Tag Archives: Review

Scenario Review – Saint Roche Station

Saint Roche Station is an early-war scenario for Memoir ’44 from the Equipment Pack‘s Additional Scenarios booklet.  You can download the bonus scenarios from the Equipment Pack page in a single PDF, but oddly they have not been entered into the scenario database.  The Equipment Pack scenarios are pretty uneven, and while this one is not the worst, it’s also got a pretty major problem.

Following some disastrous fights during the Battle of France, the British Expeditionary Force found itself cut-off from the rest of the French army and surrounded in the port-city of Dunkirk.  Remnants of the British army engaged in some desperate rear-guard battles against the German advance to help the B.E.F. evacuate by sea.  One such battle took place near Saint Roche Station, where the ad-hoc force of British rifle squads armed with HC Boys anti-tank rifles and light machine guns delayed elements of the 7th Panzer division avancing from the Somme to the Seine.  A forward anti-tank gun managed to put one of the German tank sections out of action.  Believing they faced a well-equipped enemy, the Germans slowed down and opted to pound the British positions instead of rushing them.  This bought the B.E.F. some crucial time, but by nightfall the British forces had run out of ammunition and were forced to surrender.

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

The scenario setup actually mirrors that situation reasonably well – the problem is that the rules of the game make this sort of historical battle not very fun.  Here’s my photo of the map.

Saint Roche Station

The Axis have an overwhelming advantage in total forces, and in mobility, and in firepower.  The British infantry are dug into positions from which there is no retreat, and in which no counter-attack is feasible.  Worse, the Axis artillery can break the British forces without an advance.

In reality, the Germans did not know the strength and composition of the British forces, and used their artillery to break an inferior force.  That describes the worst possible sort of Memoir ’44 scenario, and as laid out, this is not a battle which I can recommend.  The German armor is clustered into the corner, hedged in by an anti-tank infantry and a rail line.  The British forces can only hope to get lucky on their plinks, and unless the Germans move forward they don’t have much hope of doing 5 medals worth of damage.

I found that changing out the German artillery piece for a 2nd mortar crew improved this scenario quite a bit.  The German player had more of an incentive to move forward, and the British forward infantry had a greater chance to retreat for effect.  Still, it’s not one that I can rate highly.

Overall Evaluation – 2/5 – I’d bump this to 3/5 with the suggested fix, but it’s still not great.  The British just don’t have any options.

Balance Evaluation – strongly German favored – The Brits would need some truly spectacular luck to prevail in this one.

Plink-Fest Danger – High – With the German mortar and artillery, combined with their total superiority in the open thanks to the armor, they can win this one from range easily.

First-turn win danger – None

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Scenario Review – Operation Epsom

Operation Epsom is, perhaps, my favorite scenario from the Equipment Pack for Memoir ’44.  A lot of Breakthrough-sized Normandy scenarios fail to create an effective balance between Allied firepower and numbers, Axis armor superiority, and the naturally defensive terrain.  Operation Epsom get the balance just about right, creating a tough and interesting battle for both players.

Operation Epsom was General Montgomery’s plan to outflank and seize the German-occupied city of Caen. VIIIth British Corps’ main objective was to break through the German lines by crossing the Odon River and driving for Hill 112. On June 26, the 15th Scottish Infantry Division supported by tanks of the 31st Brigade began its push, gaining a foothold across the Odon near Tourmauville. By the 28th, the Germans began two strong flanking attacks, with the intention of pinching out the British salient. Over the next 2 days, these counter-attacks devolved into a stalemate due to tenacious resistance by the British.

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

Here’s a photo of the map.

IMG_0411[1]

The river is the defining feature of this map, but a second key element is not visible.  The British player can choose 4 of his/her tanks and designate them as “Hobart’s Funnies,” with an ability of his/her choosing.  Proper use of Bridges, Fascines, Mine-sweepers, and Petards are absolutely critical to the British advance, and they can change the flow of the battle dramatically.

One of the great things about this map is that both players have the option of starting the battle offensively or defensively.  The British player is clearly the attacker, and has an easy target on his/her right flank, where there are 3 easy kills and the medal at Grainville.  However, it might make sense to make a few preparatory moves on the center or the left, both to get units away from a no-retreat position vs. the German 88 and to prepare for a decisive river crossing.  The Germans, on the other hand, can open fire with the 88 in the center or their standard artillery near Grainville.  Or, he/she can pull back from Grainville, and prepare for a better stand on the north bank of the river.  Or, he/she can bring armor and artillery forward.

