Scenario Review – Drop in the Night 82nd

Drop in the Night 82nd is one of the most fun scenarios in Campaign Book v.2 for Memoir ’44, and a definite highlight of the generally dull Breakthrough in Normandy campaign.  The Allied player airdrops his entire force but one, and has to scramble to reduce German positions while preserving his fragile force advantage.  While the Allies do to tend to win, there’s a lot of interesting gameplay for both sides every game, making it a real All Star Scenario.

During the night June 5-6 1944, paratroopers of the three parachute regiments of the 82nd “All American” US Airborne Division were dropped over the Cotentin peninsula. Their objective: to secure their drop zone, capture Sainte-Mère-Eglise and the bridges on the Merderet river and destroy the bridges on the Douve. Dropped in pitch black, the paras found themselves scattered all over the Normand bocage and countless swamps dotting the region, often far from their intended drop zones. Thankfully, the Germans camp was in disarray too, its troops disoriented by an enemy that seemed to pop out everywhere at once, and was thus only able to muster isolated counter-attacks.

By the morning of June 6, US reinforcements arrived, with Force “B” gliders landing near Les Forges. Operation Boston was a success.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

Here is a photo of the map.  A PDF image of this official scenario is not available.

IMG_0114

The American player has only one unit placed on the map at the start – the rest are placed using the airdrop rules.  This make the scenario different every time, and it means that there is no key engagement.   That said, the upper left quadrant tends to be reliably bloody.  The drop points are placed so that American units often fall there, and there are two bridges there than can be destroyed for extra medals.  However, the Germans are perhaps stronger there than in any other sector, and can easily clear it out of the German player has multi-regional cards.

That’s a big if, and it matters for both sides.  It’s a quirk of the map that both players are going to be weak on the right side, and I’ve been in several games where one side, the other, or both ended up with a hand full of cards in that empty sector.  This is perhaps the biggest flaw in this map – the Memoir 44 system does not deal well with maps with an empty sector.

Still, this is an incredibly fun map.  The Allied player has a slight force advantage, but begins the game in a panic.  A bad drop combined with a poor opening hand will give the Germans a chance to tear his scattered infantry to pieces.  However, if the opening goes poorly for the Germans, the game gets very hard.  The Allied player will move to take the bridge medals, and the German player has to figure out a way to stop them despite his inferior force.  The armor in the upper right corner is the one big advantage held by the Germans, but it’s in an awkward place and in many games is never brought into play.  Difficult and decisions for both sides make this scenario a real All-Star.

On our last playthrough, I had a bad drop.  Almost none of my units landed north of the river, and one fell out of the LZ entirely.  However, cards and dice were in my favor.  With the aid of several Direct from HQ’s, I was able to consolidate my forces and quickly clear out the southern half of the river.  The German player didn’t have the cards to use his special forces in the corner effectively, and when he did fire, his dice were distinctly sub-par.  He made a push with several infantry towards the left side bridge, but simply could not do enough damage to matter.

General Evaluation – 5/5 – I have never had anything other than fun with this map.

Balance Evaluation – Depends on the Drop – Every time I’ve played this scenario, the Americans have won – but it’s easy to see how this can go VERY BADLY for the Americans with a bad drop.  Days of Wonder has the scenario at 56/44 Germans, which I can understand.

First Turn Win Possibility – Minor – With so much depending on the drop, this scenario hinges on the first turn.  However, it’s not likely that a real knockout blow will be delivered in the first turn.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – The map is almost all-infantry, and there’s no line of battle.

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