In the US, the only face-to-face Memoir ’44 tournaments have been at conventions, but western Europe has a vibrant real-life M44 tournament scene, especially in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This year’s scenarios were originally created for the 2013 Belgian Open. In each M44 round, matched opponents play each side of a scenario once with the outcome usually decided by total flag differential with unit differential used as a tiebreaker.
Mulligan Round … Patton. This is a desert scenario with American infantry and artillery defending a line of ergs, and three armored units coming in from the corner. A combined force of Panzers and infantry attacks them. In 15 matches, only three players managed to earn sweeps: Tim Hitchings, David Schneider, and Dave Wolfe. The Allies won both ends in ten of the remaining matches, while the Germans managed to win both ends in only two cases. For the Allies, Sam Gatto and Tony Gonzalez earned 6-0 shutouts. The biggest wins for the Germans were 6-2 victories by Eric Mosso and Stephen Smith. The overall scenario record: Allies won 23 games and lost seven; average score was 5.43-4.00 medals and 20.73-17.03 figures.
Round 1 … Patton. 12 more matches were played, including 14 fresh players and ten returnees from the previous evening. There were four sweeps, earned by Jeff Cornett, John Ratanaprasatporn, John Kirk, and Stephen Shedden. The other eight matches were all won by the Allies. The only shutout was scored by John Kirk’s Allies. Best performances by a German were 6-2 wins by Jeff Cornett and Stephen Shedden. The overall scenario record was similar to the preceding Mulligan Round. The Allies won 20 games and lost four; average score was 5.50-3.67 medals and 20.83-16.33 figures.
Round 2 … Kelly’s Heroes. This used a map with a fascinating twist: In the city of Clermont, there are two gold bars. Any unit that can take one out of the city gains a temporary medal, until it is eliminated (in which case the gold stays on the ground until another unit claims it) or returns to the city. In addition, each side has a Tiger tank. Sam Edelston, Joe Harrison, John Ratanaprasatporn, Lance Ribeiro, John Skiba, and David Wolfe swept their matches. (Sam won his game as Axis despite his Tiger being blasted off the board on the second turn by a lucky infantry.) The Germans won both ends of five matches while the Allies dominated only one match. The biggest Allied win was earned by David Schneider, at 6-1. German 6-1 wins were gained by Jeff Cornett, Joe Harrison, Bob Murray, James Peterson, and John Ratanaprasatporn. Because we had an odd number of players, a bye was awarded to defending champ Chris Kalmbacher. The overall scenario record: Allies won eight games and lost 16; average score was 3.71-5.13 medals and 13.79-15.83 figures.
Round 3 … A Bridge Too Far. This was a different view of the well known Arnhem Bridge scenario. From this point forward in the tournament every scenario would have a Heroic Leader. (Of course, with so many movie-themes, one would expect a lot of heroes.) In this case, the Allies won 11 of the 12 games. The only German win was scored by Kalmbacher, and even that was a 6-5 squeaker with 24 figures lost by each side. This gave him the round’s only sweep, as well. The biggest Allied wins were 6-1, scored by Cornett and Ratanaprasatporn. Jeff eliminated GM Sam Edelston, and James Peterson eliminated 2010 champ John Skiba. The overall scenario record: Allies won 11 games and lost one; average score was 5.92-3.58 medals and 25.17-17.42 figures.
Round 4 … Enemy At the Gates. This was a fascinating map with the Russians carrying out an amphibious assault against a German-held beach on a Winter Board. Atypically, there are three rows of water, instead of the usual two. Also interestingly, the Russians start the game with four depleted infantries that don’t count as medals if they’re eliminated. Kalmbacher was paired against Ratanaprasatporn, the only player with five wins. John took the first game, as Axis, by a lopsided score of 5-2, but then Chris came back and took the rematch by an even more lopsided score of 5-1, to win the match in a close 7-6 split decision. Joe Harrison swept his match over James Peterson, with his Germans winning the first game by a commanding score of 5-1; the rematch was tense, but in the end, Joe pulled that out, too, 5-4. Schneider originally was paired against Cornett, but Jeff had to leave in mid-match to run another tournament, so an eliminator took over in his place, and was promptly mowed down by scores of 3-5, 2-5. The overall scenario record: Allies won two games and lost four; average score was 2.67-4.50 medals and 17.50-22.67 figures.
