Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.
Memoir ’44 is the 2nd game by Richard Borg to use his Command and Colors system. The game puts you in command of either the Axis or Allies during the beginning of the US entrance into World War II. Published by Days of Wonder it retails for $50 but can be found online for around $35.
As with any Days of Wonder game, you get a great looking product. The cover depicts the US forces storming the beaches on D-Day. The box quality is similar to most board games.
Inside the box is a large plastic insert that holds the board, 2 cardboard tile sheets, a deck of command and reference cards, 8 battle dice, two armies and of course the rules.
The large, hex-grid board is actually double sided: a field of green on one side for inland battles and a beach on the other for landing scenarios. Each side is divided into three sections with red dashed lines. The red on green is not very easy to see for a color blind person but is usually not an issue during play.
The deck of cards contains 60 command cards used to order your troops and a set of reference cards. The latter are used to help the players remember the special rules for different unit and terrain types. The command cards contain illustrations of generic leaders, troops and vehicles in various action poses. They certainly add visual interest while you are staring at your cards planning your tactics.
The 8 dice included are – like it or not – wood. Each side has a different color and more importantly symbol so they are easy to read and great to look at.
The two thick cardboard sheets contain the hexagonal terrain tiles, some victory medals and special unit badges. The badges are quite colorful: red-white-and-blue for the French Resistance, purple for the Panzer grenadiers, orange for the Rangers and red and white for the British special forces.
The terrain tiles are very sturdy and should hold up well over time. The different terrain types are each visually distinct – there’s no question as to what type your unit is on. The city tiles are my favorite as they don’t all look the same. Some show a small village center while others depict a single fortified compound or even a church. They all add some interest to the board without being distracting.
The real draw to this game is the plastic figurines. Each side gets 6 artillery, 2 dozen tanks and over 40 infantry units in addition to some obstacles. The plastic used is soft so they shouldn’t break, although some of the gun barrels and other smaller features may get bent in the packaging and then never stay straight. I also have to complain about their color choices. The Allies appear to be dark green-blue while the Axis forces are dark blue-green. Even normal sighted people may have a hard time telling who’s who in less than ideal lighting. Fortunately the infantry and tank units use different molds for each side to distinguish them and make them look a historically accurate. Each army also has a plastic insert to hold them in. These inserts were tossed after only 2 tries of trying to get the infantry back in. Plastic bags work just as well and make clean-up go a lot more quickly.
The rule book walks you through the set-up and and how to play with illustrations. There are also several examples of what is and is not possible for most rules. There are some interesting historical facts included as well. All this and yet the rules are clear and don’t seem cluttered. There are 16 scenarios in the 2nd half of the rule book that reflect actual battles. Each is presented with the historical facts and outcome of each battle and then present you the challenge of keeping or changing history.
Sure there are a few color choice problems and other nit-picks, but overall I like the components and artwork. Setting up a scenario of Memoir ’44 takes a while but is actually enjoyable with the great pieces. Placing the figurines on the board remind me of playing with little, green army-men as a kid. The nostalgia factor probably adds to the worth of this game for me – although I think most people would agree they get their money’s worth with Memoir ’44.