Things will be a little different this time. The Spring Tokyo Game Market was supposed to start tomorrow, but has, in the course of things, been cancelled. The Osaka Game Market which was to have taken place in March was cancelled too. Japan Post shipments out of Japan are cancelled for many countries.
For the purposes of this post, that means rather than tracking down booth numbers and which days certain publishers will be present, I’ll try to provide a link to order from (though assume that the interface will be in Japanese and shipping will only be to a Japanese address.)
For the purposes of, well, me, that means not much anticipation. Let me explain. I haven’t played games with my weekly group since February, and a convention I was looking forward to in April was cancelled. Recently, several things have arrived in the mail, and I had several things already that I was eager to play further. In this context, the specter hanging over things is: when will I play with my group again? (And how many things will they have picked up that they’re eager to play?). For me, the sort of forced hiatus from playing games has caused my enthusiasm to damper a bit. Not so much my enthusiasm for learning about what is coming out, or spreading the love of it, but, from a purchasing stand point…to be blunt: what’s the point?
As I write this, I have 5 titles in my spreadsheet marked as “to buy”, but normally at this point that number is…more than 20.
The links I’ll provide below will mostly be to what is referred to as the Arclight EC shop. Through what is normally their wholesale interface, Arclight has set up retail webshops for the Osaka and Spring Tokyo Game Markets that were cancelled for virus reasons. As I understand it, the Arclight shop is not charging the publishers any fees to list or transaction fees. (There’s certainly a chance I order more than 5, and even among those 5, my impetus may partially be the economic support of the designers and publishers.)
Anyway, let’s look at a bit of what’s being released, and let’s start with something fun.
バックトゥージアース (Back to Earth)
English Rules: Seems unlikely
Shop: Arclight EC
There are a few trends in games being released tomorrow (which, while the convention is cancelled, is still what I’ll say. While a few titles have released early here and there, most sites have coordinated to release the titles on the scheduled opening today of the Game Market), and this is the first: games about returning from outer space.
This one promises to use magnets to mechanically represent gravity assist on your way home. Don’t worry, I got you. Here’s a demo video.
It’s the same sort of mechanism from Beppo der Bock, and which I always found delightful there. Perhaps this wraps a bit more of a game around it. We’ll see!
リターンホーム (Return Home)
Designer: Kenichi Tanabe
English Rules: Will be available
Shop: Arclight EC
The other game on the topic, and one I have pre-ordered, is リターンホーム (Return Home) from Colonarc. This time, thematically, our astronaut friend and his rover have crashed on an asteroid. Cooperatively, we are aiming to bring both of them back home.
From what I can understand currently, each turn some players will represent mission control on Earth, and another player will be the stranded astronaut. Each will contribute cards to what happens on the turn, helping program the actions of the astronaut and rover, but also dictating which disasters occur. The plan is to navigate the asteroid, collecting the strewn about bits of your spacecraft in order to rebuild it, and return home.
グッズメイカー (Goods Maker)
Publisher: Studio GG
English Rules: Will be available
Shop: Arclight EC
There are a few “sure things” for me at the Tokyo Game Markets, and Stugio GG is one. For me, the Shun & Aya combination brought me one of my favorite games, The King of Frontier, and the estimable Little Town Builders. They’ve hinted at two releases this year, Goods Maker now, and a small box release in the fall, but we’ll see what the year has in store for us.
Goods Maker is a cards-only resource management game, for 2-4 people, and plays in 30 minutes. Each turn, a player chooses to either Produce or Trade. For Production, a player will obtain a card by paying cards corresponding to the resource cost on the bottom. Each card also has a value; for Trading, a player can blow up a card, into several cards that sum to the same value, or the inverse, trading in several cards to obtain one with a value equal to their sum.
Later, you may have obtained some buildings that you can use once per turn to do some things, and somewhere in there you get some points. The first person to a given number of points wins.
There will, of course, be an entire slate of trick-taking games released, and I hope you appreciate my restraint in waiting until now to include one!
Madam, Watchdog & Burglar
Publisher: Game Nowa
Designer: Kenichi Kabuki
English Rules: I’ll make them if I get it
I’m a sucker for Sai Beppu’s art, and luckily I like the sound of the game play here as well. This is also where we get to talk about another of the trends for this Game Market. There are three trick-taking games being released that use a rock-paper-scissors relationship for the suit rankings. One of the games has 3 total suits (this one), another has 4, and the third has 5. Two of the games are “must” follow, and this one is “may”.