Round 5 … Saving Private Ryan. In this scenario, the Americans land on Omaha Beach and try to get through a line of wire and up the steep hills in the face of machine guns and artillery. The Germans have only seven units, but lots of defensive terrain. Under this year’s new rule because we had only three surviving players for this round, the highest ranking eliminated player from Round 4, Ratanaprasatporn, was invited back. All four players had six wins, and between 40 and 42 medals. Both matches were razor close.
On board A, defending champ Kalmbacher squared off against former champ Joe Harrison, to see which would get a shot at repeating. In Game 1, with a 2-1 lead, Chris “Barraged” Joe’s Heroic Leader unit off the board, and then rolled a star to kill it for an extra medal. Joe fought back, killing both units on the German Right flank. However, on the German Left, Chris nailed Joe’s tank. One more infantry kill gave Chris a 6-2 win with a 22-11 advantage in figures. In the rematch, Joe’s Germans built a 5-2 lead. Chris’s Heroic Leader took a shot at Joe’s weakened artillery on the cliff, but his three dice whiffed. Then Joe finished the battle by destroying the tank, cementing his own 6-2 win with a 25-12 advantage in figures, and winning the match by two figures, 36-34, with medals tied at eight apiece.
On board B, David Schneider’s Allies eliminated the artillery on the cliff when his Heroic Leader battled uphill, out of wire, and rolled a pair of grenades! However, he never managed to get up the cliff. Trailing 4-5, David drew a badly needed Medics card that could shore up a 1-figure infantry, but the Germans didn’t give him a chance to use it. John’s Germans won the first game, 6-4, 24-17. Their rematch was hard fought. Unlike the other games, John’s Heroic Leader moved to the right flank and scaled the cliff, knocking out a machine gun nest on a medal hex, tying the score at 5-5, which could clinch the match. However, a dramatic German “Behind Enemy Lines” killed that unit, which also eliminated the Allied objective medal, giving David a 6-4 win with 25-15 figures. David had played the entire game with three Left cards in his hand, living hand-to-mouth off of his other two cards. This match, like the other one, was tied on medals, 10-10, with David eliminating more figures, 42-39.
Battling for the title would be two-time champion Joe Harrison against WBC newcomer David Schneider. Ironically, it was Joe who first got David interested in WBC when they met at GenCon last year.
Round 6 … The Thin Red Line. The Final turned to a Pacific scenario, with the Marines attacking on Guadalcanal. The Japanese front line consists of three camouflaged infantries that can’t be attacked from a distance, and their back line includes an artillery and two field bunkers with machine guns.
In Game 1, Joe used his first couple of turns to move several Marine infantries into the Center, and then he charged forward with a seven-unit “Infantry Assaults”, overcoming the forward IJA units and grabbing an early lead. A Japanese “Firefight” did little and scored no kills, so the Americans followed with another seven-unit “Infantry Assault” which whiffed against the Japanese bunkers. However, the Marines then increased their lead to 4-1 when a Center card allowed them to kill an infantry in the Japanese rear, take a medal bunker, and cut another Japanese infantry unit to a single figure. That weakened IJA was fully healed by Medics, but it rolled 0-for-4 against a 1-figure Marine. Joe’s Allies claimed victory on his next turn, 5-1, with 16-10 figures. David had no Center cards during the battle.
The rematch looked a lot like the first battle with the Allies pouring through the center. Leading 2-0, David’s Marines used an Attack Left to capture the medal bunker to make it 4-0 and also got next to the Japanese artillery, damaging it. Joe had time to eliminate one Allied unit before David’s next kill won that game: 5-1 medals, 17-7 figures. As had been the case in both semifinals, the Final was tied on medals, 6-6. David had the advantage in figures, 27-23, and so won his first championship.
The following day, David competed in Battle Cry, winning that too. As a special prize for winning, David will participate in the international Memoir ’44 Champions Trophy 2016, which will be fought through Memoir Online late this year. Participants in this invitation-only event will be top finishers from the leading in-person tournaments in the US and Europe, along with top finishers from English- and French-language online tournaments.
MULTI-PLAYER OVERLORD GAMES
In addition to the tournament, as usual, we had several multi-player Overlord games in the schedule. These are always a highlight at conventions because many only have a chance to play them at such gatherings. They also tend to be a source of great war stories.
