Tag Archives: world war 2

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

Scenario Review – Guam Landings

Guam Landings is a scenario from the Pacific Front expansion for Memoir ’44.  The Pacific Front expansion may well have the best collection of official scenarios yet released, with a number of fun and well-balanced battles to enjoy.  While Guam Landings is not a highlight of the set, it’s still a decent map.  Check out the video of particularly miserable playthrough of this scenario here.

On July 21st, the first wave to hit the northern landing beaches off the island of Guam in the Marianas, were amphibious tank units. Most of the Japanese infantry had pulled back from their beach defenses during the heavy naval bombardment that preceded.

But the rough terrain and broad rice paddies slowed the tanks’ advance. The 21st Marines cleared Asan Town and made some progress on the Japanese-infested ridges and jungle that overlooked the rice fields. Difficulties getting their artillery ashore and limited armor support placed the burden of establishing a beachhead squarely on the shoulders of the men of the 3rd Marine division.

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

Guam Landings Map

A quick inspection of the map shows the difficult position the Japanese are in.  The Americans have a TON of armor already on the beach, and three artillery waiting offshore.  The majority of the Japanese units are separated from the beach by a fordable river, rice paddies, or both.  This puts them in a really tough position.  Any forward advance is going to be into the teeth of heavy firepower, but unless they advance the Japanese forces will be mauled by ranged fire from the Armor and Artillery.  The Japanese bonuses are almost entirely negated by the terrain, and their force is simply outclassed.

The Japanese player really only has one major strategic decision to make – when to go berserk.  The only hope for the Japanese player is that he or she can move enough forces into close engagement range to weather the first turn of fire, and then get lucky on dice.  It’s worth waiting a turn or two, to see where the meagre frontline units have done the most damage before comitting to the major assault, but the closer the American gets to moving his or her artillery onshore, the closer this scenario gets to game over.

Now, the Japanese forces in the Jungle on the American player’s left flank can certainly be annoying, and lucky dice may well allow those forces to do enough damage to stall the American advance.  But it takes really lucky dice, and ideally an American player who is hosed for cards on that side.  Barring that, it’s hard to be more than an annoyance.

Overall Evaluation – 3/5 – This map is too imbalanced to be really interesting, but the terrain is unusual enough to make it worth a play.

Balance Evaluation – Strongly American Favored – DoW Online Battle Reports peg this scenario at 67/33 in favor of the Americans, and that matches up pretty will with this analysis.  There’s just not much of a game for the Japanese side.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – Despite the imbalance, the terrain makes this a slog for the Americans.

Plink-Fest Danger – Moderate – After the frontline Japanese units are cleared out, the Americans have the forces to finish the game at range.

Scenario Review – Red Barricade Factory Complex OVERLORD

Red Barricade Factory Complex, by independent author Winter Storm, is a good Overlord scenario about a classic East Front battle for Memoir ’44.  It takes the classic Red Barricades official scenario as its inspiration, expands the map, and gives the battle a slightly different flavor.  For the sake of balance I suggest a fairly major change to the opening setup, but in general I can recommend this map.

By mid October the fighting amidst the rubble of the Red Barricades Factory Complex in the northern section of Stalingrad had drawn in more and more of the German 6th Army’s forces. On the 22nd the 79th Infantry division, supported by engineers, tanks and artillery, launched an intense attack over the Railroad embankment toward the Barricades Factory.

Under heavy fire from dug-in tanks and Russian snipers, the German troops slowly made ground toward the Factory. The Soviet line finally broke, but by day’s end only a corner of the factory had been taken.

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

The opening setup shows the overwhemling German force massed on the far side of the railroad embankment, facing a dispersed Russian force in good defensive terrain.

Red Barricades OverlordThe Russians can quickly take up to four area control medals, but may find it hard to keep them in the end due to the horrible attrition they are bound to suffer.  The German player is strongest on their left flank, while the Russian player is strongest in the center.  There is no one key engagement on this map.  The battle is to 17 medals, and the Germans are going to need to mount an offensive in every sector to rack up that many kills.

In my opinion, the opening setup makes it too easy for the Germans to use their firepower advantage without fear of retaliation.  Notice the multiple German artillery units in 2-dice range of the Russian frontline.  There is nothing the Russians can do about this, except to abandon their forward positions and retreat.  But if they do, the German player can move his guns up in almost perfect safety.  The German armor advantage means that any attempt to advance on the German guns can be cut down pretty quickly, as the Russian player would have to leave his dug-in positions to advance.  Firing from safety, there’s little reason for the Germans to ever advance, and a brutally slow win via plinkage is entirely possible.

This is why I recommend a change in the opening setup.  Move the Russian guns two spaces forward (don’t put them on the sector line – that’s too brutal – and don’t put them in a town), and dig them in with sandbags.  Now, they’ll be able to fire onto the German baseline.  This will encourage the Germans to move their units up quickly and start the real fight.  This doesn’t put the German player at much of a disadvantage, as they have the quantity and type of units to knock out the Russian front-line defenses, and the flexibility to choose the point of attack.  Moving the artillery up also makes the Russian guns tempting targets, and might lead the German player to make interesting gambles to take them out quickly.

