Buzzworthiness: Match ‘Em Up

Thanks to Brains and Brawn Gaming for providing a prototype copy of today’s game.

A light review of a light game for you today as I take a look at

image by BGG user BrainsAndBrawnGaming

Match ‘Em Up is a 2-4 player memory game designed by Keith Wilcoxon, and published by Brains and Brawn Gaming. It’s an abstract card game where you’re trying to remember the positions of various symbols in order to score points.

The game comes with six decks of cards – a black deck of nine cards, four player decks (red-yellow-blue-green) of nine cards each, and a rainbow deck consisting of twelve cards. Each player takes a player deck and puts it face down in front of themselves. The rainbow deck is shuffled and set to the side. The black deck is shuffled and dealt into a 3×3 face up grid.

image by BGG user BrainsAndBrawnGaming

The first thing you have to do is look at the icons in the grid for one minute and try to remember where each one is. Then you flip the cards face down.

The game can be broken down into two phases. During the first phase, players take turns drawing a card from the rainbow deck. If it’s an icon, you try to remember where that icon was and place it at the end of the column it’s in on your side of the grid. In the example above, if you are the red player and draw a star, you’d place it next to the far right column. If the blue player had drawn the star, they’d want to place it next to the middle column.

If you draw a switch card, you can switch the positions of any two cards in the grid.

Once all rainbow cards have been played, you take turns drawing a card from your personal deck and placing it face down on the card that you think matches it. Once all players have gone through their decks, the game is over and you score. Reveal all the rainbow cards, then flip each stack in the middle. You’ll get one point for each rainbow card you have successfully placed in the correct column, lose a point for each card your opponents have placed in the correct column, and gain three points for each card you’ve matched within the grid. The player with the highest score wins.

image by BGG user BrainsAndBrawnGaming

I was sent a preproduction copy of the game. It first came out last year, but the edition coming out now is their mint tin edition, and my copy came in one of those. It’s a cool little metal case for the game, and held the cards well. There’s not a whole lot on the cards, just the icon in question or Switch. The icons are all large on the card, and fairly recognizable in terms of what they are, and distinct from one another. While I can’t speak to the components in the final version of the game, here they were fine.

There’s not really a theme here – it’s pretty abstract. What you have is essentially just a memory game where you’re trying to take a mental photograph of what is where. As such, people who are better at that will naturally do better than those who are bad at it. The Switch cards are thrown in there to mix it up a bit, and they’re successful at that. My main problem with the Switch cards, especially in higher player counts, is that they take a turn away from the person who draws them. In a four player game, you’re only going to draw three cards in the Rainbow phase, and if one of them is a Switch, you only have the possibility to score with two cards. If all three of them happen to be Switches, you won’t score at all, and just will have to hope that your switches have messed your opponents up enough that you won’t go too far into the negative.

Scoring feels odd in this game, but it makes sense. Because you’re not guaranteed to get as many card plays in the Rainbow phase, and because you’re guessing that one in three cards is the one you want, you’re only getting a point for the ones you get right. But then you’re losing a point for each one your opponents get right, so it’s possible (and pretty likely with more players) that you’re going to be in the negative after this phase. Placing your personal deck cards directly on the card in question gets you three points, which again makes sense because it’s got to be precise. Overall, I think the scoring is well-balanced, I just wonder how necessary it is to penalize players for their opponents getting something right. I guess it’s to add more interaction, but I’d just as soon leave that part out.

Game play is very straightforward – on your turn, draw a card and play it. The second half of the game, where you’re playing from your personal deck, can honestly be done simultaneously since all cards are being played face down. It’s written in the rules to do it on a turn-by-turn basis, but if everyone does it at the same time, the game goes much quicker.

The mechanisms of card placement are pretty clever here. Placing the cards from the rainbow deck on your side of the grid makes sure everyone knows who played which cards. And placing on top of the black cards with your personal deck means that when you reveal those black deck cards, player guesses are on the bottom so you can score the rainbow cards first.

Overall, the game is a straight memory game. It’s not like the classic Memory at all, where you’re hunting for pairs of cards. Here, it’s just straight photographic memory, and having two phases means you may have to work on some longer-term memory than you’re used to.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? This game sets out to be a good lightweight memory/matching game, and it does accomplish that goal. While it isn’t something that I would recommend to hardcore board gamers, I think it’s a good family weight game that comes in a nice portable package and can be played most anywhere. Once you get your head around some of the quirks in scoring, it’s a quick and fairly enjoyable game. There is an expert edition of the game that takes the number of icons to remember up to 16.

Thanks again to Brains and Brawn Gaming for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!

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