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Subject: A Grognard's Perspective on Memoir '44 rss

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steven richard
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This is quite a good review and helped me grok exactly why M'44 is so unsatisying as a "ConSim" but still a fun game to play with newbies, my girlfriend, and/or a few beers.

 
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steven richard
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On the other hand, if you honestly believe that the days of the priveleged few sending brave young men to die is over...maybe you should pick up a newspaper.

 
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
. Scale- I’ve played a lot of wargames, and the vast majority of games in which units from one hex can attack units in another hex are tactical. In most operational and strategic-scale games, units have to be in the same hex to attack one another, as a hex represents a rather large area of land.


Jason, I'm afraid this isn't true. On the contrary, in the vast majority of strategic- and operational-level wargames using hexes to regulate movement and placement (and I've played over 500 of such, in 40 years), conflict occurs between adjacent hexes - not within a given hex. In the majority of tactical wargames using hexes, there is at least one, ranged-weapon unit type that can attack from more than one hex away. This has been true since the use of the hexagon became prevalent in the Sixties.

In strategic and operational games, how much area a hex represents dictates to some degree the size of the average unit (battalion, brigade, division, corps, etc.), and will often also be at least indirectly mitigated by the density of armed forces found in the historical engagement being simulated.

Conflict from adjacent hexes is usually only an ergonomic expedient; that is, the normal sequence of events is that one side contests possession of hexes held by the other side, and the victor usually has the option of occupying said hexes, after combat. It is, as much of everything in any wargame is, an approximation.
 
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3. Unit damage- This is the much-maligned issue of units losing figures but still able to dish out a full amount of damage. Yes, I’ve heard the argument that the number of figures represents only the front-line troops, that unit losses are not actually in increments of fourths (infantry), thirds (armor), or halves (artillery), and that the number of figures on the board is more representative of morale than of actual amount of fire being unleashed on the enemy. This is still a cop-out, as demoralized units are notoriously ineffective in combat.


But if the number of figurea remaining is explicitly representative of the combat effectiveness of the unit, it's not a cop-out -- once the units are gone, the unit is demoralized and no longer combat effective. M44 doesn't get into the details of morale decrementing ability and recovering morale, but it does capture the idea of a unit being largely effective until it reaches a critical point of being beat on too much.

Incidentally, I'd be interested in your view of C&C: Ancients, which uses the C&C engine with additional attention paid to many specific combat details, the effects of leadership and so on.

Thanks for the review.
 
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Ethan McKinney
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jl4130 wrote:
You've been playing games for nearly 2x as long a I have been alive, so if we disagree, I guess I'll have to take your word for it. In my experience, though, and I have my favorite strategic/operational wargames listed under my profile, the attacker will have to move from a nearby hex into the defender's hex.

Your favorite wargames are highly atypical of the genre. The only ones I notice that use actual hexes, as opposed to areas, are the Columbia block games. Those block games do not use the same mechanics as the vast majority of hex-and-counter titles (by a ratio of about 100:1).

I almost put "wargames" in quotes in the first sentence, because the first such I noticed in your rating list were Axis & Allies titles. Just wargamer snobbery. shrug
 
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Paul Franklin-Bihary
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I agree on the quality of your review...very well put together, and points out the flaws of the game in thier correct context. Memoir '44 is FUN, and shouldn't be seen as a simulation by any means.

One question: If you didn't want to start a flame war about your personal views of war, why did you include them in your review in the first place?

I don't really need to know your personal opinion of war in order to understand your interpretation of this game.

I don't want to add to a flame war (because I liken them to REAL wars...sad and pathetic attempts to establish dominance for some reason or another) but I just had to ask that question.
 
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Paul Franklin-Bihary
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I suppose it was short-sighted to include my note. I am generally a bit uncomfortable about the whole concept of "realism" in wargames, as the reality of war is that it is hell for all sides, end of story. For a "real" experience, a grognard would be sitting in a dirty tent, knowing that each time he moved a chit, lives would be lost, and let's just say that each dice roll gone bad wouldn't be brushed off with just a groan. I understand that many wargamers are history buffs (I know I am), and want to go back in time and make some changes, and that demands a certain level of historical accuracy. I guess what I wanted to make clear was that while I am totally for this accuracy, I stop well short of demanding a total simulation of warfare. I thought this comment necessary, as I was going to talk about Memoir's lack of realism and simply didn't want to come off as a warmongering 1970's era grognard. I apologize if I got off-track while putting together my note.


