Hi everyone – As I usually like to do a week out from each Tokyo Game Market, I wanted to highlight some of the titles I’m looking forward to, the titles I’m really looking forward to, and the titles I want to be playing right now! But seriously, there are so many treasures. Some I have plans to buy and some I don’t, but there’s such a joy and energy to these designers and publishers, and I like to share that.
It seems as though the energy around the fair is a bit subdued, as the virus has participants cautious, and while it appears set to go on, some publishers are not participating, and others have not been able to have the play test sessions necessary to flesh out their next designs. (For me, other obligations have kept me from keeping up with the news on my Twitter feed and the Game Market website, so I may have missed some of the more niche releases.)
That said, I still have more than enough to look forward to! Let’s get started.
モアイロンリ – This is a new release from Ryohei Kurahashi, the designer of Yomen, Tagiron, and several other very creative deduction games (and one about an Escher-type infinite staircase that I’m dying to play.) The designer is one of my current crushes as I learn about their back catalog.
The new game appears to be reminiscent of Tagiron, but this time rather than numbers, the hidden objects have a facing: left or right. There are only about 30 copies, so if you’ll be there, might need to get to this one early. Outside of Yomen, their games seem especially difficult to find on the used market as well.
Bremen – One of the hottest themes in my Twitter feed (and in my game purchases) in 2020 are custom meeples from Uchibacoya, the publisher behind several new titles this year, such as this one, and components for others.
Bremen is a game previously known to me as “The Trite”, which is a rough translation of the original title, and is a play on the names of games like “The Mind” and “The Game”, but as “The Trick-Taker”, (a word that Google usually translates as “trite”). It’s a cooperative trick-taking game that dates back several years, and while the rules were web-published and it has never had a commercial version, it could be difficult to play because it uses what’s called “must follow practice cards”, a variation of a standard 52 card deck, where the suit is visible on the back of the cards.
There hasn’t been a realistic commercially available deck of such cards available for quite some time, and now, even if you don’t want to play Bremen, you can have it available! …sort of. It’s Uchibacoya, so you’re not getting cards, you’re getting animeeple tiles! The rank will be on one side, but because of the different shape (and color) of animals, the “suit” will be hard to miss!
The game looks fun too though – your goal is to have one player win 6 tricks, another 4, another 2, and the last 0. Each player will end with one card in their hand, and each of these must be of different suits! If you win, there is a score calculation based on the difference in ranks of the remaining card in the hands of the player with 6 tricks and the player with none.
Notably, and maybe the last thing I’ll have to say, there are also solo rules! I had previously translated the web-published rules, but there is a 2020 update to the solo rules that I haven’t had a chance to go through, but hope to soon.
ゾンビデル – This is a zombie themed trick-taking game that I’m curious about. I haven’t looked for or translated the rules yet, but the way the cards make different size panoramas seems intriguing. The amount of people having _fun_ playing it in my Twitter feed seems encouraging. My reservations are that it may be “too” far towards an end of some spectrum where the fun is from the experience alone and the game play is subpar.
Rise of the Metro – NANAWARI’s releases are quickly becoming “must-buys” for me. That said, many of them are sufficiently languge-dependent, that I wouldn’t be able to play them. Their new release though, Rise of the Metro, is just my type of game. A route-building game that feels reminiscent of the Cwali type games from the Morisi era. You are placing one track per turn, and when multiple routes connect to a station, it grows, becoming worth more points.
There are some interesting limits to the connectivity and a setup mechanism that I’m excited to try (a phrase I’ve certainly never said or thought before!)
Sheep & Garden – While their last two games haven’t really clicked with me, Studio GG will always have my eye from The King of Frontier and Little Town Builders, and this time around their new release is back to tile laying. Here, players are collectively building a landscape, as you would in something like Carcassonne. But players will have a hidden scoring objective, as well as one they share with each neighbor. Most of them work like you would expect –points for each cow, for the most sheep, for each completed lake, and whatnot.
Cat in the box – The title I’m likely most optimistic about is Cat in the box from 操られ人形館. It is, of course, a trick-taking game. Here, the cards have no suit. Rather, there are 4 copies of each rank, 1 through 8. In the image below, you can see the 3 cards on the left which track what has been played. The card on the right tracks your bid, as well as what suits you claim to be out of. You can, on any trick, simply declare that you are void in the suit led, and not have to follow suit. However, this could lead to a paradox later if it turns out that, for instance in the scene below, you only have a 1 or 5 left in your hand, they have to be yellow, but you’ve previously declared you don’t have that suit left! That’s bad. Anyway, if that wasn’t enough, there are points to be had by forming a large orthogonally adjacent group of your tokens on the board.
Sprinkle – Sprinkle is a forest ecosystem themed game, which always appeal to me, but I’d prefer they were a bit less abstract than something like Photosynthesis. Here, the players control different tree species as they attempt to reproduce, move clouds to control the weather, and take advantage of their evolutionary advantage. There are also flying squirrels.
Bomb Squad – This is the new release from Hisashi Hayashi and OKAZU brand. It is a cooperative deduction game where each player has a “bomb” in front of themselves on a rack as shown below and must remove all of the non-bomb tiles, then the bomb(s), and then they win! The numbers will be in ascending order and the game includes 50 scenarios that the players will play through.
When tiles become “disarmed”, you’ll lay them down on the table behind the rack, so that it is still clear which slot they came from. There will generally be 4 copies of each number. There are some items cards and what not, but a general turn has you picking one number on your rack and choosing another player that you think has the same number; if they do, you can disarm both tiles! Your other options are to disarm two matching tiles on your board -but only if the other two tiles of that rank have already been disarmed, or disarm a bomb, which you can only do once the other tiles have been disarmed.
