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Subject: Breakthrough Kit Review rss

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Jesse Rasmussen
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WARNING: This review is long. It might take you a little while to read through. Enjoy! cool

I have been blessed to receive an advance copy of the new Breakthrough Kit expansion and I am excited to share my initial thoughts with everyone. If you haven't ordered this Memoir '44 expansion yet, you're missing out on an excellent product that will provide you with hours of fun. You don't want to miss this!

Included in this expansion are 15 scenarios that have never been in print before. I believe that only one of the battles has even been seen before (though briefly) and they span all 4 of the major theaters. You will find 9 scenarios from the Western Front, 2 scenarios from the Mediterranean Theater, 3 scenarios from the Eastern Front, and 1 from the Pacific Theater. The scenarios take place throughout World War II, from May 1940 through April 1945.

The Breakthrough Kit requires many of the other Memoir '44 expansions that have been released to date. Only one scenario (one of the versions of Sword Beach by Richard Borg) can be played using only the Base game and the new Breakthrough map. For some players, the fact that so many expansions are required will be a deterrent to buying the Breakthrough Kit, but for many Memoir '44 fans this is finally an expansion that capitalizes on what they already own; everything! I believe that this expansion simply embraces the diverse expansions that are already available and is more enjoyable for it.

For those players who don't yet own everything, this expansion may still be worth their money because the shear size of the boards creates a new feel for Memoir '44 and as users begin creating scenarios, there will be plenty of opportunity to use the Breakthrough maps. In addition, as players collect more expansions they will unlock even more fun! Here is the breakdown of which expansions are required:

Terrain Pack 12 scenarios use it
Air Pack 8 scenarios use it
Pacific Theater 7 scenarios use it
Eastern Front 4 scenarios use it
Mediterranean Theater 4 scenarios use it
Campaign Book 2 scenarios use it
Hedgerow Hell 2 scenarios use it
Tigers in the Snow 2 scenarios use it
Extra Base Game 2 scenarios need it
Extra Eastern Front 1 scenario needs it

More than any other expansion (except maybe the remade Air Pack scenarios), these new breakthrough battles utilize the terrain, special units, and special rules from all of the other expansions. There are sweeping minefields, extensive road systems, and sprawling armies full of specialized units. With this expansion we get battles that demonstrate beach landings, we have slugfests where units will be in constant contact but other scenarios where one side or another is making a mad dash for the baseline to escape. We get a set-piece battle in North Africa where the Allies try to rescue Tobrouk and a final-ditch effort of the Germans trying to capture Moscow; the variety scenarios in this expansion is impressive.

The breakthrough battles also showcase the different types of units that have been introduced in Memoir '44. There are snipers waiting for an invasion force, mortar and anti-tank units ready to fight, and paratroopers dropping in to attack. A new type of unit is re-included in the German Flak 88mm guns that are present in several scenarios with clear rules outlined, adding to the Axis arsenal. Flame Thrower tanks, Tigers, Mobil Artillery, Big Guns, Engineers, Elite Infantry and Armor units, Supply Trucks, and Cavalry are all present. There are even scenarios with Aircraft Carriers, Landing Craft, and Battleships, not to mention all the scenarios that can include Aircraft of different types if players choose. You might want to freshen up on all of the Unit Summary cards!

Another exciting thing about this expansion is the change in the victory conditions for some of the battles. Some of the scenarios encourage players to focus on medal objectives instead of simple attrition to win. Two scenarios don't even require the Axis player to get any medals from destroying enemy units...instead they have to capture cities or exit units off the board to win! These various paths to victory make the scenarios feel fresh and exciting, though there will be some questions that arise simply because we're unfamiliar with the system. Don't worry, questions will be included in the next FAQ update!

Because Breakthrough maps are so deep, we see more Elite Infantry units and Armor, so players won't have to spend as long trying to maneuver across long open spaces. Artillery is sometimes strategically placed to reach large sections of the board, while other times you have Big Guns or Mobil Artillery, both of which allows the artillery to be more useful on such a large board.

