For family game night, I usually try and take along one game that my nephew can join in with. This has presented me with a game buying challenge to always be on the lookout for something we all can enjoy. Anything where you get to build something or with limited downtime is always welcome for a 7 year old with ants in his pants (and his 36 year old uncle!) Junk Art, Cockroach Poker and Planet (we didn’t really play the game just created worlds) are all previous hits, but playing the same game over and over can get tiresome. So, how did Memorinth from Pegasus Spiele games go down?
That Pig Game
A good sign of synchronicity on game choice was that my nephew had a similar first reaction to the box art as I did: “Are we playing that pig game?” Memorinth does indeed feature a modern take on the three little pigs in its card art, which also includes such fairy tale favourites as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and the… errrr… Wishing Table? (No, me neither!)
While the art is cute and vibrant, the theme is minimal in what is essentially a memory game coupled with a maze: a memorinth. That said, the design certainly acted as a hook to get the nephew interested. He even helped set up the board. Although his help mainly consisted of trying to identify the characters on the cards and eventually laying them out around the outside.
To set up a game of That Pi… Memorinth (sorry, the name has stuck), you lay out a five by five grid of maze tiles around a central start location. The tiles have a day and night side, and these are alternated in initial set up. Each tile also has one of eight characters printed on it. These correspond to the character cards that you lay around the labyrinth, two on each edge.
Play is simple. Choose a card that matches the current round (day or night) and flip it to reveal a different path and character symbol. Next, find the matching card on the outside to see which direction you can move. Then if your meeple has an open path in front of them in that direction move them one space. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
This game requires a lot of memory skills to keep track of where all the icons are. A lot of the time you are taking educated guesses and the rest of the time you are taking straight-up guesses. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ll normally give my nephew some leeway and guidance in a game, but once he got the hang of Memorinth his nimble child brain proved more agile than my befuddled old-man brain.
There is the capacity for some meanness in the game. You could, if you wanted, flip a card just to spoil someone’s route and, with adults, I might do that. As a family game though, we had a sort of unspoken ‘only do that if you really think the character you need is on that tile’ rule. This meant there were no tantrums at the table – until I lost the second time, at least.
Pig Game – Beast Mode
The box does include two variants to make the game more complex. An attempt, perhaps, to provide some appeal outside the family game remit. The first introduces a sliding mechanism to the rows and columns. Meanwhile, the second allows special actions such as swapping cards as well as players needing to pay coins to trolls to move down certain paths.
Of the two variants, I much preferred the sliding maze tiles one. The special action variant gave you powers that, unless you had an eidetic memory, didn’t really help and made the game slightly too chaotic. It also made the game run a little long, with turns that felt like you did little or nothing – anathema to playing with children. The sliding did add some chaos, but kept it fun and, more importantly, fast. Still, given the choice with children and even with adults, I would probably opt for the base game. It is light, quick and so easy to explain that my nephew taught my sister.
Before we get to what is good about Memorinth, let’s be clear on what it’s not. Memorinth is not going to have enough meat on the bone to satisfy a seasoned strategy gamer. At best, it might provide a filler for that hors d’ouevres/dessert spot on a game night. But, to be fair, I don’t think it’s selling itself as that.
Memorinth does what a family game should: provide enough strategy to keep the adults interested without being so hard and dry it frustrates and dissuades the youngsters. Pablo Fontagnier’s colourful and lively design means the game engages visually as well as being fun to play.
While this wouldn’t be my first choice with the majority of my gamer friends, it has filled a much needed gap on family game night. My nephew genuinely enjoyed it. He got it out the next day to play again. I am glad he’s found a game he likes and is ‘good’ at. If only because it might give us a break from Junk Art, Top Trumps and Cockroach Poker next family game night.