Dale Yu: A Second Look at Tanto Cuore

Tanto Cuore

  • Designer: Masayuki Kudou
  • Publisher: Japanime Games / Arclight
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: probably at least 40, but 3 in past month with new review copy provided by Japanime Games

Tanto Cuore is a game that I have played for almost ten years now…  I first got a copy of a game from a friend in Japan back in 2009. As you probably know, I had a hand in Dominion, and as a result, I’ve been very interested in all forms of deck builders since then.  Tanto Cuore was one of the first games to use the basic deckbuilding ideas from Dominion but offer a few different twists to the recipe.

As far as gameplay goes, it follows a lot of the now-standard deck building concepts. Players start with an identical starting deck, shuffle those up and get a hand of cards to play with.  On a turn, players can use the cards in their hand to perform actions and/or use some of the cards as currency to buy new cards from a tableau on the table which is shared by all players. Some of these cards provide more buying power.  Some cards may provide additional actions which could be beneficial to you.

The currency in the game is not coins, obviously, it’s Love

Other cards may provide victory points. Each player can choose to build their deck however they wish. At the end of your turn, all cards played this turn are discarded as well as any cards left unplayed in your hand as discarded.  Then, a new hand of five cards is drawn. If your deck of cards is insufficient to give you a full hand, you then shuffle your discard pile into a new deck and continue drawing. The game continues until any two stacks of maid cards are exhausted. The player with the most points wins.

Some victory points here. 3 Love for 1 VP, 9 Love for 6 VP

I will make the assumption that most readers here are familiar with deckbuilding and not go into the mechanics further – and if you’re not familiar with them, there are a bunch of games I’d recommend you look at: Dominion, Tanto Cuore, Orleans, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Ascension, Eminent Domain, Aeon’s End, and Too Many Bones… just to name a few off the top of my head.

So, again assuming you’re familiar with the genre, and specifically Dominion (as this is the game which started the whole genre), let me outline the differences between those games here…

1] Chambermaids – this is sort of a weird equivalent to trashing a card.  Some, but not all, maids can be made into Chambermaids. It usually costs an action to do this, and the maid card is placed on the table (and therefore out of your deck).  That card will still provide you victory points, but is no longer shuffled and drawn.

2] Private Maids – there is no analog to this in base Dominion.  There is a special deck of 10 Private Maids, two of which are available for purchase in the tableau; each comes with a special action on it.  Each player can only have one Private maid employed at a time. If you get another one, the old one is moved into your Chambermaid area – she will still score points, but will no longer have a special action.

3] Victory points and money cards – there are only 2 varieties of VP cards, 6VP for 9 love and 1VP for 3 love.  The money is also has slightly different costs: 1/4/7 Love to buy a maid that produces 1/2/3 Love.

4] Terminology – it takes awhile to get use to the different terms here.  Love is the currency (equivalent of coins). Instead of actions, you get servings from your maids.  And you don’t Buy new cards, instead you Employ new maids to your household. 

5] Illness/Bad Habits –  Bad Habits are like Curses, though they are targeted attacks. These are played on another player’s maids, and that targeted card is out of commission until the attack card is removed.

6] Theme/Art – the theme in Tanto Cuore is Japanese Anime Maids.  I am pretty neutral about the theme, but I do know that for many people, the theme alone makes it an instabuy.  When this first came out, I was reluctant to play this with my younger kids due to the art – but I suppose now that my kids can access the Internet, the anime art is quite tame to what they likely have access to. 

7] Variety – slightly lower in Tanto Cuore than Dominion.  While the tableau still has 10 cards, there are only 16 different varieties to choose from in TC as opposed to the 25 in the base set of Dominion.  There are 280 cards in TC while there are 500 in Dominion. Of course, both games offer the solution of having multiple expansions to give you a wider choice of cards/actions.

So why would you play this?  Well, to be blatantly transparent, if you could only buy one, I’d recommend that you get Dominion.  But, that’s because I worked on it. But, each game is good in its own right. Yes, they’re similar.  Yes, TC was based on Dominion, but the Private Maids, more directed attacks and the artwork will clearly appeal to some folks more than others.  I have truly enjoyed playing this, and we have even had nights where we’ve played this and Dominion back to back. I feel like Tanto Cuore might be a little bit more swingy. 

There are direct attacks as opposed to the more genteel “hurt everyone” curses in Dominion.  But, there are times when people want a bit more player interaction in their deckbuilding games, and this can fit that slot. There are also interesting decisions here with your Chambermaids – you thin your deck in a manner of speaking, but then these maids can be attacked thus reducing your score. 

I have owned the game since it came out, and I have a number of the expansions.  Perhaps moreso than Dominion, I feel that you need the expansions in Tanto Cuore to keep it from getting stale before you would need it in Dominion.  But, of course, YMMV. If you haven’t tried it yet, take a look at this game which has aged well over the past ten years. Still by far the best anime maid deckbuilder out there.


Tery: My husband bought Tanto Cuore for me a year or so ago as a gift, since I love deckbuilders. I opened it up, but I was fairly unimpressed with the theme, art and the fact that you use love to employ women. I did mean to give it a try, but it sat on the shelf unplayed.  The box is small enough that it wasn’t competing for shelf space, so it was easy enough to ignore.

When Dale mentioned he was writing this look back at it, it was a good reminder that I need to play it to see if it should stay or go, so I pulled it out. We have the Oktoberfest edition, which is a standalone expansion. As far as I can tell it plays like the original, but has the addition of some beer and, of course, some beer maids in tight maid outfits whom you can hire to serve you said beer – by spending love.

I got over my dislike of spending love to hire a maid, who would be, ahem, serving you, and we got started. It turns out this is a solid deck builder.. There are some interesting mechanics, like the chambermaiding, and the flow of the game was good. The rules in this expansion weren’t entirely clear about a few things, but once we played a few hands we got the hang of it. I am not sure this will be a game we keep forever; as Dale mentions there are fewer options, and once the novelty of it wears off I suspect it will go on the trade pile. In the meantime, I am happy we finally got it to the table and look forward to playing it again soon.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu: A Second Look at Tanto Cuore

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: A Second Look at Tanto Cuore – Herman Watts

  2. willsarge says:

    surely grown men shouldnt be playing games with that artwork?! child’s face and suspenders?! yet you say youve played it for years?! yoiks!

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