Memoir ’44 Board Game Review & Ultimate Guide

June 6th 1944. D-Day. The time has come for the greatest ever seaborne invasion in world history. And you’ve been put in charge.

The eyes of the world are upon you. No pressure.

Memoir ’44
  • 17 historical scenarios
  • Easy to learn and fast-paced
  • Historical World War II game

Brief Overview of Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 Board Game

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Memoir ’44 is a competitive tactical wargame that puts you and your opponent in the shoes of the Allied and Axis powers during the latter stages of the Second World War. Starting out on D-Day, you get to play out a series of battles from that fateful year, and perhaps change the tide of history.

Battle scenarios are set-up to reflect the real-life terrain and obstacles that each side had at the time. You must use action cards to maneuver your troops into attack position, before entering into combat decided by the roll of dice.

Whoever manages to knock out enough enemy units first, or achieve various other tactical objectives, will emerge victorious.

Versions & Expansions

As Memoir ’44 is based upon real-life battles, there is arguably the ability to create an expansion for every battle that has ever happened, let alone just those in the penultimate year of the Second World War. And there are plenty. However, of those that have been made, many of them aren’t available in English. Two that are a bit easier to get your hands on, though, are:

Operation Overlord

This expansion is designed to allow more than two players to take part by enabling team vs team play. Bear in mind, you will need the original game for it to work. 

Memoir '44: Operation Overlord
  • This is an expansion; Memoir '44 is required to use it
  • Adds depth and complexity to the base game
  • Not a standalone game

New Flight Plan

As you can probably guess, now you can introduce aircraft into your battles! An important component of many World War II confrontations. Alongside some great aircraft miniatures and the additional front of attack, you’ll also get 21 new scenarios.

Memoir '44: New Flight Plan
  • Streamlined rules make it easy to incorporate and play
  • Features 21 new scenarios
  • Includes 16 finely-crafted, legendary Planes in impressive sizes!...

Unboxing Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 Board Game

Opening Memoir ’44 feels a little bit like prying open a time capsule taken from Eisenhower’s own field command station. Well, that or my own childhood toy box. Inside, there’s:

  • 1 double-sided game board (beach landings and countryside)
  • 44 double-sided Terrain hex pieces
  • 10 double-sided Victory Medal tokens
  • 14 Special Forces badge tokens
  • 4 double-sided rectangular Bunker and Bridge tiles
  • 42 Infantry figures
  • 24 Armored vehicles
  • 6 Artillery pieces
  • 18 man-made Obstacles
  • 3 Cardholder sections
  • 70 cards
  • 8 Battle dice
  • 1 Rules and Scenario booklet

I really enjoyed the artwork of Memoir ‘44 on the box and throughout the rule book and components themselves. It put me in mind of a few old Sega Megadrive games I used to own, with that fantastic, quite tired-looking, 80s-style animation. I like that the soldiers are drawn with a more rough-and-ready appearance, rather than taking the shiny-shiny Hollywood route.

My favorite bit, though, is the green plastic army soldiers, just like those I used to play with as a kid (or those on Toy Story, if you didn’t have them yourself). You also get some decent little tanks and other bits and pieces to represent obstacles (like sandbags or hedgehogs) and landmarks.

When laid out on the table, it looks amazing. The way each scenario is set up, with sandbags and metal obstacles littered across the board, you really do feel like you have a birds-eye view of the battlefield. Or as if you’re moving around little pieces on a map in the Allied or Axis very own war room.

The board itself is 13 hexes wide by 9 hexes deep and is split into three columns – left flank, right flank, and center. These are the three main combat streams in the game.

How to Play Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 Board Game

Setup

To begin, select the scenario you want to play and set up the game board as described in the scenario instructions. This will include where individual units are placed and any other landmarks. There are various types of unit, each of which is made up of a different number of figures.

Both sides also take a number of command cards and four battle dice.

Your objective

The aim of the game is to be the first commander to win between four and six victory medals (it varies by the scenario you’re playing). You can win medals either by completely eliminating an enemy unit, or, in some scenarios, achieving certain objectives.

Taking turns

Players alternative each turn, which are made up of five phases:

  1. Choose a command card – there are two types of command cards. Section cards allow you to order units to move or attack and correspond to a specific section of the battlefield (left flank, right flank or center). Tactics cards, on the other hand, are special moves or actions.
  2. Give your orders – announce which units you are going to move. Units can only be given one order each.
  3. Make unit movements – infantry, armour and artillery units have different limits on how far they can move. Their movement may be affected by the terrain, while none may move through spaces occupied by friendly or enemy units.
  4. Resolve battle orders – each battle must be resolved completely before the next. Combat is explained in more detail below.
  5. Draw a new command card.

Combat

To make battle with an enemy unit, you should both be in range, and, if infantry or armour, have line of sight. 

The amount of battle dice you roll depends on your range (how many hexes you are away from the enemy unit) and the unit in question. Armour always rolls three dice. Whereas infantry and artillery roll fewer dice the further away from the target they are. Your attack could also be affected by terrain. For example, if you attack uphill you lose one battle die.

