Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Unsatisfactory Foothold (Memoir 44 game report)

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

The above quote comes from a letter that Eisenhower wrote and planned to publish in case the D-Day landing failed. Fortunately, in real life, he did not have to use that letter. On the table top, however . . .

This game report is way overdue. A couple of months ago, I cajoled my wife into playing Memoir '44 and we chose the Omaha Beach scenario.

Battle 1
I play the Americans; Elizabeth commands the Germans.

I began my attack on the American right flank. I was hoping to sweep over the artillery in the bunker.

 The American storm the beach

The Germans struck back hard, with accurate artillery and rifle fire. Soon, the attack on the right looked like this:
The assault fails

The action then moved to the left flank. The American assault seemed to be succeeding, and the Germans were being worn down. Then the Germans received timely reinforcements (my wife played the Medics and Mechanics card) and the attack faltered.

Finally, the Americans tried to push in the center with an armored assault against the bunkers. Once again, the Germans held on.
The center after the failed armor assault.
Where is the American armor? Destroyed!

At this point, the Commander in Chief (me) had to call off the attack and report that the landings "have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold."

Game Score
Germans - 6 medals
Americans - 0 medals

Battle 2
We switch sides so now I am the Germans.

Elizabeth initiated an attack on the German right.
Here come the Yanks!

Heavy fighting ensued with much bloodshed. Although the Germans suffer severe casualties, they manage to hold on, largely due to a vicious artillery bombardment (I played the Artillery Bombard card, which allows the guns to fire twice).

The American assault fails

The Americans then land their tanks and begin to press forward.
American armor rumbles forward

Again, heavy fighting breaks out. Under cover of the tanks' guns, American infantry actually make it up the bluff.
The village threatened

 But the German defenses stiffen and thrown back the invaders. Once again, American troops withdraw and D-Day is a failure.

Game Score
Germans - 6 medals
Americans - 2 medals

Results for the Night
Omaha is a very difficult scenario for the Americans, and a German victory is most likely. When playing this scenario, it is best to switch sides, as we did. The winner of the night is the one with the most wins or the most overall medals.

My wife clearly had the better of the fight. She absolutely slaughtered me in the first game; I felt like a target on Top Shot. The second game, despite its score, was much closer. My wife did a good job pushing forward against my right. Only my Artillery Bombard saved me there. In the center, she managed to get to the bluff and threaten the village. The German defenses were just too tough. Overall,

Elizabeth - 8
Kevin - 6

A good job by my wife; she earns the laurels for the evening.

Back to the Dark Side

I just learned that yesterday was International Table Top Day - a day dedicated to logging off the computer and playing board and pen and paper games.

So what did I do?

This weekend, I caught the video game bug.

  • I've been downloading epic movie and video game music for my iPod. One song I chose is the Skyrim theme, which inspired me to play.
  • My wife got back into WoW recently. I have been resisting, but yesterday I saw an ad for 7 days free. I signed back up and my wife and I went dungeoning last night.
Now that I see that yesterday was Table Top Day, I feel that I have fallen back to the Dark Side.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gaming Update

I finally got in some gaming last night.

Shadows over Camelot

I picked up Shadows over Camelot: The Card Game recently and gave it a whirl last night. It is a cooperative card game where players try to save Camelot. There is a twist, however, as one of the players could be a traitor working to undermine Arthur's realm. I will have to do a review later.

In the first game, I was the traitor. I was an absolute failure as a traitor because I have no poker face. When I purposely made a bad play, my wife was on to me immediately. I lucked out however, when the other players lost a crucial quest. The second game was also a failure for the the knights of Camelot. SoC is a simple, yet enjoyable game that I can see playing again.

My Templar RPG Campaign
I wanted to finish a quest in my solo fantasy RPG campaign. My wife agreed to play an NPC. I was able to create her character quickly because I am using QUERP, which uses character templates. I gave her a druid to run and off we went! My game report is at my Tales of the Templars blog.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I have been very remiss in posting lately as I have been experiencing more Gamer's Attention Deficit Disorder (GADD). I haven't really be playing any games but instead have spent time preparing and thinking about games.

I picked up Song of Blades and Heroes by Ganesha Games.

It is a set of rules for fantasy skirmish gaming. I gave the rules a read-through and they look interesting. I'd like to convert them to a grid, so I can use my battle board for them. I also need to pick up some figures.

Recently, I learned about the Dead Simple RPG rules and have been perusing them for ideas.

