Memory in Board Games with Daryl Chow and Saashi


We talk to board game designers Daryl Chow and Saashi about their game collaboration, Remember Our Trip

Daryl Chow and Saashi join us to discuss their new game, Remember Our Trip, made collaboratively over a couple of meetings at gaming conventions and a whole load of skype calls.

While the majority of us are all still dreaming of a trip abroad, this game about attempting to piece together two foreign cities you have visited together from your memories feels particularly timely. 

The designers’ thoughts on the game touch on the ideas of shared memories (or rather, arguments about whether that restaurant was on that corner, or down an alley…) as well as the idea of nostalgia for travelling the world are interesting and occasionally touching. As such, here is the complete interview with the two designers, carried out over email. 

This interview first appeared in issue 52 of Tabletop Gaming magazine in an abridged format. Subscribe to the magazine now to avoid missing out in future and pick up a copy of the magazine to read the review of Remember Our Trip.

Remember Our Trip Interview

Can you introduce yourselves please? What are you both most well known for?

Saashi: Hi, my name is Saashi and I live in Kyoto. I launched the board game publishing company Saashi & Saashi in 2015 and have since been creating and selling games through that label. Besides Remember Our Trip, you may know me from games such as Coffee Roaster and Let's Make a Bus Route.

Daryl Chow: Hello, my name is Daryl and I am an ex-linguist and current board game designer and publisher currently living in Singapore. I think different readers may know me for different games – North Americans may have heard of me from The Artemis Project and Europeans from my Jumbo games, namely Overbooked and Ramen Ink. In recent years, people from Asia may know me from the games that I published through my own design studio, Origame, where we focus on creating games cantered around Singaporean and Asian themes, such as Mooncake Master and Wok and Roll. We launched Plantopia on Kickstarter in 2020 which was relatively successful, and I think Plantopia has the legs to hang around for a while even in this constantly-refreshing industry. I do hope though that Remember Our Trip is a game that I will be 'remembered' for, since it's very meaningful to me in many ways.

Daryl Chow

What is Remember Our Trip? How does it work?

Daryl: Remember Our Trip is, simply put, an interactive puzzle strategy game. The story goes that the players are trying to 'remember' different parts of a city that they visited together by reconstructing it in their mind's eye (their personal image boards). Players draft and fit tokens to these boards, placing them in such a way that when certain shapes are formed, different buildings will be 'confirmed' and materialize on a common board, scoring points for themselves and possibly helping or denying other players.

Saashi: There are many tile placement games where you build on a personal board, but Remember Our Trip is unique in the sense that there is also a common board where the interaction is crucial, and thus I believe that this aspect creates a different experience for players. 

Daryl: It is important to note that while 'Remember' is part of the title, this game is not in any way a memory game. I think gamers in general don't really like memory games, and don't worry – there is no actual 'remembering'. If you like city-building or map-building games with spatial and interactive elements, however, this game should be right up your alley!

Saashi

What inspired you both to make Remember Our Trip?

Saashi: When we were thinking of making a game together, a natural and interesting direction was to combine key mechanics from my game Let's Make a Bus Route and Daryl's Overbooked. 

Daryl: I personally love collaborations, especially international ones, and working with Saashi to create a game together that showcased both our design styles was a natural fit and dream come true despite me not always being able to express myself fully in Japanese. I have huge respect for Japanese game designers and Saashi's passion for everyday life can be felt through the fibres of the game framework. My job was just to make sure all the gears fit and ran smoothly, and to make it a game I would want to play again and again.

Daryl and Saashi
 
How did the game come about?

Saashi: Before I even knew Daryl, I had played Overbooked which made a deep impression on me. I actually wanted to publish Overbooked under the Saashi & Saashi label using artwork from Takako Takarai, our illustrator. However, I did not know how to contact Daryl. Somehow, two months later we met by chance, which was an unexpected stroke of fate.

Daryl: We met in May 2019 at the Tokyo Game Market. As mentioned, I really appreciate Japanese game design and had known about Saashi's games through playing them with my friend Quentin, who was a fan of his. When I first met Saashi, I was about to tell him what a big fan I was of his, but he cut me off by saying “Did you design Overbooked?” The rest is history.

Saashi: We progressed fairly quickly, since we both had a desire to create a game together. We live in different countries that are far away but we communicated through Skype, and it helps that Daryl can speak Japanese. I was able to quickly create a prototype, as again by chance we found out we were both attending a board game event in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the next month. We recommenced work when we met again in our hotels in Kaohsiung, and managed to playtest the game there a few times. By the time we left Kaohsiung, I think the game was about 70% complete. 

Daryl: We have our own playtest communities in our respective cities so once we had a solid prototype, we could test the game amongst our own designer folk. In August, I was able to take a trip to Kyoto where I hung out for a week and we basically completed the game during my stay there. The night before I had to leave we still didn't have a title for the game, so funnily that was what took the longest. Because it's such a unique game, we really wanted a name that could encapsulate the feel of the experience. Saashi is also very particular with the names of his games. I came up with the Japanese title first, 'tabi no ato', which literally means 'after the trip'. Only afterwards did we come up with an English name, 'Remember Our Trip', that better evoked the sense of the game experience in English.

