Monday, September 12, 2011

First Play of Memoir '44 in 2+ Years

I got in a quick game of Memoir '44 the other day with my brother-in-law Mike. Though the game seems fairly simple in my mind, as I progressed with the rules explanation and all the little details about movement, die roll modifiers, terrain, victory conditions, etc., Memoir began to seem overly confusing and overwhelming even to me, the teacher! I feel like there is only so many minutes of explaining that can be done before a game naturally starts sounding overly difficult.

This time I kept the explanation as short as I reasonably could, although I did have to supplement that description a couple of times during the game to bring up rules I had missed (and actually forgotten about completely myself as I hadn't played this one in so long!). Setup of the game board did take a little bit of time as well, as Memoir '44 is a scenario based war game. Each time the game is played one scenario of a series is chosen, and each has completely different terrain and troop placement at the onset of play. One thing I should mention in reference to the rules explanation is that the opening scenario of Memoir '44 (Pegasus Bridge) does do an excellent job of simplifying things as only infantry units are used, thus allowing a game teacher to fully skip the details of artillery and armor units. After a couple more plays a scenario with these more complicated aspects can be added, and at that point their abilities will be in the context of the already understood game system and will be quite easy to digest.

Back to our game... The board was arranged and the basic explanation out of the way, so we jumped into action. The game has two basic driving forces: command cards, which indicate which units each player can control during their turn, and dice, which determine the outcome of combat between units. Both randomized cards and random rolls of the dice do lead to some frustration in the game as there can be very large swings of fate due to luck. This certainly was at least a slight issue for Mike as he had a couple of fruitless turns where he could not roll a hit on the dice. Since I had warned him that this was a possibility he seemed to take it in stride.

There was a fair amount of drama in our first play, with no obvious leader through much of the game. Finally, with us each one medal away from clinching victory, I played a card that allowed me to target any one of his units on the board (luckily for me there was one with only one figure remaining) and I disposed of it for the win. The Memoir rules recommend playing two games in succession, playing one scenario, then reversing sides and replaying the same scenario from the opposite perspective. Many of the scenarios are naturally imbalanced due to being based largely on actual WWII battles, so playing both sides of the conflict is needed to determine who did a better job in the scenario. As we were out of time, our replay of Pegasus Bridge will have to wait for another session, though I do feel that he enjoyed the game enough to play it at least a few more times, so that is good news!

Oh, and as a side note, that's two more games off the list, Say Anything & Memoir '44...

No comments: