This is partly my usual Tokyo Game Market preview post of titles I’m looking forward to. It also marks my first trip to Japan. Earlier this week I talked about what the Game Market catalog is like and gone through a bit of the prep I do for each Game Market. Today I want to talk about some of the interesting games being released in a matter of hours. Some are things I’m excited to play, some I just think are notable, and others that please me simply because they exist. (The images used below are promotional images from the designer/publisher’s Twitter accounts, website, Game Market website, etc., unless otherwise noted.)
I’ve asked Rand to help me and highlight some titles of his choice, so from here down, we’ll label who’s adding which bits.
Red Thunder (Booth: ア04, Saturday)
Designer: Kenichi Tanabe
Publisher: COLON ARC
James Nathan: I’m very taken with the recent trick-taking game, “Roulette-Taking Game” (review is scheduled for November 23rd). In it, the winner of each trick places a bet on a roulette-style betting mat to reflect what card the player thinks will win the last trick. It’s a wild conceit, and one I think the game pulls off despite all odds. There’s a subtle and elegance to the trump mechanic that does a lot of heavy lifting. Part of why the game sticks with me is the pressure and excitement that builds during the game – it’s a game that comes down to overtime. Extra innings. It will be a walk-off trick – guaranteed each hand.
It also has me on the lookout for gambling themed games I might have otherwise overlooked. What other non-card casino games could be turned into rad card games? So along comes Red Thunder – a solo slot machine game! I have a soft spot for solo card games (such as Goritaire or Finished!), so I don’t mind that piece. I can’t quite tell how the rules work yet, though yes, it starts with reveal 3 cards. The designer has a sufficient track record for me, that I trust they’ve made it fun.
パチスロシミュレーター (Pachislot Simulator) (Booth: イ37, Saturday)
Designer: Party Taro
James Nathan: Continuing the theme of slot machine themed games is Pachislot Simulator. It is a sort of stochastic deduction game where there are a number of different potential wheels in the slot machine, and as the game progresses, you try to narrow down which wheels are in play – but you won’t be able to do it with logical deduction skills. The game’s intent is to force you to make rough and quick inferences from the probabilities. I’ve left out the box cover, but I think the player screen and deduction sheet should suffice!
Domino Plant Company (Booth: ノ06, Both)
Designer: Kawakami Yuito
Publisher: Domino Plant Company
Rand: This game is played in two parts. Some players set up dominoes in the forest, adjusting their angle and position within the growing circles on the board. Then one player operates a domino-toppling hammer gadget trying to fell as many dominoes as possible to fulfill scoring objectives. There is also a on-time use meteorite that can be dropped from above to aid an attempt at felling the dominoes. You can also get in trouble by knocking down too many dominoes. In that case, you have overworked your employees and they retire.
Kufuhi and Kotoba (Booth: エ34, both)
Designer: Namase Kazuma
James Nathan: I’m intentionally broadening the scope of what I look for this time around, asking myself what if I moved my line on what is “too much” translation to make a game worth picking up? There are a few games I’m buying under that mandate, and at least two of them are themed around synesthesia. In this one, the players use translucent color cards to form a color which corresponds to a secret word from a set of face up words, and the other players, in a competitive or cooperative mode, try to determine what color is “the internet”?
James Nathan: For this next one, I don’t have a booth number – not even a publisher or designer. This came up in my Twitter feed earlier this year and I was drawn to it. I’m not quite sure what is happening with the font on the box, where the letters sort of resemble skyscrapers – and are those metal miniature skyscrapers we’re building? Well…maybe –if it was a real game. It lived in my TGM prep spreadsheet for many months before I realized it was a DALL-E-ish AI generated board game promo and not a real game being released!
Galle Fort (Booth: エ39, both)
Designer: CrazyClown (狂道化)
Rand: Here is an unassuming wooden box with unassuming board game bits inside. Doesn’t seem like this could be much of game at first glance. These kinds of minimal designs often grab my attention. In Galle Fort, each of the components is a piece-limited resource that players use to trade up to making their lighthouse taller. It looks like there will be a tension in how to deal with running out of pieces in the common stock and forcing others to trade with you via the tea ceremony…or defending against the tea ceremony by having more tea than your opponent? It looks quite tight and I am intrigued.
