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Subject: Review from an "old-school" wargamer rss

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Abraham Quicksilver
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I'm not going to get into all the rules and all that stuff. I want to talk about my impressions of M44 from the viewpoint of an old school gamer who learnt wargaming with the old Avalon Hill style games with mega maps, a gazillion pieces and rule books full of dense type with games you played for days

There are lots of reviews which will explain the game, rules and mechanics, you probably want to read one of those first.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

OK, really simple map, but what I love is the fact that you have all the customising tiles, so each map is different. Different terrain features, hills, woods, rivers etc. Very cool scheme.

Also, my big old fat fingers really like the extra large tiles One of the reasons I gave up old school games is the until tiles were too small and fiddly.

By the way - don't forget, you don't really have unit tiles, you have little figures, but don't let that put you off - it's not a toy.

It plays in around 30 minutes not 30 days Though you should play two sessions back to back, swapping sides for each)




WHAT IT IS NOT:

It's not a simulation game in depth, so don't expect all the stuff like supply lines, extended seasons, weather rules etc etc. (Though there may be some of those in the expansions).

It's not asymmetric, by which I mean in traditional simulation games the two sides have quite different attributes and strengths. That's not the case here. The two sides do get different setups, some offensive, some defensive, but essentially all units operate in the same way.


COMPONENTS:


Are very good, very solid.

The moulded figures are surprisingly good - as good or better than the old Airfix type figures.

I like the fact that there are some summary cards - which are not part of the game play per se - but which give you quick summary of units, terrain etc.


STRATEGY, TACTICS and LUCK

It's certainly more tactical than strategic, though you do sort of want to plan ahead you tend to be playing more re-actively to the cards you have, so is more tactical.

There is a fair amount of luck involved (both in selecting cards and battle dice) but I must admit I never really felt that I was winning or losing because of rolls of the dice or whatever.

Your core options are driven by cards you pick up from a deck. You typically hold around 5 cards and you can only act on the cards you have.

However, you only use one card per turn, so you sort of plan ahead on how you are going to use those cards as the game progresses.

I understand there are campaign books and rules - which may require a bit more strategic planning, but I suspect you will always end up playing tactical.

Having said all that - I liked it - it did have a good sense of "Fog of War" - that my best options were not always open to me, but I had to be a good general and work round that.


MECHANICS:

This card driven battle mechanic is interesting. If you are used to the "I go you go" (IGOUGO) playing it at first seems like it doesn't make sense.

But actually, it works well in practice and actually prevents that whole IGOUGO mass move and attack process an old-schooler would be familiar with.

It has much more of a feel of the battles developing, rather than switching.

Again it's not a simulation, the units are simplistic, but I've enjoyed the way the cards, units actions and scenarios have worked together to provide something challenging.


SUDDEN DEATH:

This is my biggest difficulty, every game seems to end suddenly. In your traditional game you keep thrashing at each other until one of you is dead.

Each scenario has a target of "medals" to collect, 1 for each unit you kill, 1 for achieving certain objectives. Targets vary from 4 to 6 of these "medals"

The first couple are all in the swing of the game, but the decided seems to happen very quickly and suddenly.

There's not a sense of tension, just an "oh, it's over" moment.


PUBLISHERS SUPPORT:

I have been amazed by the quality and quantity of free materials provided by the publisher on their web site.

There is also a fairly active community generating lots of new stuff all the time as well it seems.

You are actively encouraged to make more of your game

As fas as I can tell ALL the rules are available online to read before you buy (or play)

Wish more publishers were so positive in their community support, this is much more than lip-service to the idea.



PRO'S:

- Fast
- Fun
- Challenging
- Feels a but like a minituares board game
- Very flexible and extensable
- Days of Wonder support is terrific

CONS:
- More tactics than strategy
- Getting things back in the box!!
- I like the Keep It Simple Stupid approach, I hope the various expansions don't break that.
- Not sure if it might get a bit "samey" over lots of plays.


NITPICKS:

I found the colours of the units (dark blue, dark green) not easy to differentiate

The terrain details/modifiers should be printed on the map board (plenty of space)

There are apparently a few errors on the cards and/or rules - I haven't bothered tracking those down yet.

