Nelson finally found the Memoir '44 expansions locally, and we got together right away to try them out. For a Session Report on what we played, see the Winter/Desert SR section. For general and some specific thoughts, keep reading.
Now, I was prepared to be upset with the packaging of these sets because of all of the complaints I've read. I'm sure someone liked them, but all I can recall are negatives and even some expletives regarding these.
Personally, I really like the way they were made. I don't own any games that have the slips on them, but I really like the way they were done! Sure they're lacking compared to other games, especially the original M'44 box. But the artwork on these are the usual nicely-done stuff as per M'44/Days of Wonder standards. I'll agree, however, with the complaint that the map's packaging was kind of poopy, with only a plastic wrap and a cardstock 'belt.' But hey, I've seen worse, and depending on how you store things (which I'll get to), it might not be a problem.
How about the inside packaging? It seems like EVERYONE is upset with the plastic trays, especially considering they lack the finger grooves of the original. Sure, they don't have those, but man, when I first opened the boxes I thought "look how CUTE those little plastic containers are!" Honestly, I thought that, and I may have even said it out loud. The little clear plastic cartons are cute, and I think they hold the pieces fine...except for the Russian units: after we had played I was putting them back and for the life of me could not remember nor figure out how they went back in the three-piece container. Neither could Nelson. We'll have to check pictures for that.
So my only complaints for the packaging are that now the boxes don't match (I would be happy if ALL the boxes had the sleeves, because I like the idea), that the map maybe should have had a better 'box' (maybe a cardstock envelope with tabs and slots and the such?), and that the Russian unit container thingy is confusing.
Now, here is my solution to this whole problem.
I'm the kinda guy who enjoys lighter-fare games, and if you check out my collection you'll see that. To that effect, when we have our monthly gaming days I literally stuff as many games as I can into one box, and only bring that one. I've been lucky enough to have an Eagle Games' Attack! box that can fit 8 (EIGHT) games! I've lugged around Carcassonne, Honour of the Samurai, two Wings of War sets, Battleline, both Sergeants!, two decks of cards for Zero!, and one Battlecards set, with room to spare! All in one Attack! box. Most of these games had their pieces in little zip-lock baggies of different sizes, cards were in sleeves with an elastic, etc. And I haven't had a problem with this system yet. What's more, the Attack! box is the PERFECT size for a murse (man-purse) of mine...like, to the T. With all this going on, I have the Attack! box free because I fit both the original and the expansion (huge maps and billions of pieces and all) in one box, and it's almost a perfect fit. I'm sure if I let all the air out of the bags they would be perfect. I've also kept all the boxes for all the games, they're just in the closet empty! No need to have to open up all those boxes and lug them around when everything fits together easily, right?
So (sorry about the tangent) the same can work for M'44. I am positive that both maps, all the units, all the cards, and all the terrain tiles, etc. can fit into the original box. Sure you'll have to take out the insert, but you can just keep it in the closet with the expansion boxes for now. I think I've read of someone doing or contemplating doing this, but I know it'll work, even if it's a tad squishy in there. Doing it right will make it safe and compact, and yesterday I measured it and the box can fit perfectly, with room to spare, in the same murse that the Attack! box fits in. So if you've got an Attack! box, you can even lug it all in there even better
Then again, that's just me and I know not everyone likes having this kind of system. I just think it's easy, it works, and I haven't had any problems yet.
Let's move on, shall we? The map is well done. It matches the other one with nice artwork, including the Russian Medals and Victoria Crosses. Very well done, I'd say, and it fits in with the rest of the game nicely.
The Russian units are nicely done of course, and I like how they have their own artillery moulds and stuff, and you can't go wrong with a fleet of T-34s, right? The infantry are cool too, with their Moisan Nagants and trenchcoats.
The new medals, symbols, minefields, obstacle things, etc. again match the rest and our great. Nice quality, and the variety is great to see. I'm looking forward to using these as we play.
The new sets of tiles are also great additions. They are necessary for the winter/desert maps, but the new tracks, roads, marshes, etc. all add great flavour to the game. These may be some of the best additions to the game. The original was great and not only included a good number of scenarios but the change to create your own. That is enough for huge replayability, but now the possibilities will be almost endless! Kudos on those.
My complaints on components include a number of things. WHERE ARE THE BRITISH/COMMONWEALTH UNITS!? I have no idea why we still don't have them. I'm tired of using Americans for British and Canadians, etc.! C'mon, Matilda, Churchill or Crusader tanks would have been so perfect, with infantry in their BDs, webbing, pouches, etc. I think DoW lost a perfect chance here. The Brits/Commonwealth could have been tan/light brown, while the Russians should have been red. It just makes sense! It would be nice to see an expansion pack that has troops of French Resistance molds, Finnish ski troops (with mini skis!), etc. as well.
I'm also ticked that we haven't seen any special Canadian units. Is there an FSSF yet, even? We have American and British special units coming out the yin-yang, and even have some Chinese and Spanish symbols, but nothing with Canadians? Oh dear me that makes me upset!
I'm getting tired of writing, so I'm going to try and finish up quickly.
With the new terrain, units, scenarios, and everything else, of course there has to be new rules, and some changes to old ones. I think these were provided very well, in the same light and colourful way as usual. I'm a big fan of the EASE of this game, which allows for a good age/background range to enjoy it.
The Blitz rules are way cool (for the Germans) and can add a real punch to their side of the game. The Commissar rule is pretty wicked, and I was looking forward to it as soon as I heard about it. The little poker chip with the commissar on it is so cool. The rule itself is neat, and I found it added some flavour to the game but not as much hindrance as I thought it would, which is good. Mind you I've only played with it once, but it was not bad at all. I found that having fewer cards than the opponent was more of an obstacle than the commissar.
Minefields are dope! If only the Greeks had minefields at Thermopylae! I'd like to see a scenario with that kind of setup
I like the desert armour overrun rules, which make for some powerful tank assaults. The oasis recovery bonus looks neat too.
The winter terrain will be fun to play with, like the frozen river.
In the end:
Having only played two of the new scenarios so far, I'm limited to much of what I can comment on specifics, so we'll have to wait for that. But for now, I am really please with these expansions. They add some great flavour to the game as a whole, including great rules, scenarios, units, terrain and others.
Looking past any problems of packaging, discrepencies, blah blah blah, the only two problems I have with the entire M'44 collection at the moment are:
1)The lack of British/Commonwealth units.
2)The price. WOW. This is no longer a game system but an investment!
I'm looking forward to trying out the campaign version of the game over the next few months (years?). And I'm also looking forward to the Pacific version of the game.
Viva Days of Wonder!