On this the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, I decided the game of the day should be Memoir ’44 from Days of Wonder. Memoir ’44 was originally published to depict, in abstract game form, some of the major battles of Operation Overlord including the Normandy landings, parachute/glider drops, and operations a few days and weeks following. It’s not an in depth or very realistic portrayal but it is an easily accessible game, especially for younger or newer gamers. It was designed by Richard Borg and uses his Command and Colors system used in other games like Battle Cry (American Civil War), Battle Lore , Samurai Battles, and others. (Interestingly, while they all share the majority of the same system, the games are published by different publishers.) Memoir ’44 now has many, many expansions, add-ons, etc.
For today’s game, we selected the Omaha Beach scenario.
It’s the fifth scenario in the base game and expects you’ve played a little but are not necessarily an expert. The Germans occupy bluffs which slow infantry attacking and are inaccessible to tanks. This complicates the Allied (U.S.) landings and advance off the beach. The Germans also get two artillery positions which command the entire beachhead. The Allied advantage is lots of troops, three units of armor, and one Ranger unit.
To get ease of play you sacrifice realism. So, much depends on luck as well as strategy. Units have move, attack and defense abilities and there are terrain effects on movement, attack and defense, of course. And, like most war games, dice rolls determine attack results, etc. But, what’s unique is the card system. The map is divided into three sections: left, middle, and right. Each player holds command cards that indicate which section(s) and how many units can be activated and used on their turn. If a player wants to use units in the middle, she needs a card that allows that. The luck of the draw plays a big part in what a player can do. There are special cards as well that do air strikes, barrages, heal units, or let a player activate more units regardless of position, etc. Plastic minis represent the units and when all of the minis in a unit are gone, the unit is destroyed. Each scenario also has victory objectives for each side and possibly special rules like the bluffs terrain in the Omaha Beach scenario.
CJ took the Allies and I had the Germans. It was slow at first, but as the game went on, it was clear the dice liked me, for a change, and did NOT like CJ. I started hitting units a lot and he did not. I, also, got more special cards in draws than he did. In the end, the Germans held the beach head despite small Allied breakthroughs. CJ was disappointed but was OK with it. (It’s as important to learn how to lose well as to win gracefully.) Setup and play was over in about 2 hours including a quick Taco Bell break.
If you’d like to try the game for free, Days of Wonder offers it online as a browser game. It’s a nice way to learn the system and you can play solo or with people online. It’s free for a set number of plays, then you have to buy credits.
And, in honor of the anniversary of D-Day, here is General Eisenhower’s speech to the troops before the invasion: