MEMOIR 44 SCENARIO 101: ESCAPE VIA THE COASTAL ROAD
Memoir 44 is a tactical WWII game from Days of Wonder that successfully combines elements of both miniatures and board games. The game was designed by Richard Borg and uses his card-driven system of issuing orders to units on the board Featured in other games like Command and Colours, Battlecry and Battlelore). In 2010, DOW also launched an on-line version of Memoir 44 that mimics the board game perfectly.
Over the next few weeks I will provide you with my experience in playing Memoir 44 scenarios both at the tabletop and on-line, with my rating of the scenario and a few tips for play for both Axis and Allied forces. This week’s feature is the “Escape by the Coastal Road” scenario.
Escape by the Coastal Road (June 14, 1942)
Victory Conditions: 6 medals (the Commonwealth Player can gain by exiting units from two hexes)
Special Rules: North African desert rules, reduced Allied armour movement, buttes, road movement, exit points, Nation rules for British and Italian forces.
Field Marshall Rommel’s Afrika Corps have engaged Commonwealth forces defending the approach to Tobruk and are threatening to destroy the 1st South African Division and the remnants of the Northumbrian Division. The defence must hold long enough for those Divisions to withdraw, using the overcrowded roads along the coast to do so.
The Commonwealth forces have their back against the sea and are strung out along a road that roughly follows the coastline. They score points for exiting units off the road (only) from either flank. The road on your left flank is defended by two entrenched Italian infantry units. The rest of your infantry and armour is strung out along the back line on your centre and right flank.
It’s important to intercept the Commonwealth forces attempting to exit the board as your enemy will score most of their medals this way. Remember, the road movement rules will allow them to move quickly and if they manage to draw an “Infantry Assault” card you could be in big trouble. Your priority is the road that exits on your right flank. It’s undefended and provides the best opportunity for Commonwealth forces to exit the board. Send your units on that flank forward as soon as possible and secure the pass between the line of buttes that runs down the middle of the battlefield.
Your opponent will probably use some infantry and armour to plug the gap there, supported by their single artillery unit. If the Commonwealth can delay you in the pass, their artillery can do some damage, so push through as soon as possible, harass any units moving on the road and secure the exit hex as soon as possible, with your armoured units. You may be able to afford to assign one tank to take out his artillery and wreak havoc on any infantry that remain to make a stand in the centre.
It is highly likely that the Commonwealth will also commit forces to escape via the road that exits on your left flank. Your Italians are behind sandbag defences so it’s unlikely that they will be required to retreat. However, they usually come under a lot of fire from the three Commonwealth infantry and one armour unit positioned on your centre left and left flank. Assign one of your armoured units and two infantry to reinforce the Italians when you get a spare moment. You need six medals to win, which means you can be reasonably ‘bold’ with your moves. Your strength is armour (you outnumber your opponent 5:2) so make good use of them. If you make overrun attacks use the desert movement rules for armour to stay away from Commonwealth infantry at the end of your turn. The enemy does have a considerable number of infantry units and can inflict damage on your tanks if you get in too close.
I find the best plan is, if the early command cards are favourable, concentrate on solely exiting the board via the road on your left flank. Striking out for both left and right exits splits your forces and reduces your combat effectiveness. Rapidly deploy your armoured unit on your left flank to defend the pass there, with support from an infantry unit. While these units make a brave stand (with the aid of your artillery), begin to move all your units along the road to your left flank.
Make your priority to exit units off the board whenever you can and, if the pass falls, plug it with some of the units travelling from the centre and right flank. Note, when you withdraw from the right, your opponent may choose to abandon the fixed positions of the Italian units and pursue your retreating troops. Depending on what enemy forces have been committed to the area, you may be able to take the initiative and launch a counter-attack, destroying the Italians and opening up the escape route to the right. This should only be considered if you have any cards that will allow you to move rapidly against the right and exit the board before reinforcements are deployed.
The Axis player’s main advantage is their superiority in armour (combined with the fact your infantry is exposed and out in the open). You have two armoured units so use then judiciously to attack your opponent’s thrusts through the three major passes. You can use the buttes as cover from his marauding panzers and attack in conjunction with your infantry to try and eliminate his armoured units.
Most of your skill will be tested in how efficiently you mange a small defensive force, while moving the bulk of your troops off the left flank road. Your medal count is not going to come from the elimination of the enemy but through the successful evacuation of your units.
Rating of this scenario: 3 out of 5 stars.