At some point, the British player is going to make a push across the river.  Another great thing about this map is that it’s hard, but possible for the British player to go on the offensive in this way, and actually win.  There are enough targets and medals for a bloody river crossing to pay off, even if the British player never establishes a consistent bridgehead on the north bank.  On the other hand, the German player has the armor and artillery to play an effective game of whack-a-mole, presuming that cards and dice are cooperating.

Much as I love this map, it does have one flaw.  Both sides start with a ton of artillery, and if the British player decides to play it safe and plink from across the river, this will turn into a very long and very boring scenario.  By natural inclination I am not inclined to play in this manner, but cautious min-maxers should probably avoid playing as the British unless they actually enjoy endless plink-fests.

Overall Evaluation – 4/5 – This is a great map, so long as the Brits attack.

Balance Evaluation – Mostly Even to Slightly Axis Favored – I’ve seen both sides win convincingly, and though I’ve played it a lot, I’ve noticed no major trends.  Days of Wonder has it at 69/31 Axis, which I find rather surprising.  I can imagine how the standard Breakthrough deck, with its plethora of extra moves, could give the Germans a major advantage, as they will be able to easily and quickly move their forces up while making no sacrifice in terms of firepower.  That is a major reason I do not play with most of the Breakthrough cards.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – An aggressive British player will take a pounding in the early phases of the game, but the structure of the map means that the battle will not be over until quite late.

Plink-Fest Danger – High – The potential for artillery-fans to drain all the fun out of this map is, sadly, high.

 

 

 

Scenario Review – Martinville Ridge

Martinville Ridge is the second scenario in the “Breakthrough” campaign in Campaign Book 1, by brumbarr44, for Memoir ’44.  It’s a quick and nasty battle in which the Axis player has the resources to come back from almost any situation – just like a number of the Normandy scenarios from the first Campaign Book, actually.

On July 15, the 116th Regiment started a flanking maneuver around Martinville in an effort to outflank the town’s defenders. The lead elements made good progress but Allied Command didn’t have a clear picture of the situation on the ground and ordered the units to halt and consolidate their positions.

The order didn’t reach the 2nd Battalion in a timely fashion and by the time its commander got the order, the Battalion was already far ahead and overlooking the town of La Madeleine. Rather than call the unit back, General Gerhardt decided to keep the battalion there and try to reinforce it. On July 16 he ordered Major Bingham to hold his ground so he could move forces up to reinforce and hopefully push the Germans off the ridge at Martinville.

German command, unaware of the situation developing on the right, put a concentrated effort into gaining control of the Bayeux Road and the recently lost Hill 122 that overlooked it. The German XI Parachute Corps made a strong attack to seize the hill but was eventually repelled, largely because of American air cover. German command’s failure to recognize and capitalize on the opportunity to smash the isolated battalions of the 116th helped put to an early end to the fight for Saint-Lô.

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

Here’s my photo of the map.

Martinville Ridge

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this opening setup is the Allied infantry out by the Axis baseline.  This will most likely be the center of the opening engagement, as the Axis player rushes to stomp a vulnerable unit, while the Allied player rushes units forward to engage.

The Allied player has a distinct advantage in overall force composition, with more tanks and more infantry than the Axis player.  The Allied forces are also evenly spread across the map, allowing advances in any sector.  Any coherent advance by the Allied player will put them in the lead.

However, the Axis player also has some advantages.  The Axis force is composed entirely of special forces, making it incredibly dangerous.  On top of that, the map is only to 5 medals, and there is an Axis medal on the map that is fairly easy to take.  A quick counter-attack in the center can be enough to turn the game around entirely.  This map leads to fast battles in which a lucky Axis player is incredibly hard to stop.

This is exactly how both of our games went.  The Allied player moved fast and hard, and looked on track for an easy victory.  Then, the Axis player took a few shots, moved a few troops, and snatched a last-turn victory.

Overall Evaluation – 4/5 – This is a fun fight, but the endgame can turn into such a luck-driven see-saw that there’s a good chance one player will walk away feeling burned.

Balance Evaluation – Generally Even – From the position of force composition, the Allies should have the advantage, and a little bit of luck in the opening infantry engagement can put them in a pretty solid position to win.  However, the Axis player’s ability to turn things around on a dime prevents me from giving the Allies the edge on this one.  DoW Online has it at 60%/40% Allies, but I have to wonder if that is at least in part caused by unskilled Axis players who don’t know how to turn the situation to their advantage.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – Neither side has the force to accomplish much with long-distance fire.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – Neither side can put together much of an attack in their first couple of turns.

