Vivid: Memories is a game about collecting pieces of your childhood memories. Why? Did you get hit over the head and have amnesia? Are you so beat down from the day-to-day of your corporate job that your brain has deteriorated so much you no longer know how to have fun?
Well, who knows. Theme is good though, right? It’s kind of like that Inside Out movie. Maybe. But you also score points. Look… it doesn’t have to make sense. Abstract puzzle game, ok? Let’s get into it.
Vivid is played over three rounds which all follow the same structure. First, you’ll draw memory tiles based on the number of players and crystal-shaped memory fragments from a bag, placing them on the memory tiles. Players will then draft the memory fragments off the tiles. However, you can only pick fragments from either end of the line of tiles. You can choose any single fragment, two fragments of one color, or three if all of them are different colors. If you happen to take the last fragment off a tile you also claim the tile.
When you take fragments you must immediately place all of them in one of the empty hexes on your board. And all the fragments must go into the same hex. If you already have any fragments in the hex you cannot add to it. There are some ways around this. If you only take a single tile you get to take a bonus “rewire” action, allowing you to move all the fragments out of one space into an adjacent space or move any number of fragments from adjacent hexes into a single hex.
After all fragments have been drafted there is a reflect phase where you can take each of the four basic actions:
- Draw a random fragment from the bag and add it to an empty hex.
- Remove any two fragments from a hex and add one of any color from the supply.
- Move any fragment into an adjacent hex.
- Swap two adjacent fragments.
But, if you acquired any memory tiles during the draft they have a special action that will replace the basic actions available. It then flips over to its scoring side, presenting you with a way to score additional victory points.
Now… victory points. There are so many ways to score points. First, you can create threads in your hex-shaped brain, connecting like colors along the outside of the board. If you do you will score points based on the length of that chain of fragments. You’ll then start filling up the core memory banks along the outside… that’s also worth points and those score every round. And of course, those memory tiles can give you points for having certain combinations of fragments within the hexes in your brain.
Those memory tiles will stick around until scored though, limiting your available basic actions. So, taking too many can leave you in a real tough spot. The game ends after three rounds and players will also score points for one of the colors of memories (which they get at the start of the game).
Vivid: Memories is really beautiful to look at. The memory tiles have amazing Andrew Bosley artwork where one side is the imaged memory as a child and the reverse is what you were actually doing. It’s cute and really evokes the feeling of little kids and their wild imaginations. As a millennial, it gives me strong Rugrats vibes (although with a much more realistic artistic style).
Does that theme come across in the gameplay… not really. Mostly I think the scoring doesn’t really even attempt to make sense thematically. There is a lot of talk in the rule book about core memories and memory threads. At the end of the day, it’s really just a cute theme for a puzzle about making connections on a board. Which, I assume, is a pretty oversimplification of neurology.
Abstract doesn’t bother me though, so let’s get past the pasted on theme. Is it fun? Yeah… sure. There are a lot of things going on here. I like drafting games and the idea of how many fragments you can draft depends on the combination of colors leads to some interesting choices. And emptying a tile giving you a new scoring opportunity seems like a great thing… but it comes at the cost of one of the basic actions. If you lock yourself out of too many of them you may find it difficult to score anything.
Trying to complete the core memories on the outside of the board ASAP so you can score them multiple times seems like a wise choice. The ones worth the most points will require at least three completed threads so you’d have to dedicate a lot of time to making sure that happens.
Ultimately though Vivid: Memories just doesn’t knock my socks off. And I think that is mostly because of the tile laying aspect of it. The drafting is the most interesting part and once you have fragments and you must put them all in one empty space… it can really be AP-inducing. And not necessarily in a fun way that ends up being rewarding when you finally settle on an answer.
Often there isn’t a great answer, everything you do is going to probably help you make progress toward something. And rarely does anyone action give you many right away. You’ll have to make good use of the mid-round actions to push things around and swap places with stuff. All in the name of squeezing out a few extra points.
I think Vivid: Memories is a good game. It’s still in my collection for the moment. But it’s one of those games that I’m pretty consistently wondering how long it will have a space on the shelf. And too often if someone picks it up and wonders what the gameplay is behind the amazing artwork I’ll try to talk them out of it.
And that’s not to say there is something wrong with it. At least not something obvious. Maybe it’s the lack of good theme integration. Maybe it’s the consistent AP. Or it could be the lack of big payoffs at any point through the game. In the end, it’s Vivid: Memories is a little… unexciting.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – The drafting is the best part. The tile laying the actions to modify your brain can be tough to sort through and don’t provide enough reward.
• Feels a bit like everything scores a medium amount of points
• Artwork and theme don’t tie will with mechanism and scoring.