Designer: Carlo Bortolini
Artist: Pablo Fontagnier
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
I recently wrote a long piece defending the use of memory in board games. Memory mechanism is disliked by many board gamers and I understand the reason behind it. Heck, even I am not really a fan of it. But do give credit to any designer brave enough to employ memory as the core mechanism in their game design, it is quite a challenge to do a good job.
Memoarrr! is a surprisingly fun memory filler designed by newcomer Carlo Bortolini. In essence, the game is a new take on an old flip-and-match mechanism ala Memory. Yes, the classic memory game known as…. Memory. In the classic game, players flip cards or tiles to collect matching pairs. If the pairs do not match, you flip it back face down. If it matches, you collect and score a point. Easy peasy. It is fun for kids and dull for adults. Kids are surprisingly on par or perform better than adults in Memory.
In Memoarrr! a few twists are introduced: first, players assemble a 5×5 grid of cards face down and get to see the identity of 3 cards closest to them. Then each player in turn order, flips a card hoping to match one of two elements, either the animal or the terrain, from a previously flipped card. If you match either element, you stay alive and the next person goes. If you flip a card that is not a match, you are out of the round. The last person standing wins a treasure card worth 1-4 rubies. The flipped up cards are then flipped back down and the next round continues. The game plays for 7 rounds before the total rubies are tallied.
What’s clever about Memoarrr! is that each round more information is revealed as players become better at locating cards. While rounds 1-3 might be more luck dependent, the latter rounds truly are testing your powers of recall as some cards might have previously been revealed 6 times in a row. It’s incredible that if the cards have a single variable, it is likely there is little to no challenge but two elements in a card is enough to throw people off. To top it off, there are harder variants where each animal have certain powers of movement. Flipping a certain card may result in the reorganization of the grid. This is quite insane and something I doubt I can handle.
The game is a filler and plays quick. The design is clever and the cards are well drawn. The animals are cartoony with pirate features and the terrain is color-coded. Overall, the production value is fantastic. If you arrange the rubies in descending order such that the early rounds score only a single ruby while the latter rounds score 4, then this game is all skill. Folks with superior memory WILL win, period. This is what should be for a game of skill. I think Memoarrr! shows that it is possible to design a memory game that is appealing and fun for gamers both young and old. I don’t have many memory games, but I am keeping this one.
Edit: (06/2021) The game is fabulous. My kid is now 6.5 years old and is a beast at memory games. She is equal if not better than the adults at this game. Hands down the best memory game out there.
Initial impressions: Good; Great (Family)
5 years 2 months: I pulled this one off my gaming shelf and my kid immediately plays like a pro. A round of rules explanation is more than adequate and boy can she beat the snot out of me. Granted, I am lousy and below average with memory games. Either I am too lazy to remember or I would like to think that my memory capacity is shot. Either way, she has the ability to claim 6 of 7 treasure cards, possibly all of them. The game is good out of the box and I think she is loving it. I do not know how much staying power Memoarrr! has though. She is loving Sleeping Queen right now and this may be her new shiny.
6 years 6 months: We have rediscovered Memoarrr! At this age, she is really good and we are all competitive. I think when she was 5, the game did not captivate her. She enjoyed it the few times we took it out but she never asked for it. We then moved on to the Gamewrights. Now that we have revisited it, I have bumped this up to a Great! status for family gaming. I suspect we will see a lot more of the game in the next few months.