In late May 2004, I had the privilege of assisting the Days of Wonder team in doing the first public demo of their newest game, Memoir ’44 at KublaCon. I was so smitten with the game that I begged Mark Kaufman to let me buy one of the demo copies from him… so, crazily enough, I actually owned this game before it was even available to the public.
Over the next 18 years, I’ve played a lot of Memoir ’44… and reviewed a number of different expansions, including Winter Wars, Breakthrough, the Equipment Pack, and the second Campaign book. I’ve played all the different formats: the original system, Breakthrough, Overlord, using air support with both the Air Pack and the New Flight Plan expansions… and, as we’ll get to in just a minute, even the 12 player Operation Neptune D-Day Landings. I played a bit online using the Days of Wonder-built M44 site… and more recently, playing the beta implementation on BoardGameArena.
But until this last weekend, I’d never played in a Memoir ’44 tournament.
FRIDAY – Operation Neptune
The first day was not actually the tournament, per se… instead, 10 of us played the D-Day Landings mega-map battle which covers all five invasion beaches plus the airborne assault.
I know the picture shows just how big it is… but if you need numerical evidence, here’s the goods. A typical game of Memoir ’44 is played to 5, 6, or 7 medals. Operation Neptune is played to 78 medals.
Because we were short a couple of players, Geoff and I (the two gentlemen at the far end of the table in the picture – I’m the guy without a hat) each commanded two maps – Sword & Juno. We are both, thankfully, pretty quick players – so that didn’t slow the game unnecessarily.
My command of the Axis forces was marked by occasional bursts of brilliance (reinforcements managed to retake one of the beach landing zones) and mistakes a-plenty (including letting the Brits use two different Hobart’s Funnies to obliterate not one but two of my bunkers).
True to history, the Allies took a lot of losses… but still won the battle, finally overwhelming the Axis after 3 hours and 15 minutes of fighting.
Some quick thoughts on the massive D-Day Landings scenario:
- While it’s not the best way to play Memoir ’44 (I’d vote for playing in campaign mode with Breakthrough maps), it’s still worth your time to try it if you’re a Memoir fan.
- Even if you don’t get to play all six maps at once, the D-Day Landings maps work well as extended Breakthrough scenarios in smaller sets – my older son & I have played different 2 map combinations and enjoyed each experience.
- Kudos to the organizer (Jon Manley) and his kids (Timothy & Hannah) for setting up this huge scenario so we could just jump in and play… and to the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga that hosted the event.
SATURDAY: Tournament – Day One
The tournament proper began Saturday morning with 18 participants being briefed by Jon on the rules of the tournament (more on that in a minute) and the scenario we were about to play.
The basic structure of the tournament is similar to the Memoir ’44 Dutch Open – players play 12 games over two days. Each scenario is played twice against the same opponent with players switching sides. Each battle is completed in 45 minutes or less.
Tournament scores are compiled from your medal count… and any objective taken is worth 0.7 more points in tournament scoring. After each round (playing both sides of a scenario), players are ranked by their cumulative score and assigned their next opponent based on their score. (Jon worked to make sure that we faced 6 different opponents – which meant some maneuvering of players to keep fresh pairings going.)
The scenarios were all picked by Jon from ones created by the original designer of the game (Richard Borg) and jdrommel (who has created over 1000 Memoir scenarios). All of the scenarios were focused on D-Day and the days following.
My first day was, to say the least, not my best day of Memoir ’44. After splitting the first two games 2-6 and 6-5, my downward spiral began and continued through the rest of the day. With losses of 3-6, 4-6, and 3-7, I was pleased to actually make the last game of the day close at 6-7 (though the collapse of my left flank doomed me).
Here’s the thing – even losing that many games, I still enjoy playing Memoir ’44 immensely. And I take some solace in noting that all of my day one opponents finished higher than I did in the final standings – 8th, 4th, and 3rd.
SUNDAY: Tournament – Day Two
I started the day in last (18th) place… as you can see in the picture above, that means I was at Table 9, fighting for my honor. Two excellent games ensued – we split them 3-6 and 6-3, with my win in the second game coming off a bold (and potentially stupid) lunge that netted 3 medals in the final turn by eliminating 2 units and taking an objective.
This was, thankfully, the beginning of my luck turning. I won out, completing my last four games with wins of 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-3… which was enough to put me in 10th place for the tournament. I won’t lie – having a good second day helped ease the pain of my first day debacle.
There were prizes for the top 3 places (including some pretty awesome looking 3D terrain and hard-to-find Memoir expansions) as well as a prize for the person with the highest figures destroyed count and a consolation prize for the 18th place person – a copy of the Memoir ’44 Tactics & Strategy Guide. (I own a copy – though didn’t seem to help on day one. If you’re a Memoir fan, I highly recommend it.)
First, I cannot say enough nice things about Jon Manley and the hard work he puts into running this event.
Second, I learned more about playing Memoir ’44 well from participating in this than I ever could from just reading a book or continual play against my sons. One of the things that improves the quality of your play of any game is multiple opponents – it helps you get out of particular rhythms and patterns and forces you to see the game in new ways.
Third, specifically, I watched the better players bide for time and work to improve their hands so they could follow up attacks. They talked about dictating where the main battle took place in a scenario – and avoided simply reacting to whatever their opponent did. I even experienced a well-set trap… where I was tempted to chase a medal by taking out a weak unit that left me exposed and cost me more than I gained.
Fourth, barring any scheduling weirdness, I’ll echo the sentiments of the former CA governor: “I’ll be back.”