Scenario Review – Ingermanland

Ingermanland is an odd little scenario from the Operation Barbarossa campaign in Campaign Book 1, for Memoir ’44.  Two weak forces duke it out in ugly terrain, and a single good move from either side can swing the battle in one direction or the other.  I quite like the scenario, but it has proven divisive.  My regular gaming partner hates it.

Outrunning its air cover, Kampfgruppe Raus pressed north from the newly captured town of Ostrov into the woods and swamps between the lakes Peipus and Il’men. Remnants of the Red Army and partisans in the woods, by now short of armored vehicles used other methods to harass the German advance. They employed snipers, minefields, abatis (trees bent, shaped, and cut to block roads and paths), and other obstacles to delay the Panzers’ advance. Isolated Russian KV-1 tanks roamed the woods threatening German supply lines, and then became giant metal pillboxes when they ran out of petrol. Von Leeb wrote in his diary that “the Russians defend every step.” The Kampfgruppe attempted to push through heavily defended woods to the north of Lake Samro in an effort to break out into open territory where their superiority in armor could impact the conflict.

Here’s a photo of the map.

Ingermanland

Note the three Russian snipers.  It’s that sort of map.  The Russians have an incredibly small and weak force, and they can’t really take many losses.  This is compounded by the fact that half the Russian backfield is an exit zone for the Germans.  On the other hand, the German force needs to hit in a concentrated fashion that is incredibly hard to do.

The Germans need to move up and either park tanks beside the snipers, or kill them outright.  If they get lucky and roll those grenades, the whole character of the map changes.  On the other hand, if the Russians can knock out the German artillery with sniper fire and maul the German infantry before it comes into attack range, then the game becomes very hard for the Germans. As Russians, I always had the feeling of impending doom.  If the German player has the cards, he or she can push hard in a single sector, and take advantage of the exit zone to get an unstoppable victory.  However, it’s bloody hard for the German player to actually pull that off.

I must admit that this map is rather controversial.  My regular gaming partner does not like it at all, and is convinced that it should be a Russian Turkey Shoot in most cases.  In his opinion, the Russian player needs only pull back, and mangle the Germans with long-range sniper fire.  To prove the point, he mopped the floor with my German army in our second test game last week, losing only a single unit in the process.  This, of course, was just after a nail-biter of a game in which I just barely held off his final advance on the Russian left flank.  I think it’s actually fairly well balanced, given competent play on both sides.  Days of Wonder Online supports neither of us, giving it a 43/57 split in favor of the Germans.  Try it out, and form your own opinion.

General Evaluation – 3/5 – This is too odd and too controversial to score any higher.  Players who love plodding plink-fests where neither side has good options (such as myself!) may love it, while other players may hate it.

Balance Evaluation – ? – As described above, I can’t find a consensus opinion on the matter.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – Neither side has anything approaching the force to win a quick victory.

Plink-Fest Danger – High – If the battle becomes a close-quarters fight, the Germans have, in all likelihood, already won.

Scenario Review – Moyland Wood

Moyland Wood is an official scenario for Memoir ’44 by the game’s creator, Richard Borg.  Set in Normandy, It’s a cracker of a map, and reliably offers an enormous brawl of mixed tanks and infantry right in the center of the map.  The Allies have a definite advantage, but it’s a fun battle with interesting decisions no matter what happens.

On the afternoon of the 16th the Royal Winnipeg Rifles supported by the 3rd Armor Battalion Scots Guards was ordered to take the hilly ground around Louisendorf. On its left the Regina Rifle Regiment with tank support was to clear the Moyland Wood.

The Winnipeg Rifles advance went well but the Regina Rifle Regiment ran into difficulties from the start. The wood had been reported clear but elements of 6th Parachute Division newly arrived from North Holland were deployed in a strong position along the fringe of the woods. As the Canadians moved to clear the wood, it was also shelled by German artillery. The failure to drive the Germans from Moyland Wood seriously delayed the 2nd Canadian Corps’ planned advance.

On the 19th, Battle Group Hauser and units from the 116th Panzer Division launched a counter attack. Throughout the night waves of Germans attacked the Allied infantry, as the Allied tanks had been withdrawn a few hours earlier to re-arm and re-fuel.

To recover lost ground, Brigadier Cabeldu ordered all uncommitted elements forward. Infantry and tanks moved out, preceded by a heavy barrage of artillery fire. The attack pushed the spent Germans back in less than two hours.

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

Here’s the map.

