Tag Archives: Memoir ’44

Tales from the Fireside – Separation Anxiety

Mr Campfire has another Tale, filled with woe. That’s what happens when you’re separated from what you love.

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There’s a game I want to play.

But there’s always a game, isn’t there? Right now, the hottest game in gamerland is Quarriors, a deck-builder that comes with 130 custom dice in the box. It’s so coveted, otherwise staid game reviewers with all the flexibility of corrugated card have used flowery similes like ‘jewels in a treasure chest’ to convey their awe of it. I mean, the game has 130 dice in all the colours of the rainbow–how could you not want it? As far as gamers are concerned it’s Christmas come early: a box of baubles removed from the loft, a stocking of sweeties that, okay, present a serious choking hazard, but come on! When was the last time you encountered a game so visually enticing, so wonderfully tactile? To heck with how it plays, don’t you just want to grab those dice and roll them ‘til arthritis kicks in? You’d wear your dice-rolling chicken claw with pride, boasting Quarriors did this to you.

In Europe Quarriors has encountered a couple of distribution issues, meaning it’s rather difficult to get hold of over here. If you pre-ordered it, you’re laughing while you’re rolling. If you didn’t you might be stuck until Christmas or the New Year before you can get your future chicken claws on a copy.

But doesn’t that add to the allure of it? Doesn’t the game being rare–if only temporarily–make it special? How many of you have bought a game simply because it’s gone out of print or was the last copy in the store? Prompted by game boxes holding all manner of treasures gamers are hoarders, and the one thing we hate more than anything else is the thought of the game that got away.

Tell me, what did you do when you heard Fantasy Flight were releasing Descent: Second Edition? Did you wonder if the price would come down for the re-release or how the game would change for its second iteration? Did you put it on your Amazon wish list or did you hurry to your Friendly Local Game Shop to grab the original Descent just in case the second edition didn’t match up to it? All those pieces, all those figures: less of a treasure trove than an unearthed tomb filled with riches. Dare you breach its cardboard chambers to return with magic and gold?

These end of line products are often accompanied by a bit of a kerfuffle: they’re the Harrod’s sales of the gaming world. This week I discovered online retailer IGUK.co.uk was down to its last copy of the discontinued Memoir ‘44 campaign book, and were selling it for a reasonable price. I don’t own Memoir ‘44, but with this rare artifact before me for a moment I felt rather dizzy. Sure, I don’t have Memoir ‘44 now but who’s to say I won’t in the future? Wouldn’t the campaign book come in handy then, at some hypothetical point down the time-stream?

Fortunately common sense prevailed and I pointed a friend who already had a copy of the game in its direction, but for a second I nearly forked over money I can’t afford for a game I couldn’t play. Considering how quickly IGUK’s stock disappeared once they cut its price, I wonder how many people in the same situation thought “To heck with it” and bought the book anyway.

The game I most want to play right now is Warhammer: Invasion–a game for which long-term readers will already know I have a simpering, drooling weak spot. Unlike Memoir ‘44 I already own a copy of Warhammer: Invasion, so you’d think I’d just pull it from my game shelves to play whenever I wish.

I can’t: circumstance has separated me from it.

Board gamers don’t do well with separation, which is why travel editions exist of every popular game from Carcassonne to Hungry Hippos. Last week, briefly threatened with separation from his collection another friend boldly listed the board games he’d be taking with him to Wales, to force his wife to play while trapped in a chalet on holiday; his reading material during this time would be the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game rulebook, downloaded in anticipation of buying the game in weeks to come. iOS and Android devices offer the opportunity to play some of our favourite games while on the move; I can just imagine a hardened gamer climbing hills in the Peak District, trying to get a signal in middle of nowhere so they can send their next move for Ascension.