Points in M,W&B come from the Madam cards, which have diamonds on them, and the player with the most diamonds wins.
ドキッと！アイス (Dokitto! Ice)
Publisher: らな＆パパ (Lana&Papa)
Designer: らな＆パパ (Lana&Papa)
English Rules: Available on BGG
A Japanese trick-taking game about eating ice cream? It’s like they made it just for Rand and I!
Here, for each trick you win, you’ll take a scoop of ice cream to put on the cone in front of you. You will lose the round if you take a fourth scoop (though you could win a trick for which the shop is out of that flavor.) Players will score points equal to the number of cards they’ve won in each color, multiplied by scoops on their cone of that color. If all players followed suit, the highest card wins, and takes a scoop of that color. If more than one suit was played, the low card wins, and can take a scoop of any color played to the trick.
If you order from Booth, there are acrylic standees of the flavor characters you can get for a start player marker or something. If you’re quick enough, and even as I post this it may be too late, they set aside some of the 200 copies for sale in the BGG marketplace, with affordable international shipping.
Life is Rolling Stones
Publisher: Manifest Destiny
English Rules: Included
Shop: Arclight EC
As is typically the case, kuro and Manifest Destiny have several new titles being released, but the one that I’m thinking about is Life is Rolling Stones. It’s one of those “Life” type games where each player is going through various life events, each turn choosing one card to place in their tableau, while another card will be added randomly.
It’s a theme I like, but I’m very interested in how the dice are used. The dice are not rolled in the traditional sense, but, rather, are “rolled” one face over –just tipped on their side. Many years ago a friend had a Japanese Playstation game called “Devil Dice” that used such a mechanic -the player’s were small creatures running around atop a grid about half full of dice. If you walked off the edge of a dice, instead of falling off, the dice tipped over and a new die face would be face up. In the context of that game, things happened when like-faces were adjacent; in the context here, well, who knows!
Designer: Aiko Oyama, Toru Oyama
English Rules: N/A (but see below)
Shop: Arclight EC
I always skip over so many word games in my research, as it’s harder for me to understand how they work, and, frankly, I’m not going to be able to play them. However, this one caught my eye and seemed to perhaps be adaptable to English. It’s a pad of paper and the cost is around $6!
It’s a sort of Battleship and Hangman combination, but…that’s selling it quite short. The designer sent me a mock up for a theoretical English language pad and I’ve gotten to play a few times. The letters that make up your boats are not required to be adjacent in any Boggle sense, but you can try to shoot your opponent’s boats or guess their words. There are a number of different results from guessing certain letters, but there’s a nice deduction game in there as you waiver between guesses that are investigative and guesses that are speculative. The English pad is fairly small with just 26 letters compared to the hiragana pad, so I wonder at how interesting that would be. If you can read and write Japanese and have a friend who can, it’s worth tracking down.
Designer: るりるり (Ruriruri)
English Rules: No
Shop: Twitter DM
A theme among new releases that I certainly wasn’t expecting was knock-off Star Wars themed trick-taking games. (Yes, this is not the only one.) Ordering (rather than pre-ordering) Ruriruri games through DM is new, and I’ve never found a retail shop that carries them. I currently have around a dozen(!) of Ruriruri’s trick-taking games that I need to translate the rules for, so this time around, with my purchasing ennui, I’m afraid none of the new ones will make the cut.
この天才科学者が首席になれないとでもいうんですか？(Are you telling me this genius scientist can’t get the first place?)
Publisher: Delight Works
EN Rules: Unknown
Shop: Arclight EC
As best I can tell, the theme is about graduate students studying optics; to represent the theme, the cards are transparent and you overlap them to…discover things for your thesis? Mechanically, nothing much is clear past that. The designer is responsible for things like Tragedy Looper and OWACON, and if it wasn’t for my purchasing ennui, this is likely one I would try to pick up.
