なつめも (Natsumemo)

Designer: 宮野 華也 (Kaya Miyano)
Artist: Riyo, Tansan & Co., 新月竜 (Shingetsuryu)
Publisher: cosaic
Players: 3-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Times Played: 6 with a purchased copy

This is my nephew, and one of my best friends, watching 4000 gallons a minute of boiling water from the Excelsior Geyser enter the Firehole River.  

I drove to Yellowstone this summer and his parents met me there.  What you see is his most common reaction to the thermal features and vistas that he would see.  Those hands shoot in the air in a broad “v”, and he expels a prolonged, genuine, and enthusiastic “WWWWWOOOOOOooooowww!”  (It’s the same as his “WWWWEEEEEEeeeeee!” if you push him on the swing. A lot of zest for life in that little creature.)

He filled out his junior ranger book and his sister both the junior ranger and the junior scientist.  Domestic family travel? That takes 2 days, grants you 8 points, 2 homework boxes, and the title “close family”. 

Before we made it to Yellowstone, we stopped in Minneapolis. The art museum let you play mini-golf on the roof.

It was roughly included with admission, and there were holes here and there as you tripp-trapped across the top of the building.  A hot dog vendor who also had hot pretzels. This was at Minneapolis’ contemporary art museum, the Walker, and many of the holes had a contemporary art bent.  Some of them had special instructions, such as simultaneous play. None let tradition stand in the way of whimsy. 

After the museum, we explored some more: the sculpture garden, dinner, some bicycles, a lighthouse, a vending machine for kayaks (you read that right), and, well, that escape room I told you about earlier.  Exploring the city, with mixed genders, takes 1 day and gives you 5 points.

I’ve recently started wearing more “snappy” shirts, with snap buttons, rather than traditional buttons (or long black t-shirts).  A drive out west seemed like a perfect chance to stop by a few stores to buy some more. Two-person shopping trip? That’s 1 day and 7 points.

The Badlands were stunning.  Custer State Park is not to be missed.  Wall Drug exceeded the hype of a state’s drive worth of billboards. My thanks to the park ranger at the Badlands who was patient as I insisted he mark with apparently an unusual-to-be-requested level of precision the locations I could expect to see big horn sheep and prairie dogs.  Through my binoculars, this was the best I could capture the little creatures. I heard them, I saw them, I got excited. Then they got excited: squealing and standing up and down. (Though perhaps that was their best effort to scare me off as a misinterpreted predator. I just wanted to come to their party.)

In Custer we took the Wildlife Loop Road to see bison, antelope, other prairie dog friends, burros, and much more.  Wall Drug had a wall of taxidermied jackalopes.

A trip to the zoo with mixed genders gets you 4 points. Also, a heart.  Shopping, exploring the city, going to the zoo: each brings you closer with your friend(s).  Your heart grows.

My niece and nephew liked the chipmunks more than the bison.  Seeing something orange more than the osprey. He isn’t in the mood to like animals larger than him, and right now insects are his jam.  He saw an ant off by itself, pointed, and told us he was worried the ant was lonely and didn’t have any friends. Looking for insects? That ant probably would have gotten us each a few points. And a heart. 

I didn’t own なつめも when I left on my trip, but it was waiting in my office for me when I got home.  It was designed in 3 hours at a game jam in 2015. 

We’re Japanese school children planning out our last month of summer. Who wants to come over for video games on Sunday?  I can’t, I’m at my grandparents; what about Wednesday? Ooooh, I was hoping to goto study group with my other friends then.

We spent some time in Appalachia last summer, but the clouds were never quite right to look at the stars. Then I looked at a dark sky map for western Wyoming.  In the Black Hills, at Yellowstone, Grand Tetons: it didn’t disappoint. “WWWWWOOOOOOooooowww!”  (It’s not fireworks, but bright lights in the sky would’ve given us 9 points and a heart.)

We had sleepovers and a campfire. We made hypotheses before we threw a rock and a stick in the river: which would float. Which would go further.  Points; hearts; homework pages. 

Last night, some friends came over for board games.  Points and hearts. I turned to look at my shelves to see what I wanted to play.  What was right for this group. This mood. This player count. Our energy. The time of day.  Nothing was hitting all of the marks, but when my eyes landed on なつめも, there was a noticeable little spark of joy.  A hiccup.

When I first planned our trip, my niece and nephew weren’t coming.  They were a late addition. Had I planned enough time for this twist?  How would it affect the sights I wanted to see?  

The answer is not much, as the five-star attractions are typically at boardwalks just off a parking lot.  Little legs can do it. I might’ve gone on a few longer hikes, but the crowds weren’t bad when we went, and, well, at artist’s point, our last stop, with my nephew asleep in my arms, I looked out, stunned; an unintentional, unconscious, whispered “wwwwoooooooooooww…..” slipped out.

It happened again last night. Playing なつめも.  I awaited Stephanie’s decision on what day we were going to the candy store.  And an unintentional, unconscious, whispered “I love this game….” slipped out.

As the story goes, 宮野 華也 had organized a game design study session, and one week out, only a single budding designer had signed up, though the number climbed to 12 by the time the day finally arrived.  This wasn’t the first such session, but the first one where the goal was to make it a “game jam”, where the attendees create and test a game in an afternoon. 

The theme was announced as “Summer”, and the first step was some word association.  What do you think of when you think about summers. Once they had the words, what game theme could you make around those?  Summer vacation. Each of the attendees helped create event cards, with 宮野 華也 overseeing the process and developing their creation. From a rough translation of a blog post about the event:

From my point of view of game design, the smell of the bag was already drifting, and the participants seemed not to expect much about the result. However, when I actually played it, the taste of the masterpiece oozed out rather than the smell of bugs.

