First Wargame - Playing Memoir '44 with my four-year-old son

Ever since my son was old enough to crawl about he was interested in my miniatures. I have been biding my time and waiting for the right moment to introduce him to our fun hobby. I researched and investigated and finally realized that Memoir '44 would be the perfect game for us to play together. I unwrapped the core box on Christmas morning!
Playing Memoir '44 with kids 4 1/2 years old SquadPainter
We have played every day since Christmas and have enjoyed every minute. We didn't start with all of the rules at first. Here's how I approached his learning curve:

  • No command cards
  • Each of us draws one card off the top of the deck (no cards in hand)
  • No terrain
  • Infantry and tanks
  • He gets 3 infantry per hex, I get 2
  • He gets 2 tanks per hex, I get 1
  • Focus on number of activations per wing
  • Focus on dice symbols
  • Focus on move a lot v. move a little and shoot
  • Always 6 medals to win
  • He plays green, I play gray

The baseline was comprehended quickly. He learned about the right, left, and center wings and the number of units to be moved. Movement rates and ranges were comprehended next. Once we were comfortable I started adding in these items one-by-one after every two or three games:
  1. Trees - block LOS and impassable
  2. Rivers - as per rules
  3. Trees - can hide in them now (as per rules)
  4. Towns - as per rules
  5. Add artillery (he gets 2/hex, I get 1/hex)
  6. A few easy Command Cards
  7. Run Pegasus Bridge scenario (he was excited about the victory tokens and called them "treasure") (learned about sandbags and wire)
  8. Give him two cards to start with (now he has to decide what he wants to do) (I still have one card)
  9. Add rest of Command Cards
  10. Let him pick scenarios and tackle new terrain (he loves the paratrooper one)
  11. Close Assault Follow-Up rules

With the material advantage he wins about 70% of the time, which is about right for his age. He moves his troops into cover without prompting, combines fire on single units, and chooses to fire on units that are near elimination. He tends to play aggressively and always heads for objective tokens.
Playing Memoir '44 with kids 4 1/2 years old SquadPainter wargaming first war-game
Having fewer pieces in the hexes makes for brittle units and faster games, which is good for someone his age; from set-up to clean-up takes us 25-30 minutes. I've found that I now have to sprinkle in a few "full strength" units in order to not lose every game. Over time I'll add more cards to his hand (and mine) and more units in the hexes.

Throughout the learning process we have had a blast playing. Every day (and I mean each and every day without fail) he asks to play with me. He couldn't be happier! If you have a young person who wants to play, Memoir '44 is an easy game to make rules-light and also balance so it is a challenge for you.

Oh, and don't be fooled: Memoir '44 is a deep strategy game for adults when played with all of the rules. I recently introduced it to my longtime wargaming friends and they loved it. Try it out!