Playing war games with your kids is an excellent way to build bonds with them. The back and forth pull of the action, seeing strategies work perfectly or fail miserably and the final grind down struggle of the last man standing will create stories and memories you will both share. If though, like me you have had some trouble finding the right game to interest your kids in, I would like to suggest Memoir ’44 by Days of Wonder.
War games are a big part of my life. I started playing chit and hex WWII games with my older brother when I was 10. Playing a single game of Afrika Korps or Panzer was an all day affair. Even though Axis & Allies had been out for a while, it was out of our price range and I didn’t play my first game until 5 years later.
The difference was incredible. Instead of chits there were real plastic men. Setup took a few minutes instead of hours. The game itself could be played in a single afternoon and put away without having to fight with mom over clearing out of the dining room for dinner. I have played chit and hex games since but A&A dominated my war gaming life for several years.
Memoir ’44 is to Axis & Allies as A&A is to D-Day, Panzer and any other of the classic war games. Memoir ’44 is recommended for players 8 and older – it was created with introducing kids to the hobby in mind. Setup and cleanup are quick, the rules are simple and the average game takes only 30-60 minutes to play.
The box includes a 2-sided large hex map, plastic figures for both Axis and Ally forces, combat cards, combat dice, terrain tiles and special markers for units. There is no construction required except for punching out the cardboard pieces, and the included tray makes storage of everything very clean and easy to use. The included rule book has two parts: how to play and scenarios.
The rules can be read in about 10 minutes. The game is set in Europe during the summer of 1944. Scenarios walk you through various battles within the European theater. Each scenario builds upon the previous by adding incremental elements to the battle. For example, the first scenario is infantry only, the second adds tanks and then artillery and so on. Each scenario takes about 30 minutes to complete. During a normal game session you play once then switch sides and play again.
The mechanics of the game are very simple. Once everything is set up each player takes turns giving orders to their units for movement and engaging in combat. The game board is divided into three sections. On your turn you play a command card which specifies the section where units can be given orders and how many of each can be activated. For example, the command card could say 2-Left, which means that 2 units may be given move and attack orders in the left section of the board.
Combat is resolved by rolling special combat dice. These are six sided dice and have symbols for the various types of units in the game. If the symbol rolled matches the unit attacked or a grenade comes up, that equals one kill. Each unit consists of 3-4 men and when the last one dies, the opposing player gains a medal. The game is played until one of the players reaches a number of medals specified in the scenario, usually between 4 and 6.
Simplicity, quick game play and fun scenarios all add to making this a great game. For the last couple of years I have been trying to get my son interested in war gaming. I introduced him to several games including Axis & Allies, Battletech and Warmachine. In each of those games his video-game-focused mind lost interest after the first 45 minutes of play. I knew I lost him when his eyes would glaze over as I told him about dice combinations and hit location charts. Memoir ’44 has none of these intricacies. Not only did my son pick up the rules on the first play, he is the one coming to me asking to play the game, which is a big win in my book.
Teaching him strategy is a challenge, and I would like to hear your suggestions. Explaining why I am making particular moves gets him impatient and wanting me to hurry up to his turn. Asking him to explain why he is choosing to do things doesn’t work either. In the last game I gave him hints of where and how to hit me, which helped, but my goal is for him to develop the critical thinking skills to win on his own, so I wonder about giving him too much help. I don’t think using tough love and beating him until he figures it out on his own will work.
Overall playing any game with your kids is a fun and rewarding experience. My goal with war gaming is to share with my kids the fun I had playing against my brothers and friends when I was younger, and continue to do at tournaments and conventions now. War games teach critical thinking and strategy, exercise math and reading skills and provide an opportunity to learn about some of the most important times in our history.
Learn more about Memoir ’44 at Days of Wonder.
What games do you play with your kids?