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Review of Memoir 44 By Days Of Wonder

March 20, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Games, Product Reviews

Memoir 44 Base Set

-== What is it? ==-

Memoir 44 is a light wargame published by Days Of Wonder. The base set for Memoir 44 was released 10 years ago in 2004. It was created by game designer Richard Borg who gained fame for his Battle Cry line of wargames. Memoir 44 is a highly awarded game that has won accolades from several prestigious organizations. Here is a link to the Days Of Wonder site that lists the various awards.

The Memoir 44 base set comes with a full color instruction manual with sample scenarios, a dual-sided play board, terrain tiles, two sets of army figures (US and German), a set of cards, custom battle dice, and pair of card stands. In this review I will be discussing the base set and the entire Memoir 44 line in general. I have purchased all of the expansions for Memoir 44 and one of the map packs (aka Battle Maps). I have played the game with various expansions hundreds of times.

-== What I Like ==-

Memoir 44 is the perfect mix of simplicity and intuitive strategy. Once the basic rules are learned expansions can be used to tack on additional twists and modifications without breaking the basic mold. The base rules are so easy to grasp that even younger players have no trouble picking it up. I play most of Memoir 44 sessions against my 9 year old son. My 9 year old can probably beat most adults. πŸ˜‰ We recently finished a campaign that was comprised of several linked scenarios. In the last scenario he beat me 5 medals to 0 medals. πŸ™‚

The expansions to Memoir 44 are quite numerous. There are several that add armies (Pacific Theater, Eastern Front, etc), some that add terrain, and others that add gear. The expansions perfectly build on the base rule set giving an enhanced feel of play without feeling overly complicated or cumbersome. My son and I think the Winter Wars expansion is our favorite. One thing that we love about this expansion is a second card deck geared for winter combats. This second deck really adds not only to the feel of combats but also neatly fit on top of existing battles. We really hope that Days Of Wonder does other add-on decks for Memoir 44. (As a point of reference there is an Urban deck in the Sword Of Stalingrad map pack which we also enjoy. πŸ˜‰ )

There are thousands of scenarios available for Memoir 44. Days Of Wonder produces several campaign books that are full of scenarios and hosts an online site where folks can upload their own scenarios. Days Of Wonder also has a free campaign editor that can be used to make your own scenarios. The output from the campaign editor is a scenario that looks nearly as professional as ones in the released products. The combination of the scenario editor and the online database of submitted scenarios is really fantastic. The database allows for fairly advanced searches so you can find scenarios where you own all of the required expansions and allows for other users to rate them. Memoir 44 is one heavily supported game line.

I often joke with people that I am teaching to play Memoir 44 that one of my favorite parts about the game is setting it up. You first lay down a base board then apply terrain tiles on top. Finally you place the troops. As the terrain and troops are placed on top of a simple board this means you have a ton of flexibility in the layout of the scenario. If you have the correct winter or desert tiles the effect is even more impressive. This game looks killer. πŸ™‚

On top of all of this support Days Of Wonder also offers online play for free! You can download the Memoir 44 game and play other people online or play against the computer. It is tons of fun playing against the computer who can be quite tough on certain scenarios.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

Overall the quality of the components in the Memoir 44 base set is fair. The infantry and armor figures are evocative and stand fairly well. My only complaint with the infantry figures is in the coloring. In some lights the coloring of the German (dark blue) and US infantry (dark green) can be hard to distinguish…at least they are for me. My son says that he does not really have a problem with them. The US, German, and Japanese artillery figures are quite fragile. Several of our German artillery figures have lost wheels that have broken off during play. I hope Days Of Wonder uses the British and Russian artillery figures as a model if they come out with more artillery figures. They are on a solid base and built much sturdier. The boards themselves have also ripped after being used so many times. We now use binder clips to hold them together but it would be nice if they had some type of sturdier backing to prevent tearing. The card stands that come with the Memoir 44 base set are really a complete waste of time in my opinion. They are tiny and REALLY easy to knock over. My son and I used them only a few times then gave up as we often play on carpet. It is simple enough to just hold the cards in your hard or set them down.

In my opinion the artillery units in Memoir 44 seem a bit too powerful. I think they can really upset the play balance. Artillery have very long ranges, ignore terrain protection, do not require line of sight, AND are difficult to kill. I think I might have made them much easier to kill so that they are a bit more balanced with the other components in the game.

I can see where some hardcore wargamers will not like the randomness of the gameplay in Memoir 44. There is inherent randomness in card drawing and in rolling the outcome of attacks on the battle dice. I am particularly unlucky and have played games where I just can’t do any damage even when my troops are in a far superior situation. I think over the long haul of a campaign this evens out a bit more but it can be a detractor for some.

As I mentioned in the header I have nearly all of the Memoir 44 expansions. We are only missing three of the Battle Packs. There are a LOT of expansions. I would estimate my collection at roughly a $600 street cost. One problem is that one of the best expansions, the Air Pack, is no longer produced and it is VERY expensive to buy on the used game market. After sticking with it for over 6 months I was able to get a copy on eBay for roughly $95. (It has a $45 retail price.) Ouch. πŸ™ When I won it on eBay the boys and I watched the final minutes and cheered when we took the bid. πŸ™‚ The funny thing about the Air Pack is that one of my favorite parts about the set is the additional cards it includes and the manual. These additional cards include terrain cards from almost all of the expansions! This is really nice as for some reason most of the main army packs do not include cards for new terrain. The Air Pack manual is also wonderful as it repeats some of the existing scenarios but adds air support. This allows existing scenarios to be replayed with neat twists. Days Of Wonder should seriously consider releasing the Air Pack again or at least the offering the cards and manual for sale.

Memoir 44 is really a 2 player game. It can be played in what is called Overloard mode with 8 players but the heart of the game is mano-e-mano. At times I wish some of Evan’s friends could play along with us a bit easier.

-== Summary ==-

Memoir 44 is a massive hit with me and my 9 year old. Nearly every night after work he begs to play that next scenario in the campaign or to play one that he made on the computer. I am more than happy to oblige. This is one of my favorite games of all time and I would give it a 10 paws out of 10 if not for some issues with the components and the expense of some of the expansions.

I give it 9 out of 10 paws.

Copies of Memoir 44 are $46.99 at this URL on Amazon. Noble Knight has copies at this URL for $45. Memoir 44 is $47.99 at Funagain Games at this URL.

Memoir 44 Ready To Play

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