Moyland Wood

The map is really divided into two major zones of engagement – the forest around Moyland, and the open area in front of Louisendorf.  Smart Allied players will try to move up tanks as quickly as possible so as to engage the numerically inferior Germans in the open center, and minimize losses near Moyland.  The Germans need to attack hard and fast in the center, knock out forward elements before the Canadians can move them to safety, and avoid the overwhelming counter-attack in the center which is always a looming possibility.  It’s always possible to pick up a medal or two near Moyland by pounding the Allied forces on the baseline, but unless the Canadians are pushed towards that sector by their cards, it’s more likely than not that better moves will be available in the center.

This map is a bit unusual in providing an opportunity for such a large brawl with fairly little preliminary movement on either side – that’s what makes it so fun.  It also has a more or less perfect artillery setup.  The German guns give them the ability to punish the Allies for being slow on the attack, but are in no way decisive given the huge forces that both sides can bring into the fray.

The Canadians have a definite numerical advantage, but need good cards to bring this into play.  The Germans are outnumbered but concentrated, and are in a good position to create localized fire superiority right at the beginning.  Both sides will suffer from a bad opening hand, and both sides will benefit from a hand full of assaults.  With over 400 battles played, Days of Wonder online has this at exactly 50/50.

This is a really, really good map.

Overall Evaluation – 5/5 – Few maps allow both sides to bring in so much infantry and armor all at once, and few maps are able to do so in such a balanced way.  Fun and interesting for both players.

Balance Evaluation –  Even – My gut tells me the Allies have the advantage just because of the forces available to them, but I know all too well how a bad opening hand can leave many of those units stranded near the baseline while isolated front-line infantry are mauled by a concentrated force.  Good cards will give the advantage to the Allies, but good cards are far from guaranteed.

First-Turn Win Possibility – Low – The Germans are in a position to damage some Allied infantry early, but only if they are left in place by the Allied player in his or her first turn.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – This is a battle that will be decided by massed tank and infantry combat, not long-distance shooting.

Scenario Review – Battle of the Bridgehead

Battle of the Bridgehead is an unofficial Normandy scenario for Memoir ’44 by forum poster brumbarr44.  I’ve played a few scenarios by him in the past, and they are usually solid.  This one features a few Canadian units versus the Hitler Youth and a SS panzer-grenadier element.  This is a fairly old scenario, and can be tough for a weak German player, but nevertheless provides an interesting battle for two players who know how to maneuver their tanks.

On D-Day +1 the Canadians sought to achieve their final D-Day objectives and push through to the airfields at Carpiquet.

Elements of the 9th Brigade consisting of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and armour provided by the Sherbrooke Fusiliers advanced on Buron along the Buron-Authie axis toward Carpiquet. At Authie the Canadians ran into the first major German counter-attack against the allied bridgeheads.

The 12th SS Panzer Division consisted of HitlerJugend. Young, fanatical but inexperienced soldiers. They were however commanded by NCO’s who were hardened veterans of the Eastern campaigns. Among the lead elements was Standartenfurhrer (Colonel) Kurt Meyer and his 25th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment. Meyer’s orders were to strike at the beaches, his first task was to recapture Buron and Authie.

The Germans moved quickly on the unwary Canadians who had already lost men just in the taking of the villages. Casualties on both sides mounted as the North Novas proved to be a match for the HitlerJugend. The same cannot be said of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers whose out-gunned Shermans and green crews were not equal to Meyer’s skilled command. Nevertheless, many panzers were left burning on the field as well. Although the 9th Brigade pulled back to entrench the 25th SS was largely eliminated as an effective force.

The next day, elements of the 26th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment moved in on the 7th Brigade to the right of the 9th. Storming the beaches on D-Day left the 7th under-strength. The 26th SS although attacking piecemeal were able to force the Winnipeg Rifles into a difficult retreat. The Regina Rifles also found the enemy starting to show up in strength. Were it not for the timely arrival of tanks from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, disaster would have surely ensued.

Kurt Meyer had out-fought the Canadians and the fierceness of his attack had left them uncommonly wary of tangling with SS units. Carpiquet, virtually in view of the lead Canadian elements, would not be reached for another month. Which was the next time that the Canadians saw major action.

Here’s the setup.

Bridgehead

First off, as this is a rather old scenario, it does not specify the use of Commonwealth Army rules for the Canadian forces in this battle.  I suppose that one could play with them, but that may have odd unintended consequences.  Then again, Stiff Upper Lip isn’t nearly as much of a game changer as is the Gung Ho ability of the US Marines, let alone the Banzai charge of the Japanese Army.

