13 June 2014

This Quar's Memoir

I couldn't sleep last night and had another of those "Eureka!" moments... Flashback a couple of years: I bought Memoir 44, a WW2 themed boardgame by Days of Wonder whose rules blew my mind! 

They might not be for everyone: they use card activation and quite a few wargamers would call them over-simplistic! Sure, they're quite abstract and I wouldn't call them a simulation of anything by any stretch of the word but it all ends up being great gameplay allowing for good miniature-pushing time without taking the slightest risk of brain cramp rule-wise while still allowing for some Clausewitz Friction and Cornelian "tactical" choices!

In fact, using just the basic rules (no special units or card, and not too much terrain) at first, I'll  use this game to introduce my four and half son to wargaming about any time soon.
Just in case you've never heard of the game...

Memoir 44 board set up for the Omaha Beach scenario. Picture from the manufacturer website.
  • The board is made of hexes (13 wide and 9 deep) and divided in 3 section ("left", "centre" and "right").
  • Each player as a hand of usually 4 to 5 (depending on the scenario and simulating the relative tactical momentum  of the forces fighting that specific battle) activation cards and take turn playing one card, activating the unit indicated (3 units in the left section, 1 in each section...) or resolving the card special effect (artillery barrage or air raid, medic and engineers "healing" other units, tanks assault...), and replacing the card played with a random one form the draw.
  • In the game most basic form, units are either:
    • Infantry: 4 miniatures (i.e. 4 hit points), moves up to 1 hex and fight (throw 3 dices at range 1, 2 at range 2 and 1 at range 3) OR moves 2 hexes.
    • Armour: 3 miniatures, moves up to 3 hexes AND fight (3 dices at ranges 1, 2 or 3)
    • Artillery: 2 miniatures, move up to 1 hex OR fight (3 dices at ranges 1 or 2, 2 at ranges 3 or 4 and 1 at ranges 5 or 6, doesn't require line of sight)
  • The dices are six faced and have two infantry sides, one armour side, one grenade side, one flag side and one star side. A unit attacked takes one hit if for each dice showing its symbol or the grenade... Meaning although their is no armour stat in the game, infantry has a 1 in 2 chance of taking a hit (2 infantry sides and 1 grenade side), armour has a 1 in 3 chance (1 armour and 1 grenade side) and artillery only has a 1 in 6 chance (the grenade side).
  • That's about it... Except for dozens of terrain features (hills, forest and villages of course, but also beaches, tunnel networks or wadi), special units (US rangers, Russian snipers,  French partisans or ski-borne Finns) and national characteristics (Gun Ho marines, Russian political commissar or fanatical Japanese)!
The only trouble is: although I love the rules and would love to make into a great miniature game (replace the various 2D terrain tiles by 3D scenery, the miniatures by something uniform in scale - the tanks provided are about 10mm or 1/144 while the infantry is close to 20mm or 1/72 - and Bob is your uncle; not an original idea by the way, plenty of great inspiration on the net), I've very little interest in WW2 (and historical in general) wargaming! Unfortunately the reliance of the game system on clearly different arms (without "in betweens" like "armoured infantry") while still simulating a fairly linear battlefield (with well defined line of battle flanks) pegs in (in my opinion into "simulating" fights somewhere in between Napoleonic Wars and Korean Wars (there are other games based on the same "Command & Color" - catchy name by the way! - system, but they replace the three "arms" - infantry/armour/artillery - with colours denoting some fairly abstract eliteness which I find much less intuitive and elegant) and that's a period with fairly few fantasy counterparts...
Fast forward a couple of weeks back and my previous "15mm Quar meets All Quiet on the Martian Front tanks" epiphany, and we're back to last night where it hits me:  
All Quiet on the Quar Front is a perfect fit to Memoir 44 rules!

Let's see...
  • Base 5 Quar together and use 4 such bases for a Memoir 44 infantry unit: 20 Quars just happen to make a section.
  • Use 3 All Quiet on the Martian Front tanks for a Memoir 44 tank unit i.e. a Quar armoured tractors troop. Consider reducing their speed to 2 and removing the "overrun" special rule for a more WW1 feel (and thus making the cavalry less of an anachronism)...
AQotMF steam tanks painted Scott Simoneau at Outpost Zero.
  • Use 2 AQotMF field guns for a Memoir 44 artillery unit i.e. a Quar field guns team
What about special troops?
28mm Quar partisans. Picture from the manufacturer website.
And nations...
  • For the sake of not making things overcomplex, I wouldn't give the main protagonists (Crusaders and Coftyrans) any special rules (just like the US and Germans) but the various Memoir 44 national rules could be used to simulate Gwynt, Fidwoggers, Kryst or Toulmore... Only I don't know the Quar fluff well enough to figure out which rule would match each faction best...
There is only one problem...
AQotMF tanks seem to be about 7cm/3" long and 4cm/1,5" wide (without sponsons)... Meaning I can barely fit three on a 15cm/6" hex (and even then in a "parking lot at Wall Mart formation", which isn't very realistic - something I'm not overly concerned with - but doesn't look right!) And that's without any terrain element (trees, building) on the hex. Similar problem with infantry: four FOW medium bases in close formation make for a 8cm/3" 6cm/2,5" rectangle: not quite as bad, but hardly a lot of room to both deploy them in anything close to a skirmish formation AND build anything suggesting a village around them... And 15cm/6" hexes already make for a 1,20m/4' deep and 2m/7' wide table!

