Tag Archives: scenario review

Scenario Review – Night Withdrawl

Night Withdrawal is a very odd scenario from the “Taking Caen” campaign from the First Campaign Book, for Memoir ’44.  It uses a variant of the night rule wherein die rolls decrease visibility, leading eventually to full night, and it provides the Germans with an exit point along their own baseline.  It’s certainly original.

Charnwood was the operational codename given to the mission of taking Caen, the elusive D-Day objective that the Germans still held on July 7.

The Allied plan progressed at a slower pace than expected, but was forcing the German command to rethink their hold on the city. Rommel, the commander of Army Group B, ordered that all equipment be withdrawn across the Orne River to make a stand in Caen on the south bank of the river and allowing Allied troops to occupy all of Caen on the north bank. On the night of July 8-9, Axis forces began the withdrawal. They left behind rearguards to prevent the Allies from advancing too fast and managed to establish new defensive positions on the far side of the Orne.

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.

Night Withdrawl

The German exit point on their baseline is the defining feature of this game.  It allows the German player to quickly and simply withdraw from the map, and build a nearly insurmountable lead with little effort.  Furthermore, every retreat rolled against the Axis player pushes them closer to this goal.

One can imagine a situation in which the Allied player might open up with an infantry assault on their right flank, and attempt to close off the bridge approach.  The Axis player has sufficient firepower to make this a very risky strategy.  Then again, it’s hard to imagine anything else that can stop an Axis player from pulling everything back, and winning by retreat – other than an Axis hand devoid of center cards.

This map is trying to do something different, and for that, I must give the author, regular contributor Brumbarr44, a fair amount of credit.  But it is bizarre and imbalanced in a strange way.

Overall Evaluation – 2/5 – A reasonable Axis hand can turn this into an incredibly boring scenario in which the Axis win without firing.  However, at least it’s original.

Balance Evaluation – Axis Favored – Even if the Axis player can’t win by pure retreat due to a center-poor hand, the Axis defensive position is not all that bad – and it gets better and better the worse the visibility.  DoW puts this at 52/48 Axis, but reading through the battle reports I see a fair number of campaign players, or games in which barrages were played illegally.

First Turn Win Possibility – None – This is a slow-drip sort of map.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – Only the dumbest Axis player will end up in a tit for tat plink-fest, when withdrawal is a vastly preferable option.

Scenario Review – Withdrawal from Hill 112 – With Video!

Withdrawal from Hill 112 is a Normandy scenario for Memoir ’44 from Campaign Book 1.  It’s the third scenario in the Flanking Caen mini-campaign.  All four of the Flanking Caen scenarios are interesting and reasonably balanced scenarios, pitting a slight Allied lead in overall forces against a very aggressive, and potentially lethal Axis force.  This scenario is interesting because of the limited mobility available to the Axis forces, balanced by their superior starting force position.

On June 29, Operation Epsom entered its fourth day. The British were holding onto a salient that incorporated high ground known as Hill 112 on the far side of the Odon River, near the village of Baron. The British 11th Armoured Division had a tentative hold and the Allies knew, thanks to intelligence reports, that the Germans were amassing armor for a counter-attack.

The German command made a preliminary push, sending the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions and the 2nd SS ‘Das Reich’ into action along both sides of the Odon. Although the 11th Armoured Division was able to hold Hill 112, the British commander, Lieutenant-General Dempsey grew concerned about having his lead elements isolated on the far side of the river. He ordered them to withdraw back across the Odon, a decision that came back to haunt him when the Allies paid a heavy toll to reclaim the same ground nine days later.

Although Operation Epsom never quite achieved its original objective of flanking Caen, it did manage to draw the bulk of the German armor into the area which freed up the Americans on the right and opening the door for their break-out into hedgerow country.

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

Though old, Campaign Book 1 is still available as an eBook, and I highly recommend it to any active Memoir 44 player.  However, that means it’s still considered classified at DoW.  So, here’s a bad photograph.

Withdrawl from Hill 112

The river dividing the map is pretty significant for the Axis.  Note that the bridge on the Axis side empties into a hedgerow, making it nearly useless for any sort of tactical reinforcement.  The Allies have it a bit easier, as their bridge is not only free from obstructions, but also protected from distant fire by a town.

Both sides are weak in the middle, and the action in this scenario is going to come down to the flanks.  The Axis have tank superiority, and with a good hand they can break the Allies on either side.  However, they need to be fast and consistent, because the Allies do have position in the center and greater flexibility.  Their bridge is open, and they can, in the right circumstances, move their tanks back and forth.  On the other hand, the Axis infantry in the center are almost entirely useless.  Should the Axis player take the time to move them up, it’s quite possible for the Allied player to make them pay by pressing an assault on either flank, or just plinking them from a distance.