This week, I asked my wife if she wanted to play a pen and paper RPG. To my surprise, she said yes. I asked her what genre she wanted to play - fantasy (using QUERPS), sci fi (using my QUERPS / Tales of the Space Princess mash-up), or steampunk. She chose steampunk so I frankensteined a set of rules using QUERPS and Dead Simple's steampunk variant. I plan to use the Space: 1889 setting. I sketched out a couple of adventures. We didn't play tonight but hopefully soon we'll be adventuring "in a more civilized time."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Von Schmutzer Update - Mission 3

Von Schmutzer Update – Mission 3
I now have completed the third mission. Our gallant Leutnant has continued with his success; here are his mission stats:

Enemies Shot Down
Enemies Seriously Damaged
Enemies Lightly Damaged
Suffered Damaged
Forced to Crash Land

 He is averaging almost 21 VPs per mission, which equates to a decisive victory. If he keeps it up, he will have made a great contribution to the Kaiser’s war effort.

Report for mission 3:
I was once again assigned to patrol over the trenches, and once again I spotted an enemy aircraft as soon as I took off. My first pass was unsuccessful, but I turned around and drew a bead on him as he tried to flee. My shots struck true, rupturing his fuel line and setting the craft ablaze.

[Despite his advantages, von Schmutzer only managed a tie in the first round of battle so no shots were fired. In the second round, the Leutnant won 8-3 and then rolled a 3 for damage – enemy destroyed.]

The skies were quiet as I made my way to the trenches and began to patrol. Some AA fire passed harmlessly by me. Then the enemy came in force. First, I tangled with a lone bomber. I managed a few telling shots before my opponent was able to flee. Then I encountered another bomber. I took my time lining up my shot, then let loose. I did some damage, but the rear gunner returned fire, forcing me to veer away. I returned to the chase and lined up again. I thought I had a good shot, but I failed to do any damage. Concentrating, I blazed away again. This time, smoke erupted from my target, and he plunged to the earth.

[Again, von Scmutzer tied in the first round. He scored some structural damage in the second round. The bomber won in the third round but scored no damage. Von Schmutzer’s shot in the fourth round failed but on the fifth round, the Leutnant won 9-3 and rolled a 12 for damage to shoot down his enemy.]

By now, my fuel was low. On my way home, I spotted an enemy fighter. He must have been brave and experienced for he showed no fear of my Eindekker but decided to pursue me. As he dashed toward me, I sideslipped and poured shot into him. I believe I hit him because he veered off. I would have liked to have continued our duel, but my fuel reserves were dangerously low. I decided to take the opportunity afforded and dash for home. I was able to make it back without further incident.

[On turn 8, von Scmutzer encountered an enemy fighter over the trenches. The fighter was also an Ace so it could have been a great duel. Von Schmutzer won the first round 6-4 (note that I am not adding all the mods to the rolls anymore, instead, I just add the difference between the opposing plane mods to von Scmutzer’s roll. In this case, von Schmutzer’s mods were +4+1 = 5 compared to +3+1 = 4 so the net difference was +1).  The damage indicated a pilot hit. Realizing that he could not back it back home if he continued the combat, von Schmutzer reluctantly broke off the fight.]

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Bad Day for the Space Marines

Played Space Hulk: Death Angel tonight.

On the very first turn, I attacked with Brother Claudio, using his special ability (shown on this card).

I just needed to roll anything but a 0 (the Space Hulk Death Angel die is a 6-sider with numbers from 0 to 5). Needless to say, I rolled a 0. Brother Claudio was the first of many casualties as the Space Marines had a bad day.

A Review of Memoir '44

Best. Game. Ever. 

That is basically how my friend Jeff described Memoir ’44  after I introduced it to him several years ago. I have to concur. Memoir is a game of World War II tactical combat based on Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system. There are several distinctive features of the system.

·         The map board features modular terrain features (hills, woods, towns, etc.). This allows players to set up an endless variety of battlefields.
·         Each player has a hand of Command Cards. To get troops to move or attack, the player must play a command card to order units (usually 1 to 3). There are also Command Cards that allow special actions, such as reinforcing units with casualties.
·         The map is divided into three sections (left, center, right). Often, a player may only order units in one section.
·         To attack, a player rolls special Memoir dice, which have icons of infantry, armor, a grenade, a star, or a flag. Infantry or armor icons hit their respective types of units, a grenade hits anything, and a flag causes a retreat.
·         Players gain medals for seizing key objectives or destroying enemy units. The first player to reach a specified number of medals wins the battle.

