Hi folks – As I usually do twice a year, I want to highlight some of the titles that have recently been released in Japan, or will be shortly; I’ll touch on games that I’m eager to play, games I may never get to play, and some titles that bring a smile to my face, just knowing they exist. (I’m timing this one specifically in case we have any English language readers who may be waiting in line to get into Tokyo Big Sight for a convention that opens in a few hours and is looking for some recommendations! – though some of these were also from the Osaka convention a few weeks ago.)
This post will be a bit different as you’ll hear from some of our other contributors as well as me. So from here down, we’ll label who’s adding which bits.
James Nathan: This post will also be a little different as it’s the first Game Market in a few years where I don’t have a friend picking up most of the harder to find titles I’m interested in, and will be relying on finding things at online stores or later in the used market. It’s also different because starting in the fall, I plan to start attending regularly myself — first vaccine dose is in and fingers crossed that Japan’s visa policies allow me to visit by November.
Rand Yelmel: Thanks for inviting me to join! James Nathan’s anticipation posts are some of my favorite reads through the year. We often share DMs of our finds back and forth, purchasing plans, and sometimes even shipments — whether knowingly or unknowingly ;) — so it’s a pleasure to contribute to this iteration of the post.
James Nathan: One last difference, and I suppose it’s slightly a disclaimer, but I have a new position with boardgametables.com where I choose games for them (us) to license. It’s a dream and knowing my tastes, that probably means they’ll be doujin titles that I picked up at Game Market. It means I’m still buying and playing games as I was before, but the family budget uses a different bucket of money to cover those costs, and if it turns out I love any of these, I have a new avenue to bring them to you! (The first title I signed, Time Palatrix, has been announced, with the new theme and name “Ghosts of Christmas”.)
The pandemic shift, and, well, now being more in the future than time that is in the past, has made more titles available at online outlets like booth.pm and bodoge.hoobby.net, so by the time I post this, some of these games will already be in hand.
I track the games I’ve bought and want to buy in a spreadsheet, and this time has more rows than any other Game Market in the last few years! Let’s start with the first line in my sheet:
盆暮れ正月両彼岸 (2021春 両-オ32)
James Nathan: The game’s title translates roughly as “Bongure New Year’s Equinoctial Week”, which well, probably doesn’t make much sense. But, here’s an explanation. It refers to times of the year when in Buddhist traditions, extra thoughts are paid to your ancestors. The game is themed around visiting the graves of your departed family members, and it is designed by 向井真人, a Buddhist priest at a temple in Tokyo, who often makes games with Buddhist themes.
Rules wise I haven’t made it far in attempting to translate this one, but it’s a trick-taking game; the cards are beautiful; and I’m drawn in by the theme -who want to go with me to visit grandma’s tomb is a compelling reason to “follow suit”! It was previously crowd-funded on the Japanese site campfire.jp.
Ｆｕｇｕ Ｓｕｓｈｉ(No booth)
James Nathan: The designs from るりるり (Ruriruri) continue to push the design envelope in ways that surprise and delight my mind. This time, that includes this game that sees the players as sushi chefs, and includes dissection of a “soft” pufferfish. There are a few hard bits, like the serving trays, but the whole thing has a sort of Claes Oldenburg vibe. The Ruriruri rules are some of the most difficult for me to translate, and while I buy each of their trick-taking releases, this is one of my first forays into the creative-component region of Ruriruri’s mind.
That said…they don’t have a new trick-taking release! For the last 5 game markets or so, they’ve released a trick-taking set with 2-5 games in it. I picked up most of these during the lost pandemic year, so the only one I’ve had a chance to play is a solitaire game I reviewed, 悪霊退治 (Demon Extermination), and love.
The situation with Ruriruri sort of illustrates the confluence of where things are: (1) the pandemic caused last year’s Spring Game Market to move most sales online to the Arclight EC shop, and while that shop has returned to wholesale, (2) designers and publishers have continued to use other sites like booth and bodoge.hoobby to sell their games to a wider degree, as the in person Game Market’s aren’t back to normal yet. (3) Ruriruri doesn’t have a new trick-taking set, I presume because of difficulty playtesting and lower sales volume, and (4) won’t be exhibiting at the Spring Tokyo Game Market due to pandemic concerns, but (5) see (2), I was still able to buy it because of their consignment sales through bodoge.hoobby!
