Designer: 与儀新一 (Shinichi Yogi)
Time: 20-40 minutes
Times Played: 4 times with purchased copy
Availability Note: The copy I have was acquired by a friend at the 2018 fall Game Market, but at the time of this review, copies are available from booth.pm (transship service such as Tenso required),
Tenka Meidou is probably the first game I’ve purchased that comes in a box, but not a box for which it is intended to be stored. The version I have came in a shoe-box type container, but this allows neither the rules nor the cardstock board to lay flat, and neither are designed to be folded. It comes with a sheet of stickers, including one which has the title of the game and its vital statistics (e.g. player count, game length, etc.) — the shoe-box itself is unlabeled. (As I write this, the game is available on booth.pm, and while it still comes in a container that is not its intended permanent storage, it is no longer the shoe-box.)
TM was first released in the fall of 2017, but a new version, with the same rules, was released at the fall Game Market in 2018. TM won the Game of the Year award at the fall Game Market, and one of the jurors noted that the components (and I imagine the box) were sourced from 100-yen stores.
Tenka Meidou is an area-majority game. The board shows a map of Japan divided into 11 areas. (The map is two sided, blue and yellow, but the maps are otherwise identical.) During setup, tokens with numbers 2 through 12 are randomly assigned to the 11 areas. Each of these areas will be worth an amount of points equal to the value it has been assigned, and half-points will be available for 2nd place in 3 and 4 player games.
To offset the inherent value-gulf between the 2 and the 12, the areas are resolved at the end of the game in ascending order, and the player with the most cubes in an area is able to add 2 reinforcement cubes to each adjacent area which has not yet been resolved and which has at least 1 of their cubes.
Cubes are initially placed out by the roll of 3 dice. You may reroll once – but it must be all 3 dice if you choose to reroll. The dice are then split into a pair and a single: the sum of the pair determines which location you will place cubes in and the single determines how many cubes (half the die value rounded up).
Alternatively, from a thin deck of cards, a number of cards equal to the player count plus 1 is dealt face up at the start of the game. In lieu of rolling the dice, a player can once per game use their turn to acquire and use one of the cards. These will be actions such as moving cubes to an adjacent territory or replacing an opponent’s cube with one of your own.
The game play will end, and the scoring resolutions will begin, once each player has placed all of their cubes onto the board. The first player to run out of cubes takes the highest tie-break marker and also triggers a rule that the cards may no longer be used. Each subsequent player takes the next highest available tie-break marker as they exhaust their cube supply. Afterwards, the ascending majority resolutions I discussed earlier occur, and the player with the most points wins.
I’ve had a chance to play the game at 2, 3, and 4 players so far and I prefer them in that order.
For me, this game works brilliantly. The pressure of the all-or-nothing reroll. The tension of when to use a card before an opponent might. The biting-your-lip moments debating if you place your last cube to gain tie break. The plotting your strategic course of reinforcements.
The die rolls may run counter to your strategies, but the way you combine them and the reroll means you can usually find a way to make them useful –even if not ideal. The cards, while not explicitly affecting die rolls, serve as a suitable counter in many cases, as they allow you to manipulate cubes on the map in satisfactory ways.
Much of the graph theory of the map is similar, with territories having 3 or 4 adjacent regions. There are some cards that distinguish between land and sea borders, but otherwise these are identical. Of note, are the two extreme regions that only share a single sea border with the rest of the map. In my games so far, these have led to several interesting decisions, as these areas will tend to be less useful for reinforcements and may not be worth the most points. Your first thought may be to not place there, but this has been delightfully countered by a lack of competition so far in my games. Points are points.
I’ve had a chance to play against well-seasoned gamers and friends who rarely play a game and it has gone over well in both settings.
For me, it has an older Michael Schacht type feeling of a svelte ruleset that blossoms into an interesting super-filler.
I had to cut myself off at some point in ordering titles from the Game Market because I feared I was trying the patience of my friend’s offer. That also means I had to cut myself off from looking at any coverage for fear I found something I couldn’t resist. This one slipped in under the wire, and, from what I could translate of coverage of the 2017 release, it had been quite well received. I’m glad I found it in the nick of time –and I honestly had forgotten I’d ordered it when the boxes arrived from Japan and I found this:
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Lorna: I’ve only played a few time so far but I admire the design. The mechanisms are clean and simple but the game provides interesting decisions at many points. Which die to use for what what, reroll? Management of how many soldiers to use is also key, when to use your one and only card action. It’s good. Rating may improve after a few more plays.
I think a few mini meeples and a box and this game is top notch.
Dale: I have played JaNate’s copy, and now I understand why the board doesn’t lie flat on the table! :) This was an intriguing game of advance planning with a whole lotta dice luck thrown in to make it even more exciting. I have only played one game, and I was mercilessly crushed. I did not see how the bonus armies that are granted can play such a pivotal role at the end of the game. All of my decent holdings were overwhelmed in a sea of bonus armies. I will know better for next time, for sure!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! James Nathan
I like it. Lorna, Dale
Not for me…
I want this game. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. However, I get slightly frustrated when I learn about new games here that interest me and I can’t easily access. But I will take that frustration with the anticipation so it’s happily marked on my list. I’m just an impatient guy, I guess.
Sorry for the frustration, Jacob! I started adding a note about the game’s availability in these cases to address such issues –though certainly each person’s sense of what is easily accessible will vary. And hey, maybe shedding some light on theme will help them get picked up for wider distribution and access.
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