Be nice if the neutral components (sandbags etc) where moulded in a neutral colour.

They came so close with the box, but it is pretty near impossible to get the pieces back in neatly, a little bit of extra thought would have fixed that.



CONCLUSION

Glad I purchased it.

I would recommend to simulation gamers - as long as they understand it's not a simulation

More casual wargamer types would enjoy it.

Mini wargamers would enjoy it.

I could also see the core mechanic being bent,shaped and completely rethemed if you wanted to - make your own Napoleonic or Sci-Fi version really easily.



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Randy Smith
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A nice review of a great game.

One thing I am confused about though...
You state in CONs that you like the Keep it Simple approach. Shouldn't that be a PRO? Just wondering.

You stated that it could be transformed into a Napoleonics game. It already has been with this:

The designer of this game is also designed MEM '44. There is also an Ancients version, an American Civil War version, and a Samurai version.

All of these games use the Commands and Colors systems with suitable adjustments due to the era.
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Phil McDonald
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I'm an old school wargamer who got bored of old school wargames after 30 years of them. Fot he last 10 years I have become enchanted by point 2 point CDG games and lighter games like M44, Battlelore (Medieval) Tide of Iron etc.

When I have a whole day or more I play a CDG (on Vassal pbem too)

When I have an evening I play the lighter games.

Works well for me.
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Merric Blackman
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You get a lot more asymmetry once you add in the expansion sets - especially with things like the Political Commissar rules for the Russian player.

If the game had just stopped with the mechanics of the core set, it definitely would have been "samey", but the game is expanded greatly in the expansions - more than any other of the C&C range.

Cheers,
Merric
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Wolfram Troeder
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aqsgames wrote:

The terrain details/modifiers should be printed on the map board (plenty of space)


Could be kind of unrealistic as there are to date 67 different terrain cards. modest

If you have the time try Breakthrough (double depth) as it is less Sudden Death or have the gamers try Overlord (Double width) with up to four players per side. Also if you have the time try a small campaign Vercors, Crete etc.

There is a card compendium online as well as a very good FAQ.
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Wolfram Troeder
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There is also a Fantasy/MiddleAge version BattleLore
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Phil McDonald
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Wolfram wrote:
aqsgames wrote:

The terrain details/modifiers should be printed on the map board (plenty of space)


Could be kind of unrealistic as there are to date 67 different terrain cards. modest

If you have the time try Breakthrough (double depth) as it is less Sudden Death or have the gamers try Overlord (Double width) with up to four players per side. Also if you have the time try a small campaign Vercors, Crete etc.

There is a card compendium online as well as a very good FAQ.


I should have mentioned that I play exclusively Overlord format on M44 these days. Vanilla M44 is unsatisfying for me, Breakthrough is ok for a change of pace, but Overlord format is where the game really sings. The rule set is infinitely better, the scenarios more thematic, and don't be put off by seeing that it will support up to 8 players, the point is that it is the ultimate way to play 2 player and will accommodate more players if you have them.
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Wolfram Troeder
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Wolfram wrote:
aqsgames wrote:

The terrain details/modifiers should be printed on the map board (plenty of space)


Could be kind of unrealistic as there are to date 67 different terrain cards. modest



And do not even think about to let them print them on the backside of the board!!! angry
There is a special circle of hell for publishers who do so devil
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Blazing Apostle
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As another old wargamer type...I can tell you it gets better and better the more you play it..enjoy meeple
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Dave, or "Phineas" or "Tolstoy" or,
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aqsgames wrote:
NITPICKS:
I found the colours of the units (dark blue, dark green) not easy to differentiate

They came so close with the box, but it is pretty near impossible to get the pieces back in neatly, a little bit of extra thought would have fixed that.


First point: I also found the colors to be too close to each other. I purchased new light bulbs just because of this game. If you get ones that proclaim "daylight" or something similar, it becomes much easier to tell the colors apart.