While we’re on the topic, a few pandemic related games:
Operations Research for COVID-19 (2021大阪 E17)
James Nathan: From 長浜和也, typically a wargame designer, we have this solitaire game where you act as your country’s Covid-19 response lead, with graphs and charts for mortality rate, GDP growth, medical resources, and others.
How appropriate that it is a solitaire game for reflecting on, and playing during, a time when getting together to play with others still may not be possible. Personally, I love the aesthetic of a game centered around these graphs, and have already purchased a copy.
James Nathan: Roughly translated as “The Eyes Speak More Than The Mouth”, it is a game of expressing the emotion and feelings shown on a card with your eyes for the other players to guess. But the game, designed by シラカワリュウ, requires you, mechanically, to wear a mask! For me, gaming with a mask on has been fine, but for reading-intensive games, like Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 or Sleeping Gods, it made it harder for me to enunciate; I love the idea of a game that is intended to be played in such conditions.
ヒーフー‼ (Hii Fuu!!) (2021大阪 M08)
James Nathan: There will be, of course, many new trick-taking titles released (around 22 last I counted, even without a new set from Ruriruri!), but the one I’m most looking forward to is Hii Fuu!! from Yozaemon Matumoto, designer of Anou, the winner of the 2017 Trick Taking Party design contest, as well as the designer of Kamari which comes recommended.
The art is from one of my favorites, Tori Hasegawa, and the publisher? Well, Thomasson Toys is a new publisher (with the non-coincidental initials “TT”), and I think it’s worth a slight diversion into the use of the word Thomasson. The Wikipedia article on the subject describes Thomasson as a type of conceptual art that “refers to a useless relic or structure that has been preserved as part of a building or the built environment, which has become a piece of art in itself.” Things that have the appearance of conceptual art, but were not created as such. (It is named after a baseball player in Japan in the early 1980s!)
Anyway, the game is of the “win exactly two tricks” variety, and win them in the hand as late as possible, as in something like Voodoo Prince/Marshmallow Test. As I write this, it should be arriving on my doorstep tomorrow.
Rand Yelmel: I’ve played this a couple times online thanks to a friend who had the blessing from the publisher to create an implementation. As JN mentioned, there’s a great mix of trick taking and trick avoidance. It’s stellar…and that was playing without the captivating art!
James Nathan: This is one of three games being released on the life of 渋沢栄一, “the father of Japanese capitalism”, who introduced double-entry bookkeeping, joint stock companies, and other ideas after the Meiji Restoration. This game, roughly translated as “Prosperity”, is designed by Fumiyoshi and is described as a medium to heavy economic game, starting companies, etc. My understanding is that the text on the cards is flavor-only and it should be playable by an English audience, though I’m not sure if an English rulebook is coming.
Rand Yelmel: I find it fascinating that this game — along with the trivia game and suguroku-style sightseeing game — was commissioned by a printing/manufacturing company. The stated goal from their website is to promote tourism to their area by giving background to the guy who has been newly adopted onto the face of national currency. Some of my favorite games have come from commissions — Royal Goods, Capital — but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a manufacturer doing it.
為替バトル～為替の仕組みがよくわかる!? (2021春 両-ツ30)
James Nathan: While we’re on heavier economic games, I have my eye on this ForEx game from designer 綿月いなば. Little information is available, but I like what I see! (And not to get ahead of ourselves, but there is a Modern Monetary Theory game that came out in the Fall of 2020 that I’m excited to play, but the designer, Hikaru Ichiishi, advises there will be a revised edition planned for Fall 2021, and to wait for then.)
It’s 5 PM (2021春 両-エリアB28 試遊○)
James Nathan: Backing up a little bit on the game weight – what do the salaryworkers do when they’re finished with their currency exchanging and bookkeeping? Go drinking! And to the movies! Also, board game cafes! It’s 5 PM, from designer 戸塚中央, with its gorgeous color palette, is a tile placement and resource management game, as you explore the city by laying the tiles and walking around.
Rand Yelmel: I can imagine playing this game as a break from Bus whenever the meeples scramble to the bars. Now they have more options! I think the idea of maximizing time/money efficiency of a night out on the town is a wonderful theme. And gosh, those meeples!
