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Subject: Solitaire Memoir '44: Pointe-du-Hoc rss

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Emery Gallant
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In desperate need of a little quality time with my Memoir ’44 game, I decided to play the “Pointe-du-Hoc” scenario (number 4 from the base set). As I do with most of my M44 game plays, I played solitaire, of which the game plays this style exceptionally well. The last time I tried to teach my wife the rules of the game, I darn near had to medicate her, it was so painful an experience for her (bless her heart, she’s a good sport…but with limits). Hence, solitaire.

As a side note to solitaire play: this being a card-driven game, with respects to ordering the movement and firing of your units, I’ve read debates on an alternate method of card play from mine; in which for each turn, the player will choose one card at random from atop the deck per turn, in an effort to maintain a “surprise” choice element, of sorts. I choose to play the system the game plays for two players, in which each side draws and maintains a certain number of cards in hand for the entire game, drawing fresh as used. I really don’t find this to be a hindrance, or provide an unfair advantage to either side’s decision making; rather, I choose the option at each instance that best suits the needs of the applicable side at that time. A good methodology is, as you draw a replacement card, simply don’t look at it (unless it’s a “draw 2 and discard 1” card); and with your not concentrating on necessarily remembering the cards in that hand after you’ve moved on to play the other side, provides plenty of “new choice value” when you come around for that side’s turn once again afterwards. It also helps if you’re on the older side, and the mind is starting to slip a little (not that I qualify for that description)!

This scenario pits a force of 200 Army Rangers against a German garrison protecting artillery positions high up behind the cliffs and hills of Pointe-du-Hoc, which were in position to score direct hits on any troops landing on the beach below. This beach was Omaha Beach; one of the landing zones for the Invasion of France, June 6, 1944….D-Day. Planners felt that these German batteries on Pointe-du-Hoc would provide a fierce obstacle to the landing troops, and the solution to minimize casualties on Omaha Beach was to send in Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder, and the 2nd Rangers, to scale the imposing 100-foot cliffs west of the beach.

The German garrison at hand laid down intense fire to the oncoming Rangers; the type of welcome party the invaders were fully expecting! Despite this rain of bullets and grenades, the Rangers scaled the cliffs and were on top in minutes! But much to the Ranger’s surprise, the Germans had withdrawn the guns off the point three days prior. Only dummies made from timbers remained in the casemates, so the Rangers infiltrated south, inland, looking for the big guns. Two significant concentrations of Germans remained on the point for much of the morning fighting, with a bunker-entrenched anti-aircraft battery raining in shells from the Ranger’s far right. An observation post situated in a bunker at the tip of the point hit the Ranger’s right flank hard, and resisted repeated Ranger attacks.

The scenario holds two Victory Medals in the apple orchards to the rear of the German garrison, which represent the position of the big guns, moved a few days prior, ready to fire. FOUR Victory Medals are required to win the scenario; and with five hexes of German infantry to bypass, the chances are pretty good that if the Rangers win, they will do so by gaining four Victory Medals through attrition of German forces long before they make it to the apple orchards. This is perhaps my only negative thought on the scenario, in that six medals may be a little more reasonable if the objective is historical accuracy in reaching the orchards. It may be a good variant to play out someday.

This was my first time playing this scenario solitaire, and I find it quite challenging from the German perspective. The Germans are well entrenched in bunkers and sand-bagged fortified positions, behind a veritable wall of hills overlooking quite imposing cliffs. The fact that an invading force first needed to scale these 100-foot cliffs makes for a strong defensive posture in German positioning that the player may not necessarily want to move out of; especially the sandbagged positions that will lose the sandbags once they move out. What are the chances of getting a well-timed “Dig In” card once you’ve moved out of something you already had? Since this is a delaying/repelling situation for the Germans, these sandbagged fortifications provide that much need added support to defensive fire (-1 on Ranger attack rolls). You can really see the well thought-out process of the Germans in setting up fortifications and well placed wire just behind the hills of these cliffs, providing ideal placement for indirect fire emplacements to rain death down on the beach approaches.

The Allies start the scenario, and I moved my entire left flank of Rangers up the beach to the base of the cliffs; they were out of range of the German anti-aircraft batteries and leading point bunker on the far right sector. The Germans, realizing there was a small force moving in from a corner of the beach, didn’t want to sacrifice their sandbagged position in that sector this early on, so they sent in the units from the center bunker up onto the hill’s cliff side to scout. Even with the Ranger’s advanced “2-hex and still fire” capability, the scenario calls for a 2-hex move to scale the cliff from the adjacent beach hex; and this leaves them vulnerable to spend a turn at the base, subject to 3-dice fire from above. I would have moved the units from the same sector’s bunker, but the Germans didn’t have a right Section (or alternate allowing movement in that section) card to play.