I’d love to review Warhammer: Invasion here, but I can’t. I’ve only played it once and as much fun as I had with it, once is hardly enough to write a solid, detailed description without bluffing and making stuff up, and I refuse to do so because I take my journalistic duties seriously–that’s why I wear a fedora with a bit of card tucked into the hatband that says ‘Press’ on it. Wearing a press hat isn’t a matter to be taken lightly, you know. It’s not the kind of thing you can remove and forget about.

My wife sums up her feelings about board games with the word ‘Eh’ which is really more of a sound than a word–the kind of sound a disgruntled mother bird would make upon discovering one of her unhatched brood was, in fact, a golf ball. It’s not that she doesn’t like board games; she just doesn’t see what’s so exciting about them.

It’s okay–she’s a physicist and I feel much the same way about gluons. I mean, I’m sure they’re important to the way matter functions or whatever, but you can’t roll them, or punch them from cardboard sheets, Whatever good they might do in the world of particle physics, for board gaming purposes gluons are pretty much useless.

For all her indifference, she’s made the mistake of playing Warhammer: Invasion against me and thrashing me at it. During our first and only time playing she constructed a brilliant scheme in which she built her resources over a number of turns, played a Bloodthirster onto the table, turned my attack damage back upon me, and stomped over my capital like a toddler run amok in Duplo Town. In an exhilarating moment of post-game deconstruction she told me how she’d held onto certain cards just in case while building her own fortifications, and how she’d turned my own headstrong nature against me. She’d played traditional card games with her family years before; all those bluffs and antes were good training for sending Chaos demons into battle and putting her husband into traction.

As much as I was impressed with the game I was far more impressed with my wife, the master tactician.

That’s one of the reasons why I miss Warhammer so, and a reason I’m sure all of us can get behind. When a game comes alive like that, it’s magical: the click of a light-bulb flaring as your opponent–who’d not known the game existed minutes before; who’d thought board games were ‘Eh’–chains a combo or hops a piece or hatches a tactical plan, and wins.

And they don’t have to win: that’s the beauty of these games. Things can get a little cutthroat, and I can’t deny I want a rematch to see if I can even the score but–and please forgive me the tree-hugging sentiment–so long as we’re both having fun, doesn’t that make us both winners?

I do miss the game, though. I scour Fantasy Flight’s website for card previews and send them to her over Google chat. “Look!” I say, like a kid showing a parent an unusually shaped leaf. “This one turns your corrupted units into uber-powerful ass-kicking machines! You’re a Chaos player: what do you think?”

And she, resolutely not geeking out, mutters only “Eh” and goes back to sitting on her oddly shaped egg.

I’ll play it again one day, I know. It shall be mine, as Wayne Campbell once said.

For the moment, all other games have become meaningless: their boxes gather dust and the very thought of playing them disgusts me. Greedy, oh so greedy, I eschew games I can play in favour of the one I want.

There’s a game I want to play, you see.

But there’s always a game, isn’t there?

——————–

Speak with Campfire Burning yourself – his email is, of course, campfire@littlemetaldog.com

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Episode 15 with Days of Wonder’s Mark Kaufman and the return of Daniel Solis!

It’s taken a little while to put Episode 15 together, but at last… here you go! Once again, there’s a pair of interviews for your listening pleasure, beginning with a discussion about the past, present and future of Days of Wonder with one of its co-founders, Mark Kaufman. DoW are (of course) responsible for some incredible games, not least Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44 and the excellent Colosseum. We discuss how technology is impacting on the company and how they become one of the most recognisable names in the industry, as well as their upcoming new release – Cargo Noir. After that, it’s the return of one of my favourite folks to talk to: Daniel Solis. Following his last appearance on the show, I had many emails asking when he’d return, so who am I to fly in the face of public opinion? We talk about designing in public, something Daniel has occasionally been known to do, and what’s more important – theme or mechanics?