Again, well put. Thanks for the clarification.

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I mean, with video games, RPG's, CCG's, minis, and all the other conflict-based games that have arrived in the last 15 years to compete with old-school wargames, what teenager wants to hang out with a bunch of grumpy old men?


I'm a teacher, and I want to try to get as many of my teenage students interested in games, war or otherwise, as possible. The usage of the brain while playing a boardgame is different than in video games, and the social aspect is important as well. Throw in a little history, and that's even better. If I can get a kid hooked on games, he'll be actively participating in the world, in a multitude of ways. I hope that I'm not too old and grumpy to do it...
 
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steven richard
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Well, Paul and I frequently get together to play wargames (and sometimes Go and/or Euros) and we're both Seattle lefties who feel the need to suss out (i.e. "justify") why we're compelled to play M'44, ASL, and others. I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say that we both love games that require strategic thinking and that are steeped in theme. To meet those requirements, wargaming as a hobby is the only way to go.

And yes, this is somewhat of a tangent, but since videogames were mentioned...I'm constantly amazed by how those of use who use charts and graphs to monitor the actions of our cardboard counters are considered "warmongers" while the average gamer our age (whether you're in your 20's or 30's...as I am) will think nothing of enjoying the visceral thrill of slaughtering acres of computer animated foe!

And now, while we're still in agreement on things...I must register my disgust. Apparently the idea of "civilized" countries fighting each other is "silly", but it's just fine for a powerful Western nation to attack a weaker Middle_Eastern one...Because???

 
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steven richard
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Thanks, I do appreciate the clarification. I also believe that you'll find anyone arguing against using the military to defend our nation is going to be quite rare...I myself have never actually spoken with anyone who espouses that view, and have only encountered them as straw-men in right-wing speeches (i.e. Zellar, Rove, et al).

Unfortunately, most political debates get drawn into black or white zero-sum nonsense where one side accuses the other of wanting to dismantle the military while they themselves are accused of wanting a fascist police state fueled by imperial aggression on a global scale.

In truth, most people do not think of either option as agreeable, but you may find the odd person here or there who leans too far one way or the other on the "Hawk vs. Dove" debate...like your roommate for example.

I wouldn't worry too much about the fanatics on the left, however. They are as weak in political power as they are in numbers.

If only the same could be said about the Hawks...
 
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Adam Paschal
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I would have to agree with your perspective one Wargaming in general. Too many "older generation" gamers tend to look down on Axis and Allies and other simpler boardgames. Well we have to boil that down to finances, Axis and Allies (A good game but not top tier) Sells better than Advanced third Reich. Money, more than anything has largly, IMO, changed the gaming industry. Nothing Saddens me more than seeing Hasporo Enslave the Avalon Hill name and put out games that are not true to the spirit of what Avalon Hill did for the gaming industry. I know it is easy to judge games based on the Standard of old hex based games which are and always will be superior games. But with video games, they are no longer viable in the market, and therefore games like Memoir 44 cant and should not be judged with serious wargames.

Oh yeah, try not to bring up the Iraq issue, its just not worth hearing the same opposing opinions, this is not the place for political debates.

Sorry, but heres my final point, i dont understand why anyone who likes wargaming would be called a "warmonger." It doesnt seem correct, but i guess thats just my thought.



 
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Dan Edwards
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Nice review. I disagree with your assertation that M44 is so removed from realism that it isn't a simulation. I'll concede that it lacks a lot of the things that make a more traditional wargame seem more simulative (and usually more complex) but for the target audience, it can be a fine simulation.

I'm pretty sure that DoW and Mr. Borg didn't think to themselves "now here is a game that will be proclaimed as the ultimate authority on OOB and relative combat strength for (insert battle here), and cause players of games like Wacht am Rhein to drop those cardboard counters and flock to our little plastic soldiers". At least, I hope they didn't think that.

But, for a non-grog, or somebody totally new to consims, if they walk away from a game of M44 thinking something along the lines of "Hey, that Pegasus Bridge thing was kind of touch and go for the Brits, and that battle could have turned on any number of twists of fate" then it has been as good of a simulation as a number of more grogish games, and in some ways, perhaps better. Heck, now that they know that Pegasus Bridge was a WWII battle, and not a landmark on Teletubbies, M44 has been more instructive and simulative than that copy of The Longest Day that they will never see, much less attempt to play.