I imagine playtime for this expansion will be somewhere between Overlord battles and normal scenarios. Some of the battles will require a lot of time to set up because there are so many tiles to place from several expansions, and because most of the troops in your sets will be on the board. The battles will also take a long time to play because they require an average of 10.73 medals to win. One scenario requires as few as 6 medals, while another one needs 15 medals! Most scenarios require 10-12 medals to win and because of that fact, the Breakthrough battles take longer to play but also allow for momentum and initiative to switch several times before the end.

Overall, the Breakthrough Kit takes Memoir '44 another step closer to being the greatest World War II board game ever made (in my clearly unbiased opinion)! whistle If you like Memoir '44, you are sure to like this expansion. Be aware that it will take you longer to play and set up, you'll need several expansions to play all of the battles, and that you may become severely addicted to Memoir '44 if you aren't already! Like we always hear, "The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command." Make the most of it with this expansion!
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Tanks Alot
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Thanks Jesse! Cant wait to see it. I'm glad I have all the expansion. I hope I never sit down and count how much money I have put into this game :)
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Stig Morten
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Well written review, Jesse!

I like the fact that this expansion uses ALOT of the unit types, rules and terrain from most of the expansions. These 15 scenarios really highlights the diversity this game has in all the expansions.

3 of the scenarios have been posted online at Days Of Wonder for some time before appearing in print for the first time here.

I think it's worth mentioning that Days Of WOnder has also posted another breakthrough Scenario on their website that uses the desert board. And since the scenario from the Breakthrough bag is buildable with the tiles available we have now got 17 official Breakthrough Scenarios.

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Kent Reuber
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Can you put two Breakthrough boards side-by-side for Overlord Breakthrough scenarios?
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Paul W
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Hm, as someone looking to get started with M44, this trend seems less than thrilling. With so much cross-use of previous expansions (this expansion gives the impression that they wanted to make *sure* you needed everything else to get full use of the expansion), skipping over expansions seems unappealing and future expansions have less and less to offer a player who would rather pick and choose the best or most interesting elements.

Although the game looks like a lot of fun, the more I read about the expansion marketing model, the less likely it seems that I'll be buying anything beyond the base set (buying everything has never been an option for me), which is a shame.
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Ronster Zero
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Damn you for having this already. I want it so bad....surprise
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Chris Ferejohn
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To be fair, *most* of the expansions don't require other expansions so heavily. This expansion and the campaign book seemed designed to be sold to folks who already have all (or at least most) of the expansions, but I don't see why their existence would dissuade you from buying, say, Eastern Front or the terrain pack.
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Paul W
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cferejohn wrote:
To be fair, *most* of the expansions don't require other expansions so heavily. This expansion and the campaign book seemed designed to be sold to folks who already have all (or at least most) of the expansions, but I don't see why their existence would dissuade you from buying, say, Eastern Front or the terrain pack.


I do get that, I just find it a bit disappointing that DoW hasn't put out an truly "modular" expansion for M44 since late 2008. I guess I'm just used to games where the expansions are very plug and play. With Dominion, for example, you're free to simply pick and choose which expansions you want...and they've made it explicit that this will continue to be there design philosophy. As a customer, I much prefer this approach, as I don't feel like I'm shut out of enjoying the latest releases because I haven't followed the "correct" expansion path.

As someone looking to dabble in M44, the increasing sense of a rigid "tech tree" looking over the past couple years is a bit discouraging, that's all. If "pretend that the newer releases don't exist if you're not committed to getting most of what came before them" is the answer, I guess that's just too bad for me (and other newcomers).
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Jesse Rasmussen
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On the flipside, Paul, as a fan who has the expansions it's frustrating to get new expansions that don't utilize all the great stuff you already own! This may be an expansion that caters more to the fans who already have lots of the other expansions, but DoW has a lot of very happy fans because of that choice!

