Sunday, September 18, 2005

A rash of enthusiasm...

... For Memoir'44

Part 3: A few little details
This is to round off a few details I didn't cover in my treatment of the basic fire and movement of tanks and infantry.

The artillery rules in M44 are as neat and simple as those for tanks and infantry:
  1. Can only move 1 hex, and can't move and fire in the same turn
  2. Has firepower: 3/2/1 at ranges 2/4/6
  3. Needs no LOS and ignores terrain effects on firepower.
The movement rules mean that you really don't want to redeploy your artillery during a battle if you can avoid it. The combat rules nicely reflect the greater deviation likely over longer ranges, and the extra power of the plunging fire, not the mention the sheer terror of being under an artillery strike. The net effect is to make artillery the best unit in the game for clearing the enemy out of heavy cover and prepared positions, which is as it should be.

A final note on artillery: there is no artillery symbol on the battle dice; while artillery units only have 2 models. So on top of the slick representation of the role and power of field artillery, we also have artillery that is hard to hit - because it is typically well dug-in; but easy to kill - because of the few cannons/unit and the vulnerable crew.

All of which means that M44's rendering of artillery fills out and complements Borg's clever treatment of tanks and infantry very nicely.

Various terrain features
The way the wire rules work, once you're in wire, you will not be moving any further that turn under any circumstances. In addition, if the unit is a tank the wire will be removed from play. If the unit is infantry, you will be faced with a choice: fire, with -1 firepower (which can often be the difference between having an attack or not); or spend your combat action clearing the wire. So tanks just plunge through wire, though it will give them pause (ie. no overruns in particular!); while infantry can get hung up on it for as long as you choose to leave them there. All very credible.

These are impassible to tanks, naturally enough. They offer flag protection to infantry, which is a nice touch: they don't reduce enemy firepower, but all that solid steel is still reassuring. Need I say more?

Bunkers and bridges
Bunkers in M44 can only be used by the owning side; their hexes can't be entered by tanks at all and give tanks the max -2 firepower reduction in combat. Bridges let you cross rivers, surprisingly enough.

These are not the most interesting thing about them though. What is most interesting is that they both block LOS (which ties in with the prohibition on entry by tanks). At first sight, you could say that this is a bit dumb, in that both of these features are elements of their hexes, and not the hexes themselves. The point is though that that approach would've resulted in dual-type hexes, which would've undermined the essential simplicity.

So the bridges and bunkers represent locales which to some extent 'warp' the already abstract scale of the hexgrid. Is this a matter of authenticity? Well yes, insofaras it strikes me as another example of the enforcement of the POV enabled by the cardplay. This is because terrain features of this type would indeed loom large in the awareness of the commanders the players represent in a game of M44, because of their supreme tactical/strategic importance.

It is as a result of this that making these features fill their hexes works so well: it makes them locations with environs and approaches, instead of just a feature of an existing hex. Abstraction and simplicity in action yet again.

So far then I have tried to explain how M44's cardplay command and control and its treatment of basic fire and movement give a game whose simulationist authenticity arises from the subtle interplay of deceptively simple elements. I will return to M44 just as soon as I can to explain why I believe that the simulationist merits of this delightful gaming engine are capped by the game's sheer playability. ;)

- Part 1: another hymn of praise to cardplay
- Part 2: The Elements of Fire and Movement
- Part 4: The authenticity of sheer playability

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