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Subject: Shared Honors at Sword Beach: A 10x10 Session Report rss

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Pete K
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This article is a Memoir ’44 session report that is part of the 10x10 challenge for 2014. This means that Memoir ’44 was played 10 times inside a calendar year. For more reviews and session articles relating to the 10x10 contest, see this geeklist. mb

“The landing craft were lowered into the heavy sea at 05.30 hours and, after circling, made their way inshore, vainly attempting to maintain formation. One company commander in the 2nd Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment read extracts from Shakespeare’s Henry V to his men over the tannoy, but most of them were probably too seasick to pay much attention. Many regretted the tot of navy rum with breakfast.”
- from D-Day by Anthony Beevor (2009)

Shared Honors at Sword Beach: A 10x10 Session Report

The original “base” game of Memoir ’44 features several scenarios based on the D-Day beach invasions of June 6, 1944. One of these invasions is the British amphibious assault on Sword Beach. While it was not the bloody battle that Omaha beach was, disorganization in the landing slowed the British forces to the point where their primary objective for the day – the city of Caen – was well out of reach. The casualties on Sword Beach would turn out to be minor compared to the struggle inland.

As I have pointed out previously, Memoir ’44 is an entry-level board game that inspires not only repeated plays, but also the seeking out of other media to obtain a better understanding of historical events. If it does not have the strategic depth of a stereotypical wargame, it is the most thematic of accessible boardgames. Of all the reading I did to support my 2014 exploration of the Memoir ’44 Normandy scenarios, Beevor’s large volume stands out. It is the definitive guide to the Battle of Normandy for the casual reader, and pairs well with this board game.



This article is a session report for the Sword Beach scenario of Memoir ’44. These play-throughs feature turns were each side used one card, discarded another card, and then draw two without looking at them until the next round. To keep to board from getting too crowded, unit strength is represented with dice in the game photographs, instead of with the full compliment of figurines.

mb Scenario Set-Up mb

The manual-style map of the Sword Beach scenario shows fortified but scattered German positions guarding the beach:



The British side must get to the bunkers in one sector and knock them out, enabling a breakaway to the objectives on the far end. The artillery in particular will score medals for the German side until it is neutralized. The commandos have to be used first to draw fire from the armor and score hits on the bunkered units.

The most apparent strategy for the German player is to use the artillery to peck away at vulnerable armor and infantry units before they advance across the beach. The British player has to spend multiple turns pushing into one sector, so the rear units (especially the armor) need to collect into an appropriate force once the beach is crossed. My view is that the rear infantry need to take part in actively defending the bunkered units, since they are such prime targets of allied charges.

mb Play 1: British Rout mb

British Side Initial Cards



The British side has command cards for the center and right sectors, so he will push into the center.

German Side Initial Cards



The German player has both Behind Enemy Lines, which will be saved for a later turn, and General Advance, a card very useful for positioning.

GBR 1: Assault Center to advance all units onto the beach, where one infantry goes to the R/C hedgehog hex.

GER 1: General Advance to advance the armor and infantry units toward the action. The artillery unit fires on the central armor target – 1 hit + 1 flag

GBR 2: Assault Right: the armor moves up 2 hexes, fires on the R/C bunker – 0 hits; the R/C infantry fires on the same bunker – 1 hit.

GER 2: Behind Enemy Lines to activate an infantry unit on the right sector. It moves to the R/C hedgehog, fires on the armor unit – 1 hit – and moves back to the R/C hex adjacent to the bunker.

GBR 3: Attack Right to try to break through on the right sector. The armor unit plows through two wire obstacles and ends adjacent to the right infantry for a close assault – 2 hits + 1 flag. This results in an armor overrun – 2 hits (kill), and the tanks take ground. Two infantry units advance one hex each and fire on the bunker units – 3 hits (kill), and one unit moves into the vacated bunker. GBR 2-0 GER. mbmb

GER 3: Probe Center for an infantry to make a close assault on the British unit in the bunker – 2 hits + 1 flag. This unit takes ground into the bunker. The artillery also fires on the retreating infantry – 1 hit.

After Turn 3, the British side has broken through the right flank in stunning fashion, after the German player incorrectly chose to poke at a vulnerable armor unit in the center. The British has an armor unit on in the German half of the battlefield and is poised to run rampant.



GBR 4: Attack Right to make infantry units fire on the right bunker – 4 hits (kill). The armor unit moves into the center and fires on the artillery bunker unit – 0 hits. GBR 3-0 GER mb

GER 4: Probe Center to use artillery to fire on the armor unit – 1 hit + 1 flag. The R/C infantry moves left one hex and fires on the armor – 0 hits.

GBR 5: Attack Center to advance the beach armor unit two hexes for a close assault on the infantry – 1 hit + 2 flags. This results in an armor overrun and subsequent attack on the artillery – 1 hit. The other armor unit advances toward the middle and fires on the artillery – 1 flag = 1 hit, kill). The advanced infantry runs into the woods hex to protect the upcoming run at the final objective. GBR 4-0 GER mb

GER 5: Move Out to mobilize remaining infantry. The right bunker infantry fires on the armor unit – 1 hit (kill). The center infantry moves up one hex and fires at the remaining armor unit – 1 hit. The town unit moves up 2 hexes and into the bunker. GBR 4-1 GER mb

GBR 6: Attack Center to mobilize the lead infantry and armor units to fire on the exposed German infantry unit:



The British infantry scores 2 hits, and the armor unit fires in close assault – 1 hit (kill). The British side wins in a rout, 5-1. mb.