I love my hexagons, counters and CRTs as much as the next guy, but the cardplay in M44 might be more simulative of a tactical engagement like Pegasus Bridge than two megagrogs pondering all the variables, considering each turn for eons, and then carefuly manuevering counters to get the optimum three-to-one column for the attack. Battle isn't like that. Battle isn't like M44, but you could argue that the randomness of cardplay is more like battle than the carefully calculated cardboard oddsfest.

A big part of wargames, for me at least, are the insight they can give to the situation facing the commanders or soldiers involved. None of them are remotely "realistic", although they can give decent insight and have plausible outcomes within the artificial limits of the game.

While I relish the thought of a game of Bitter Woods (fourth edition), with the rules for air interdection, road movement, weather, supply effects, leaders, leaders getting distracted by pretty nurses (I'm not kidding), I don't think that I will be getting better view of some aspects of the Battle of the Bulge than I would by breaking out those cute little plastic panzers for a St Vith scenario in M44. Sure, the groggier game is more scholarly in many aspects, and as a grog or military guy I can get a closer appreciation of the problems the Germans faced due to the horse drawn artillery they had, but the M44 game might well be just as good or better for simulating the "Holy Crap, look at all those tanks!" feelings that I'm sure many GI's had during that terrible battle.



 
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Christopher Hill
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There are two main reasons games like Memoir and Axis & Allies sell better than the counter based games, in my opinion.

First is simplicity. Memoir is much easier to teach and learn than most of the complex counter based games. Jason hit the nail on the head with this one. How often in your past experiences have you been explaining rules only to see someone's eyes glaze over with confusion? Then because of this, you shy away from teaching the game or even suggesting it to people you know just won't get it, let alone be interested in it. The simpler the rules are, the more marketable the game, since it will appeal to a wider audience.

Second is visual appeal. With experienced gamers this is minimal, since our gaming passions tend to override what the game looks like. However, in our very visually orientated society (TV, video games, etc.) a board game like Memoir may help to attract the younger, less board game experienced audience. With Memoir or A & A, they can tell a battle is taking place on the table top, where a counter based system looks like a bunch of cardboard with numbers to them. Think about it. Kids Jason's age have always had video games and computers. Getting them to turn their attention to a board game would most likely have to include some kind of visual stimulation. Kind of a kickstart for the imagination.

All of this is just my opinion, of course.
 
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Xander Fulton
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Well, FWIW, I'm *also* your age (close, anyway), and *did* have video games since I was...well, since as far back as I can remember. The internet (in the form of ARPANet) was actually around before I was born, so...yeah.

Oh, AND my parents where...ummm...extremist pacifists. I think your roommate ('sit down and take it for a while until they get it out of their system') wouldn't be pacifist enough for them. Before buying toys for us, they'd remove any plastic guns from them, or (in the case of Transformers, et al), the plastic fisted hands (fists = violence).

Yet, I still have an avid interest in history, and wargames specifically. And nearly did end up joining the Navy, in fact. So...I'd say what parents did or did not teach as a kid doesn't have as much to do with your interests or hobbies as you might think.
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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Jason, this has to be the best review of Memoir '44's "realism" nits that I've read. Which is a pleasant change, since some reviews that find the game wanting tend to bully it or dismiss it completely. I do find it odd, however, that for all the faults you were able to find, you justified your 'B' grade by simply finding it fun and well-produced. That is, if the nits are what bring it down from an 'A', what are the counter-balancing factors that you enjoyed that make it so much better than a game that you might rate as a 'C' or worse? (I'm asking rhetorically.)

With all the expansions that have come out that carry the system through at least two European fronts and into the Pacific Theater, I think that the Memoir '44 game system is approaching the sort of complexity that enthusiastic players appreciate in Commands & Colors: Ancients have straight out of the box. Which is why it surprises me more and more that Memoir '44 is somehow regarded as best when only shared with "newbies, girlfriends, or a few beers." By comparison, Command and Colors: Ancients is, somehow, regarded a truer (if not genuine) Grognard's game.

It could be that the engine that Memoir '44 and C&C:A share is better suited for linear battles, as many seem to think, but I think the components and mechanics are there for a game that could walk closer to the sort of con-sim that some wanted Memoir '44 to be. I don't think it particulalrly necessary, since I find Memoir a great deal of fun just as it is, but I think it can be done without sacrificing features players are already familiar with.

 
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Jason
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"Heck, it might even work to seduce CCG and minis players away from their money pits and into the light."

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