By Joseph Luster

As quite a few of you are no doubt aware, war and board games are a natural fit. While it’s always going to be fun to point and click—or run and gun, if that’s your preference—there’s something that just feels right about taking on an opponent (or opponents) face-to-face on a physical playing field. Just ask the innumerable people who consider Risk one of the greatest games of all time.

One of the more celebrated examples of this comes in the form of Memoir ‘44, which, for good reason, was bestowed the International Gamers Award for General Strategy in the 2Player Category in 2004. Despite being designed for two players, up to six can play the strategy title in teams, and up to eight can throw down via the “Overlord” scenario should they be in possession of two copies.

A Deep Gaming System That You Can Jump Right Into

The hook here is, naturally, recreating quite a few of the historic battles of World War II— Omaha Beach, Pegasus Bridge, Operation Cobra, the Ardennes, and others—in the board game format. Over 15 battle scenarios mimic historical terrain, troop placements, and objectives, and it’s the Commander’s task to deploy troops through Command and Tactic cards, and implement the unique skills of the units at hand to the best of their ability. These units range from infantry and paratrooper to tank, artillery and beyond.

Memoir ‘44 was designed by Richard Borg, who aimed for a system that’s deep but not overly complex. In his own words, “The game mechanics, although simple, still require strategic card play, timely dice rolling, and an aggressive yet flexible battle plan to achieve victory.” These battles of the mind and spirit take place across a large, double-sided hex game board, which comes with 144 detailed Army miniatures, 60 illustrated Command cards , 44 Special Terrain tiles, 36 Obstacle pieces, and eight Custom Wooden dice.

Since its initial release, a variety of Memoir ‘44 expansions have been developed, including Eastern Front, Winter/Desert Board Map, Pacific Theater, Mediterranean Theater, Winter Wars, the aforementioned Operation Overlord and more. Needless to say, there’s nothing stopping fans of the board game from keeping themselves plenty occupied, so why exactly are we bringing Memoir ‘44 up again now? That’s easy: it’s available to play online.

Perfect for those who either aren’t into board games, or simply want to play Memoir ‘44 when no one else is physically present, Memoir ‘44 Online takes the strategic battles from the tabletop to the PC desktop. Like many online games, ‘44 uses a pay-to-play model, meaning that it’s free to download and kick into gear, but there’s an in-game monetary system used to purchase certain items.

Pay-As-You-Go With Plenty of Free Content

When you first download Memoir ‘44 Online, you’ll get 50 free Gold Ingots, which is the in-game currency. These should last you long enough to get a feel for the game and hours of play under your belt, but keep in mind you’ll later be offered the opportunity to purchase other Gold Ingot packages, which come in prices ranging from the Sergeant Pack ($8 = 200 Ingots) to the Major Pack ($60 = 2,400 Ingots). As with anything else, pay-to-play models have their pros and cons. On one hand, if you find the game’s not for you then you haven’t wasted any hard-earned money on a title you don’t enjoy. On the other, get hooked and you could find yourself digging deeper than expected for another stack of ammo. “Just one more,” you swear, sweaty hands gripping the mouse pensively as it hovers over the Purchase button.

Gold Ingots can also be used to buy subsequent scenarios. The first two, Pegasus Bridge and Juno Beach, are free from the start. All in all there are over 40 historical WWII scenarios, with new ones added on a regular basis. The turn-based combat plays out with a philosophy in line with Borg’s initial concept: easy to learn, tough to master; but thanks to the format, video tutorials, in-game assistance, and AI for solo training are on hand to guide you from a rocky start to true online strategizing.

Playing against the computer AI will only take you so far, though. Playing against live opponents is where the real meat of Memoir ‘44 lies, and doing so increases your Officer Rank incrementally. You kick off the game as a Cadet, and advancing to Second Lieutenant requires at least three victories against human opponents. Everyone starts with a U.S. Army Officer Insignia and Title, but can switch to a different nationality from there. These include British, Russian, French, German, Japanese, and Italian, each with their own set of Officer Ranks. While rising through the ranks is a natural progression given the ability to take the occasional victory, it only gets more challenging along the way.

Plenty of Achievements to Keep Players Busy

As is the case with most games nowadays, Memoir ‘44 Online features its own set of Achievements, too. Anyone who plays modern titles knows how ruthlessly addictive Achievement hunting can be—or not, maybe you’re one of the lucky few who are totally immune to their brand of wooing!—and those available here come in three categories: Honor Badges, Specialist Badges, and Expert Awards. Honor Badges are the easiest to get, and consist of relatively beginner-level objectives, like “Played a beach scenario on the water side” and “Killed two enemy units with an air power attack.”

Way on the other end of the spectrum are Expert Awards, such as “Bring the Boys Back Home,” which requires all of your infantry to survive the battle. All the players who have been awarded individual honors are viewable on the game’s Achievement page, so it’s a nice way of publicly tooting your own horn, but there are still quite a few Expert level challenges that no one has earned.

Whether you’re a seasoned player of the Memoir ‘44 board game or completely new to the world of head-to-head strategy, Memoir ‘44 Online is worth checking out. Take advantage of the zero cost level of entry and you may find yourself sucked deep into the relentless nature of online warfare.

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