I've never played Dominion, but from what I understand it's not anything like Memoir '44...so I'm not sure that the same approach will work for two vastly different games. whistle
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Bill Robot
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There are only a few games that I pick up all the expansions for and Memoir is one of them. Another one is Descent and I can't tell you how annoying the expansions are. They firstly makes no reference to previous expansions and secondly actually reprints information from previous expansions as though it were new.

I appreciate modular design but I think as far as wargames and wargamers go depth is preferred. Furthermore I think CC:A uses a system where each expansion builds on the last and it is widely considered the best of the C&C games.
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David Knepper
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You mean that there is actually a Memoir '44 player that doesn't have at least two copies of the base game and each of the expansions? surprise
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Paul W
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rasmussen81 wrote:
On the flipside, Paul, as a fan who has the expansions it's frustrating to get new expansions that don't utilize all the great stuff you already own! This may be an expansion that caters more to the fans who already have lots of the other expansions, but DoW has a lot of very happy fans because of that choice!

I've never played Dominion, but from what I understand it's not anything like Memoir '44...so I'm not sure that the same approach will work for two vastly different games. whistle


Oh yes, there are certainly advantages to that approach, and I can understand it's appeal for the completionist types. Also, I can see that with a scenario-based game it is probably more difficult to have a modular set-up, but it certainly seem possible (the air rules strike me as a great example).

However, it seems to me that DoW has marketed M44 as a "wargame for non-wargamers", and a number of there press releases make references to broadening their player base. It seems to me that their approach it recent years has run directly counter to that aim, with products that have increasingly high barriers to entry.

Depth isn't necessarily a bad market strategy, but to someone new to the scene the direction of new releases is increasingly unfriendly to new players, and that strikes me as a little counter to the game's accessibility-oriented gameplay system.
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Instead of writing just a bland rules/game bits description you let your enthusiasm for the game shine through. Great review!
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Jesse Rasmussen
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adebisi wrote:
Instead of writing just a bland rules/game bits description you let your enthusiasm for the game shine through. Great review!


Thank you very much for those kind words. This expansion is so much fun it would have been hard for me to write a bland review! I hope you have a chance to get a copy and enjoy the hours of fun that come with it!!
 
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Stig Morten
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kentreuber wrote:
Can you put two Breakthrough boards side-by-side for Overlord Breakthrough scenarios?


Yes, you can do this, but there are no official scenarios for it.

I made one myself with the papermap from the Breakthrough map and a "home-made" copy.


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Tim Earl
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Thanks a lot Jesse. Now I feel even worse for cheating on Memoir 44 with Panzer General (which was a less than satisfying experience). I'm going to have to kick PG to the curb and scrape up some cash for this expansion now.
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Jesse Rasmussen
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cheng wrote:
Thanks a lot Jesse. Now I feel even worse for cheating on Memoir 44 with Panzer General (which was a less than satisfying experience). I'm going to have to keep PG to the curb and scrape up some cash for this expansion now.


Glad to help!! I see that your avatar shows an appropriate amount of remorse so we'll forgive you for cheating on Memoir '44...just don't let it happen again! laugh
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Jesse Rasmussen
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fizzmore wrote:
Depth isn't necessarily a bad market strategy, but to someone new to the scene the direction of new releases is increasingly unfriendly to new players, and that strikes me as a little counter to the game's accessibility-oriented gameplay system.


So wait, you're saying that DoW should create a whole bunch of 'surface' expansions that are all independent of each other to let brand new players get the latest expansion? That seems like a very short-term gain approach, rather than building a deep system...

If you're looking for some simple expansions that don't require anything but the base game to play, try getting one of the 6 expansions that can be used right away (Terrain Pack, Eastern Front, Pacific Theater, Winter/Desert board, Med. Theater, and Campaign Bag). That's a lot of expansions that don't require anything else to enjoy!! cool

Creating an expansion that uses some of the great expansions listed above is a good business move, even if beginning players won't be able to enjoy it for a while...this expansion isn't necessarily aimed at people just getting into Memoir '44 (though they would still have fun with it, they just couldn't enjoy its full scope) because there are tons of other expansions for starting players!

