir '44 expansions with the resourceful and long awaited Air Pack, the series is kept alive and has seen a number of rather interesting enhancements and expansions in Summer and Fall 2008. This is even more atsonishing considering the fact that the Memoir '44 fantasy clone Battlelore has been licensed to FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES, a move which was officially justified by lacking production capabilities but which could also be seen as motivated by the so-far lacking success of that series. Memoir '44 is different here, and it maintains a steady group of fans so that DAYS OF WONDER seems to see this product worthwhile to be enhanced even more, and as steady Memoir '44 my wife and I certainly appreciate this because it will mean enduring fun with our favourite conflict simulation game.
An expansion which always was rumoured to be in development was centered on the African campaign during WWII, but while the prospects of such an expansion where discussed quite often in different forums there was always a high degree of uncertainty whether this expansion would be released at all. However, now all hopes and prognoses have been proven to be true, since DAYS OF WONDER has released the new Mediterranean Theater box at the SPIEL 08 convention at Essen.
Standing in the tradition of the other regional focused expansion boxes, this box gives the Memoir '44 players new British figures and desert terrain tiles to play a total of eight new scenarios which center on some decisive battles of the campaign in Africa. Thus, the new box takes up a few concepts (especially landscape tiles) which were known especially from the Terrain Pack and updates them concerning the Air Rules while at the same time the tiles are given a new graphic layout to match the Desert-design. In addition, players receive a set of British troops, tanks and guns, so that - in conjunction with the Desert map which is available as a separate release - the African scenarios can be played with as much atmosphere as possible.
While these atmospheric components make up the major part of the box contents, a few new concepts once again are introduced so that the Mediterranean Theater deservingly can be called an expansion of Memoir '44. Foremost to be mentioned in this context are the new grey Anti Tank Guns figures which can be given as a piece of equipment to any Infantry unit. The underlying concept for these new figures is the rule for Special Weapon Assets, and as it seems there will be different kinds of equipment available in future expansions. Such Special Weapons will effect a limited change to a unit's normal combat rules, and in case of the Anti Tank Guns an Infantry unit carrying such a special weapon will suffer a slight movement penalty, while it gains the benefit an attack-roll against Armour also is successful on the roll of a Star-symbol.
The other new rules introduced with the Mediterranean Theater are concerned once again with the simulation of a bit of historical accuracy, and thus the British Commonwealth Forces and the Royal Italian Army receive some specific combat rules. So, since the British forces in Africa always were considered to be unbending and disciplined in combat, the new "Stiff Upper Lip" rule allows an Infantry unit attacked in close combat to battle back if it should be reduced to just one figure. This rule matches the stubborn and defiant behaviour of the British troops, and thus makes it slightly harder for the Axis player to take British positions in close combat. The Italians on the other side often are mentioned for their less-than-standard fighting capabilities, but a closer examination of the historic circumstances reveals that this image actually was caused by their often sub-standard equipment and unable High Command. However, Italian vehicles in some cases were better than those of other nations, and in terms of Memoir '44this gives Italian troops a higher amount of retreat spaces. In addition, Italian artillery was known especially for their stubborn position holding and firing until being literally overrun, and so Italian artillery may ignore one flag rolled against them.
As indicated above, quite a major part of this expansion is made up by figures and tiles which are used for enhancing the playing atmosphere, so that not as much new playing value is contained as in the Air Pack or other preceding expansions. However, it should be kept in mind that the Memoir '44 expansions aim mainly at a large target group of collectors, and this audience should be quite pleased with the new Mediterranean Theater. A couple of new rules plus new playing pieces for a reasonable price once again increase the replay value and the atmosphere of the whole game, and so the new box can be recommended to any fans of the game without reservations.
After the sale of the Battlelore-licenses to FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES Memoir 44 has become the undisputed flagship of Richard Borg’s “Command & Colours”–system in the programme of DAYS OF WONDER. And once again, after the release of the Mediterranean Theatre and Airpack expansions, it seems that the design crew responsible for Memoir 44 has developed a new kind of expansion which the fantasy system is sadly missing. Thus, the expansion I want to introduce today is the Memoir 44 Campaign Book – Volume 1, a hardcover volume offering several dozen new scenarios, some playing markers and a set of brand-new campaign rules.