The just moved Rangers at the base of the cliffs scaled the cliffs to the hilltop and fired, taking out two German units in the sandbagged entrenchment and one from the bunker to the rear. The Germans returned fire, concentration on the units flush against the center section border, killing three units…that hurt! The Rangers opted to leave this critically wounded unit in place, and move the other three to surround the German sandbagged position and provide positioning to close assault the bunker to the rear. The Rangers fire and scratch all the units in the sandbags (US Victory Medal 1), and take out a unit in the strongly defended bunker.

The now isolated German bunker on the German right flank returns fire to net two kills; the German unit on the hill at center fires and nets one kill; and the anti-aircraft battery opens up to nail one unit on a landing craft. This inflicted some heavy casualties, but did not deter Rangers. Meanwhile, three Ranger groups in the center sector moved up from the beach, to the cliff base, and fired on the lone German unit astride the cliff; the first Ranger group killing two German units, and the second Ranger group repelling the remaining Germans in the group back off the hill back toward their own line, and Take Ground to occupy the abandoned hex. A German “Move Out” card allowed the retreating unit to withdraw back into the safety of the bunker it ventured from, while the bunker on the German left flank at the water’s edge opens fire, killing two units of the advancing Rangers at the center sector’s cliff base (GE Victory Medal 1).

The Rangers surrounding the bunker on the left flank once again open fire on the pillbox, but to no avail; at which the German units in the bunker play a “Counter Attack” card to return fire, and three Ranger units are KIA. The Rangers return fire to kill another German unit in the bunker; at which the bunker takes a lucky shot at a lone Ranger unit in range, and scoring a kill (GE Victory Medal 2), while the anti-aircraft batteries fire and miss at the Rangers advancing on their position. The Rangers surrounding the bunker on their left flank once again open fire and take out the remaining unit entrenched within (US Victory Medal 2).

The one Ranger group that scaled the cliffs in the center section took fire from the German anti-aircraft batteries to their right, and was driven back off the cliff to the beach; but two more Ranger units managed to scale the cliffs to attack that contested area, while landing craft put more feet on the beach. The German anti-aircraft batteries resumed fire on the Rangers astride the hill, taking out yet another Ranger unit.

It was at this point the Rangers mounted an attack upon the bunker at waters edge, moving in to close assault, and killing two German units to reduce it to half compliment. The bunker returned fire to pick off two Ranger units in return. The German anti-aircraft batteries fire again, but miss….they were starting to wear down. The Rangers continued their assault on the German bunker at waters edge, but score no kills; and those very angry German units returned fire to score two kills on a Ranger group to clear the hex (GE Victory Medal 3). This was going to be a close one! The Rangers picked off another unit in the now bullet riddled bunker, which returned fire to score two kills itself, and repell a Ranger group back onto the beach. It was a valiant effort on the part of the ravaged German bunker, but a Ranger counterattack killed the last German unit in the waters edge bunker (US Victory Medal 3); and Rangers up at the Germans center sector bunker killed it’s inhabitants (US Victory Medal 4, and WIN).

As stated earlier, just as action heated to full burn, and attrition started to take its toll, 4 Victory Medals were gained to conclude the scenario, without the Allies ever even getting close to the apple orchards to the German rear, in which those big nasty guns were nestled. In order to reach those orchards, the German player would need to roll some pretty rotten apples (dice) to allow penetration to the German rear echelon, gain the objectives, and attack from behind if necessary. I played this scenario one other time, face-to-face in which I played the Axis, and the Rangers never made it much past the hills in that playing either. Can the orchards be taken in a 4 Victory Medal game? At this point, I think it a long shot.

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Troy Davidson
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Bountiful
Utah
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Very nice AAR!

As a side note, Memoir '44 is great VASSAL game. Plays very easily as PBeM and online. Let me know if you want to give it a try.
 
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Ronster Zero
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This is a game i'd like to try with my wife also, but any game with a war theme she just won't give it a try.

It's a shame for me cause she is so good at all the other games we play, im sure she would be a competent adversary if I could get her to try.
 
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