General Evaluation – 4/5 – With a slight alteration, this is a pretty fun map.

Balance Evaluation – Even – With the altered artillery position, it is not likely that the German player will be able to pull off an easy win, even with excellent cards and dice on their side.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None – This should end with a nasty exchange between weakened units not far from the Russian baseline – entirely appropriate for a Stalingrad scenario.

Plink-Fest Danger – Moderate – With the original setup, this would be High, because there is nothing the Russian player can do to force the German player to advance beyond the embankment.  But with the altered setup, the German player will get mauled pretty badly on the baseline by the Russian artillery if he/she does not advance, and once the advance begins, the Russian player is going to have more important things to do than plinking German units on the baseline.

Scenario Review – Twin Battles at Warnach and Bigonville

Twin Battles at Warnach and Bigonville is the first Overlord map from the Equipment Pack expansion for Memoir ’44 that I’ve played, and I have to say, it was pretty good.  I’ve been harsh on a lot of the scenarios from the Equipment Pack, but this one is a lot of fun.

On the afternoon of December 23, 1944, American engineers completed setting up a bridge south of Warnach. General Earnest’s men, led by the 35th Tank Battalion, rapidly advanced towards Warnach, but were soon pushed back. On their right, Colonel Blanchard’s forces were also on the move, but were soon stopped by withering fire from the Fallschirm Regiment defending Bigonville. Major General Dager’s advance against Burnon also stalled. The Germans had held against these first assaults, but the Americans were reforming and preparing for a three-prong thrust on the 24th.

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

As this is an Official Scenario, the map is unavailable from the Days of Wonder site.  This photo will have to do.

Warnach and Bigonville

There are three towns on the map, each of which is worth 1 medal for the Axis, or 2 for the Allied player.  Bigonville, on the Allied player’s right flank, has forces already in close engagement range, while Burnon, on the left flank has all forces at distance and separated by a river.  To understand the map, it’s important to note that Reduced Visibility rules (Actions 27) are in effect – unless you are in Close Combat, you only hit on a Grenade.

This means that the Allied player has to push his units right up into the teeth of the German defenses to make any progress, turning the battle into the sort of smashmouth brawl that I just love.  No artillery duels or plinkage, just tough and nasty close quarters fighting.

The German player has just enough distance firepower, thanks to the 88’s, to force the Allies to engage quickly.  They hit tanks on grenades AND stars, meaning that any exposed tank (and there are a lot of them in the opening setup) can get pummeled pretty quickly.  The Allied player can’t waste any time hoping for luck rolls on distance shots, as the Axis player is almost guaranteed to do more damage.

However, the Allied player has enough units to break the German positions in both the Center sector and the Right sector, provided his/her cards are good.  A bad opening hand can really cripple the Allied player, as it’s suicidal to initiate the engagement in either the Center or the Right with Probes.  The Germans will simply tear a piecemeal attack apart.  However, if the Allied player has a hand which allows him or her to concentrate forces from multiple sectors, the German player is almost guaranteed to crack.

I love maps with Reduced Visibility, because they do away with cautious, mincing attacks.  With plinakge so unreliable, defensive positions are much more useful, and firepower superiority is much less of an issue.  This map is designed to take advantage of the unique Winter circumstances to create a fun and reasonably balanced battle.  I really liked it.

General Evaluation – 4/5 This is a fun battle for both sides.

Balance Evaluation – Slightly Allied Favored – The Allies have the forces in place to break the German positions, provided they have at least average cards and dice.

First-Turn Win Possibility – None

Plink-Fest Danger – None – Reduced Visibility makes this impossible.

Introduction

This is a site where I talk endlessly about my favorite board game of all time, Memoir ’44.  It is not the BEST board game, I suppose.  It is not necessarily the one I LIKE the most, either.  However, in terms of total play time, and sheer quantity of derived enjoyment, nothing comes anywhere close to Memoir ’44.  I have played a game a day, or more, for over two years now, and am still playing.

I discovered Memoir ’44 long after its original release.  It was just after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake.  School was out, I was sitting at home alone, aghast at the unfolding Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, and somewhat drunk.  It was a time of despair.  On a misguided impulse, I went online and bought a giant box of boardgames that I’d heard about, or had wanted for a long time.  Memoir ’44 was one of them.  I threw it on the list at the end, mainly because it was well regarded and it was 2 player.

My first experience with the game was mixed.  I didn’t really get the fact that you could not move every unit, every turn.  The card system was strange and capricious.  I lost.  My regular gaming partner, however, was quite taken with it, and his enthusiasm convinced me to stick with it.  So I have.

We play most weekday mornings before work.  We play on occasion on the evenings and weekends as well.  We have played through every supplement they released (except the Air Pack), and hundreds of unofficial scenarios as well.  Many of those scenarios have been re-played a number of times.  I have even written my own scenarios.  We have a set of house rules that improve the game substantially.  I think I am probably as knowledgeable and experienced in the game as just about anyone out there, and I want to share my opinions with anyone who is interested in listening.