Please, look at those Sherman in the front... Picture from Days of Wonder website.
So what could I do?
  • Use bigger hexes: 30cm/1' hexes would make for a 2,40m/8' by 4m/13' table... But moving the dining table aside and playing on the floor isn't really a practical option. Honestly short of big "show the flag" convention tables, I don't see the point.
  • Use smaller miniatures: 1/285 or 6mm would fit quite nicely on 15cm/6" hexes (that's in my opinion the perfect scale for a miniature Memoir 44: not too expensive, doesn't take to much space, looks good on the table) but I'm not extremely found of that scale for infantry (vehicules are fine, but infantry just looks too small to me) and beside, while part of the Quar range is available in 6mm, the AQotMF tanks aren't... And using them was kind of my point...
  • Reduce the number of hexes on the table: I would have to do so drastically to keep the hexes big enough and the table small enough, and I'm afraid it would mess with the game system so much that I might as well write a new one...
  • Use a hybrid scale (one for infantry, one for tanks): honestly I hate the look of infantry towering over tanks, also it wouldn't solve the tanks parking lot issue...
  • Suck it up and play a very crowed 15mm game: again I just hate the idea, when using miniatures I want to play with a good looking diorama; if the miniatures are just counter without much aesthetic value, I might as well (in my opinion) play with cardboard counters; a valid option, but not the point here, I want a rule system to play with my toy soldiers, not the other way around!
TLDR: this idea sucks big time!

Sure, I could have told you that up front, but I wanted you to share my frustration at having a seemingly great idea, getting all excited about it only to have a detail bite you in the ass at the end. And who knows, maybe my problem with all this isn't one for everyone and somebody gets all inspired by this post! Or maybe someone as another idea that makes it all work for me too...


  1. I think that you are on to something - just a bit more struggle might make it work. And damn you for putting such an interesting miniatures combo in my head, I do not need more projects... ;)

    1. Thanks! I'm looking toward smaller scale minis (6mm Quar and I'm told some of the Dystopian Wars tanks might work, a buddy of mine is bringing me a couple on Sunday)... But I still think 6mm is too small to do the Quar justice and I'm not nearly as much in love with the DW vehicles as I am with the AQotMF ones.

      You're welcome ;) Let me know if you do something with this!

  2. I like this idea. How about using one tank and give it three 'hit points' or similar?

    1. Yes, that's probably the only practical way of doing it... But one thing I like about the system is it's sheer elegancy and introducing some sort of record keeping or markers feels a bit like adding a Sharpie mustache to the Mona Lisa...

    2. But you've got me thinking...

      - In Memoir 44, an infantry unit has a 1 in 2 chance of being hit on each die rolled, and needs 4 hits to be destroyed; so, on the average, one will need to roll 8 dice against an infantry unit to destroy it...
      - An armour unit as a 1 in 3 chance of being hit and 3 "hit points" -> 9 average dice to destroy
      - Artillery: 1 in 6 and 2 "hit points" -> 12 dice to destroy

      If we play around with the numbers of miniatures (and keep the 1 mini equals 1 hit point ratio) but adjust the to hit probability accordingly...

      - 1 tank with an 1/9 hit probability
      - 2 base of infantry with an 1/4 hit probability
      - 1 gun with a 1/12 hit probability or 2 with a 1/6 hit probability

      So we need new dice... I'll think about it some more.

  3. I have been toying with this myself. I have fallen in love with the Quar world and play the other rules systems they have. I also enjoy playing Memoir 44 as well. I did change the system over to free movement for my 6mm Micro Armor using movement sticks. The sticks are marked off at 3 inches and one section equals one hex. All rules are the same except you move and shoot using the sections of the movement sticks to determine ranges and distance. Damage is a little different as infantry take multiple hits to disappear (4 on a stand) where tanks or vehicles are 1 for 1.