OK, I was on the fence before, but I think I just talked myself into this one.
詠天記 – I have not played this one myself, or even looked into it, but I will, and I didn’t want to omit it. Lorna and Mandy have both been raving about it, and that’s generally good enough for me. You can read Lorna’s preview here, Preview: Eetenki: The Queen of Himiko Chronicles.
Idle Hands – I am, naturally, on the lookout for interesting trick-taking games, as well as what 梟老堂 is putting out, and so it’s a blessing when those overlap. This time that’s the game Idle Hands, which twists around some of the “following suit” concept. Players will have some extra cards face up in front of themselves, one of which will go into each trick. While those cards are not eligible to win a trick, they will determine the follow-suit and the high-suit for the round. There are a few other wrinkles, and English rules should be available later.
Ambiente Abissal and §egment trix – My design-crush Taiki-san has two new games. The one on the left below is a climbing-game of sorts. The one on the right is a trick-taking game where you can use the extra little digital bits to manipulate the ranks (and yes, the 6 and the 9 are interchangeable.) I haven’t seen the rules yet, but I’m going to have to see what I can do to get ahold of these.
Lemmings’ Frontier – It looks like this one will need to be filed under “The Ones The Got Away….” until I learn Japanese, as it looks a bit daunting to translate, let alone play, without that. A cooperative game that I think has a bit of deduction as your colonizing lemmings explore this new land they’ve found.
Secret Auction House – This is a High Society type game, that is a series of auctions played out over one hand where each player starts with the same discreet money cards available – though that’s where the similarities end. The items you will be bidding on have an exact number of cards you must bid with, and there is a Hol’s der Geier type blind bid, where the players simultaneously reveal their bids, and any tied bids are removed from consideration.
Winning players won’t get that money back as it is spent, but losing players also won’t get their money back until they’ve exhausted their whole hand! Items bid on are worth points, as are hidden objectives cards. Players also receive a few chips that allow exceptions, such as sitting out an auction or picking up your money discard pile early.
おかしなおちゃかい – I haven’t talked about trick-taking games for…[checks notes]…2 entries, so time for another! This is a 2v2 team trick-taking game, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. Cards have their ranks, and some are worth points. The cards show their suit on the back, as well as a symbol to indicate how many points they are worth.
Interestingly, you do not deal out hands, but, rather, players will draw their hands one card at a time from the deck. That’s something I see in rules on occasion, but usually doesn’t have a gameplay function. Here, however, you know the suit of the card you are about to draw and have the option to add it to your hand so that you can see the front, or so that you can only see the back. If you draw it so that it faces the other players, your team earns a secondary type of points, and your partner will be able to use these points to choose cards from your hand to play!
ひつじの国のアリス – Speaking of Alice in Wonderland themed games, I can’t quite make heads or tails out of the game descriptions for this one so far, but it has entranced me with its aesthetic and components.
Hollywood Sensation – This is the new 2-player trick-taking release from しぶ, the designer of Peter’s Two Sheep Dogs. Players are starlets competing to sort of have the most fame, but it can be gauche if you are too famous, and also easier to cover up scandals if you are less famous!
It is a tug of war of sorts as you move a pawn back and forth on the red carpet. The game’s four suits are randomly ordered, and that will be their priority for the round. Players start with a hand of 6 cards, but a round will last for 14 tricks or so. From the undealt cards, one card will be face up, and the winner of the trick will add that card to their hand; the other player will take a face down card from the top of the deck. Two suits are worth positive points, and two are worth negative. Starting from the second round, a player who is behind in metapoints sets aside some cards from their initial hand such that it is harder for them to follow suit, and these cards will return to them once the main draw pile is exhausted.
ハレルヤロックボーイ, one of my favorite publishers will not have a new release, but they are doing a surprise reprint of 四畳半ペーパー賽系 (Yojōhan Pēpā Saikei), which is a premier roll & write game for me, so if you’ve been looking to get ahold of it, keep an eye out!
CROSS WARS – I must admit that the digital conventions haven’t clicked for me much this year, though I appreciate the accessibility they give to gamers who may not be able to participate in physical conventions for various reasons. So hattip to Rand for shooting me a DM about this one from SPIEL.digital, a competitive crossword puzzle game!
Players are given a blank 7×7 grid, and each player (or team) takes some scenario cards that show the finished grid and clues for the opponents grid. The players fill in the black squares on their grid, and the game begins. Roughly, on your turn, you can either ask for the letter in a specific box, request a clue, or guess a word. The first player to complete their grid wins.
EN puzzles are available, and, in fact, there is a demo scenario you can print from the SPIEL.digital website to try, or, if you don’t have a printer, have your buddy’s assistant print them to have ready for your next gamenight ;).
I’ve left out many, many things, like the trick-taking game that uses the kitty to lay out a row that determines which suit the players will follow each trick; the 8-bit disc golf game; the taxi route game (that isn’t quite going to make the fair anyway); and Oink’s new cooperative release featuring a little electronic DJ component, but I think that’s a wrap! Ruriruri games, who I normally like to feature, is sitting this one out, as are several of my friends who live in Japan that would like to attend as visitors, and, of course, all of my friends in the U.S. who occasionally go.
Will games be available afterwards? Unknown. The Arclight EC shop will not have it’s retail representation of the Game Market games in the way that it did for the Spring, but, of course, several titles are already up on booth.pm or have pre-orders available on bodoge.hoobby.net. (Heck, the bodoge.hoobby store has started carrying Ruriruri games!) I’ll also be keeping an eye on some of the online stores in Japan that usually stock the types of things I’m interested in, like Korokorodou.