31 May 2022
Remembering is the easy part
Vivid Memories combines abstract, pattern-making Azul-like gameplay with the whimsical and heartfelt theme of collecting fragments of childhood memories reminiscent of Pixar’s Inside Out. Players assemble patterns of memory out of colourful shards on their individual player boards representing the mind, while, of course, earning victory points to see who will win the game.
It is easy to get swept away by Andrew Bosley’s beautiful artwork the second you start playing the game. While the main board is made up of simple symbols and brightly coloured shards, the eye is immediately drawn to the artwork of the moment tiles. Each side of the tile captures an impressionable moment in a child’s life. For example, one side could show a child playing with a paper airplane. If you perform the action on that tile, you get to turn it over, revealing its scoring side and showing what the child was imagining while playing: flying an actual airplane. A simple turn of the tile that carries a big emotional punch.
During the game players will be drafting the different coloured shard pieces (they are also marked by a corresponding symbol to assist those who have trouble distinguishing colours) and arranging them in the honeycomb dents on their boards in various scoring combinations. There will be multiple opportunities for players to re-arrange, discard or exchange shards, so the board will continue to evolve and shift its colourful pattern motif throughout the game’s three rounds. This flexibility makes the game exciting – you can always do something to improve your board – but at the same time it is easy to get stuck finding the best move.
Scoring well depends on several strands of actions: picking up shards, potentially getting a moment tile, arranging the shards on your board, then using actions to manipulate their colours and positions and, finally, score. Every single step could be optimised into a full stupor. Every single decision could be re-examined in the search for the most point-giving combination. The flexibility to alter any action you take with a subsequent move, makes for deliciously brain-crunchy gameplay, but can also stall it if one player is set on finding the perfect move. The gameplay is also more likely to reward a more experienced player, one that has played the game a couple of times and has better knowledge and experience of its combos. Vivid Memories is not complicated to play, it is just hard to play very well.
The challenge, however, is not frustrating. This is in large part because the game never outstays its welcome. In its three rounds the boards never fill to the brink with shards. It always has just enough elements to make exciting and satisfying moves, without overwhelming players with sheer volume of components.
The theme, while ever present, never feels intrusive. You could look at the gameplay entirely in terms of its mechanisms, generating best scoring patterns and efficiency of terms. At the same time, you could look at your player board of honeycomb compartments filled with colourful fragment shards and appreciate that each of them represents strands of memories and experiences which make up who we are. It’s quite beautiful.
PLAY IT? YES
Instantly charming and whimsical, Vivid Memories challenging pattern-making gameplay easily captures players’ imagination.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED AZUL
Azul may have slightly more elegant gameplay, but Vivid Memories easily wins with its captivating emotive theme – wall tiles never stood a chance!
Designer: Matthew Dunstan & Brett J. Gilbert
Publisher: Floodgate Games
Time: 30-45 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 4 Player boards
- 20 Moment tiles
- 5 Aspiration tiles
- 125 Fragment tokens
- 4 Helper cards
- 1 Start player marker
- 16 Scoring markers
- 1 Score and round track
- 1 Round marker
- 1 Drawstring bag
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