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Subject: Review Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide: What It Is rss

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Jon Snow
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MEMOIR ’44 TACTICS AND STRATEGY GUIDE: WHAT IT IS
Review by ‘Chas’

(Memoir ’44 Tactics and Strategy Guide
By Alexis Beuve aka ‘Praxeo’
Days of Wonder: French 2011, English 2014)



Its not very often you see a review of a hard cover book (let alone a hard copy one) on a board game discussion site these days. But then, this is, for the game industry, a pretty unusual product. Since I’ve just completed a first read through, I’m in no position yet to comment deeply on the details of a 500 page book. But as it just came out last month in English, people on this side of the Atlantic are trying to figure out whether they want to purchase it. So a descriptive review, trying to mention what it contains, who its intended audience is, and whether its approach would be something you want to explore, would seem to be in order. Personally, I was pretty skeptical of such a thing, but now I’ve adopted it as a fun read and a useful reference tool as well.

My own point of view is that of an experienced Memoir 44/Commands and Colors player, but one who is low tech and has not downloaded M44 scenarios written by the site community, or played online. Nor am I a card counting tournament player or mathematician like the author. That’s okay, because Mr. Beuve is also a friendly, informed, and welcoming fellow, and a good writer to boot. Not only is this a common sense guide to becoming a better player, but to enjoying the game more richly. Its full of valuable gems in the forms of tips and analytical suggestions. So the question now is not whether I continue to read the book, but whether I’ll let any of my gaming buddies borrow my copy!

This volume is not for the complete novice. It assumes a good knowledge of the game rules, terrain, and basic units. It contains two sections, Tactics (moving, combat, card management, specialized units, national characteristics, air power, etc.) and Strategy (scenario and map assessment, risk management, the three game phases, card flow, and more). There are many game map photos, one on almost every page (of 139 scenarios), including different stages of the 4 annotated games with turn by turn commentary. (While you could argue that with all of those there is not really 500 pages of text, stopping to study each map, even briefly, takes a lot longer than just reading the additional text paragraph that could replace each one—so its really quite a bit more than 500 pages of active engagement with the manuscript). The first section also contains the Tactical Abacus, which crunches all of the basic probability numbers for you. And even if you don’t like numbers, you can see the link between chances and choices. For example, there is a perhaps an equal chance of hitting a stronger type of unit with a certain number of attack dice which has no retreat available, as of hitting a more vulnerable unit that does have a retreat option. This kind of relationship stays with you, even if the numbers won’t.

These are the kinds of things that become instinctual to an experienced player. But its useful to see it all written out, even if you’re not going to memorize all the stats or count each card with a perfect memory. The author himself acknowledges the fun of playing instinctually and spontaneously; its just that you can do it better if you are familiar with some of the basics of the math environment of the game.

And this book will help you play the other Commands & Colors games better as well, although the author does not claim this! Here are a couple of examples:

(Page 316) Discusses ‘Card Removal Effects,’ that if you have a lot of cards of one flank, the opponent may have as many to counter them, since his Right Flank is your Left, but each Center card you have is one less he’s got in his hand!

(Page 453) “In practice, most optional medal objectives are never captured!” This is a point I was just discussing the other day on the Command & Colors Napoleonics discussion board. Even if this kind of point is not new to you, its good to have it confirmed by someone else.

Yes, I have to admit that although I’m a pretty savvy older player, there were a few things both regarding history and game mechanics that I didn’t know about before I read the book, or wasn’t practicing correctly. I read through most of the Tactical section relatively quickly this first time, but started slowing down at the end of it. And when I came to the Strategy section, I had to go much more carefully, for it reached and surpassed what I’d call my own deepest level of Memoir 44 game analysis. This second section is a joy to an experienced player. Generally I’d guess that the better you know Memoir 44, the more you will value the Strategy section.

For me, perhaps the most useful references in general are the Opening and MidGame Strategic Checklists. The author gives you an analytical framework of what he calls the ‘three dimensions’ of the game:

1. Material: unit strengths, medal opportunities, estimated losses
2. Temporal: time constraints, available support, initial advantage, mobility vs stalling
3. Spacial: number of command cards per side, terrain advantage, attack priority, strengths and weaknesses by section (Left, Center, Right), and medal objectives

Mr. Beuve recommends many scenarios by type lists, and a master list at the back, and while some are Official, a large number of them are fan created “From The Front” scenarios available online, mostly by well known players. This has been a wake up call for me on the richness of what is out there, as I wait between published M44 expansions. He also offers a list of Proverbs, which help the reader recall and focus on key gaming points, from #1: “Think Like A Trooper” to #108: “Anti-aircraft action: the leader goes for Air Check, the trailer favors Diversion.”

The author’s basic take is that while you can’t do anything about bad dice, you can deal with bad cards. Hence perhaps my favorite Proverb #54: “There are no bad cards, only bad moves.”

As a general educational prompt, there are also many references to the history of WWII. Many scenarios discussed have a quote under the heading “For The Record,” which gives a short historical description. This can easily awake interest for a further exploration of that event on one’s own. As for what awaits online for further gaming pleasure, although the author surprisingly repeats the old chestnut that a 1939 Poland scenario represents “the first battle of World War II” (“in Europe” should have been added), he notes elsewhere that a number of fan made scenarios exist for the least officially covered major theater of that war, the Chinese struggle against Japan in China, which began earlier in 1937. I was glad to learn of them.