Combat is simple. The attacker rolls their attack dice and the defender must remove one figure for every symbol rolled that matches the type of unit being attacked. If the final figure in a unit is removed, then place it on your Medal Stand, to represent a victory point.

It is, of course, possible that the attacker makes no hits whatsoever.

A retreat symbol could also be rolled. In this instance, the defender must retreat their unit by the number of retreat flags that were rolled. If it was an infantry or armor unit attacking from an adjacent space, they may move into the vacant hex.

Moving through the game

The game plays out turn-by-turn with commanders choosing cards and maneuvering their units on the battlefield. Once one side reaches the required number of victory points, they win! (Although, not to be biased, but I’m rooting for the Allies).

Your First Game of Memoir ’44

Memoir '44 Board Game

Be prepared for quite a lengthy set-up for each scenario. There’s a lot of instructions for each one, and it can be easy to miss something out. So, go slowly, and maybe get your opponent to double-check after that they’re happy it’s all been set up correctly.

It’s admirable how much value Memoir ’44 places on the historical accuracy of how the game plays out, and the various terrains and situations each army had to face at the time. This does mean, though, that sometimes players will have a natural advantage over their opponent. Therefore, to make it a proper competition, it’s advised that you play each scenario twice, swapping sides each time.

When it comes to strategy, contingency planning will be a big factor in being victorious. It’s almost impossible to hang on to some cards for too long, but just keep in mind the possible ways your enemy could retaliate and be prepared for it. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Re-enact battles from WWII
  • Very accessible and easy to pick up
  • Learn some cool history

Cons:

  • Quite basic if you’re after a war game
  • Historical accuracy can affect the level of competition

Memoir ‘44 is interesting, as it is war-themed but doesn’t quite sit alongside games that would more traditionally fit into the war genre of games. This is because you’re taking control of battalions or platoons to win individual battles, rather than managing multiple armies and invading continents. This has the benefit of making it much simpler to learn, and really accessible to those new to gaming.

But, while the gameplay may not be overly complex, the actual tactics needed to play effectively can take a lot of thinking. 

The way the board is set up, with different columns for movement, means you need to think carefully about how you’re exposing yourself. While the terrain and other obstacles on the map need to be effectively scouted out and factored into your more long-term plans.

Most of the challenge, though, comes from the cards in your hand, which dictate the actions available to you. And you don’t get many. Therefore, you must play strategically, holding on to cards that could be valuable down the line, and making sure you don’t limit yourself too much in terms of mobility in a certain flank, should your opponent catch you out with a surprise attack.

I’d probably have preferred combat if the defending player had some kind of input into their defense on that go other than just holding on and hoping they don’t get hit. Say, by giving them some defense dice. It makes it a little too simple, if you ask me. But, again, it’s easy for newbies and still works very effectively without feeling too one-sided.

As a history buff, I especially loved being able to enact and control some of the battles I’ve read so much about, like Pegasus Bridge, which kicked off D-Day. Or Omaha Beach, which sat right at the heart of it. Or the battle at Arnhem, taking place a little later on. When moving your pieces and making decisions on strategy, the thought that this was an entirely real campaign is always at the back of your mind.

This effect is compounded by the amount of care that’s taken to ‘stick to the script’, meaning you have to consider many of the tactical obstacles and opportunities that Rommel and Eisenhower faced themselves.

You get to learn some cool history from the game itself, which is a nice touch. For example, who knew that Rommel was on vacation at the time of the D-Day landings?

This commitment to historical accuracy, though, does affect the gameplay. The scenarios are set-up in a way that stays true to the advantages each side had in reality, such as the terrain, meaning battles are often not on a level playfield.

As mentioned, you are recommended to do each scenario twice and swap sides to even this out. However, this still doesn’t quite make it fair. Tactics or mistakes made in the previous round can be easily copied or learned from by your opponent in the next.

TL;DR

Memoir ’44 is a fantastic game for any history buffs out there, letting you re-enact some of the key battles of WWII on your tabletop.

This isn’t a far-reaching game of world domination, though. Instead, players are parachuted (figuratively) into each individual battle and have to deal with the challenges and obstacles posed by each one.

With quick and straightforward mechanics, it’s super easy to learn, making it ideal for a more relaxed gaming session or a mix of young and more experienced players.

Conclusion: Verdict?

Letting players put themselves in the shoes of the Allied and Axis commanders, Memoir ‘44 is a gritty battle/skirmish game that is sure to satisfy the historical nerd in all of us.

Being super simple to learn, it’s ideal for families or groups of friends that don’t want to get bogged down in intricate rules and processes. Instead, it’s an opportunity to try and outmaneuver your opponent and pick off their units one by one.

It doesn’t pack the type of wide-reaching strategic punch as Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, or even Risk. But, instead, focuses in closer on the tactics of individual battles by forcing you to strategically choose cards and plan your battles.

Now, excuse me. I need to go and rewatch the entirety of Band of Brothers.

Memoir ’44
  • 17 historical scenarios
  • Easy to learn and fast-paced
  • Historical World War II game

Have you played Memoir ’44? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this game. Drop a comment below and let us know!

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Stats at a glance

Players: 2-8

Ages: 8 +

Medium

30-60 Mins

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Published: 2004