Memoir ’44 is distinctive in a way rare to most videogames: it’s one of only a handful that my girlfriend has ever really enjoyed, let alone wanted to play again. Made by longtime board game maker Days of Wonder, it brings together classic elements from strategy-based video games and the fun of their quirkier tabletop cousins. With short rounds lasting about 15–30 minutes, this is a game that can easily be played casually or intensively, and is a great platform for socializing with friends online.
The game strikes a healthy balance between complex yet flexible strategy and the arbitrary but straightforward draw-of-the-card and toss-of-the-dice mechanics of a board game. With a hexagonal-grid layout, terrain modifiers, and special unit abilities, this game’s turn-based combat will be familiar to fans of the Civilization series, and should satisfy those intensive gamers who require an involved sense of strategy. However, after all of those fancy computerized vectors are taken into account, the rest is up to chance. Whenever a player makes an attack or employs a strategic maneuver, a toss of the dice determines the successfulness of their attacks, and a draw from a stack of randomly sorted cards affects what kinds of moves the player can make next—just as if they were playing the game on their living room table.
The presence of this major element of chance keeps Memoir ’44’s cartoon-style action both lighthearted and unpredictable and, most of all, levels the playing field in order to make the game accessible to those who might not ordinarily consider playing a game on the computer. With scenarios and maps laid out to represent the overall shape of historical World War II battles, there is even something for history buffs, who will be challenged to spend their turns wisely in order to accomplish certain fact-based goals.
Since this enjoyable piece of old-school fun is free to download and play both via the Days of Wonder website and the Steam game client, there is almost no reason not to check it out. As things stand, however, if you want to play with a friend in the same room, you will have to set up two computers Battleship style. If the next few updates include a “hot-seat” mode allowing players to take turns on the same computer, this title will be a must-have on any system.
Released October 2011
Genre: Strategy/Casual, Board Game
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Developer: Days of Wonder
MSRP: Free to Play
Format: Digital Download
Play Modes: Single, Online Multiplayer