A game involves setting up a selected scenario, listed in the rule book. Each scenario specifies the map setup, the number of medals to win, and any special rules. Players then take turns playing a Command Card, ordering units, and making attacks, until one player reaches the medal count and wins the game.

A game in progress - Omaha Beach

Mechanically speaking, Memoir 44 is a very simple game. Like chess, however, that simplicity hides a very sophisticated game. Players will need to make a number of decisions throughout each turn – which Command Card to use, which units to order, which enemy units to attack, how to attack (e.g. do I use armor or infantry?), which unit attacks first, etc. The game definitely keeps players on their toes.

People who like “realistic” games will have complaints about Memoir. Luck can play a role – if you roll poor dice or draw bad Command Cards, your game will suffer. The Command Cards can be a major source of irritation. For example, if my opponent launches a serious attack on my left flank and I have no left flank cards, my units might just end up sitting there taking punishment without a chance to retaliate. Memoir also makes a number of abstractions. There is no differentiation between armor units, so different types of tanks will be treated as if they are equal. An American Sherman attacks the same as a German Panther.

Despite these limitations, Memoir 44 delivers an amazing gaming experience. As I mentioned, players have a number of decision points so they will remain engaged. Furthermore, I have been surprised at how the abstract system can encourage realistic decisions. For example, it behooves a smart commander to withdraw a unit with severe casualties from the front lines. In most wargames I played before, players blithely send units on suicide missions – win or be destroyed! Also, I have learned through hard experience that armor is not invincible, especially against infantry in prepared defensive positions. A wise commander will support his armor with infantry. Finally, a commander must realize that his plans will always risk being upset by the fog of war (i.e. a lack of command cards). Therefore, he will remain patient and flexible, marshaling resources until the time is right.

All these factors have made Memoir ’44 my favorite game ever. Even if I have a run of bad luck, I don’t mind. Games are short (typically around an hour, depending on the dice and the scenario) so a rematch is easy to do. I HIGHLY recommend this game.

Rating 5+++++++++ / 5

Friday, March 1, 2013

My New RPG Blog

I have decided to split off my role-playing notes into a separate blog. Check out Tales of the Templars.

Von Schmutzer Returns

I haven’t posted about Karl von Scmutzer since his initial mission link. I played his second mission a few weeks ago. Here is his belated report.

With my success the day before, the Hauptmann chose me to for a more dangerous mission; I was to fly patrol over the trench line. Unfortunately, I did not have quite the success as my first mission.

Once again, I spotted enemy aircraft immediately after taking off. I first encountered an enemy bomber. I got in one good shot, which I believe struck the pilot, before he was able to escape into some clouds. Next was another bomber, which I severely damaged. Then I tangled with a pair of enemy fighters. I was able to damage one while avoiding getting shot by his comrade, but then they turned tail and fled.

[In three out of four turns, von Schmutzer encountered enemy aircraft. His superior stats enabled him to get in shots, but none were decisive. I “cheated” a bit. In the early phases of the battles, I kept forgetting to roll to see if the enemy fled so the battles may have gone on longer than per the rules. Oh well.]

I finally made it over the trench lines, when I spotted a pair of enemy reconnaissance planes. I dove to the attack. I tried to line up on the rear plane but could not get a clear shot. The tail gunner of his comrade got a clean view of me. Bullets rattled overhead. With a little maneuvering, I finally got a shot. I could see pieces of fuselage breaking up. His comrade once again managed a clear shot. This time, bullets bit into my craft, ripping open holes in the fuselage’s covering. We maneuvered some more. All the time, I tried to position myself so they could not fire back. I kept safe but only managed a few ineffectual bursts. Finally, they made a break for their home base. My orders forbade me from chasing them into Allied territory, so they were able to escape.

[The second turn of the battle was the only one where any damage occurred. Leutnant von Schmutzer rolled a 6 + 4 (the Eindekker’s bonus) + 1 (Ace status) = 11 vs. 1 + 2 (aircraft bonus) = 3. The damage roll only resulted in one structural hit. Against the other aircraft, von Scmutzer rolled a 1 + 4 +1 = 6 vs. 6 +2 = 8. The enemy’s damage roll indicated structural damage against the German.]

After this encounter, I patrolled a short while longer. Enemy AA guns sent up a volley, but they were wildly inaccurate. Finally, with my fuel reserves running low, I headed home. Alas, no victories today.