The Game of Life


Memoir '44

Once a week, on a Wednesday, I meet a friend of mine I’ve known for about 25 years for a few games of squash. After pushing our nearly-40 year old bodies to breaking point running around a few square metres of court chasing a little rubber ball, we head back to one of our homes, where we order pizza, have a few beers, and our lovely and extremely indulgent female partners put up with us laughing, shouting and having a great time over a boardgame.

Tonight we got out Memoir ’44, a simple but always enjoyable game that elegantly recreates and commemorates the battles in Northern France in 1944. My friend played the French, attempting to re-take Toulon on August 20-26 (I just realised—our timing is impeccable). My German infantry was well placed in defensive positions, aided by an artillery piece in Hyéres on the right flank. The battle was hard fought; I was outnumbered from the start, but gave as good as I got as I was pushed back to Toulon and eventually beaten. Shouts of victory and despair went up as the dice rolled. Cards were slapped down with gusto and discarded in disappointment. Many old in-jokes were rolled out for the umpteenth time. At least one uncontrollable fit of laughter was inevitable. My friend had spent the last week painting the little plastic pieces on his kitchen table, and the game looked great. To an observer it looked like some little army men, a colourful board with terrain pieces on it, some cards—but to us, we overlooked a sweeping battlefield alive with desperate combat.

(And in the case of this particular game, you can learn a little bit too—about the battles where men fought and died so we can laugh and joke with our friends well into old age.)

But next week, it might be gangfights in an undercity of the distant future, or steam-powered giant robots smashing into each other with spells crackling overhead, or marines battling aliens in the depths of a drifting space hulk, or cars bristling with weapons speeding across a post-apocalyptic landscape, or hunting Dracula and his minions the length and breadth of Victorian Europe, or …

Wednesday nights—I love ’em.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. will
    Aug 25, 2005 @ 11:14:44

    So many games, so little time!

  2. anaglyph
    Aug 26, 2005 @ 14:19:43

    … and I still have to teach you Mahjongg Pete!