Note the 5 Canadian tanks on the field, to only 3 German tanks.  Combined with the wide open spaces, this gives the Allied player a significant advantage – IF he or she can get those two tanks out of the hedgerows in the right sector.

Also note that the battle is to 5 medals.  By the time the Allied player is closing in on the victory location at Carpiquet, the battle will be mostly over.

The hills and open spaces give both players a lot of room to maneuver around, leading to some interesting tactical decisions.  Infantry combat will fill out the medal rack for both players, but the real meat of this battle is going to be the tank duel.  In my opinion, the German player will need a little bit of tank luck for the battle to go his or her way, given the distinct firepower superiority the Allied player enjoys.  However, with a few lucky rolls the German player just might end up with the last tank on the board, especially if he or she can strike first, knock out an Allied tank right away, and take advantage of the hills for cover.

I rarely have the tank luck, so this isn’t the sort of map that I’ll ever fall in love with, but it’s not a bad map at all.

Overall Evaluation – 3/5 – The combination of open spaces, cover, fortified infantry, and mismatched armor makes for an interesting battle, but the potential for an Allied romp is high enough that I can’t rate this higher.  Less experienced players will also get slaughtered no matter who they play – there’s a lot of finesse to this one.

Balance Evaluation – Allied Favored – 5 tanks to 3 on a mostly open map is a pretty powerful advantage.  Days of Wonder Online has it at 51/49 Allies, which is a much tighter spread that I would expect.

First-Turn Win Possibility – Low – I suppose that if the Germans managed to knock out two Allied tanks on their first turn it might be hard for the Allied player to recover, but the chances of this happening are incredibly low.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – This is an open brawler map, and there is neither the right unit mix nor the right terrain for a plink-fest.

 

Scenario Review – Panzer Attack on Hill 140

Panzer Attack on Hill 140 is a Normandy scenario from the Equipment Pack for Memoir ’44.  This is not a bad scenario, from a gameplay perspective, but for a map with the subtitle “Massacre of the British Colombia Regiment,” something seems off.  It stands to reason that a “massacre” scenario should be somewhat imbalanced.  This scenario is a tad imbalanced – in the wrong direction!

By August 9, 1944, Operation Totalize had lost its momentum in the face of stiff resistance from German troops, now busy establishing a new defensive line on the Laizon river. Then tragedy struck for the British: lost in darkness, Worthington Force, a group of Algonquin Infantrymen in half-tracks and tankers from the 4th Canadian Armored Division, missed their objective, Hill 195, and ran smack dab into German defenses on Hill 140. Under withering fire from Flak 88s and the German Tigers and Panthers, the force lost 43 tanks out of 46, 250 men, and Lt-Col Worthington himself.

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

This is an official scenario from the Equipment Pack, and as such the map is not available online.  Here’s my bad photo.

Hill 140

The key thing to note is the dramatic imbalance in forces on the British left flank.  The have two tanks, an infantry, and an artillery facing off against a heavy German Armor unit that’s pinned against the baseline and the river, and a single infantry.  Thanks to their artillery and their 88, the Germans have enough firepower in the center to make things hard for the Brits, but without a strong hand full of multi-regional cards it’s not going to be easy.

The British Armor superiority is really striking on this map.  If the Axis player brings his or her armor out of cover to attack, it can get quickly stomped by the superior British force – especially if the Brit has been holding an Armor Assault in his or her hand, as happened to me!

This map is not TOO imbalanced, really.  Days of Wonder online has it at 47/53 Allies, which seems a bit close to me.  However, tank battles can go that way sometimes – one player gets on a roll, and in a single attack completely destroys the opponent’s entire tank army.  Given the tough German units, and the completely unpredictable nature of the stock Tiger rule, the Germans do have a reasonable chance to win this battle.

However, a reasonable chance to win a tough fight is not a massacre!

Overall Evaluation – 3/5 – This is an interesting battle, but nothing special.  Its failure to match the theme hurts it a bit.

Balance Evaluation – Somewhat Allied Favored – With normal luck, the British player should be able to clear out the German tanks and take this map thorough sheer weight of numbers.

First-Turn Win Possibility – Possible – There is the potential for a monster German opening – a General Advance or Finest Hour and some hot dice can gut the entire British Armored corps on the opening move.  It’s not very likely, but it could happen.

Plink-Fest Danger – Moderate – If both players are stuck with bad hands, there might be incentive for both sides to try to win at range, with tank plinks and artillery.