The game only glances briefly at the variant formats of Overlord and Breakthrough, noting what is available and how it contributes to the M44 gaming experience. Although the book was written too early to include anything about D-Day Landings, he does mention the two Campaign Books. He also discusses the flavor and signature characteristics of the different expansions/army packs: The Eastern Front, the Pacific, the Mediterranean and Winter War (Western Europe). Mr. Beuve also discusses and shows photos of some of the Battle Pack preprinted map series, and the new unit models introduced in them, although not the more recent Equipment Pack. However, he was a published author before putting out this guide, being an experienced chess and poker player as well. He plans further smaller books (including ebooks) on M44 gaming. I’ll be interested to see what he has to offer in the future. Thanks also to Days of Wonder for continuing to support Memoir 44, and of course Richard Borg for providing so many great Commands and Colors series designs and expansions.

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Jon Snow
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Re: Review: Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide
This review of the Guide seems to be about the only one out there. I originally submitted it as a general post rather than a Review. Someone PM'd me recently that he saw me refer to it in another post and couldn't find it. When I looked, I couldn't either! So I posted it up in the Files section, sent him the link, and he was happy with it. So here it is again as a Review, so it will show up when someone is scanning Reviews, or looking at my own page on my Reviews list there. All comments welcome, of course.

And I'll fess up. Originally I wasn't going to buy the Guide when it appeared at my FLGS. But then immediately at the store when I turned away to look at something else down the aisle, the pal there with me got it for me for Christmas and presented it while I was checking out! So naturally I read it, and afterwards did think it worth sharing what it is about, for those trying to decide whether to pay for it or not--my PMer says he's now up for it after reading the review!

I note also that the author thanked me in the original post, where ever that is. To which I now reply: "No, thank you!"

***

For further reading, you may be interested in my Guide To The C&C Games of Richard Borg on the Battle Cry 150 board here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1238923/guide-cc-games-rich...

It also includes a discussion of what new Borg games are coming out with the usual gang of BGG Borg fans.

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Pete Belli
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Re: Review: Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide
Excellent article.

I think I would rather blunder through a session on my own and lose (which is the usual outcome) than expend that much extra effort to become a "tournament level" (or whatever) player.

Thanks for the comprehensive analysis.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies and… Read the rulebook again.
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Re: Review: Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide
Nice review, Chas'!

I've read the book twice and still glance through it now and again. One of the basic concepts Beuve dwells on is the winning of "dry" medals versus the "wet" medals.

A "dry" medal is a medal won without repercussive consequences or great cost. That is, your opponent can't immediately win a medal in return on their turn.

A "wet" medal is a medal won at some cost: usually through the loss of one of your units on the following turn. An exchange.

Obviously, you want to win dry medals whenever possible!

But the book teaches approaches for winning both and when going for the "wet medals" makes sense.

While not all of its lessons are directly applicable to every C&C game, enough of them do (particularly about strategy) that even the Ancients and Napoleonics players should have some appreciation of the book's lessons—even if they aren't great fans of Memoir: '44.
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Jon Snow
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Re: Review Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide
Pete,

One of the reasons I enjoy the guide is that I don't have that many face to face opponents, and often play solitaire. So it gives me a dialogue with the wider M44 playing community, at least the very active one in France. For example, the defensive trick of holding a terrain hex by occupying the space behind it, and then counterattacking with an undamaged unit, is something I was just working out when I read the author put if forth. With a Second Opinion behind me, I successfully have adapted it quite often in several different C&C games!

The quick counterattack before the enemy can consolidate their hold on new territory is one the German infantry practiced constantly in WWII--and they won their fair share of battles!

Brady,

Yes, I'll have to go back and check that one out! Its certainly applicable to C&C across the board.

***

I'm still waiting for Richard Borg to write his own book on game design, as the one thing his games lack is a section on Designer's Notes! Boy, there are more than a few things I'd like to ask him about...
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Trent Garner
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If you are a fan of the game, as a player or collector, this book is a great addition to Memoir '44 and well worth the price, IMHO. It isn't one of those 'Play Like a Tournament Champion' books, believe it or not. While it tries to help players understand the game better through thoughtful analysis, presented in an orderly fashion, it doesn't hammer you with the idea that you must study/practice constantly to improve. It often gave me things to think about that I simply had not considered before.

Personally, I like how the author uses various scenarios, both official and user-made, to illustrate his points throughout the guide. The diagrams are excellent and the explanations are concise and easy to comprehend. Well done!
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Max
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Review: Memoir 44 Tactics and Strategy Guide: What It Is by Jon Snow.
 
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Mike Hoyt
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I don't see it on Amazon. Could somebody post a link as to where we could buy this?
 
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blockhead wrote:
I don't see it on Amazon. Could somebody post a link as to where we could buy this?


Try this...
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Michael
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Great review! I appreciate your taking the time to write this. I think the S&T guide is incredible well done and very much under appreciated.
 
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Jon Snow
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Max,

That's It! Thanks for finding it.


Michael,

Glad you liked it. I don't usually get so analytical--must have been the subject.
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chas59 wrote:


I'm still waiting for Richard Borg to write his own book on game design, as the one thing his games lack is a section on [i]Designer's Notes!
Boy, there are more than a few things I'd like to ask him about...


My guess is that happens after he has designed and released his last C&C game ....
 
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Nicolas Aubert
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Bonjour

I'm glad this book was eventually translated into english.

For me, it changed a lot of things in my way of playing M44.

I got some of the tactical things myself through a lot of online games but i found out i had a lot more to learn.

Strategy guide is great in that it helps you minimise the "luck" factor through a good card play and battle analysis.

There is a sequel to this book, it's in english and it's free to download

Think like a trooper

If you don't want to scroll down the page, here is the quick link

It focuses mainly on how to use infantry and on the analysis of Toulon (an official scenario).

It's a treat not a trick cool
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