ECO CRAZY (Booth: ナ-01, Saturday)
Publisher: Manifest Destiny
James Nathan: Manifest Destiny is a prolific publisher, releasing at least 4 games each Fall. The publisher is based in Hokkaido and their games have historically not been easy to come by outside of the Fall Game Market – though this last Spring they started being available on bodoge.hoobby.net.
The one I wanted to highlight is Eco Crazy. This is a free game. Make a reservation, buy a Manifest Destiny game, and get a free copy of Eco Crazy. But, this isn’t a ziplock game that might traditionally be sold for 500 Yen. It appears to be a full fledged game they would’ve released. On the Manifest Destiny website, they explain that upon reflection, the people that play their games do not benefit from any marketing spend they do to place banners on gamemarket.jp or any other site. What if they took their marketing budget, spent it on manufacturing a bonus game and then gave it away to their customers! I dig it.
FNAWIP (Booth: エ43, Both)
Designer: Katsuo Asakura
Publisher: Katsuo Games
James Nathan: FNAWIP is an acronym used in Japan to describe the different types of dams which exist. An “F” dam is used for flood control; a “P” dam is for power generation. A dam can be of more than one type.
In 2007, the Japan Water Agency began distributing souvenir cards. In the upper left they show the name of the dam and in the upper right the purposes of the dam. The lower right shows the construction type of the dam. The JWA has cards for 47 such dams. There are even AR cards which require a special app. I suppose in the United States, these are analogous to the National Park Passports that people like to have stamped or state quarters.
But the picture below is not of one of these dam cards – it’s of a card from the new Game Market release FNAWIP! Let’s come back to the game in a minute though. We need one other piece of background.
Earlier this year, the Game Market organization announced the “Game Market Challenge” which encouraged designers to create games that fit a specific criteria, and they would be exhibited in a special place. They noted that participation wouldn’t make you more eligible for the Arclight Award, and non-participation would not be penalized. The goal, they explained, is to provide some direction to new attendees, and help designers’ efforts not be overlooked and as quickly forgotten. They also noted that it’s fun to see how different designers approach the same design limitations (personally, they have me there – it’s what I love about trick-taking games or why I have a Spotify playlist, “CimBB” for different recordings of Part’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten).
The challenge this time is a card game which can be explained in 5 minutes or less and played within 15 minutes or less; it cannot be cooperative. (I can’t find it in the official notes right now, but I think there is also a card count limit in the 20s or 30s.)
So! Back to FNAWIP, it is being release as part of the challenge! I can’t yet tell any of the mechanics, but I would guess a Topp Trumps type comparison of the facts of your dam cards.
Escape Route (Booth: フ05, Both)
Designer: Kenta murayama
Rand: Perhaps my favorite entry I’ve seen to the Game Market Challenge (and I’m sure there are even more marvelous games I have no idea about) is this particularly East Asian speed game based on 阿弥陀籤 (Amida lottery) tickets. The lottery tickets have legs at the top, an obscured middle portion, then legs at the bottom. Each person in the lottery would choose a leg at the top and, through a series of horizontal ladder-looking lines, trace down to a bottom result. Check out the link above to learn more. It made no sense to me until I saw it.
In this game, however, the lottery ticket is broken into four cards which are all flipped and displayed simultaneously. Then players try to find the most lucrative path as fast as possible, snagging the starting leg when they think they have the best result, kind of like choosing your “dice” in Zapp Zerapp. Here’s a video of how it works in practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4m8yxwRxWw
Romance (Booth: ツ20, Saturday)
James Nathan: There are a number of odd translations that Google or DeepL spit out when trying to translate board game rules – like “mountain” for “deck”, but for one such word, it’s a game mechanic we don’t have a word for. Heck, when boardgamegeek dot com and Geoff Engelstein reworked the site’s mechanics a few years ago, it wasn’t enumerated – but is present enough in Japanese releases that there’s a single word for it: “batting”. It was popularized with the 1988 game Hol’s der Geier (also commonly known as Raj.) The mechanic is essentially: if two or more people play a card with the same number, they cancel and none of those players get anything.
