For quite a while I thought my little brother was cheating somehow in the matching game we owned, as he would consistently win no matter who he played with. I finally realized that he just has a great memory, which is the most important factor in those games.
However, the value of memory doesn’t stop with matching games. On another occasion I was playing Chess with an opponent who asked if he could play blindfolded. Mystified, I agreed, and he put a blindfold on and we each called out our moves, which I would make on the game board. To my amazement he won the game, and playing Chess blindfolded has been something I have since begun working to learn how to do.
Many other games use memory as a secondary mechanic, and a good memory can be quite a useful skill when playing or designing games. Considering how we can better employ memory as a factor in games can help add variety and another layer of depth to the games we create. Please share your thoughts on using memory as an important mechanic of board and card games!
Overview of Memory
Memory can be used as a game mechanic when there is hidden, secret, or simply important information that when remembered or tracked gives players an advantage. This definition also includes strategic games where there is enough complexity that remembering positions and strategies can give players an advantage.
This certainly comes into play in Chess and Chess 4, where there is enough going on that it is easy to miss things and forget about dangers and traps. This also includes other strategy games such as Pentago, and social deduction games such as The Resistance.
Below let’s go over some thoughts on how we can use memory as a mechanic to improve the games we design and build!
Important Considerations with Memory
Incorporating memory into a game can be most easily and overtly done by adding a hidden information element that players work to discover throughout the course of the game. This is often found in deduction games such as Codenames, Clue, Coup, and The Chameleon.
These games often provide limited amounts of information to various players, with more information becoming available as the game progresses. Oftentimes players are on teams, with smaller teams being compensated with more information, as in One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Saboteur, Secret Hitler, and Werewolf.
Strategic-focused games might also provide hidden information, as in Stratego, but most often they create scenarios where so many options are available that players have to pick and choose, whether consciously or unconsciously, what to remember.
Many other games use memory in related ways such as in Sushi Go, where players are not required to remember anything but can benefit from keeping track of which sushi ingredient options are available at different places around the table; in Pit, where players need to remember who currently has the bull and the bear; and in our upcoming game, Golddigger’s Mine, where players have symmetrical decks with some limitations and can benefit by remembering which cards other players have played and which ones are still available.
Cautions and Tips for Using Memory
When incorporating memory as a mechanic in the games you create, unless your game is specifically a memory or matching game, consider making sure that memory is optional rather than required. People often dislike feeling forced, and more players can enjoy a game when there are multiple paths to victory including memory as only one of several options for getting ahead. This gives players a sense of choice and creates some fun variation from game to game.
In addition, memory as a game mechanic should usually be a strategic part of the game rather than used mainly for calculations. Tallying up points by memory or calculating other mechanical things with memory can detract from the overall experience of the game, and can make it feel more like a shortcut. Using memory as an optional strategic advantage, on the other hand, can be much more appealing to players and can help them feel more engaged in the game!
What are some interesting ways you have seen memory be used as a part of a game? How else can memory be used as an avenue to victory in strategic games? Please comment below with your thoughts!
Memory can be used as a game mechanic when there is hidden, secret, or simply important information that when remembered or tracked gives players an advantage. This includes strategic games where there is enough complexity that remembering positions and strategies can give players an advantage.
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Other Tabletop Game Mechanics to Explore
- Action Drafting Mechanic
- Alliances Mechanic
- Auctioning Mechanic (Part 1/2)
- Auctioning Mechanic (Part 2/2)
- Bluffing Mechanic
- Board Game Mechanics: An Overview
- Component Drafting Mechanic
- Cooperation Mechanic
- Dice Rolling Mechanic
- Direct Conflict Mechanic
- Elimination Mechanic
- Engine Building Mechanic
- Finance Mechanic
- Irregular Turn Order Mechanic
- Memory Mechanic
- Negotiation Mechanic
- Random Selection
- Social Deduction Mechanic
- Tile Placement Mechanic
- Unique Abilities Mechanic
- Worker Placement Mechanic
Are there other game mechanics or topics that you would like to see explored further? Please comment below with any requests!