Magicalligraphy (2021春 土-ア12)
James Nathan: Let’s head off to whimsical and quirky games for a bit. Here’s a bit of the stunning Magicalligraphy in action. Using a mechanic like Haba’s Burg-Ritter, the players’ hands are pulling taut a string connected to a quill that they use to draw or write something. Details are still light, but appears that one of those players may be a traitor and not know what they’re drawing. (You can also read more about it in this post from Lorna and Mandy.)
Q(K)UOK(QU)I クオキ (2021春 土-ウ01)
James Nathan: Game play details on this are very light, and there’ll only be 30 copies, but this game from Tansan is themed around the people you play games with, and involves _sealing the box_ for 120 days, then gathering with the same people to…finish the game? Play again? Unknown!
Rand Yelmel: Will future-self remember enough about past-self to win? I love games that toy with the slippery nature of memory, and this seems to be one of them.
よっけ亭 (2021春 土-イ08)
James Nathan: This entry is for a new publisher with a striking aesthetic. The games from designer つきい ようすけ appear to have the daiso-sourced components you expect from many Game Market releases, but I especially wanted to call out their title ぺたぺた which is an area majority game with stickers. Sure, it gives it a sort of legacy/one-shot element to each board, but moreover, it gives a sort of analog touch to what fits in a space! It isn’t just cram one more meeple in, there’s a spatial limit to fitting your sticker!
James Nathan: A game from A.I.Lab./遊 ささみ企画 that has the players acting as newscasters reading a story from a teleprompter, but it has blanks in it, and the other players contribute words Mad Libs! style. In a blog post about the game, the designer acknowledges that perhaps it’s more of a recreational tool than a game, but this seems like a great 1 AM convention game.
Rilium (2021春 土-ツ15)
James Nathan: Moving to roll and write releases, I haven’t seen too many coming out this season – there is, of course, the Yokohama and Let’s Make a Bus Route roll and write releases, but, there’s also Rilium, from designer ましかまる.
Rand Yelmel: And this freebie golf game, where the designer has said they don’t know why they made a golf game because they fall asleep when they watch it on TV!
James Nathan: As best I understand the game has two phases, the first is a polyomino-centered roll and write game where you’re aiming to leave exactly 1×1 squares…for fish to live in, but it also has a library theme? I don’t quite understand what happens in the second half of the game, but I’ve bought one. :)
Rand Yelmel: I’ve translated this rulebook in advance of the show and the opening lines gave me shivers of joy. The rulebook should be posted to BGG by the time this goes to print. The game invites players to create their own undersea library in the first half of the game, then enjoy the books they’ve collected in the second half. Maybe you’ve collected a series of novels that give increasing amount of points as you get further in the series. Or perhaps you’ve collected atlases and can create your own cartography for big points. It uses both flip AND roll along with the write.
James Nathan: If you’re still reading, I think you deserve to know that Saashi & Saashi have announced they’ll have a new website at the end of April that will include a webstore with international shipping, so it should make some of their titles a little easier for folks to acquire, such as the new Let’s Make a Bus Route: The Dice Game.
ラムラムパーティー (2021春 両-オ19)
James Nathan: Another that I should have in hand tomorrow, as I write this, is “Lum Lum Party”, a bingo-themed game, but rather than the numbers being randomly drawn, your bingo sheet is blank and you….get to choose the numbers (with several restrictions)! During their turn, a player chooses from 4 possible actions to rattle out the next bingo number, and these will change depending upon the last value called. Points are awarded for first to bingo, numbers circled, and tens-digits of numbers in any bingo(s).
Interestingly, nearly a quarter of the rules are devoted to explaining the theme and how it derives from the designer’s love of the manga Urusei Yatsura. (The designer says they always cry no matter how many times they’ve read it and include instructions on how to find a recording of a song they made about the series on YouTube.)
Rand Yelmel: I anticipate a great challenge in finding a copy of this handmade game — sales via the publisher’s site were gone in under 20 seconds. The designer calls it “反・流” or “anti-trendy” and states the game is an embracing of the useless turn (see designer’s notes here for more background). The game is something like Monopoly, but without negotiation or much exchange of money between players. Instead it uses stocks and special actions for each spot on the board as catalysts for wealth and honor. The variety of componentry is baffling and I want to know more.
