Memoir '44 board game
Breakthrough to Gembloux - Intelligence Report...
April 27 2008
The new Breakthrough format map got immediate play on arrival. I had taken a bit of a M'44 break and it was a good opportunity to get the game back on the table (so long Star Wars Miniatures, your Missions Book was terrible...good idea, poor execution...I digress).
The map itself is made of paper (the same kind used for road maps, sturdy). It's big as well, taking up the whole width of our gaming table at just under 3 feet (35-3/4" x 38-1/2"). This provides a 13 hexes (standard width) by 17 hexes playing area. Though, being paper I suppose it could also be folded to get different sizes. Much like a real map, you may want to fold it back on itself to work out the crease lines a little bit.
On the one side was an open country map which has some terrain cards printed along the sides (which also function as an excellent place holder for cards needed for any given scenario). There is also a summary of the turn sequence and units etc... On the other side, is the Breakthrough to Gembloux scenario designed by Jacques (jdRommel) David. I have played quite a few of Jacques scenarios thanks largely to online translation and knew the level of quality to expect. That being the set scenario, I'll be reporting specifically on it.
The set up for the scenario is printed directly on the map which makes set up incredibly easy. Pay attention though, the Special Forces units don't have the badges printed. The Historical Background, Briefing and Victory Conditions are also printed, again, making things much easier to reference.
Both camps have information in both English and French. The graphics are a delight, top marks to DoW there!
The victory conditions set forth in this one are for the Axis (Germans) to breakthrough the Allies (French) lines while at the same time eliminating/exiting 12 units. The Axis must exit at least one unit through the Exit point on their left section in order to win. The Allies on the other hand must prevent them from exiting and eliminate 12 German units.
The Axis and Allies card count is similar to a regular game of Memoir with the Axis getting 6 and the Allies, 5. The Allies are not allowed to use Air Sorties of any kind and simply discard and redraw if they do happen to get one or it's equivalent (Air Power card in this case). Air rules are in effect for this one.
The disposition of forces is fairly dispersed for the Allies with some forward motorized troops dug in and some protective armor to help contain any breakouts. A lone artillery battery sits well positioned in a woods cusping the Allied left and center. The nature of the immediate terrain also favors them in that it funnels the Axis. The Allied command has sited their troops well.
The Axis is set to break hard and in looking at their formation it is very obvious that from the start they have to get going and mix up their pattern to avoid any flags from turning into hits. The weight of the push will have to come on the Axis left if they are to achieve their breakout in a timely manner. I actually played the 'Mobile Artillery' rule in this one as it is actually written (I normally play according to my Haus Rules), it not only seemed appropriate given the depth of the map, it was almost necessary.
I won't give away any spoilers, you'll just have to play this one for yourself but suffice to say, this scenario can be a long hard slog. While it seemed twice as long (perhaps appropriately) as a standard Memoir game, it'll keep you in the action the whole time.
While there is no time limit, to make it more interesting, I used one for the second round of play otherwise, it becomes too easy to just sit back and pound the Allies enough to run off. The best Axis win time we recorded was 28 turns which also happened to be the average length of all of the battles.
The Breakthrough format opens the door to some grand 2 player battles (I can also envision a massive Overlord!!). This is all about defence in depth which will make for some interesting and fun games but be prepared to play from just one side in an evening. While Jacques scenario itself doesn't innovate, it is well authored and challenging for both sides not to mention, a whole lot of Memoir '44 fun!!
The Breakthrough format offers up a whole new potential on how to play Memoir '44. This method offers a more challenging in-depth style of play appropriate to some of the battles in WWII that just couldn't properly be represented on the more shallow M'44 board.
One final note, you can be sure that when you do get the map there will be at least one other scenario available. I was so taken by this format, I couldn't help but author a scenario myself which is now in it's playtesting stage.