 
What are the mechanics you were most proud of in Remember Our Trip?

Saashi: The presence of a common board while still building on a personal board. This creates an interesting tension across players because you really need to observe what others are doing to do well, and that creates a lot of interaction. 

Daryl: I am really proud of the fact that we took the best aspects of two of our games, and reconstituted them into a game greater than the sum of its parts. We had a fun and meaningful time working together and I think the game reflects that. I also like the fact that players can experience the game in Singapore as well as Kyoto by just flipping the boards over – rarely are collaborations so reflective of the designers' identities and backgrounds.

It’s a game that plays with ‘memory’ and ‘expectation’, how did you approach this through the design?


Saashi: I've always been fascinated with the concept and philosophy behind 'memory'. I've always wanted to express the mystery and ambiguity of human memory in a game, but it's been hard to execute something that is that complex. I think that Remember Our Trip captures aspects of human memory in a fun and casual way, and Daryl's mechanics help to bring these feelings to life.

Daryl: There are many ways to approach board game design – many designers start with mechanics, and many do so with themes. Saashi's approach is to start with a feeling - how the game aspires to make the player feel, and the kind of experience that the game wants to give the player. This is why Saashi's games feel like Saashi games even though all of them are unique in their own right. Saashi's approach to 'memory' and how different players 'remember' things differently is borne out in the mechanics because all the players have different 'images' of reality, even though there is only one 'reality', which is the common board. I also really like how even though it is a competitive game, players come together to create a unique and pretty city together every game, creating new stories along the way.

 

We like how memories ‘accumulate’ into full shapes that can be used to place a landmark, but there is a tension with the other person’s memories overcoming/blocking yours. Can you tell us about the tension here?

Saashi: Human beings always think that their memories are correct, yet they often don't match perfectly with other people's memories even when experiencing the same things - memories are a very ambiguous thing. If you can claim your memories as 'fact' in a loud voice before others do, then others have a hard time refuting you. This is reflected in the game where the first player who can lay down a landmark gets to state it as fact. This is the biggest source of interaction in the game, and also what makes it exciting.

Daryl: Originally the game was even more cutthroat because the moment another player claimed a spot, no other players could score that part of the board. I think we knew the game was complete when we came up with the mechanic that even if someone claimed a part of the board, other players could still score it as though they built it, as long as they 'share' the memory properly. This gives players the option of either playing fast to control the tempo, or playing slow while making sure to pay attention to other players' developments. I enjoy puzzle games a lot, but enjoy them even more when there are different layers of the puzzle to consider. This aspect of Remember Our Trip makes drafting tokens and watching other players' boards not just important but a crucial part of the game.

 
What’s coming next for you both?

Daryl: Origame just launched Plantopia and Wok and Roll, which I think are both excellent games for gamers to play with non-gamers (and both have really good solo modes, which is essential in a pandemic). Due to the expectations of our nascent market, we aren't yet able to release games at the difficulty level I would like, but Plantopia and Wok and Roll are great compromises because of the simple rules yet complex decisions. We are also planning for bigger box games in the next year or two - games in the works include Overparked, a game about traffic parking and a spatial yet strategic game about the Spice Islands. I am always looking out for new opportunities and collaborations, so you may find my games in places you don't expect.

Saashi: In March this year, I am re-releasing the first card game that I made 6 years ago, Take the A Chord, in a new edition with upgraded artwork and components. In April, I am releasing 'Let's Make a Bus Route: The Dice Game', a new 1-2 player game that is a dice version of 'Let's Make a Bus Route'. Daryl and I have more co-created games to come, and we plan to release them in the near future when they are ready. 
 
And finally, what do you love most about Kyoto and Singapore?

Saashi: Since I live in Kyoto, it only makes sense if I try to 'remember' Singapore, and for Daryl to 'remember' Kyoto. I visited Singapore for the first time in September 2019 after Daryl invited us to participate in a game event there. I think that it is a great place - the streets of Singapore are beautiful. It is an international transport hub, very safe, and warm throughout the year. And the food is excellent – Singapore food incorporates Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine to create a rich and colourful food culture. I would definitely like to visit again when international travel is permitted. In the meantime, we can travel to Singapore in our imaginations through playing Remember Our Trip. 

Daryl: I enjoy travelling, yet there may be no place I enjoy visiting more than Japan. I initially thought that Kyoto was very touristy, and so it was never one of my favourite cities in Japan. However, the last time I visited Saashi, he showed me a different side of Kyoto. A romantic yet casual Kyoto, which is teeming with interesting small shops and eateries with small mysteries around every corner – and that to me is Japan in a nutshell. In this modernized and overly franchised world we live in, I am always inspired by how small business owners take pride in their craft no matter how niche their restaurants or shops are. And that is also what I respect and idolize about Japanese game design - to constantly hone your profession like an art form such that someone somewhere can have a unique experience that you are proud to offer. I hope that Remember Our Trip provides this kind of experience to folks out there who have the chance to play it!


This interview first appeared in issue 52 of Tabletop Gaming magazine in an abridged format. Subscribe to the magazine now to avoid missing out in future and pick up a copy of the magazine to read the review of Remember Our Trip.

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