アマタノ儀式 (2021大阪 P16)
Rand Yelmel: I have enjoyed the ideas that have emerged from 赤瀬よぐ (Yog Akase) recently — Relicers, Factoria. This one is a cooperative game of foggy communication. One player plays as a master passing on rituals, another player is the interpreter who attempts to translate, and the remaining players try to carry out the ritual currently. Like Three Commandments with an extra layer…maybe? I’m intimidated by the thickness of the rulebook and companion ritual books, but am excited to try it out. I suppose I’ll be playing my own real-life version of the game as I try it out!
スノースマッシュ・クラン (2021春 両-エリアB15 試遊○)
Rand Yelmel: James Nathan has mentioned the explosion of games being sold online in the past year. As you may remember, last spring’s Tokyo Game Market had a custom-made online storefront created in days that gave zero-fee consignment for the folks who already had booths. Along with BOOTH.pm and bodoge.hoobby, another area for growth I’ve noticed is crowdfunding sites like Campfire, where this game — and a couple of Yog Akase’s games — have seen success. スノースマッシュ・クラン (Snowsmash Clan) went through crowdfunding in advance of Osaka and Tokyo Game Market, and it seems like the efforts are being made to bring the show to folks in rural areas who are not able to attend the convention.
But what is Snowsmash Clan? It is a follow-up to and distillation of the award-winning FOGSITE from the same designer and is intended to be a bit faster and lighter. I have not played FOGSITE myself, so I don’t know how it compares. I love the playful art and the memories of snowball fights it conjures.
MADORI-ISM (2021春 土-イ10)
James Nathan: If you want the really inside baseball of writing these posts, this is where we’ve entered extra innings. The blog post stopped at Snowsmash Clan above, but, as happens, I can’t help myself and am sneaking into WordPress to add some last minute things I find, like MADORI-ISM from designer 弥七. A stunning floorplan game!
Rand Yelmel: I am a total architecture nerd and try to pick up each game that has anything to do with designing floor plans, no matter how ridiculous. In the past two years, it has Madrino (HIT!) and Everybody Wants a Corner: renovation (okay). This one has a cool aesthetic and looks like it have a bit more gameplay going on. I can’t wait to build something goofy with these cards!
丁字路 (ゲムマ東京2021 | ブース番号 : イ31 | 4/10(土))
James Nathan: It’s also time to clear out my Twitter bookmarks for the season, and that’s where we find this beautiful game from Shimizu Kohei which appears to have come out last November and was designed for the bookstore Daikanyama. However, the designer seems tight-lipped about game play details and I wasn’t able to find many hints of how it plays.
Trumpen (2021春 両-カ11)
James Nathan: Trumpen is an interesting one, and not the only set of cards coming out at the Spring Game Market that is sort of a system, and not a singular game. Designed by 渚くじら, the cards are, well, dry erase! The cards are pre-printed with 4 suit options, but the ranks are up to you. The game includes rules for several card games to play with the system, such as a trick-taking one! :p
Rand Yelmel: This one reminds me of a mashup of two older titles — Delusion Trump and Eye My Favorite Thing. I’m very excited to play this new alchemy!
エイジオブジェントリー (2021春 両-セ26)
Rand Yelmel: I’ve been a longtime fan of the games from Southern Cross. They hit it big with Age of Craft, which was later tweaked and released as Colony by Bezier Games. Their games are almost always concise distillations of euro-style mechanisms through card play and cubes. This newest entry to the Age of… series is a satirical look at high society. In Age of Gentry players attempt to network with the biggest celebrities. However, some celebrities have beef with each other and get into fights if they both arrive to the same space, ruining your carefully planned party. Then who do you side with? These are the decisions of the elite…
ノラネコ ボスネコ (2021春 両-ソ34)
Rand Yelmel: The cover for this game (seen below) is what caught me. Look at that smug boss cat! Players control stray cats looking for a new family, racing through and over each other to get to the boss cat on the other side of the board. But do it quietly! Those boss cats do not like to be bothered.
