Designer: Aiko Oyama, Toru Oyama
Artist: Aiko Oyama, Toru Oyama
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 7 with a purchased copy
Madrino is a roll-and-write game about making floor plans.
If I lost you at “roll-and-write”, stick with me for a bit. You don’t have to stay the whole time, but hear me out a little bit longer. I’m going to come to the conclusion that this is a _party_ game. That’ll be important in a minute when I tell you that there’s no points, and it’s not a race game. You look around, and just decide who wins. Seriously. (But not too seriously. This is a party game.)
In theme, the players work for an architecture firm. You have a client who is slow to make up their mind on what they’d like in their home. Today, they’ll tell you about where the front door should be. Next week, they’ll want a picture window in a corner, and a diagonal wall with a door, and a toilet somewhere in the Northeast.
Over 6 weeks, each player drafts their own design, and then gathers in the conference room to present their drawings. Add a name, make your pitch. The players then get together to agree on whose design will be the final one submitted to the client. If they pick your design, you win.
When I first read the rules, I was nervous. “We just decide who wins?”
That’s an audacious twist.
So I asked an architect friend of mine about the game’s premise. The pitch meeting. The decision. The naming. With each detail I conveyed, he indicated, with a touch of glee, that the game is indicative of the job.
This is one of those games that I love enough that I asked the designer more about it. Neither of the wife and husband designer team are architects, but Aiko told me that they love looking at strange floor plans, and, it is actually something of a niche interest in Japan.
Aiko sent me a list of floor plan books, and Rand turned me onto the idea of “Pet Architecture”, from the Japanese architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow; one inter-library loan later and I was able to dig into Pet Architecture a little more. The concept is, basically, we have a human-centric world, but in our houses, we carve out these places for pets, who inhabit a different world from ours, what with their size, walking on four legs, and not wearing clothes. So Pet Architecture: these tiny buildings that space has been carved out for, and the different experiences there-in. These buildings are the pets of the grown-up, human buildings that the architectural and infrastructural world is centered around.
Go back to the last photo above. It’s a motorcycle repair shop, but the building is so narrow, the motorcycles don’t fit inside. Below, a single parcel is 2 unconnected buildings: a snack shop and a night club.
Off to the side, beneath the sketch of the buildings, you can see an overhead map with a 2-Block Total Perspective Vortex of the snackshopnightclub.
Your buildings in Madrino won’t work out. Your walls might not be complete. Your bathtub may end up in the living room. Or the yard.
But what gets me, is there’s no scoring. In context, what I mean here is that: it was entirely up to you. The floor plan you draft is not skewed by any arbitrary incentives that a scoring system has laid on top of the design. No, you choose where to draw. Where to place that toilet. You don’t need to make new walls adjacent to previous walls. Stick to the grid, but otherwise: laissez-faire.
What I’m saying is, when your walls aren’t complete, when your furniture selection and placement is less than ideal, that’s on you.
Let me touch just a bit more on the rules.
After the front door roll, the game consists of six 2-part rounds. In the first half of each round, the 4 dice are rolled and placed on the wall/door grid. Each player simultaneously adds the corresponding components to their sketch.
In the second, the 4 dice are rolled again, with 2 determining which facilities may be placed (choose 1) and which quadrant it must be placed in on your board (choose 1).
Haha, that’s it!
You’ll see in the images I’ve included some variation in marker thickness. I’ve been using some replacement markers, as I find the markers that come with the game too thick for my tastes, but, uh, that might be my only gripe with the game.
Here are some photos from Rand’s games. They annotate their drawings, and it’s a nice touch. (The rules suggest that you share photos using a #madrino hashtag, so if you want to see more, try that.)
When I say it’s a “party” game, I mean a party roll-and-write. I mean, unadulterated joy, and fun. I mean, what are the scoring rules for Telestrations? (Seriously [but not too seriously, again] again, what are the scoring rules for Telestrations?) We have so much fun playing, that it doesn’t frankly matter if there are scoring rules, let alone what they are. We’re in laugh-so-hard-you-cry territory.
I asked Aiko about the game’s availability, and the game is consigned through the Bodoge Buyee site, and while it’s currently out of stock (as I write this), she expects it to be back in stock by the time I post it.
Madrino, a variation on 間取り (Madori), meaning ‘floor plan’, is an absolute treasure of a game.
Now off to study up on ideas for next time.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: As usual, I will be the voice of reason to balance out JN’s enthusiasm. Madrino is a perfectly fine activity. But that’s all that it is. Roll dice, groan at having to draw yet another f*&#ing window, add it a toilet or bath, repeat. It was a pleasant enough experience, but the best part about it was getting to kibbutz with Rand and JN during the “game”. Sure, it’s cute and amusing to explain why you drew your house the way that you did, and then to listen to everyone else’s explanations, but after my first experience, I am certain that I don’t need to experience this again.
To paraphrase the genius Weird Al Yankovic from One More Minute:
私の舌でGrand Central Stationの全てのバスルームをきれいにしたいです。
[JN: We invited Rand to add some words to balance out Dale’s torpor.]
Rand: Hi! I suppose I’m the architectural consultant for this review. I’m not licensed yet, so anything I say should be taken with a dose of salt. Like James Nathan, one of my highlights of the gaming calendar is Tokyo Game Market. Lucky for us, it comes twice a year! In anticipation of the show, JN and I swap a flurry of notes back and forth covering deep dives into the Twitterverse, trying to decipher poor translations that *maybe* hint at an interesting title.
Madrino was one I’d glanced at, but passed by. Games about architecture usually don’t do it for me, often eschewing the process of design (the fun stuff, in my opinion) to focus on something far more diluted or simplified. JN urged me to take another look, slowly describing the game to me. Every bit sounded like a facsimile of my process: the arbitrary client demands, the race to get work done, the inter-office competition, and finally the design critique where narrative and panache often triumph over logic and reason (may I recommend looking up the Bank of Georgia in Tbilisi? How the heck did that get built?).
Yeah, Madrino went onto my list, too. And I’m so glad it did. The gameplay can be a bit solitaire-ish, but you’ll be sure to hear grunts and giggles around the table as folks rationalize placing two tubs side-by-side…or wherever else their intuition leads them. The end of game wrap up is golden. It is an exercise in post-rationalization (another thing architects excel at) as everyone swears their funky design was planned like this all along.
This game certainly has rules, but invites players to throw logic out the window. It’s up to you whether that kind of party is your cuppa.
Lorna: In my opinion, if people call The Mind a game then this is also a game. It’s a fun pastime whatever you call it and good for some laughs. I like this kind of thing where you can be creative within restrictions. The only thing for me is that I want to be able to complete my house and sometimes within the rules framework this doesn’t happen so I’ve “house ruled” haha, that every other round you get one free wall.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! James Nathan
I like it. Lorna
Not for me… Dale Y