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Memory Palace
Memory Palace - Image1
Posting Details
Country of origin United States
Created by Vesa Timonen and Timo Jokitalo
Posted by Vesa Timonen and Timo Jokitalo
Date first posted February 10, 2014
Game details
Game genre Memory
Game summary The Memory Palace game is a simple, fun and addictive introduction to the memory technique called Memory Palace, also called the method of loci.
# of players From 2 to 5 (players or teams)
For ages 6 to 122+


Other details


Game Designer / CreatorEdit

  • Created by Vesa Timonen and Timo Jokitalo

Game SummaryEdit

The Memory Palace game is a simple, fun and addictive introduction to the memory technique called Memory Palace, also called the method of loci (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci). While playing many games of Memory Palace, the players get more skilled in the method, eventually being able to apply it also to their everyday life. A single game of Memory Palace consists of two phases: memorization and checking. In the memorization phase, the players alternately challenge each other by giving words to memorize. In the checking phase, each player in turn announces a memorized word. The words are collectively checked, and the winner is the player who gets most words right. When memorizing the words, the players place the words to locations in their memory palaces, as an aid to remembering them. In the first games, words on actual pieces of paper are placed in physical locations around the players. As the players get more skilled, the physical locations are replaced by mental positions in the players’ own imagined memory palaces.


Players / ModeratorsEdit

  • 2 to 5 players (or 2 to 5 teams) ages 6 to 122 (The longest unambiguously documented human lifespan is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875–1997), who died at age 122 years, 164 days.)

Game Set-up and ConstructionEdit

  • Materials needed: colored paper notes (sticky notes), sheets of writing paper and pencils.

How to Play / Game RulesEdit

The game is played on three levels with progressing “difficulty”. The players can decide which level they play, according to how much they have practised the method. We suggest that beginners should begin with the first level.

In all levels, a single game consists of the memorizing and checking phases.

Level 1 (beginner): physically placing words written on paper into a room.

Before starting a round of the game, the players prepare like this:

  • The players negotiate a theme for the words to be used in the round, for example animals, plants, cities, first names, countries, movies, books, machines... The players can also decide to each have a different theme. In a two-person game, we suggest to choose a related but different theme, for example girls’ names/boys’ names; animals/plants; foods/drinks.
  • The players also decide the number of words that each player will try to memorize. For beginning players we suggest 10 words.
  • Before beginning, the players should also prepare a pencil for everyone, and a number of pieces of paper of different colors, one color for each player. (Sticky notes are very practical.)

Then the game begins with phase 1.

  • Phase 1: memorization. In turn, each player chooses a word from the next player’s theme and writes it on a piece of paper, reads it aloud and then gives the piece to the next player, who tries to memorize it. To assist in the memorization, the player chooses a place in the room and puts the piece of paper there, folded in such a way that the word is not visible. The players take turns like this, until everyone has memorized the chosen number of words and placed their pieces of paper.

Occasionally it can happen that the player who should memorize the word does not know it. In this case he can request another word.

After all the players have memorized the chosen number of words, the words are checked:

  • Phase 2: checking. In turn, each player chooses one piece of paper he has placed, recognized by the color of the paper. He then announces the word that is written on it according to his memory. He opens the piece of paper and shows it to the other players, so that they can check if it was announced correctly. The order of the words does not matter. The checking is continued until all the words have been checked. For each correctly remembered word, the player scores one point. The winner is the player with the most points.

Level 2 (intermediate): mentally placing words into a physical room.

In the first level, the pieces of paper in the physical locations assist in remembering. In the second level, the words are placed mentally without pieces of paper. The players remain in the room and may use the locations in the room as their loci.

In this level, every player has a sheet of paper and a pencil.

  • Phase 1: memorizing. In turn, each player chooses a word from the next player's theme and writes it down on his own sheet. He reads the word aloud so that everyone can hear. The next player tries to memorize the word, and to assist the remembering, he imagines the word in some location in the room. The players take turns until the chosen number of words have been memorized.
  • Phase 2: checking. In turn, the players announce a word they have memorized. The previous player checks to see if the word is in the list. The order of the words doesn’t matter. For each correctly remembered word, the player scores one point. The winner is the player with the most points.