While it is true that a plethora of home-brewed scenarios can be found for download at the DAYS OF WONDER website, Memoir 44 so far lacked a developed system for playing several scenarios in a row and determining a grand winner after these scenarios. The only rules concerning campaigns which could be found were on a short leaflet coming with the Desert/Winter gameboard, and in essence these rules just covered the fact that at the beginning of a battle both players were allowed to roll a number of battle dice corresponding to the number of battles won, and the results rolled forced the opposing player to remove or retreat troops before the battle started.
These rules were rather straightforward and easy to handle, but they offered no real room for an evolving and developing campaign because there were no alternatives but to play one scenario after the other on a historical basis. And here the new Campaign Book fills the gap and exactly hits the spot with more room for flexibility, since the players now can influence the further development of a campaign with each battle won or lost.
For this unique playing experience the Campaign Book contains three Grand Campaign settings, each of which is further subdivided into a number of branch campaigns consisting of several scenarios. In detail, the Grand Campaigns deal with the following historical background:
Essential part of each branch campaign is the campaign sheet available for each player. These overview sheets list the scenarios of the campaign and their possible order, depending on the outcome of previous battles in the same campaign. During the course of the branch campaign the players keep a track of the victory points they have earned, and they will be assigned additional victory points for fulfilling mission objectives in scenarios. Then, when the final scenario of a branch campaign has been played, the players compare their final victory point scores and, based on the difference, the player with more points will score a marginal or outright victory in the branch campaign and is assigned a number of Grand Campaign victory points depending on the type of victory scored. Overall, at the end of the last branch campaign of the Grand Campaign the winner will be determined by adding up the Grand Campaign victory points.
However, the rules provided in the new Campaign Book do not stop with the scoring, but even more interesting are the Grand Campaign rules which bring a bit of flexibility and uncertainty into each scenario while at the same time broadly linking one scenario to the next. These linking rules stand on two main parts, and the first part is shaped after the already existing campaign rules. Thus, the players count the battles which they have won in a branch campaign, and at the start of each scenario each player is allowed to roll a number of battle dice depending on his victories. The results rolled will force the opposing player to remove or retreat units matching the results rolled with the battle dice.
In addition, each player is assigned a fixed number of reinforcement markers which will last him for a whole branch campaign. At the beginning of a scenario each player rolls two dice to determine reinforcements, and if unit symbols are rolled the player is allowed to cash in reinforcement markers to gain the help of such a unit in the upcoming battle. The player then can chose either to place the unit directly onto the gameboard at his side of the battlefield, or he can place the unit off board. The distinction between both kinds of placements is that an off board unit first must be ordered to move onto the board and thus needs an additional round to get ready for battle, but if a player who has purchased off board reinforcements wins the scenario without moving the unit onto the board he will get back his reinforcement marker because he has not used the unit. This distinction is vital, since otherwise a used reinforcement marker is lost for the rest of the branch campaign.
Furthermore, the rules of each Grand Campaign also provide for the case that either a Star or a Flag is rolled when looking for reinforcements, and these two results usually give the player a small benefit without the need to spend a reinforcement token. These benefits may be different for both sides, so that the Allied player may be allowed to advance a unit before the battle starts whereas the German player may be granted the placement of additional wire obstacles. Very handy usually is a result of two Stars, since it usually grants a player an Air Sortie / Air Power token which can be used for additional airborne assistance.
To ensure maximum enjoyment of the new scenarios additional rules and markers for Smoke Screens, Paratroopers, Special Weapons and Armor Breakthroughs are included, and to ensure compatibility of the new rules and counters with all existing Memoir 44 expans ions and scenarios the Campaign Book even includes a pack of reference cards falling in line with the cards from the Airpack.
Overall, the Campaign Book offers Memoir 44 fans a new level of coherence which the game was lacking so far. Looking at internet forums it seems that many people had made up their own rules for campaigns because no official rules existed, and now the author Malcolm Green succeeded in fulfilling players’ hopes with a mature product dealing with all aspects of campaigns in a rather successful way.
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Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany