Memoir '44 Overlord

Jacob and I went over to Ken & Brandon's house this weekend to try out a two board game of Memoir '44 [Overlord] ( Days of Wonder was kind enough to give me another copy of the game for my work at GenCon, and I gave this to the Rudes knowing how much they've enjoyed the game (and likely will enjoy it in the future).

Overlord is a style of play whereby one player on each team plays the role of commander-in-chief, governing the distribution of command cards to one or more field generals who are responsible for certain sections of the board. Ideally this version is played with 3 or 4 players on a side to allow for separate individual control of the left, center, and right sections. We decided to wing it a bit with 2 vs. 2, with decent results.

Ken setting up the Omaha Beach Overlord scenario.

There is only one officially published overlord scenario Omaha Beach so that's what we played. Setup takes a while, around 15 minutes, but cleanup is even longer considering the co-mingling of the parts.

Final setup before starting the Omaha beach scenario.

We adopted the overlord rules a bit for 2-player. We had one player take the role of commander-in-chief, deciding how to dole out the command cards. Jacob and Brandon wanted to team up, so in the first game they played the allies invading, while Ken and I played the Germans defending. Jacob and I were the respective commanders-in-chief. Brandon was in charge of the right flank and half of the center, Ken in charge of the left flank and half of the center (i.e., Ken and Brandon were facing off).

Each team starts with 8 command cards, and with certain restrictions up to three can be played in a given turn. The CIC decides what card(s) to give to his field general, and that field general is required to take what he is given. We were a bit lenient with Brandon and Jacob and allowed them to discuss cards, strategy, etc. Ken and I assumed there was very little direct conversation so our communication was mostly in the form of card distribution. This is a fairly tactical, reactive game in most cases so there isn't much room for discussion of grand strategy.

One flaw we believe there is in the overlord rules is the ability to use Recon command cards as if they were barrages. In both of our games (we played then switched sides), recon/barrage was used over 5 times to eliminate the allied armor and weakened infantry units.

Jacob and Brandon celebrate their axis victory in game 2, winning 8-1.

In both games, the axis player was able to successfully defend Normandy. The first game, where Ken and I played the axis, was very close, ending in an 8-5 score. We were ahead 7-2 for a while, but the allies came storming back and made it a close game. The second game wasn't even close, partly due to poor die rolls and partly due to the use of recon/barrage by the axis on the first 5 turns of the game.

In future games we'll likely take out that rule, or only allow it to be used once in the game.

Overall this was very satisfying we completed 2 games and managed to complete setup and takedown in about 3 hours. I think the overlord scenarios will play best with at least 3v3, with the CIC playing the center section.

More Gmail Invities

I'm starting to think that anyone who wants a gmail account has one by now, but just in case, I have 6 invites available. Leave a comment here if you'd like one.

Gaming this Week

I managed to get in a few games this week, both at home with Matthew and at Die Hard Thursday with the RipCity gamers.

Wednesday night, Matthew and I had some 1:1 time during Jacob's football practice, so we decided to give St. Petersburg a try a first play for both of us. I was a bit concerned that the complexity might be too high for Matthew, but the mechanics of this game are exceedingly simple (even if the strategy isn't). Matthew had no problems at all with the game, even rating it a 10 out of 10 (not quite as high as he rates HeroScape though, which gets a 100 out of 100).

I read the rules several times prior to playing so I had a decent understanding of gameplay, but it was particularly hard for me to understand how the game would play out, how many turns it would last, what cards would get discarded, etc. As it turns out, I was in for quite a schooling by Matthew as he took a very basic strategy and ended up beating me pretty soundly.

Matthew trying to explain to me that it really is a simple game and that I shouldn't have to work so hard to beat him.

First, let me explain the basic mechanics of the game in case you aren't familiar. There are four types of cards that you can buy in the game, and these card types also match up with the four phases of each turn: workers, buildings, aristocrats, and trading cards. In general, workers generate income, buildings generate victory points, aristocrats generate both, and trading cards are basically upgrades to workers, buildings, and aristocrats. As you go through the four phases, you score the corresponding card types under your control at the end of the phase. So if I purchase two workers in the worker phase, they will immediately produce income for me at the end of that phase.

There are two rows where cards go the first row is where new cards are brought in at the beginning of the phase. Except at the start of the game for less than 4 players, you always refresh the board so that there are a total of 8 cards available for purchase. So at the beginning of the worker phase, if there are four cards on the board (which would automatically be moved to the second row), four worker cards would be drawn and placed in the first row. It is possible that no cards will be drawn if there were still 8 cards on the board, which would happen if nobody took a card the prior phase. There are tokens to mark who goes first in each of the four phases, and these rotate to the left at the end of each turn. The first player takes an action, either draw a card into his hand (to a max of 3 cards), purchase a card, or play a card from his hand. Cards that are drawn into the hand are not purchased they are being held for future purchase. This is a good way to grab a card that you'll want to play later but can't afford to purchase immediately. Play rotates to the left and continues until everyone passes in succession.

The game ends at the end a complete turn when one of the stacks of cards is exhausted. At this time, additional victory points are attained by the number of unique aristocrats that a player holds this is a key path to victory so part of any player's strategy will likely be to obtain at least 7, and probably all 10, unique aristocrats.

I figured this out early, but I didn't have a sense for how many aristocrats were left in the draw pile. I also didn't realize until too late that several had already been discarded. So on the last turn, while Matthew is just buying whatever he could afford (which included some very large and profitable buildings), I was holding some cash in the hope of picking up 2 more aristocrats, and the only ones that came up were ones I already owned! So I ended the game with 49 rubles and lost by about 10 points to Matthew. I'll know better next time.

Last night I played Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence (finally my first play!). George puts it best:

First up by my request was Puerto Rico. Dave was insisting on not sitting to my left, so Mike took one for the team. ;-) Dave and I started to build the same small market, but our strategies soon parted thereafter. While I tried to make lots of points off my corn glut and wharf, Dave kept up with his factory and harbor. Mike's harbor brought him back in the later part of the game. Chris was following an Office/Factory strategy that resulted in building three large buildings in the end. Final scores: Dave 55, Chris 51, George 38, Mike 37

Dave remembered that Chris had requested Princes of Florence for a while now so I pulled out my translated German copy. Not much to say here as Dave pulled his Jester/Most Works strategy out again to show us how the game is supposed to be played. Final scores: Dave, George, Mike (good comeback), Chris.

I enjoyed Princes of Florence it has quite a few moving parts and I'm still burning some cycles thinking about the game. I wonder if there's a clearer path to victory that stands up over multiple games/opponents than Puerto Rico.

Anime for Kids

So my kids, particularly Matthew, love Anime movies. They haven't seen very many, but they've really enjoyed classics like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro.

At GenCon last week there were a number of Anime DVD vendors present, but I never got a chance to talk to someone about recommendations for kids. Any help out there? Are there good sites out there that provide reviews and content recommendations for Anime? Any recommendations of specific titles?