Throughout South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Wyoming, and more Wyoming, I didn’t get any of my summer homework done.  I had brought 2 books, Tamara Shopsin’s “Mumbai New York Scranton”, and Justin O. Schmidt’s “The Sting of the Wild”, and didn’t read a page.  Didn’t scance at a single work e-mail.

The scenery and the company was too engaging.

Homework can come later.  There’s a lot of summer left.

Everyone gets a calendar page, showing the last 4 weeks of summer, and a “secret” sheet where you’ll track how much homework you’ve finished (or have left to finish depending upon your view), and how close you’re getting with your friends.

Each week has a variety of possible events, but in each game, you’ll only use 6 from each.  The start player will reveal a card and state what day the event will happen. “I’m having a BBQ on Sunday! Who wants to come?” The card will show how long the event is, how many points may be earned and any relevant conditions, and how many hearts can be given to your friends that also attend. 

You can only go to one event a day.  (Like going to Yellowstone with small children.)

Once the 6 events have been revealed, anyone who is free on Wednesday goes to study group.  A few points, homework pages, and a heart. 

This is my “How I Spent My Summer” paper.  (Did anybody ever actually have an assignment to write one of those or is it just what happens in fictional back-to-school scenarios?)

You have homework to do.  25 pages. (In my case 470 work e-mails.) 

I lost 100 points in my first game of なつめも for not completing my homework. 

Each of the required 25 pages that you can’t check off is -10 points.  There are also a few extra credit assignments that can gain you 2 points each.  Complete them all to gain a title: prepares for everything.

Your grandparents will make you do your homework, but you also have that standing appointment to goto study group on Wednesdays, and any day you haven’t scheduled something with your friends, you’ll work on your homework.  Sometimes more efficiently than others: roll the dice and see how far you get; certain rolls mean you’ve slacked off and earned the title “slacker”. Or “super slacker”.

At the end of 4 weeks, you’ll earn “summer enrichment” points for box forts you’ve built and memories you’ve made going to the beach with your friends and whatever.  Points equal to the square of the number of titles you’ve earned. Points for being another player’s best friend. Points, positive or negative, for your finished or unfinished homework.  Sum them up; high points wins.

I love this game.  Err, in a whisper: “I love this game….”

Is it a roll and write? Flip and write? Both?  I’m not concerned with labelling it, but it’s in the vicinity.  I had included this on my Spring Game Market preview, but didn’t end up picking it up, as I was scared of the language dependency.  Later, a user uploaded translations to BGG, and Rand had picked it up and assured me it was the Real Deal.

I don’t care for describing things as “the best” or “the worst”  or “the most” or any type of extreme superlative, but this game is notably thematic.  Not in the normal sense, to me, of “the theme helps me intuit the mechanism”, but, rather, I really feel like I’m scheduling my time: I want to go to the theme park with Ian and Corey, but that means I won’t be able to build a box fort on Sunday with Evan and Erin. Wait, Corey, what if we go on Monday?  Ian can you go on Monday? (More perversely, if you _didn’t_ want Jim to come to board games, you can schedule it on a day when he’s at his grandparents.)  

Some people may also tell you they’re coming, but then not show up.  Is Aaron really going to come over for board games on Wednesday? 

Forget radio hit of the summer.  This is the game of the summer.

The game twists player interaction in a unique way, and certainly for the genre, (if we decide this is a rfollilp and write.) Balancing completing your homework with going out with your friends. Scheduling and counter-scheduling to maximize the points from certain outings.  Zagging when they expected you to zig: you said you’d go to the beach with me –why did you stay home! 

There’s something intimate about keeping secret your best friends and something telling about not talking about how much homework you’ve done.  About taking these notes by hand. In pencil. Something reminiscent about the scheduling you did to get together to play games today.

It’s being a kid in the summer.  Consuming nothing but apple juice and french fries.  Saying you want a banana, but then taking only the smallest bite.  Going full speed until you hit a wall and then still fighting to keep your eyes open to enjoy every moment with your uncle. 


James Nathanより

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y – one play. Admittedly, with James nathan, who probably makes all Japanese games one step higher in the ratings due to his enthusiasm.  Well, if you have read some of my recent comments, you’ll likely realize that I’m not always the biggest cheerleader of some of the games from Japan.  While I love the efficiency in components, rules, and minimalistic approach to mechanisms, sometimes these games leave me wanting a bit. Natsumemo was the opposite.  I am actually looking forward to another chance to play it. I have a box fort date which was unconsummated, and I must play again to see if I can fit it in my schedule.  When we played the game, we didn’t have paste-ups nor did we even have English rules! Despite that, it was easy to pick up, and I had an enjoyable experience trying to plan my month.  We played with 4, and honestly, I think I’d like to play with 5 or 6 instead. The game wants you to have clever scheduling where you can include or exclude certain people or genders based on their already planned schedule.  With 4 players, we often felt like we were moving in lockstep, and I never had a chance to screw around with everyone else’s plans because we were seemingly always free/busy at the same times. I’d write more, but I’m reserving the rest of this space for homework.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it! James Nathan
I like it. Dale Y
Not for me…

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5 Responses to なつめも (Natsumemo)

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  3. Blurguy2020 says:

    How did you deal with teaching players with the Japanese text? If you are familiar with the game, I can see just explaining what the cards do when they appear but I worry about the titles.

    • xitoliv says:

      You’re spot on for the cards, I just explain them when they come up. For the titles there’s a print out sheet from BGG that you can reference, and then I just tell people to mark off “the second one in the second column” or something like that.

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