Prokhorovka (Kursk). This was a basic Overlord from the Eastern Front expansion booklet. Edelston commanded the Germans with Kalmbacher, Skiba, and a youngster named Ethan as his Field Generals. Tony Gonzalez led the Russians, aided by Stephen Smith, David Brooks, and John Parker. The Russian Right quickly hid their tanks in the woods, so the action shifted to the second and third sections from that end of the board, where the Germans scored ten kills, while losing only five units. The German Right flank had relatively little action, losing three units late in the battle without scoring any kills of their own. Throughout the battle, every time the Germans would open a lead, the Russians would respond and close the score again. The Germans’ game-winning kill was scored on the Russians’ eighth turn as they successfully Ambushed a 1-figure Russian tank. 12-9 medals, 50-42 figures.
Unscheduled bonus Overlord: Paradrop at Kanev. Since we finished Kursk with enough time to spare, we had time to play another battle. This scenario was composed by Eric Mosso, who also authored two of the scheduled Overlords. A large Russian force crosses the Dnieper (and may build some pontoon bridges to help) and confronts an entrenched German force. Eric and Tony Gonzalez played the Russians against Sam, John Skiba, and young Ethan. In a close battle, the Germans prevailed. The map is available online at https://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/editor/view/?id=17397
The Forgotten Battle. This year’s post-tournament Midnight Madness Overlord was the scenario we “forgot” to play last year. Eric Mosso – the composer of this scenario – commanded the Allies. His field generals were Edelston, newly-crowned champion Schneider, and Tony Gonzalez. The Axis side was commanded by Skiba, with Harrison, Tommy Johnston, and Manuel Bravo assisting. The story of this battle was a pair of Allied “Finest Hours”, on their sixth and eighth turns, ordering a total of 17 units. In between these, Joe’s German Right played an “Armor Assault” against Sam, but had truly lousy dice. Then, on the second “TFH”, Sam killed a 4-figure tank with four dice, a 2-figure tank with four dice, and a Tiger tank with three dice. With their best units off the board, both flanks in trouble, and little chance of winning, the Germans surrendered. Though the German deficit at that point was only 10-11, it was on the verge of becoming considerably worse. This was a fascinating advanced scenario with special reinforcement rules. https://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/editor/view/?id=14434
Sword of Stalingrad. This is an Eastern Front Battle Map with the Commissar chip and Combat cards. With only six participants, both commanders also played their center sections. Mark Mitchell led the Russians, flanked by Eric Mosso and John Skiba. Kalmbacher led the Germans, supported by Ratanaprasatporn and Edelston. The two sides’ scores never diverged by more than three points. On their sixth turn, the Russians played “Their Finest Hour”, ordering nine units, and getting two kills. The Germans countered the “TFH”, and rolled an amazing 12 orders. The Russians ultimately won the battle, 17-15, on their 11th turn.
Milne Bay. This was a fairly basic amphibious scenario composed by Mosso, where the Japanese have to land on shore and knock out the British and American defenders. In this 6-player battle, Eric commanded the Japanese and played Center, with Kalmbacher and Parker battling on his flanks. The defenders were led by Skiba, flanked by Edelston and young Ethan. This was the quickest Overlord of the weekend, with the Allies attaining their 14-12 victory on only their seventh turn. This battle was notable for the number of successful battle-backs by Ethan – six, including two kills.
Wacht Am Rhein Overthrough. This was a giant three-board Overlord/Breakthrough scenario set in the Battle of the Bulge, and played on three adjacent, double-depth Breakthrough boards. It was composed by Kellyn Beeck, who hoped to be in attendance, and swears he will make it out East to WBC one of these years. We played it as three parallel Breakthroughs. On the left, at Elsenborn, Edelston (Allies) outpaced Mike Shea, 11-9. In the middle, at St. Vith, Gonzalez (Allies) was edged out by Parker, 11-12. On the right, at Bastogne, Stephen Smith (Allies) outscored Manuel Bravo, 12-7. Overall the Allies won, 34-28, in 26 turns.
Acknowledgments: The six tournament scenarios were designed by Joël “Jowel” Lapière, Christophe "Chris Harlem" Garlement, and Tanguy “Grebansky” Gréban. The GM wishes to thank AGMs Tony Gonzalez, Eric Mosso, and John Skiba for their help at the tournament and the pre-tournament instructional demo … with additional thanks to Eric Mosso and John Skiba for leading some of the Overlords. John adds a note of thanks to Randy Needham for stopping by and helping to set up the giant Wacht Am Rhein map. Thanks, also, to Richard Borg for creating this wonderful game, and to Days of Wonder and Asmodee for continuing to support and expand it. And special thanks to the organizers of WBC for allowing us to make this North America’s premiere Memoir ’44 event year after year.