エリスの算盤 (2021春 両-ソ35)
Rand Yelmel: This is one that I’ve seen pop up over and over again, but didn’t really know what it is. エリスの算盤 (Eris Abacus) is an commodity-speculation area-majority game for 2-5 where the locations on the board are the commodities! This sounds relatively simple in rules, but leaves room for plenty of player interaction. Count me in!
ナヴァトリーニ (2021春 日-エ01)
James Nathan: One more game with a very limited print run, this time 10 copies, is this stunning abstract for 4 players, and one of the rare Sunday-only games on the list. Players take turns placing one of their discs into a cylinder, with points being earned at specific points for who is on top, more if it is the marked piece, and bonuses for achieving 3-in-a-row. Each player also has a one-time-use disc that allows for some special actions.
ディスクッブ (DISKUBB) (2021ゲムマ春日曜【オ07】)
James Nathan: OK, I’m really stopping after this one! This is a table adaptation of games in the Mölkky family with cards restricting how you can flick/throw the object. These are handmade, of course, and copies are, well, limited.
SUPPLY LINE (2021春 両-オ19)
Rand Yelmel: A Dobble-inspired wargame for two. There is always one common element between adjacent cards, and when you put them together, the connected elements activate each other. Players fight over territory in different theaters — land and sea — but must use air and supply ops to reach deep into enemy territory.
Has this disclaimer:
…which roughly translates to:
“There are a lot of rules to learn, and it's not exactly considerate of board game beginners, so if you're worried, give up and play Dobble or Splatoon 2. I use a dynamo roller.”
James Nathan: AH! There’s so much to talk about. I left out my usual caveat acknowledging the interesting word games that I’ll likely never be able to play (like the one about flatulence onomatopoeias), and the quirky sub-themes (a lot of sushi games this time around). Heck, I left out both Taiki Shinzawa games that are coming out!
As it happens, a few games I was looking forward to, such as TXDR, a taxi driving game; kuro’s 2v2 trick-taking game about American football; and mor!’s unnamed train game don’t look like they’ll make it. I suppose I’ll add those to the various resources I’m making for myself for the potential November trip. If it gets close enough and seems sure enough, I may write a series of posts on preparation, attending, etc., as I always found Dale’s posts regarding those aspects of Essen trips a valuable tool, and there isn’t too much on such preparations for the Tokyo Game Markets. (But just in time, Mandy has written a brilliant piece on the Osaka Game Market that covers travel, food, packing, etc. on her BGG blog that you can read here.)
In case you missed it, here are a few other preview pieces that Lorna and Mandy have put together where they go more in depth on a few games:
- Tokyo Game Market Preview
- Osaka/Tokyo Spring Game Market Previews Part 1
- Osaka/Tokyo Spring Game Market Previews Part 2
- Mandy’s Osaka 2021 Game Market report
Rand Yelmel: There are other games I’m excited about (Escalope, Goldfish Merchant, Let’s Make a Bus Route: the dice game, and more) but they are from bigger designers and publishers who have become familiar to readers and fans of OG’s coverage of Japanese games…and maybe even regular board game shop customers! I hope this has introduced you to a few new faces or trends we’ve discovered. It’s that feeling of discovery that we hope we can share with you, readers.
Lorna: As usual I pretty much love all the games but the ones I’ll actively seek out include Fugu Sushi, Saashi’s Let’s Make a Bus Route: the dice game, Okazu’s Yokohama dice game, Goldfish Merchant, Flower Pit, Jack and Detectives, Ajisai, Evolution to Add and Eamal I had a chance to play a bit (the article will be posted soon) and I’d love to get those as well and of course some of the trick taking games. I’d love to get Magicalligraphy but it will be very limited. I think there is supposed to be an expansion to make mor!’s Refinery 2 player and I’m hoping for that. Trumpen, Komanose Techno, Jurata, Trapeze and Kodogu no Rondo previously discussed by Mandy and I are also on my list.
Mandy: I’m also looking forward to all the games Lorna and everyone else mentioned. I’m a big fan of really indie games or small print runs so some of those games to look out for are: Astromino which I backed on Kickstarter, so I look forward to getting a copy of that, and the designer also created Diploma which I want to take a look at. I saw some other games with interesting artwork – Anomie, Antoronia, Sabochingu Akechi-kun, Rebellion. There are so many new games coming out at the Game Market each year. I’m very excited to check out what creators have in store for us this April.