Memoir ’44 Online is a turn-based war strategy game using cards and dice. It plays a little bit like the classic board game Risk, with its mix of cards and dice to resolve combat between opposing units. Memoir ’44 is a popular tabletop board game that saw conversion into the digital world some time ago.
I’ve been wondering why World War II seems to be a popular theme among a lot of games in recent years. Maybe it’s notable in a genre of games based around conflict because of the sense of victory in the face of adversity, even overwhelming evil. It shows the human spirit and our will to survive, even against insurmountable odds. Wow, that got pretty heavy… Sorry about that!
Is Memoir ’44 Online more than just a history lesson? Read on to find out…
Memoir ’44 Online is played using hexagonal tiles where your units are placed and move around. Each board can be of a different size, which means more or less hex tiles per map. I can’t imagine any other set-up that would suit the game, and although it seems too ‘easy’ to opt for this style for a war game, in my opinion it’s the only one that will work. Furthermore, in order for the game to have some diversity in terms of strategy and gameplay, the board is split into thirds. I’ll explain why a little later.
Playing the pre-set missions gives you and your opponent a set number of units. These can’t be changed and depending on how much of a challenge you want, you can choose a side, with Axis or Allies as our obvious choices. Yes, you can be Hitler’s hapless cronies if you really want to…
Every scenario comes straight from the battles that really did take place in World War II. For enthusiasts this is a dream come true and for the rest of us a little bit of a history lesson! With that said, let the battles begin…
Remember how the board is split into thirds? Instructions for your units come in the form of Command Cards. These let you issue Orders to selected units and some of these Command Cards only allow you to give Orders to units in the specified third(s). Orders allow the selected units to move and/or attack if in range of an enemy unit. The second type of playable card is called a Tactics Card. These range in their effects, but are generally more fun to play than the Command Cards.
You only play one card per turn, but can complete all actions your selected group of units can take. Combat is obviously the main focus of the game (as we are in a war after all!). After completing your move actions for the selected units, you will move on to the firefights. Units that can attack are highlighted in blue and by selecting them you can see the available targets.
An enemy unit will have one of three colored cross-hairs over it. This determines the number of dice you can roll during combat. Yellow is one, Orange is two, and Red is three. It’s helpful to know these things and I’m glad the computer does all these calculations for me! This is one board game that definitely benefits from having all the dice rolling and number crunching done for you automatically by the computer.
Dice numbers are modified by terrain, distance, and other factors. Sometimes it’s as simple as being too far away to make a strong attack, or having a line of sight ruined by hilly terrain. In order to score a hit, you need to roll a ‘grenade’ symbol for a guaranteed hit, or the same icon as the unit type you’re attacking. So if you are attacking some Infantry with an Armor unit, you need ‘grenade’ or ‘Infantry’ symbols on the dice you’ve rolled. A complete miss is shown as a ‘Star’ in a circle. The last icon is a ‘Flag’, and when you roll this you will force the opposing unit to retreat. There are some exceptions to this (but aren’t there always?) so keep an eye out for those.
Rather than completely wipe out the enemy, the game stays relatively true to war combat in that you only need to inflict a certain number of casualties to win. Units are usually a group of 2 to 4 of a unit ‘type’. Infantry, Artillery, and Armor make up the unit types. So when the last remaining type of that group is destroyed, it is added to your medals total. To win, you are required to collect a pre-determined number of medals for that scenario. This level of realism adds to the genuine feel of the game.
MODES AND FEATURES
Memoir ’44 Online has only two game modes: Online and Offline. You select the map you want to play and whether or not you want to play it solo, or against another human opponent. One side will take control of the Axis units and the other player takes control of the Allied units. This leaves the game somewhat limited when it comes to longevity and replay value. I can only imagine that if you love WWII or strategic war games in general you will play it for a long time. I couldn’t see myself doing this for too long as I always want things to do outside of a normal gameplay mode like collect achievements or more cards.
Expert Mode is another feature you can unlock, but this will cost you $30. You need to purchase Gold Ingots (premium in-game currency) in order to unlock this feature and the entry level to do this is 1000 Ingots at $30. I found this to be a huge blow to the overall enjoyment. I wanted to try this mode out and create my own scenarios, but spending $30 to do so is a huge asking price and likely to be restrictive for most people interested in checking out the game.
The lack of additional play modes leaves the game feeling very empty. I wanted there to be more than just playing the same scenarios against an A.I. or human opponent. I am quite unsure as to what additional modes or features would suit a game like this. My hope is that the developers add more content to the game, without asking for a hefty amount of Gold Ingots to participate in that content.
This is where it gets interesting. Strategy plays a huge part in every battle within Memoir ’44 Online. Despite the map selection telling you the average winning percentile of Axis or Allied victories on that map, no result is pre-determined. It’s all about how you plan ahead and it is almost chess-like how you have to do this.
I often found that creating and holding a line of units plays out to a massive advantage. Notably when you roll a ‘Flag’ and the opposing unit has nowhere to go, they will take damage instead. Tricks such as this, or making your enemy units bunch up for the perfect Tactic air strike, gave me significant advantages over my opponent.
The game leans a lot on luck thanks to the dice rolling mechanic. This can sometimes foil your careful planning and commitment to a plan of action. The fact that you can’t construct a deck of Command and Tactics Cards left me feeling a little sour. I’d often see my opponent playing a stronger Command Card than any I had in hand simply because they drew it. Bespoke decks add to the creativity and fun of card based games. Why should a war game be any different?
I’m not a fan of war games as a general rule. I find them boring, tedious, and horribly long winded. Memoir ’44 Online is slightly different and keeps battles somewhat shorter at 15-30 minutes each. This is about as long as I could bear with this type of game. I do prefer quick blasts of a few minutes up to about 15 as I can get more out of the game.
I’m not too keen on having to spend a large amount of money to unlock the extra mode. Gold Ingots are even needed in order to play at all. Once these run out, you need to buy more. It makes the game far less free-to-play than advertised. I would much prefer to spend about $10 buying the full game and never having to worry about buying a premium currency again. Though they could still implement this for cosmetic purchases instead, perhaps, making a viable distribution model for all kinds of players.
There are a lot of enjoyable features in the game. Combat is actually a blast (no pun intended) with its mix of dice and cards. Though luck would sometimes abandon me, I was still able to enjoy most of the combat scenarios. Graphically the game is functional at best, with nothing fancy or mind blowing to note. Having a top-down view, there wasn’t much that could be altered to make it more impressive. I enjoyed most of the sound bites the game has to offer — the explosions and simulated gunfire noises were definitely cool. I had to turn the music off though, as after about 10 minutes I began to hate its repetitiveness.
If you’re looking to scratch that World War II itch and want to throw down some cards and dice while also having a fairly large amount of chaos to mess with your carefully designed planning, this is the game for you. Good luck hunting those Nazis! …or Americans, if you’re feeling particularly evil today.
For more screenshots, click here.
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