Chris gets another episode off – preparing for a wedding is taking it’s toll! – but I hope this week’s competition makes up for it. You may be aware that one of my favourite Trading Card Games is the brilliant World of Warcraft TCG and I’d like to share the love. Thanks to the guys over at Tomy, The Little Metal Dog Show is giving away TWO Worldbreaker Epic Collections. Doesn’t matter where you are in the world – everyone is eligible to enter. There’s a question in the show that requires an answer which needs to be sent to littlemetaldog@gmail.com, making sure you’ve put ‘WoWTCG’ in the subject header. Closing date is Saturday 12th February 2011! Winners will be chosen at random from all correct entries and will be contacted via email, as well as on here.

Now, if you fancy an extra entry, you could always become a fan of the show over on Facebook! Yes, I’ve finally succumbed to the march of progress and put a Little Metal Dog Fanpage up. Have a look, spread the word, and keep an eye out over there for exclusive updates and upcoming competitions… you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Little-Metal-Dog-Show/118250901580941

Thank you, as always, for listening and supporting the show! It’s available now on iTunes or directly from this link right here – enjoy!

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Still Fighting It – Memoir ’44 review

It’s got to be said, I’ve always been a little wary of war gaming. The genre strikes me as pretty complicated and – despite the patience of friends who’ve attempted to teach me a couple of them – they have a tendency to fry my brain. Of course, regular readers of the site will know that occasionally the planets align, pigs fly and I somehow manage to understand how a game works. Admittedly, the game needs to be reasonably straightforward for this to happen, so thank heavens for Days of Wonder and their excellent Memoir ’44.

Based on Richard Borg’s Commands and Colours gaming system, Memoir ’44 was actually simple enough to pick up despite the initial daunting feeling I got when I first opened the box. I’ve actually played another one of the games in this series before – Battlelore – but despite the fantasy theme (which I normally enjoy) I really didn’t get on with it. Admittedly I didn’t get the chance to get it to the table as much as I would have liked, but Memoir seems to have hit the spot – right place, right time, I suppose. Over the past few years I’ve become more interested in (relatively) recent world history and this game, of course, is steeped in the stories of World War II.

This is a two player effort (unless you’re taking part in an Overlord game, more of which later on) that sees one side taking the role of the Allied forces, the other Axis. The game’s rulebook contains a selection of scenarios based on actual events for you to play through, seeing if you can either keep history as it occurred or change the past. As well as the rulebook (as with most DoW products) the production values are ridiculously high and you get an awful lot packed in the box. The double-sided board is where your battles will take place, one side a beachfront , the other a countryside setting. You also get a stack of large hex tiles, printed up with all manner of rivers, towns, forests and hillsides – these will be placed on your board before the game starts as mapped out in the scenarios from the book.

An awful lot of stuff in a relatively small box!

Of course, the thing that makes a Days of Wonder game are the quality of the pieces included and Memoir doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. There are nearly 150 actual army units, split between infantry forces, tanks and artillery, along with a stack of wire bales, sandbags and hedgehogs (those spiky things made out of three planks of wood). Everything is remarkably detailed considering their size, and it’s all shared equally between the two colours. It really appeals to your inner 5-year-old, evoking memories of playing with your toy soldiers. Speaking of playing, Memoir is actually rather easy to pick up – the trick is to win through strategy.

Each scenario is explained in the rulebook, complete with a map of where both players’ forces begin. There are objectives to complete in order to claim victory, normally meaning that you have to collect a set amount of medals. These can be attained by occupying a certain area of the board or (more usually) by wiping out an opponent’s unit. The whole game is card driven, with each player manoeuvring around the board using one card per turn. The board itself is divided into three parts – general movement cards show a highlighted section and how many units can be selected, while special actions could mean anything from all armoured units attacking to a sole infantryman running riot.

