Monday, August 15, 2011

Board Game Review: Memoir 44 Mediterranean Theatre Expansion

What is it?

Mediterranean Theatre Expansion Pack is an add-on for Memoir 44, an easy-to-play wargame based on the Second World War.  First published by Days of Wonder in 2004, Memoir 44 is a light wargame set on a hex-based board, upon which tiles are laid to signify terrain features, army units, objectives etc.  The release date is no coincidence as the game's aim is to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944. 

What's in the box?

Mediterranean Theatre is an add-on pack to the base game and introduces new rules to go with the new terrain pieces, counters and a whole British Army, all based around the North African desert campaign of World War 2.

The standard of the components are in keeping with the rest of the Memoir 44 range (indeed the whole Days of Wonder portfolio) and are excellent.   The only gripe here is the plastic inserts designed to keep everything in place, struggle to maintain order.  It's easier just to throw the inserts away and place everything in the box in a big scrum.

New Rules

The game mechanism employed by Memoir 44 is cunningly versatile and allows add-on packs such as this Mediterranean Theatre to be slotted in with comparative ease.  Included are rules for new terrain pieces, special weapon units, individual army rules for the British and Italian armies, a whole British Army group containing 42 infantry, 24 armoured units, 6 heavy artillery and 3 special weapons plastic figures.  A comprehensive rules book describing all the new features and 8 totally new scenarios complete the package.

New Terrain Tiles

These new tiles are designed to be used with the Days of Wonder desert board.  They can be used with the original countryside board but the aesthetic effect is lost slightly.

* Enscarpments are totally impassable by all ground units.
* Roads provide an extra movement as long as the unit starts and ends the turn on the road.
* Wadis restrict movement in one direction.
* Airfields don't have any effect unless the optional Air Pack (purchased separately) is being used.
* Ergs and Ridges same rules as hills.
* An Oasis provide a means for units to recover lost members.
* Beach and ocean tiles
* HQ and Supply tents, while not providing any kind of cover, if captured by the enemy allows them to remove one command card from your hand until such time you can capture the HQ tile back.

New Gameplay Elements

* Minefields are represented by a series of face-down counters.  When an enemy unit moves onto a hex containing a minefield counter, the counter is turned over to reveal a number.  That number represents the number of die rolled by the oppopsing team to determine damage caused by the minefield.  If the minefield is a zero, it is a dud and should be removed allowing free movement over that hex.

* Anti-tank units are represented by small plastic miniatures, reminiscent of a bazooka.  This unit also causes damage with a star but can't move and fire.  Otherwise, all attributes are the same as normal infantry.

* The new British Army can invoke a Stiff Upper Lip where a unit down to a single member can battle back immediately with a single die.  In certain scenarios, the British Army can call upon engineers to remove mines instead of battling.

* The Italian Army can retreat up to 3 hexes if necessary to represent their superior mobility during the North African desert conflict.

* Exit markers are placed on the edge of the board, as denoted in the scenario description, and allow an extra means of gaining victory points for the attacking player by escaping through them.

* North African desert rules allow an armoured to make an extra movement in a successful armour over-run.

In Play

The Mediterranean Theatre Expansion adds to an already rich playing experience and when combined with a desert board, is very immersive.  Part of the fun with a game like this is interpreting the rules and this was no exception.  Luckily, Memoir 44 makes it very easy for players to work everything out.  By the third or forth game, we had pretty much figured it all out with minimal referral to the manual.

The new anti-tank weapons work well and give the infantry units an extra dimension.  They also tend to draw fire more than other infantry units too.  The minefields add an extra element of suspense to proceedings, particularly when they are face down and the only way to find out how strong they are is to step on one.

The new scenarios are difficult, especially the early ones playing as the Allies.  Of course, the desert conflict was incredibly difficult (not that ANY conflict is easy) and this is represented well.  The Allies had a mammoth task facing them and this comes across in the game.  There are some nice fast-paced tactical tank battles over relatively flat ground and these were great fun.


The new minefield rules are very powerful in contrast to the rest of the game and even when turned over, the minefield remains in position until removed by an engineering unit.  Within the context of Memoir 44's simple rules this is understandable, but a few of the included scenarios don't cater for engineers and the minefield becomes a very tricky obstacle to cross.  To be fair, it's hard to see how else to represent this integral part of the North African campaign within Memoir 44 so it's not a gripe as such, more of an observation.

There are no new command cards.  This seems an opportunity missed to expand the original set of command cards as provided in the base game.  They didn't even have to be desert-themed or biased towards this expansion.

There are no terrain summary cards as in the original game which means the rule book, at first anyway, is constantly being referred to.  The summary cards were very helpful and could be placed to the side of the board in a handy position and their omission here is missed sorely.

To obtain the full immersive experience, a new desert board, while not essential, does make it all seem more realistic.  This can cost up to an extra 20 pounds.  As mentioned, this expansion can still be played with the original countryside board from the base game.


For a little over 20 British pounds, the Memoir 44 Mediterranean Theatre expansion pack represents excellent value for money, especially considering the number of extra components included.  The new rules are easy to pick up and add a worthwhile dimension to an already brilliant game and the gripes mentioned are very minor.  Recommended.

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