Days of Wonder, 2004, 2 players, ages 8 and up. Memoir '44 is a pretty straight-forward WW II tactical shoot 'em up. The rulebook provides 16 different scenarios starting with the first battle of D-Day (Pegasus Bridge), on through the Normandy landings, the breakout from Normandy (Operation Cobra), the liberation of Paris, operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and so forth. We found the game to be straight-forward and simple to play, and once we'd read through the rules (which took a good 15-20 minutes), we were able to play on without much need to re-reference them (other than looking up new scenarios). The pieces are very cool, especially the tanks. In addition to the tanks, you get infantry, artillery, hedgehogs (beach obstacles), sandbags, and barbed wire. A scenario will show you where to put any special terrain hexes (woods, hedgerows, rivers, ponds, towns, etc) and the starting positions of each side's forces. Each side in the battle is dealt a number of "order" cards (the number of which is determined by the scenario) and play begins. A turn consists of selecting and playing an order card, then movement, then combat, and finally drawing a new order card. You can only move and fight with units that have been ordered (via an order card) this turn. The board is divided up into three sections: left flank, center and right flank. And an order card generally only references units in a particular area. For example, "order 3 units on the right flank", or "order 1 unit on the left flank". So, depending on what cards you're dealt, you may wind up with forces that you can't do anything with simply because you are unable to issue them orders. Movement and combat are fairly straightforward affairs (the latter accomplished via die-rolling). To win a scenario you must collect a pre-determined number of medals (generally four). You earn one medal for each enemy unit you take out (a unit consisting of 3 or 4 indidivual pieces) and each victory medal you earn (victory medals are special goals that one side or the other might have in a given scenario, like "take such-and-so bridge").
We were very disappointed with this game, especially given it's extremely high rating at boardgamegeek.com. In fact, this is the second hugely overrated Days of Wonder game we've been deluded into purchasing based on BGG ratings (the first being "Ticket To Ride"). I bet DoW is sending spies in to tilt the ratings in their favor. Anyway, there are a number of problems with this game. First of all, the victory conditions (earn 4 medals) are stupid. Take the first scenario, Pegasus Bridge. The goal (in real life) was for the British paratroopers to capture and hold two bridges. So, that should be the goal in the game as well: capture and hold two bridges for X number of turns. However, because all you need is four medals to win a scenario, all you need to do is take out 4 enemy units and you've won. Hell, you don't even have to take a single stinking bridge. It's nuts! Our other problem with the game is the complete randomness of it. Between drawing cards and rolling dice you have no idea from one turn to the next what you can do, who you can do it to and where you can do it to them. Cards vary wildly in their power. You might be stuck moving and fighting with a single unit on one turn, whereas your enemy suddenly gets to move and attack with all of their units, and with some kind of bonus as well! We wound up being just plain disgusted with this game after trying out three scenarios, and we sure won't be trying it out again.