Publisher: Engro Games
Designer: Patrick Engro
EN Rules: Yes
Shop: Publisher store
This one is a little different, as a Kickstarter game of sorts has leaked onto the list. The Kickstarter finished earlier this year and delivery is expected around July, but it was going to premier at the Spring Game Market. It’s a set of two games, and, frankly, both seem worth talking about, but I’m especially intrigued by Reach. It is a card game take on the movie Gravity, with one person starting to drift off into space, and the other player thematically needing to reach out and grab them.
But…it’s not just thematic. It’s literal.
This is a game for 2 people to play standing up where to win, you need to physically be able to reach the other person, and some card affects nearly amount to choreography.
It’s a brilliant concept and I can’t wait to try it.
(OK, the other game real quick. Okazaki. It’s a two player card game themed around DNA/RNA replication. There is a sequence in the middle of the table that you need to recreate in your hand, but it’s one of those can’t-re-arrange-your-hand games, so you’ll need to figure out through the provided mechanics, how to play things from some places and have the incoming cards push other things in the right way to get your hand to match the sequence.)
(No, one more. I haven’t played any of Patrick’s games, but he also just added a roll-and-write game about the Appalachian Trail to boardgamegeek, and while I don’t know anything else about it, based upon the creativity of Reach and Okazaki, I’m looking forward to learning more.)
Okazu Brand has two new titles, one a spin-off of their 5×5 City, and the other is this one. Suzie-Q is an evolution of the ‘unique lowest number’ genre of games, but turned a bit upside down. Here, in each of 5 rounds, players will be writing a 3-digit number on a dry erase sheet. Once ready, the players simultaneously reveal them and arrange them in descending order. You will get to score your number if there are no numbers less than it which share a digit with it (yes, that means the lowest number will always score.)
What do you score? You earn points equal to the hundreds digit of the number, and the highest overall number also scores bonus points. However, players that score must also cross all digits used off on their score sheet and will not be able to use those numbers in future rounds. Plays in about 10 minutes.
Designer: Shintaro Ono
EN Rules: Unlikely, but game play is fairly straightforward
Shop: Arclight EC
Are you familiar with Japanese town mascots? きゃらおこし is a friendly drawing game that explores creating something similar for a fictional town. Players will each choose a random template and one specialty for the town from each of three cards. The players will all draw a mascot for the same town.
For instance, here’s one from a promotional image for the game showing a mascot for a town that specializes in boats, fishing, and dogs.
Brilliant! (You only know one of the themes at a time, so are drawing blind as to the future and the other categories.)
In a more confident time, where I knew when to expect I could go to a party and play something like this, I would certainly pick this up, but in the current circumstances, it sadly won’t make my personal cut.
In addition to games, there are always an array of accessories available: jewelry, t-shirts, mugs, etc. One that caught my eye from the Arclight shop this year was these beautiful playing cards. How fun!
What have I left out? A game that uses exercise bands and a game that uses those grip strength training squeezy handles; a poker-type game about criminal law and a blackjack-type game with mechs; a game about assembly language programming and a game about the logical XOR function; a murder mystery game about a lost pair of slippers and another about churros.
I’ll leave you with some of my usual links for where to go looking for more titles if you’d like to buy some. As I discussed above, you have the new Arclight EC retail shop, which is quite extensive. Booth also has a nice selection of games and also includes accessories (bags, mugs, earrings, RPGs, etc.) Of course, the Bodoge.Hoobby store has also stepped up and has a special sub-store just for the cancelled Spring Game Market. (For now, none of those sites offer an English language interface or shipping outside of Japan.) A few titles may be available on the Japanese Amazon site as well, such as Goods Maker.
Leon Scheuber has a post sharing some of what he is looking forward to as well. You can read Rand’s article over here. Oink has relaunched their website with several goodies on it, one of which is affordable international shipping. You can play along with Kakugari’s ガムトーク (Gumtalk) on Twitter with the hashtag #ガムトーク.
Lastly, something for the future. Something I found that isn’t quite ready yet, but I’m looking forward to.
If you’ve been following for any length of time, you probably know how big of a fan I am of Taiki Shinzawa’s games, and it looks like there may be a new one soon -though not a trick-taker this time, a climbing game. (When you translate Japanese game information and something refers to a “millionaire” game, that means a climbing game.) His climbing-game credits include the brilliant maskmen, and I can’t wait to see what he’s done here.
His usual artist has outdone themselves again. Just lovely.