Combat is resolved using dice and is dependent on a few factors – what you’re attacking, the unit you’re using, the distance between you… thankfully, after a couple of turns it all becomes quite straightforward. If you’re attacking infantry, you’re looking for as many soldiers to appear as possible. Rolling tanks will destroy armoured units, grenades take down anything, while green stars mean no effect. You may also be forced to retreat if a purple flag appears. Explanations in the rulebook are clear and I soon found myself working out rolls myself with no problem. However, if you’re not someone who enjoys a little randomness in their gaming, Memoir ’44 is probably a game you should pass on. You’re reliant on luck, and even the most strategic mind can be scuppered by poor dice. On the flip side of that, games are quick, with simpler scenarios often coming in under an hour – ideal for that quick gaming fix that’s a little meatier – and you can plot your revenge swiftly!

I mentioned the Overlord game earlier, which is a variant of the standard game that allows for more players. Of course, with more players comes more equipment, meaning you’ll need more than one set to use. Multiple people on each side are led by a General who secretly issues orders which are then performed on the now-oversided board. These battles are much longer but take an already excellent game and turn it into something truly special. If you get the opportunity to try out an Overlord game I really recommend you do so – the investment of time is more than outweighed by the experience.

However, two-player Memoir ’44 is how it will normally visit your gaming table, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better introduction to war games. Sure, it’s a far cry from the deeper simulations like Advanced Squad Leader, but Richard Borg’s vision of WWII battles is in no way a throwaway affair. Going up against an experienced opponent will challenge even the most hardcore – after all, you never know what the enemy is thinking. If you still need convincing, Days of Wonder currently have an online version of Memoir available from their website. Download it from this page, register for the open beta test and away you go. See you on the battlefield!

Memoir ’44 is produced by Days of Wonder and was first released in 2004. Designed by Richard Borg, the base game is available for around £30 both online and at your local game shop. If you enjoy it, you may also like the huge range of expansions, from Air Support units to new boards depicting other battlefields from World War II, as well as a book detailing full campaigns. These expansions are in no way necessary though, and that base game will keep you entertained for a long time.

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News and stuff – 23rd April 2010

Another week, another bunch of news stories from the world of games that caught my eye – so on with the show! Or the words, anyway.

This week saw a lot of new announcements from Fantasy Flight games. A lot of their upcoming releases come to us in the form of expansions; their massive Tide of Iron has the action moving from the western front to the east as the Germans now face Soviet troops in the new Fury Of The Bear box-set, while fans of Runebound get to check out the new Mists of Zanaga adventure – there’s also a second edition rulebook for the ace Tannhauser. The most exciting news though? A brand new version of the classic DungeonQuest, with an aim for it to be ready by August. I’d better get rid of my original edition (complete with Heroes for Dungeonquest) before the bottom drops out of the market… anyone fancy a trade?

Continuing the war theme, Days of Wonder have announced yet another addition to their Memoir ’44 line – this time a new board on which you can wage campaigns. Something a bit different about their Breakthrough set though: it’s bloody massive. Seriously, forget this map set representing an area of land – in reality it looks like the size of a small nation. Check out the pictures from the DoW blog. Just try not to put your back out when you pick it up off the shelf on release. 

Finally, San Diego was the home of this year’s Mensa Mind Games, a weekender of games playing and all-out geekery. Every year, American members of Mensa gather to play and decide on what games they deem worthy of sporting the Select Seal – an award for games that people of all ages can enjoy. They generally choose a good range of titles, and this year these five were given the accolade:

Anomia – Anomia Press

Dizios – Mindware

Forbidden Island – Gamewright

Word on the Street – Out of the Box

Yikerz! – Wiggles 3D Inc.

The Mensa Select Seal has been running for twenty years and their selections are generally pretty good – in the past few years they’ve chosen Wits and Wagers, Hive and Dominion amongst many other good games, so this year’s selections are pretty much guaranteed to be good. Out of the five, Forbidden Island holds the most appeal to me, so I’ll see about grabbing a copy and post up a review soon.

Finally, news a bit closer to home – the first episode of The Little Metal Dog Show will be available next weekend. I’m really hoping you guys enjoy it.

Any comments or news of your own? Drop me an email on littlemetaldog@googlemail.com – and cheers for reading!

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