Romance is an anti-batting game. You and exactly one other player want to establish a splendid romance through choosing the same mixtape. Visually the game gets me, and I love this sort of anti-batting mechanic – it sort of appears in Natsumemo or even Stella. There’s a sort of sweet high in matching with exactly one other player.
Rand: I’m sold on this just because of the nostalgia of swapping mixtapes as a kid and realizing that – hey! – we chose the same song! It’s also fun for me to see James Nathan’s end-of-year music lists and see what we match up on.
ベイコロッセオ (Bay Colosseum) (Booth: エ33, Both)
James Nathan: One of at least two sumo-wrestling themed game being released (both are unsurprisingly dexterity games), Bay Colosseum is a spinning top game! It plays 3 to 7 players and includes a variety of…wrestlers? Tops? with interchangeable shafts, depending upon what you think the best strategy is for each match. Details are pretty light on this one.
Rand: I’m imagining Beyblade but with a bit more rules dressing added and a much lower production quality. Regarding that second bit, that’s kind of why I enjoy games from Game Market: they feel more like projects than products.
Only One Collection (Booth: テ01, Saturday)
Designer: Muneyuki Yokouchi
Publisher: Ayatsurare Ningyoukan
James Nathan: Muneyuki is one of my auto-buy designers on the strength of things like Cat in the Box, Age of Assassins, and 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations/Yokai Septet. If you’re not headed to Game Market, don’t tune out on this one yet, as Ninja Star games has a US pre-order for this one and it comes with an EN rulebook.
Rand: Cue me looking in my email to confirm that I have pre-ordered this. Yes, I have. And have nearly repeated the order several times, such is my anticipation. Ok, sorry for interrupting…
James Nathan: Mechanically, it sounds similar to an -oretto type game where there are a number of lots available in the center of the table and on your turn you are either adding an item to one of the lots or taking a lot and retiring from the round. The lots also have a Circus Flohcati type element where something adverse will happen if the second of a type is aded to a lot – but rather than a single row like that Knizia game, it has lots equal to play count, like the -oretto Schacht games.
Nyaice! CODE (Booth: フ03, Both)
Publisher: DICE CODE
James Nathan: Nyaice! CODE is a programming game where the actions the players will program are limited by the dice results they get. You want to be the player to first get the fish back to your home. The dice are mostly what you would expect – move diagonal one space, pick up the fish from an adjacent space, jump over a tire, move as far as you can in a straightline, etc. It is not a Ricochet Robots situation where all players are simultaneously solving the same die roll, but the full gameplay details are not yet clear to me.
OPEN (Booth: エ35, Both)
Designer: Takashi Saito
Rand: This looks to be another contender in the Game Market 32-card challenge, though coming it with a mere 26 cards! OPEN is a shedding game where you try to guess who will finish their hand first each round. How would you possibly know who would go out if you only know your own hand of six cards? Well, four of your cards are face up on the table for everyone to see. And the same is true for your opponent’s hands, so you’ll always have at least ⅔ of knowledge of the cards in play…except for the cards out of play. The card play is similar to trick taking where you must follow suit and the high card wins. Players score based on how they do in their card play and in the divination of the winner.
Also, check. out. this. Cover! Wowzers!
James Nathan: I had a chance to play one hand of this with the designer at a Japon Brand event the day before Game Market and it is quite clever. The trick-taking is of the climbing fashion – so the trick continues around until all players have passed – but it has a few wrinkles from this usual setup, as players who pass can get back in, and even the player who played the highest has a chance to play again! The card distribution of ranks and suits, and the “Potato Man” of the low card beating the highest card when both are present, are also quite well done. It gives an equal bucket of points to going out first as to predicting accurately (though you share the prediction spoils if more than one player is accurate), which makes for interesting incentives.
