Deja Vu Fragments of Memory Board Game Review (Asteria)


Help the nameless girl discover her true identity in Deja Vu: Fragments of Memory, a set collection, abstract strategy board game played with up to four players. Deja Vu is a beautiful game with a lot going on; in fact, it's a game of sharp contrasts. If you enjoy games like Splendor, you'll probably like Deja Vu -- but be warned it's a little more in-depth than traditional set collection games, and it can be just about as complex as you want to make it.

Deja Vu Fragments of Memory Board Game Details

Players: 2 to 4

Game Time: 60 Minutes

Age: 10+

Genre: Set Collection / Tableau Building

How is Deja Vu: Fragments of Memory Played?

Deja Vu has both competitive and cooperative modes. In the competitive mode, it's a race: the first player to collect 10 cards ends the game, with the other players getting a single turn afterwards. Players purchase cards by collecting "bits" that are strewn across the map. Bits all have a color and a shape: the shape has to match, and you get extra points if the color does too. The way that bits are collected is interesting. You select all the bits from a tile, and then set them down, one by one, on connecting tiles. When you place the very last bit, you get all of the bits of that bit's color on the ending tile.

When the game is setup, it looks like organized chaos.

Players have cards in their hand they can purchase, as well as "end game scoring" cards laid out. These cards have things like "get extra points for every blue card you have." The cards you purchase also have special abilities. You can purchase them into your short-term memory by placing a single, top bit on them, and you can purchase them permanently into your long-term memory (and end game scoring) by paying all the bits. At the end of the game (which is a straight victory point game), your points are added based on the cards you collected.

The girl's card actually tells you what you're doing, though it's somewhat impenetrable initially; the lower right is hand size, the lower left is how many spaces you can move.

In addition to purchasing cards, you also need to collect memories. Memories in and of themselves mean nothing unless you purchase the end game scoring cards that make them mean something. If you collect three memories, for instance, that could mean 0 points (if you don't get the end game card) or 22 points (if you do get the end game card).

And, at the same time, you're also trying to build tableaus. Tableaus are similar-colored cards that are in a sequence. Thus, there's a lot going on in what is actually a fairly short game.

Messy Setup -- Clean Put Up

Deja Vu is setup weird. The irregular tiles are shuffled and then you need to position them so they have two or more connections with other tiles, but they never connect point to point or side to side. This was a sort of abstract puzzle in itself, but it made for a sufficiently random game board. Once you do that, you need to place a memory on each tile, and also four random bits on each tile. It took a bit of time. Putting away the game, on the other hand, was extraordinarily simple. Everything fit perfectly in the box, which has a fantastic insert.

A Game of Dueling Strategies

Or, well, it's more a free for all. You can do a lot of things in this game: you can concentrate on just buying cards, try to build tableaus, purchase a lot of end game scoring, or focus on memories. In our game, though, we found that purchasing cards happened so much faster that people trying to focus on memories ended up left pretty far behind; it took a while for them to build up to memory collection as well as trying to manipulate events so they could easily get the end game cards.

It was the abstract strategy portion of the game that really intrigued us. When bits are "spent" they go to the side, and when bits are discarded (because you have no space for them; you can only hold a certain amount), they also go to the side. Once there are enough of them to the side, they get placed back on the board... by a player. And that's where it gets really interesting.

It's As Complex As You Want to Make It

There's a complex strategy behind Deja Vu. When you pick up bits, you're also placing them. When you place them, you want to place them so you are setting up your next move, but also hindering other players. This becomes even more obvious when you end up placing all the discarded ones back on the board.

A great insert makes putting up the game a breeze.

When I realized what was happening, I realized that Deja Vu is not a game I can ever play with one ofmy best friends. One of my friends is constantly afflicted by Analysis Paralysis; a game of Azul takes him ten minutes for each turn. Deja Vu is a game in which you can create very elaborate strategies if you're willing to give everyone fifteen minutes to figure out what the best strategy is, and in my opinion, that really hurts the game.

It hurts the game because ultimately, how well you perform in the game is going to end up being how long you want to make other people wait for you. With all other things being player knowledge (Tom is clearly going after blue tableau, Marcy is going after memories...), you can determine what players are likely to go for next, and you can make it more difficult for them, if you want to sit there and figure out each subsequent move. The complexity and randomness of the game board actually increases the amount of cognitive processing you have to do because there are correct answers you can derive, if only you wait long enough.

Is it a memory game? Is it an adventure? One person assumed it was a legacy game, based on the box art alone.

Of course, that's not really a criticism of the game, it's just the type of game it is. As it stood, much like Century: Spice Road, the best strategy seemed to be just racing to the end to finish 10 cards before the others. 

It's a beautiful game, and it reminds me of the French video game Remember Me which was largely ignored when it came out. Art is crisp and clean, the game board is unique and inventive, and the pieces are serviceable. I suspect the play is altered dramatically depending on whether you're playing it casually or being truly competitive about it, and that brings a lot of potential depth to what could just be a straightforward set collection game.

Deja Vu Fragments of Memory Board Game Review
  • PRO: A beautiful game with a whimsical theme and deep abstract strategy elements.
  • CON: Potentially a non-starter for those who suffer a lot of analys paralysis, as the game board changes dramatically from turn to turn, and there are often correct answers.