If it's just an issue of you not being able to get the latest expansion, wait around and you might see another expansion for beginning Memoir '44 players...who knows. The Breakthrough Kit is an incredible expansion, though, and adds a whole new level of play for those people interested!!!
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Paul W
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rasmussen81 wrote:
So wait, you're saying that DoW should create a whole bunch of 'surface' expansions that are all independent of each other to let brand new players get the latest expansion? That seems like a very short-term gain approach, rather than building a deep system...


Actually that's a system that many, perhaps even most, games use with expansions...adding rules modularly such that you can pick and choose any combination and still have a great game. If you want a glimpse at how that could be done for M44, look at the air rules or the combat deck. The "tech tree" approach might be more of a wargame thing, which could be why I'm not used to it. That "short-term gain" approach has provided gains that are anything but short term for Dominion, Carcassonne, Heroscape...I could list many more if you'd like.

I'll stop belaboring the point...but I only made mention of this fact not because this individual product was heavily dependent on previous ones, but because the last several products have been and I was noticing a trend that didn't seem to match up with some of DoW's goals for the product as I'd seen stated by them.
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Jesse Rasmussen
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Fair enough, Paul.

I'm curious what DoW goals you're referring to when you say that the last few expansions haven't matched...
 
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Paul W
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I've seen a few references to expanding the player base, and also the idea that people would look at M44 demos and say "oh cool! I want to play that!", which doesn't mesh so well with being told "well, you can only play that if you purchase these 4/5 things".

I'm also secretly hoping they'll announce a sort of "Memoir 44 big box" or "advanced base game" that packages the base game, air pack, and terrain pack together in some slightly more affordable form, as DoW seems to be treating that as the real "base game" for a lot of what they're putting out.
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Tim Earl
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fizzmore wrote:
I'm also secretly hoping they'll announce a sort of "Memoir 44 big box" or "advanced base game" that packages the base game, air pack, and terrain pack together in some slightly more affordable form, as DoW seems to be treating that as the real "base game" for a lot of what they're putting out.


You may be on to something there. It would be nice to have something like that for new players who want to dive into the system. The flip side, of course, is that the price tag may scare them away!
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Jesse Rasmussen
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fizzmore wrote:
I've seen a few references to expanding the player base, and also the idea that people would look at M44 demos and say "oh cool! I want to play that!", which doesn't mesh so well with being told "well, you can only play that if you purchase these 4/5 things".


Fair enough. Personally I think that if I saw the Breakthrough Kit being demoed at a convention I would be very interested even though as a beginner I wouldn't own all the expansions. But I can see what you're saying. I guess you'll have to accept that DoW has made some expansions for beginning players (the early expansions) and now has made an expansions for advanced players.

I find it interesting that you keep mentioning the Air Pack because almost all of the scenarios in that book need other expansions...to enjoy the Air Pack you need almost every expansion!
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Jesse Rasmussen
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If you aren't wanting to buy the Battle Maps to get the Supply Trucks and the Tiger Tanks, you can easily substitute something else for those units. You could just put a little smiley-face sticker on a German tank to represent the Trucks or Tigers! Or do what some players do and buy little figures from a model shop. cool

If you're looking for longer games, this expansion is for you!!! The other night a friend came over and I had two battles set up, thinking we could play both in one evening. We started with the one that looked like it had less special rules because he hasn't played as much as I have. After two hours and a very intense battle in which he barely beat me, we had to call it a night because both of us had to work the next morning. It was the most fun I had with a single battle in a while because it was so long and intense!!

You're in for a treat!
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Stig Morten
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Hi Jesse. What scenario did you play?
 
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