I wrote this piece for Random, a collector's fanzine, in 1981 to 84. I can't be precise as it is not dated.
In the early 80's I was first told of MeM. Despite being a huge collector of games, I had never heard of it before. But I was intrigued when I received a letter from David Pritchard, former editor of The Gamer, in which he said "And, of course, I've got a copy of MeM." There was no 'of course' about it as it was completely new to me or any of my friends.
I visited David soon after and he showed the game. Evidently, all letters to the address on the rules are returned and there doesn't seem to be many old copies about. Certainly, Sid Sackson, my normal source of older games, has never mentioned it to me. I have now written to Sid, to see if he has heard of MeM. David obviously liked the game very much, and some of his associates, notably Alex Randolph, consider MeM to be the very best abstract game in the world.
Before I start, I must mention the designer, credited on my rules, Anatol W Holt Hopfenberg.
I shall record the rules exactly as written on the fragment I have, but a game description is required. Place the board between you and fill each square with a playing piece. The playing pieces are distributed randomly, making each game quite different. The object is to take pieces from the board and place them in your play area in front of you. Each stone taken from the board must represent a colour still on the board and is placed in front of you, eventually forming a pattern in your play area that directly corresponds to a pattern still on the board. Once a colour is used as another colour, you must be consistent and always use that colour match.
CONDENSED STATEMENT OF ALL RULES
1. Pattern building in your playing space.
With each move you put a stone in your playing space. Once the pattern is started, each new stone must be placed next to a stone already there, in a direction parallel to the rows or columns on the board.
A pattern matches a group of stones on the board if;
a) It has the same shape and orientation as the group
b) If two stones in any pattern have the same colour then the corresponding two stones in the group have the same colour, and not otherwise.
3. Stone Moving
To move, you take a stone off the board and put it down in your playing space. After each move, the patterns of both players must match at least one group of stones on the board.
Starting with a board filled at random, a single player makes as many successful moves as he can, thus building the largest pattern he can which matches a group on the board. He has ‘won’ at MEM-Solitaire if he builds a pattern of 16 stones, matching the 16 stones which remain on the board.
Starting with a board filled at random, two players take turns building their own patterns. At each turn, a player makes two moves (if he can make one move only then he is not allowed to move at all). If one player cannot move, the other player continues to take turns as long as he can. When neither player can take a turn, the game is over. Both players count the stones in their playing space. The player with the most wins.
A set of stones is an isolated group if;
a) Each stone is next to at least one other stone of the set.
b) The set is surrounded by empty spaces (diagonals still don’t count).
7. Conditions for Capture
You can capture a group of stones if all the following is true;
a) Your pattern matches the group to be captured.
b) The group is isolated.
c) The group has 2 or more stones.
If several groups on the board meet these conditions, you can only take one of them.
8. Accomplishing a Capture
To capture a group, you;
a) Remove all the stones of that group and put them in your captured pile
b) Remove all the stones of your pattern and put them in your captured pile
9. Conditions for Blocking
You can block your opponent from taking a stone out of a group on the board, if;
a) That group is matched by your pattern
b) That group has 2 or more stones
10. The MEM game
Beginning with a board filled at random, the players take turns. On your turn, you have these (and only these) alternatives
c) Move, then Capture
d) Pass, but only if you have no legal move and no legal captures
AFTER ANY CAPTURE, YOU GET AN EXTRA TURN
You are allowed to capture your opponent’s only legal match. After that, he must pass on each turn
On his turn, YOU have the option of blocking his move;
a) You say “I block that” and point to the stone in your pattern which represents the stone he wants to move, given that your pattern represents the group you wish to protect;
b) So long as the stones now in your playing space remain there (until your next capture or end of the game, whichever is sooner), they must continue to represent the group you are now protecting. Thus, the effect of blocking on you is to limit the groups on the board that you can legally match.
c) He must return the stone to its original position and choose any other stone which does not destroy your only legal match.
d) NOTE: Your opponent, about to move a stone, has the right to ask whether you will block his taking a particular stone. If the answer is “No” then he must take it; if you answer “Yes” then you must point at the stone in your pattern with which you are blocking the removal.
The game is over when neither player can move or capture. Each player now adds all the stones in his playing space to his capture pile. The player with the most stones has won the game.
MeM – Sounds the same as the French word ‘meme’ which means ‘Same’
MeM – the first syllable of the word ‘memory’. Memory depends on representation.
I have no way of illustrating the board here, but think of it as a chess board with less spaces. The top row has four spaces, the next four have six spaces, and the last row has four spaces again, 32 spaces in all.
Pieces needed = 32, in 11 different colours, in these quantities;
1 colour x 8
1 colour x 7
2 colours x 3
4 colours x 2
3 colours x 1 which equals 32 playing pieces in all.
If your brain needs a thorough work-out, MeM can be bought at Kadon Enterprises, at www.gamepuzzles.com, where they make a deluxe edition under the name Imago.
The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
Interesting write up, thanks for the time and effort you put into it. I have a copy of the original MeM in the plastic box. Nice to see some history on the game now as well.
I bought my copy of the Mem game in early 1968. It's a good, challenging game that has been under the radar for a long time. - Tobias d. Robison