Reliving History with Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 Sadly, game night was put an a small hiatus.  Cam and I usually take the time to play a two-player game when we end up spending the night in.  For a while, Twilight Struggle was our go-to game of choice.  It’s a lot of fun, but it takes a long time to get through all three phases.  It’s also pretty intense.

Instead of going straight for Twilight Struggle, Cam informed me that Memoir ’44 is also exclusively a two-player game.  Still a fair bit of strategy is needed, but it’s also dependent on luck of the cards drawn.  It was casual and not intense.  Game play was fairly quick, and not complicated at all.

The game centers around actual battles of WWII from 1944.  Published in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the game brings to life multiple battlegrounds from the European theater.  Players can choose which scenario they want to play–from Omaha Beach to the Liberation of Paris.

We decided on a less complex scenario–Pegasus Bridge.  I was Allied and he played as Axis.  A downside to this game is that set up almost as long as actually playing.  Each scenario has a specific set up, involving building the terrain where the battle took place and setting up the Allied and Axis military in their initial locations.  An unique feature of the game is that it attempts to portray the battles as historically realistic as possible.  For example, in Pphoto 2(1)egasus Bridge, Allied had a huge advantage.  Allied troops were air dropped in and the Axis were caught by surprise.  So, in the game, the Allied player has more infantry troops on the ground and has the advantage of more cards in their hand.  At first, I thought this seems terribly unbalanced and unfair; however it’s nice to play a game that tries to portray history and war as accurately as possible.

The objective of the game is points based, with the total number required for victory varying with each map. Oftentimes, maps will have additional point objectives such as taking and holding specific locations, but in general eliminating an enemy unit will net you a point. Players make moves and battle using cards that control how many and which units (of infantry, armor, or artillery) can be used.  The units are either made up of four infantry soldiers, 2 artillery guns, or 3 tanks.  The board is divided into flanks of left, center, right.  For example, a player may play a card in their hand that allows them to activate 2 units in the left flank.  When activating a unit, a player may move two spaces or move up to one space and battle an opposing unit.  If a player chooses to battle, he or she rolls dice to determine whether a hit is made and how many hits that unit will take.  A player will roll a certain number of dice depending on how far away the unit they are targeting is and whether there are any obstacles in the way, such as sandbags.  Once a unit is destroyed the player gains a victory point.

Overall, we enjoyed it.  The long setup is a bit of a downside for me, but the more casual game play makes up for it.  I also really enjoyed the historical significance.  It’s a unique game that should definitely be in the collection of a war or history buff.  Furthermore, it’s another two-player game that we can enjoy when we feel like having the night to ourselves and not the company of a big crowd. A huge plus for me is that it was already on our shelf and we didn’t have to buy another game for us to play.

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You Win Some, You Lose A Lot

For the third week in a row, Dead of Winter hits the table at our weekly Saturday afternoon/evening gathering. So far, either we’re doing something wrong or we just haven’t found a good workable strategy to victory as each of the three plays we’ve had have ended in a miserable, depressing defeat for the colony. Yet, like masochistic Alzheimer’s patients, we chomp at the bit for the next opportunity to play. So while we may or may not be playing wrong, Plaid Hat Games has clearly done something very right.
Dead of Winter is a board game about survival; specifically, survival following a zombie apocalypse. Objectives thematically frame the game, with each player having a unique (and secret) objective to complete by the game’s end, as well as a primary objective shared for all players. On top of this, each round brings with it a crisis to be resolved, typically collecting X amounts of varying items committed to the colony’s survival. The aforementioned secret player objectives can (if you so choose) include a betrayal element. If you haven’t picked up on it, there’s a lot to keep up with while playing as far as what it driving the group forward. As if that isn’t enough, before each player’s turn, a crossroads card
is drawn by another player, the one to your right. If the event is triggered during the turn, play is stopped and the player(s) are faced to make a decision between two brutal options. Everything about Dead of Winter tells the player that surviving after the fall of humanity is anything but happy fun-times.
The majority of the secret objectives and crises each round require you collect certain items, ranging from fuel, food, and medicine, among others. The items are on cards drawn from one of the locations a survivor can move to and search. A player can choose how to play these cards. Even while working together semi-cooperatively, we found that each player must make difficult choices in how they play their cards. A player may choose to use food cards to ensure the colony survivors don’t starve, play a card to assist with certain actions, or even hold on to them for their secret objective. The cards a player contributes to the crises are placed in a pile faced down. This is a great opportunity for the betrayer to sabotage the game. If the crisis for the round isn’t met colony morale goes down. Once morale hits zero, the game is over. The goal is to achieve the main objective before the rounds are finished or morale hits zero. As I pointed out, we haven’t quite achieved this yet.With crises popping up every round, you might think that gameplay will feel derivative of Battlestar Gallactica. Surprisingly, you’d be incorrect. The crisis element is familiar (as is voting betrayers off the island) but what the player actually does in their turn is markedly different. Each player gets an amount of dice equal to the number of survivors they control (2 at the start), and at the start of each round the dice are rolled. Players use the dice to complete certain actions during their turn. These actions include searching for items, killing zombies, or building barricades. Moving from the colony to another location, such as the gas station, doesn’t require to use one of these dice. It does require you to roll the exposure die. Rolling this die when you move or when you choose to kill a zombie can be pretty risky. Your survivor can instantly die by zombie bite, get wounded or frostbit. If you’re lucky, you’ll roll a blank side and your survivor is safe.

We got more laughs in the game from the survivors themselves. Each character has a special ability. Some are able to pick up multiple items in the locations. Others are stronger when killing zombies. My personal favorites are the drunk Santa, who’s only special ability is to exile him from the game to increase colony morale, and Sparky the stunt dog, who conveniently seems to be featured in every game we have played. Once we get going in a game and refresh our memories of the rules, it is completely immersive and it’s easy to get caught up in the story. Overall, we couldn’t give this game a higher recommendation. We’ll keep you updated on our progress toward survival.

Breaking in the New Game Room

Who needs a formal dining room, when you can have a kick ass game room instead?  It’s not quite put totally together yet, but we did finally get a chance to break it in and host game night at our house for the first time–ever!  It is finally a relief to actually spend a weekend relaxing instead of moving, painting, cleaning, or making too many trips to Home Depot.

We finally broke out Dead of Winter, which I will have a full post on after a couple more games.  It is brutal to say the least, with a bit of humor in the choice of survivor characters, ranging from a stunt dog named Sparky to a drunk Santa whose only redeeming quality seems to be the ability to exile just to boost morale.  The laughter quickly diminished well into our first go round when we realized defeat was guaranteed and we weren’t even playing with the traitor.

Mice & Mystics also made its way to our table.  Now a personal favorite of mine, in fact.  I loved the storytelling component.  I can’t wait to learn more about the story.  We were defeated in the end by greedy roaches, a poisonous spiders, and the realization that we were playing incorrectly and making it harder than it needed to be.

Sushi Go was our warm up game.  Another favorite.  It’s cute, simple, and reminds me a bit of Spoons, which you should never play with forks and alcohol, by the way.  I don’t know that from personal experience or anything.

If you noticed, we also had to take a bit of a break from the blog, but I’m happy to announce that we can finally get back into it.  I have a hard time figuring out how some of the wonderful bloggers we follow manage to write daily and balance it with work and a social life.