On average, I think this map favors the Allied player, but a decisive Axis victory is a definite possibility.  We played this twice, switching sides, and the Allies won both times.  The first game turned into a last-turn nailbiter despite a mediocre Axis hand, while the second game was a brutal crushing of the Axis thanks to a complete lack of cards on their left flank.  DoW has this scenario at 60/40 Allies based on 148 reports.  I think that experienced players will even that up a little bit, but it definitely shows the advantage held by the Allies.

Overall Evaluation – 4/5 – This is a fun scenario with an interesting imbalance.  The Axis player will usually feel like they have a chance, because they do – even though, most of the time, the Allies will win it.

Balance Evaluation – Allied Favored – 60/40 is hard to argue with, and a mediocre hand will doom the Axis player every time.

First-Turn Win Possibility – Weak – The Axis can open up with a pretty devastating assault, but the strong Allied position makes it unlikely that this is a true knock-out blow.  That is, unless the Allies can’t follow up with anything stronger than a probe.

Plink-Fest Danger – Weak – The open space and the tanks turn this into a tank-brawl, and those don’t last very long.  Dice and cards will give one side or the other a quick advantage, and it’s all downhill from there.

Video – Unfortunately, the match we recorded was a somewhat boring smash-up of an immobile Axis side.  I just didn’t draw the cards to defend myself, and was broken on my own baseline.

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.

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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.

Scenario Review – Clearing Matanikau River – with video!

YouTube video is embedded at the end of the post!

Clearing Matanikau River is the third battle in the Guadalcanal Campaign from Campaign Book v.2.  It uses components from the Pacific Theater army pack for Memoir ’44.   The Japanese are on the defensive in this battle, as the Americans are tasked with pushing across the river and pushing units through the exit zone on the Japanese side.  As usual, it’s an American force and quality advantage versus the suicidal ferocity of the Imperial Japanese Army.

At the start of the new year General Patch ordered the 2nd and 8th Marines to drive westward and clear the Japanese resistance from the hills overlooking the coast near Point Cruz. On January 13th, Marines assaulted the Japanese positions and after hard fighting gained the heights overlooking the Matanikau River.

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

The American player chose not to use any reserves, while as the Japanese player, I chose to bring in an additional Jungle Trooper, bringing my total to 3.  However, the American player’s reserve roll allowed him to move a unit forward by two hexes, and naturally he moved an artillery piece forward.

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NOTE – This photo was a post-game reconstruction, and has two errors.  First off, I did not begin the game with a Japanese infantry in the river.  Second, in the game we played, the reserve Jungle Troop was placed two hexes forward, not on the baseline as depicted here.  My bad.

This game can go one of two ways.  The Americans can charge across the river, or they can pummel the Japanese with their artillery.  The American guns are safe enough to advance all the way to the river, and gradually weaken the Japanese units.  Once their full-strength bonus is gone, an American attack is much, MUCH easier.  A slow and measured strategy by the Americans leaves the Japanese with very little they can do.  They don’t really have the numbers for a proper suicide charge, and they can’t really withdraw out of range.

All that said, if both players want a fun game, the American player will forego that possibility, choose a sector, and make a charge.  Then things get interesting.  Can the Japanese respond effectivly to a massive American attack?  If the Americans concentrate their forces in one sector, can the Japanese take advantage of the opening to rush across and hit their guns?

I think this would have been a much better scenario if the Americans had no Artillery at all, and had to do it all with infantry.  But that’s life.

In our playthrough, the Japanese forces were in an even worse situation than normal thanks to the advanced American gun.  I decided to take my chances with a suicide charge in the center, to weaken his forces there and hopefully take out that gun.  Thanks to awful American dice, my charge did better than expected, knocking out his gun and two infantry squads while only costing two of my own.  However, the American player then massed for an attack on my left side, and charged with overwhelming force.  I made several mistakes in the mid game, and paid for them as he was able to make a somewhat miraculous comeback, despite continued bad dice.  Had I played things a little different, this could have easily gone my way.

General Evaluation – 3/5 – This can turn into a fun battle, but it is by no means guaranteed to be one.

Balance Evaluation – American Strongly Favored – Force advantage and Artillery should be decisive in most games, as reflected in the 75/25 ratio in favor of the Americans reported at Days of Wonder.

First Turn Win Possibility – None

Plink-Fest Danger – Strong – The best American strategy is to turn this into a long-range plinkfest, and if that happens, there is not much the Japanese player can do.

Watch the video of our game at YouTube, in two parts!

Scenario Review – Bloody Ridge

Bloody Ridge is the second scenario in the Guadalcanal Campaign from Scenario Book v. 2, by Richard Borg, and uses the Pacific Theater expansion to the base Memoir ’44 game.  This is another bloody infantry assault map, and is both reasonably balanced and fun.