Second point: I too got fed up with putting the game away. I ended up buying a large Really Useful Box, and several smaller ones that fit inside, plus one Plano box, and setup and takedown is a breeze now. Of course, that makes the original box useless, but oh well! I would post all the exact details, but I think "storing Memoir 44" has been done to death already, hasn't it? (But I will, if there is a request.)
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Bob Gibson
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Thank you for a very honest opinion! I agree with everything that you have stated. The tiles can be troubling, particularly when moving pieces. That is why I always lay a plexaglass sheet down on top of the tiles before placing units. Storing is also a problem. However, this is not any different from most other minis.

With all the great war games, yes, there is still room for M44 Overlord for easy, simple, and quick gaming.
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Tanks Alot
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ABaddon is a nice Robot themed version of this :)
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dave
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Nice review.

I'll quibble a bit with 2 issues though: even though you narrowly define 'asymmetric' by both sides having essentially the same pieces, well this is pretty much true of all wwII games and this is precisely one reason there are so many wwII games. 'Asymmetric' to me is how the game feels by playing both sides--in a symmetric game, it doesn't really matter which side you are as they both seem pretty much the same; asymmetric, it feels very much different. For almost all scenarios in Memoir, it feels like almost a completely different game when you switch sides and thus would definitely be asymmetric. Even if both sides have relatively the same units, they are present in different numbers and the terrain and set-up is wildly different. Each scenario is really 2 games in 1!

And as to the 'sudden death', it definitely doesn't seem this way to me. If it's a surprise when the game ends, I would kindly suggest that maybe you are not keeping track of where the 'finish line' is--which should be one of the very, very important aspects of your strategy. Oftentimes from the very beginning of the game (unless it's 8+ medals) I keep track of winning conditions and this greatly dictates what strategy I should use. Yes, if you are interested in going to the 'next level' strategy-wise, I would put this at the top of your list.

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Abraham Quicksilver
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hpgeek wrote:

One thing I am confused about though...
You state in CONs that you like the Keep it Simple approach. Shouldn't that be a PRO? Just wondering.


Yes, that wasn't clear, I have a feeling from the poking around I've done that KISS is lost to an extent with the addons
 
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Abraham Quicksilver
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dave65tdh wrote:
Nice review.

I'll quibble a bit with 2 issues though: even though you narrowly define 'asymmetric' by both sides having essentially the same pieces, well this is pretty much true of all wwII games and this is precisely one reason there are so many wwII games. 'Asymmetric' to me is how the game feels by playing both sides--in a symmetric game, it doesn't really matter which side you are as they both seem pretty much the same; asymmetric, it feels very much different. For almost all scenarios in Memoir, it feels like almost a completely different game when you switch sides and thus would definitely be asymmetric. Even if both sides have relatively the same units, they are present in different numbers and the terrain and set-up is wildly different. Each scenario is really 2 games in 1!

And as to the 'sudden death', it definitely doesn't seem this way to me. If it's a surprise when the game ends, I would kindly suggest that maybe you are not keeping track of where the 'finish line' is--which should be one of the very, very important aspects of your strategy. Oftentimes from the very beginning of the game (unless it's 8+ medals) I keep track of winning conditions and this greatly dictates what strategy I should use. Yes, if you are interested in going to the 'next level' strategy-wise, I would put this at the top of your list.



Asymmetry to me is about the qualities of the units each side has, which here are of course the same. Ogre, my all time fave game, is an extreme example.



I agree on your sudden death comment, it might be mind set, but at the same time equal players will end up both needing that final point, and so will always be a but sudden

 
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Jonas Emmett
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aqsgames wrote:
hpgeek wrote:

One thing I am confused about though...
You state in CONs that you like the Keep it Simple approach. Shouldn't that be a PRO? Just wondering.

Yes, that wasn't clear, I have a feeling from the poking around I've done that KISS is lost to an extent with the addons

The expansions all add variety. Each one looks like a wallop of more rules, but since you'll only be using a fraction of an expansion's rules in any single scenario, the core M44 mechanics of a quick, easy to grasp game remain. It's still just units and terrain; any particulars can be just be checked on the damn handy summary cards.

The only expansion that made things less simple is arguably the Air Pack and its complicated air rules (many dislike it, though I love it). But even at that, you would only use those rules in scenarios that even allow the AP (as the majority don't, and few that do often do so as an option).
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Rick Herrick
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A nice review of this game, thanks! I've got to toss my hat-in-the-ring as an "old school" wargamer also. I'm closing in on 58 years as of this writing.