Level 3 (expert): mentally placing words into an imagined room.

In level 3, the players move to a different place for the checking phase. This means that they no longer can rely on looking at the room when they are remembering their words, and they are forced to use a real “Memory Palace” when placing their words.

  • Phase 1: memorizing. As in level 2, each player in turn chooses a word from the next player's theme and writes it down on his own sheet. He reads the word aloud so that everyone can hear. The next player tries to memorize the word. To assist the remembering, he can mentally puts the word in a place he knows well. This place (the “Memory Palace”) can be the room where the players are now, or some other place entirely.

When the chosen number of words has been memorized, they take their sheets of paper and go to another place from where they can’t see the place where they did the memorizing. They can choose to continue at once, or after some delay.

  • Phase 2: checking. As in level 2. Alternately, the players announce a word they have memorized. The previous player checks to see if the word is in the list. The order of the words doesn’t matter. For each correctly remembered word, the player scores one point. The winner is the player with the most points.

Team play

We recommend the game for 2 to 5 players, to not make the turns too long. If there are more participants, then it’s recommended to form 2 to 5 teams. The game play then goes exactly as in individual play, with the teams as players. Each team can decide themselves which technique they wish to use for memorizing: either everyone can try to memorize all the words and in the checking phase the players can try to collectively come up with the words; or the team could choose to split up the memorizing task so that each player will memorize a smaller number of words.

More variations

As the player get more skillful, they can invent many more variations:

  • We suggest that beginners start with concrete words from their theme. As they advance, the players can also choose more complicated and abstract things: numbers; historical events; feelings; chemical substances; words in a foreign language, …
  • In the rules above, the player can ask for a new word if he gets an unknown word. The players can omit this rule, so that players must also try to memorize unknown words.
  • In levels 2 and 3, where the words are written down in a list, the players may also agree that the words must be remembered in order. Then, the player loses one point for each word which he forgets, or which he announces in the wrong place.
  • When the players have played on level 3 they are already quite skillful users of the technique, and they may omit the moving to a different place. One variation is to play the entire game eyes closed so that also the player who gives the words memorizes them, and the players vote in case of disputes.
  • The players may invent extreme variations when they feel skilled enough. For example, the first player reads aloud a list of words, and at the same time the next player places them in his memory palace. Then, the next player announces the memorized words in the opposite order - a task which is very difficult to do without being skilled in the method of loci. The memorizing player loses a point for each word that he forgets or announces in a wrong position.

Templates / DiagramsEdit

  • NA

Related Web LinksEdit

  • NA

Other DetailsEdit

Here are some remarks about the game:

  • It’s easy to forget an item from the list; indeed it may happen that everyone forgets one item and everyone thinks that all the words were announced. Counting the words before and after is helpful.
  • The rules don’t require that the words are announced in the same order as they were memorized. However, the players may notice that it is easier to try to memorize and announce mostly in order. It’s also easier to remember if there is a connection between different words: the first word reminds of the second, etc. Also, it’s helpful to imagine a vivid scene when placing a word. It’s also helpful to imagine sounds, smells and textures when placing the words.
  • We suggest writing down the date, the number of words memorized, and the score of each player. As the players repeat the game they will quickly become more skilled and it is very interesting to see how the scores improve!
  • The memory palace method is remarkably effective, and the players may wish to try and remember their words the next day, the next week, etc. Indeed the players may repeat the whole checking phase for words from previous games they have played. Doing this will help the players understand more of their memories: what kinds of things are easy to remember; what kinds of things are forgotten soon; etc.
  • The game as described suggests that the players use the room as their memory palace. But as they progress in using an imagined palace, the players can experiment in using different kinds of memory palaces, like their usual route to school/work, their home, or any other place that they know well. They may find that some alternatives work better for them than others.
  • After playing this game, the players may get interested in practicing this memory technique and to use it in their everyday life. We would like to point out that the method of loci is only one mnemonic technique among many. There are other methods which are more practical for specific things like lists of numbers.

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