Bloody Ridge consisted of a series of grassy ridges south of Henderson Field where Col. “Red Mike” Edson had positioned his troops. The Japanese attack began with a bombardment, followed by a powerful thrust that pushed back the Marine companies near the Lunga River. The next day an attempt to drive the Japanese forces back on this flank failed. A strong effort by Major General Kawaguchi’s infantry on the second night drove the Marines back again.

The Japanese onslaught was finally stopped by close range artillery fire and the firepower of the Marines in their final defensive positions. Kawaguchi forces were defeated just short of their objective of Henderson Field.

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

Reserve rolls were not kind to the Imperial Japanese Army, granting me nothing of use.  The US Marines, however, got a Veteran Star, and elected to use it.  With Leathernecks, Jungle Troops, and Veterans placed, the game was underway.

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The Japanese forces can reasonably make an attack on any sector.  Their path is perhaps easiest on their left flank, but there is an argument to be made for moving up first in the center and right before the Americans can plink the Japanese infantry into normality with their artillery.  Depending on cards, the Japanese player has a real shot at winning this map.  Conversely, a slow Japanese start or a few good Firefights can turn this in the favor of the Marines rather easily.

Attentive readers may have noticed a problem with the setup in the picture above – I forgot to place the Japanese artillery on the left flank!

Our game got off to a roaring start, as I moved up units on the right.  I hoped to position them for a second turn firefight, but the American player was motivated by an odd hand into a berzerk Leatherneck assault on the left/center.  I had hoped to push the Americans on the left back and then ignore that sector, because I really had cards to move up on the right side.  The American insistence on forcing an engagement on the center/left was incredibly frustrating.  However, the tide turned when I drew an Infantry Assault, and used my Jungle Troops on the right to completely destroy the Leathernecks and their support.  I was then able to advance to the objective medal, and kill an infantry in the backfield for the game-winning medal.  The American player suffered from a mediocre hand all game, and felt his only option was to push forward and break me on my line.  It didn’t work.

General Evaluation – 4/5 – I really enjoy straight-up infantry assault maps, and this is a good example of the genre.  Both sides have a good chance, and both sides have interesting decisions to make.

Balance Evaluation – Fairly Even Whichever side has the better opening hand will get a pretty strong advantage, given the close quarters fighting that will take place right off the bat.  The Battle reports at Days of Wonder have it at 55/45 Americans, which sounds about right.  All things being equal, defenders usually have the advantage.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – There’s too much blocking terrain to make that a worry.

Plink-Fest Danger – None – The Japanese don’t have the firepower to survive a long-distance exchange, and their various bonuses don’t certaintly don’t encourage it.

Scenario Review – Dzerzhinsky Square – with video!

Scroll to the bottom for a video play-through in two parts.

Dzerzhinsky Square is an interesting scenario set towards the end of the Second Battle of Kharkov, in 1943.  Once again, the author is the estimable jdrommel.  This battle is interesting for both players.  The Germans face a difficult opponent, but have a distinct advantage in force quality.  The Russians have to make the best of their strong defensive position, and their sniper.  While Russian favored, a good hand can turn into rapid German progress.

Due to the Soviet winter offensive which followed the fall of Stalingrad, German troops were obliged to evacuate Kharkov in mid-February 1943. But only one week after, they counter-attacked the Soviet forces in South Ukraine.The SS PanzerKorps, spearhead of the German offensive, was composed of three SS divisions : “Leibstandarte SS”, “Das Reich” and “Totenkopf”. At the beginning of March, SS troops surrounded the city of Kharkov before to enter in the northern suburbs. The capture of the Dzerzhinsky Square after numerous street fighting symbolized the end of the battle for Kharkov.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

Dzerzhinsky Square

The key engagement in this scenario could come from any side, depending on where the Germans make their push.  However, they can’t sit back and wait for too long, as the German units on the baseline can quickly come under fire from the Russian forces, especially if they are given time to move up and position their tanks.  A quick and overwhelming attack by the Germans is best, as they may be able to take advantage of the Comissar, and have enough force to overwhelm either flank.

We played this twice, and I lost both times as Russians.  As you can see if you watch the video, my luck has been pretty awful of late, and these losses do not mean the map is German favored.  Rather, it took a pretty extraordinary German hand to win.

General Evaluation –  4/5 – It may be difficult for the Germans, but it’s likely to be interesting.

Balance Evaluation – Russians favored.  It’s not overwhelming, but good Russian dice can make it almost impossible for the Germans to win.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None.  This is not that kind of map, at all.

Plink-Fest Danger – Minor.  The Russians can pull back enough to avoid distance attacks by the German armor, and the Russian sniper and artillery allow them to fire back enough to discourage a painfully slow attack.