It's funny, but as I get older, I very much enjoy reading what older wargamers have to say. Not that I don't enjoy seeing what you young pups are up to by any means, but I guess because I can relate to fellas who grew up with those great old companys that are gone now. I just kind of like seeing what an older gamers tastes have evolved into.

I've found that, while for the time being I'm still buying medium complex games, I'm tending towards the easier, quicker playing games like Memoir '44. I know a fair amount of people feel that if you say you like games with minis in it you're practically a heretic, but I do enjoy them myself. It feels more like troops and tanks under your control on the battlefield when you have a three dimensional version of them to move around. Like Abraham said, I know that this is a very light game, but because it plays quick, I can play it more often then much longer games. Plus the expansions give you a ton more battles to play. I've got all of the expansions except one, but I'm yet to play them. (If anyone has a copy of Hedgerow Hell that they're willing to part with let me know!) I also have both of the campaign books.

What I'd really like to do is to, someday, get together with a wargaming buddy and work through all the battles that are in all the books and expansions that are out! I think that would be great fun. Not that I wouldn't break up this endeavor by playing other games in between bouts as you don't want to burn out on it, but still I'd like to give it a go.

Some of the other games that I enjoy that are on the simpler side besides other games in the Command and Colors series are: War! Age of Imperialism, Attack!, Blue Max, Cowboys - The Way of the Gun, Hold the Line, Victoria Cross II, and Victory in the Pacific just to name a few. I'm always looking for suggestions for other simple wargames.

I know that as I get older having bigger, thicker counters with larger fonts on them is a plus, ha ha. I really look forward to retiring and having everyday (well, most everyday) free to play games! If I can just hang on a few more years...

Very good review, thanks for writing it up!
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Keijo Mulqvist
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aqsgames wrote:

SUDDEN DEATH:

This is my biggest difficulty, every game seems to end suddenly...
There's not a sense of tension, just an "oh, it's over" moment.


Agree on Sudden Death. The base Memoir scenarios are typically 5 medals, which my gaming group finds too low. As we have played the game 200+ times last year only, it takes around 15 minutes for us to open the box, setup, finish the game and pack the box again. So basically in a game of 5 medals, playing the scenario might take less time than setting it up. A very good example of this is the base game's scenario 9 "Operation Lüttich" (36 terrain tiles, 4 medals...) But then again, it's easy to continue playing to 6+ medals if both players agree.

aqsgames wrote:

PUBLISHERS SUPPORT:

I have been amazed by the quality and quantity of free materials provided by the publisher on their web site.

There is also a fairly active community generating lots of new stuff all the time as well it seems.

You are actively encouraged to make more of your game

As fas as I can tell ALL the rules are available online to read before you buy (or play)

Wish more publishers were so positive in their community support, this is much more than lip-service to the idea.




Also wanted to add that Days Of Wonder provides "free" online version of the game. If only every game was so easy to get a grasp on.
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I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have trouble with the colors! True, I am partially color blind, as are many males, apparently, but generally this is with tiny red/green patterns. Under certain lighting conditions it's darn near impossible to see a difference with the green and blue-grey pieces of this game. This is also true of the colors of the units in the rulebook scenario setups. I have to hold the book under a lamp to make sure I'm placing the correct units on the board.
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Jesse Rasmussen
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northjack wrote:
I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have trouble with the colors! True, I am partially color blind, as are many males, apparently, but generally this is with tiny red/green patterns. Under certain lighting conditions it's darn near impossible to see a difference with the green and blue-grey pieces of this game. This is also true of the colors of the units in the rulebook scenario setups. I have to hold the book under a lamp to make sure I'm placing the correct units on the board.


As a point of interest...the only units that look the same are the Artillery units. All of the others are a different mold, which should help with people who are color blind. In the rule books you'll notice that the units face a different direction depending on which side they fight for.

I hope this helps.
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rasmussen81 wrote:
In the rule books you'll notice that the units face a different direction depending on which side they fight for.


Unfortunately, this is not true for the base game Rules & Battle Scenarios book.
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