Postmortem: The British side had a quick breakthrough on the right flank, aided by weak cards and an incorrect play of Behind Enemy Lines by the German side. The British were able to use the mobility of the armor unit to crash the line of bunkers and take out defending units one by one. The German side has to react more directly to forward units.

mb Play 2: German Tanks Command the Center mb

GBR 1: The British side has a balanced hand of cards, so it uses Recon in Force to push up each armor unit two hexes. The left armor unit fires on the exposed infantry – 1 hit + 2 flags, forcing the target unit to retreat into the town hex. The center armor fires on the artillery bunker – 1 hit. The right armor fires into the right bunker – 1 flag (ignored).

GER 1: Direct from HQ; the right armor unit moves into the forest hex, the right bunker infantry fires on the armor – 1 hit, the center artillery fires on the center armor unit – 1 flag, and the L/C bunker fires on the armor unit – miss.

GBR 2: Assault Left to moves commando unit up 1 hex, and the infantry unit up 2 hexes into the hedgehog. The left armor moves up one, over the barbed wire, to make a close assault on the bunker – 1 hit.

GER 2: Artillery Bombard to fire on the center armor twice – 1 hit.

GBR 3: Close Assault; left armor fires on the bunker next to it – 2 hits.

GER 3: Recon in Force; the right bunker fires on the armor – 1 hit, the center artillery fires on the center armor – miss, and the L/C bunker fires on the armor – 1 flag.

GBR 4: General Advance (2 units/sector) to move the infantry and armor forward. On the left, the armor and infantry fire on the bunker unit – 1 hit (kill), and the infantry take ground. In the center, the armor fires on the artillery – 1 hit (kill). In the right flank, the armor fires on the infantry in the bunker – 1 hit. GBR 2-0 GER mb mb

GER 4: Direct from HQ; the right armor advances for a close assault on the British armor – 1 hit (kill). This creates an armor overrun against the infantry unit – 3 hits. The right town-based infantry moves into the woods hex. The L/C bunker fires on the armor unit – 2 hits. The L/C infantry moves up one unit and fires on the left armor – 1 hit (kill). GBR 2-2 GER mb mb

After a series of minor turns, the action truly got underway in Turn 4, where the British lost two armor units, is left with an infantry unit exposed on the left flank, and has the remaining center armor unit destined for a tank-on-tank battle. However, the German armor is exposed to three British units and may be the focus of the next attack.



GBR 5: Direct from HQ (via the Counter-attack card). The left infantry fires on the armor unit – 1 flag. The German armor unit retreats to the hex adjacent to the bunker. The British armor unit moves 3 hexes and fires on the German armor – 2 hits. The left commandos move up 2 hexes and fire on the armor – miss. The right flank commandos moves up 2 hexes.

GER 5: Assault Right to use the armor that barely survived the counterattack. The woods infantry unit moves up one, fires at the exposed infantry – 1 hit (kill) and takes ground into the bunker. The armor unit has a close assault on the British armor – 2 hits (kill). This results in an armor overrun, where the German tanks fire on the commandos – 2 hits + 1 flag. GBR 2-4 GER mb mb

This was a massive blow to the British, who are now a single unit away from losing. All of the attacks have been repulsed, and the British side must regroup, eliminate the armor unit and try charging through the center.



GBR 6: Move Out; three rear infantry in center sector move up one hex (they’re still in the ocean). The left flank commandos moves up one hex for a close assault on the armor – 1 hit (kill). GBR 3-4 GER mb

GER 6: Recon Right; the right infantry unit charges the commandos for a close assault – 2 hits (kill). GER wins 3-5 mb.

This tactic may have been ahistorical, with German armor and infantry venturing out onto the beach, but it worked this time. mb

mb Postmortem mb

The records on online Memoir ’44 sessions indicate that Sword Beach is won by the Allied player roughly 50% of the time, making it one of the most balanced scenarios in the base game. Here, a critical element of the German defense was mobilizing the rear tanks and infantry in time to react to the marauding British tanks and commandos. The British made a rapid advance that was sufficient in the first play-through but rebuffed in the second game. The dice also appeared to favor the British in the first game and the Germans in the second, especially with the German armor surviving Turn 5 in order to smash the British tanks and repel the commandos. The multiple attack options and timing demands for the British side make the scenario particularly interesting across multiple sessions. mb

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Captain Nemo
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pkufahl wrote:
Here, a critical element of the German defense was mobilizing the rear tanks and infantry in time to react to the marauding British tanks and commandos.


Excellent report. I have found the key to defence in M44 is knowing when to counter-attack.
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Minot
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pkufahl wrote:


This tactic may have been ahistorical, with German armor and infantry venturing out onto the beach, but it worked this time.



Yeah, obviously, in real world (and not represented in the scenario), Allied naval bombardment would have obliterated any German forces that moved in the open on the beaches in daylight.
 
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Lewis Karl
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No one noticed, including OP, that the images for first game show forest near Lion Sur Mer were setup on the wrong hexes.

Defense by Germans is key in this scenario. Hence, baffling why a German infantry unit (in Lion Sur Mer) would be activated by Behind Enemy Lines to attack armor then be left in the open hex to be decimated by armor in next turn. Senseless risk in this move. Just order one of the other units (e.g., a bunker unit) or ensure unit ends up in cover. Senseless also abandoning Lion Sur Mer medal hex. But whatever.

Also mystified why the odd card drawing mechanic and man, you must not like to play with soldiers (no offense, but those images looks horrible with dice to represent figure count, and must be a nightmare to move etc.). But to each his own.
 
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