Sunday, January 9, 2011

Memoir '44 - Winter Wars

Baby, it's cold outside.

Unfortunately my scheduled Command & Colours: Napoleonics game was cancelled, but I did manage to get a game of Memoir '44 - Winter Wars in on Friday.

Winter Wars
is a new expansion for the Memoir '44 family set during the Battle of the Bulge. It comes with two new card decks, special rules for fighting in snow and a dozen scenarios. We played the Pieper at Stoumont scenario. This was interesting for a number of reasons, firstly because it was a breakthrough scenario, which doubles the depth of the board and secondly because it gave us a chance to use the new Breakthrough card deck that came with the expansion.

The deck increases the number of cards from a normal Memoir '44 deck with two of most special cards like Behind Enemy Lines and Barrage included, but also an interesting wrinkle added to the standard cards. While formerly, a card allowed you to activate a number of units either in the left, centre or right of the battlefield, the new cards also create a new type of unit activation called On the March.

On the March units may move, but not battle which means that a player no longer has to choose between activating units in the battleline and moving up his reserves. This isn't really an issue in regular games because the battlefield is quite compact, but in the deeper Breakthrough game this can lead to a situation where the game can slow quite a bit because not enough units are being activated each turn and therefore they cannot cover the ground in a reasonable time.

The second addition is the Snow Deck, an idea first used in the Stalingrad expansion. This is a deck of special cards that players can use outside the normal turn sequence. These usually modify the effects of a standard card and add a little more uncertainty to the game.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game though it took a good two hours, which is a long time for a Memoir '44 game. I felt the Breakthrough deck added to the experience by adding a bit more movement to the game and allowing the use of reserves. The Snow Deck threw in a few unexpected twists and turns, but didn't derail gameplay - like most special rules and random events decks, what Donald Featherstone used to call "Military Possibilities", they worked best as a seasoning, adding flavour to the game without overwhelming play.

I must say I'm also growing fond of the Breakthrough format and card deck, which gives a lengthier, meatier game.

Another very solid performance from Richard Borg, recommended.

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