KTDA (Booth: A03, Both)
James Nathan: There are a number of interesting games at the KTDA booth, and for one reservation they’ve already e-mailed a soundtrack for the game. (Rand: I wonder if any of their songs matched up with your mixtape…) KTDA is the Korea Tabletop game Designer Association – a group I must admit I don’t know much about and have not been able to find too much on. It occupies one of the larger A booths and is presenting quite a few different games with wildly different play, art, and production styles from 13(!) different design groups – it almost feels like a mini-TGM-within-TGM, and different designers have different reservation forms. The one which most catches my eye is Dieson Crusoe, below; a solo dice rondel game from Han Jin-hee and Gang Hee-wan.
Rand: The KTDA game that caught my eye is Nazca, designed by Olin Jeong, which comes in an Oink-sized box with a dry erase card and a frame that gets covered with tiles. One player draws an object on the card, which then gets covered up. Slowly, bits of the drawing are revealed and the others try to guess what the object is.
Room Share (Booth: サ08, Both)
Designer: Mr Kou
Rand: As a resident of Boston, I am well acquainted with apartment sharing – or stuffing. For a while, apartment overpopulation got so bad that the mayor’s office got involved and began punishing landlords who rented illegal rooms or rented to too many people at once. For the first eight years living in the city, I was one of four – and sometimes five or six, depending on who may have been staying over – people in a not-so-big apartment.
In this game, it’s not the landlords causing the trouble, but the players who act as the room sharing intermediaries, making deals with their clients to fit them to apartments that might match their preferences. The cards in your hand determine where a new tenant might go, and if that room has more than three people in it after your turn, the landlord busts up the room and everyone must leave to adjacent rooms. This may set up interesting chains of effects as one tenant may have to move several times before landing in a room they can live in. Then you finally score by the happiness of your clients with their room sharing situation at the end of the game.
The same publisher has this Kafka-esque microgame, Semi-final – You are still alive, about becoming a cicada. As your personality is gradually taken over by the cicada side of yourself, you compete with other cicadas to make the most noise…but not too much. If you’re too loud, you get eaten by crows. The game even includes a short story about the experience you’re playing.
Mikey Wonder Land (Booth: テ11, Both)
James Nathan: Here are the card fronts from Xaquinel’s Mikey Wonder Land – a cooperative (fully or semi?) card game about making mascot appearances in different areas of a theme park. However, if a character appears in more than one area at the same time, the illusion that the characters are real is broken and the childrens’ dreams are crushed. Each round you use more cards and it will be more difficult to achieve.
Tri*T*Area (Booth: ノ09, Both)
Designer: Masaru Ikeda
Publisher: iop Games
James Nathan: It will surprise no one that there are a few trick-takers on my list. Depending upon how you count, and even excluding climbing games, my list is at 16 to 24. That 16 count is the number I would usually use – and it’s down from the 25 or so which we’ve seen at each Game Market for the last few years. I’ll talk about a few more below, but this is the one I’m most eager to try.
In this may-follow game, you are aiming to have the most pieces in each area and the highest piece on each stack. The highest and lowest card played to a trick will place blocks (and based upon the coloring, I’m assuming you can only play in the part of the board whose color matches your card, but there are also rules about playing adjacent to where you are which I think can skirt this restriction.)
May follow games get a bad rap, but strongly rewarding the lowest card is usually the piece which sets them on the right path.
Rand: I think this is the trick taking game I’m most looking forward to. I’ve enjoyed some previous iop Games projects and this seems like it will be a more raw and direct version of trick taking + area majority than I experienced with Brian Boru: High King of Ireland. The circle also sent out a message giving three options and asking which color combination of tiles I prefer upon pickup. Where else do you get that personal touch? Or an on-the-fly choice to respect color blindness or not?
Fantastic Tempostick (Booth: イ29 , Saturday)
Designer: ico jorda
Publisher: ico jorda
Rand: This game was released in limited quantities at an analog game festival prior to Game Market, and the release at Game Market is limited to 40 copies with all proceeds benefiting charity. This is another example of what James Nathan mentioned about Eco Crazy from Manifest Destiny above: creators enjoy creating. The gist is that players act as competing drum majors trying to keep tempo for their marching bands. The thing that calls out to me, though, is the use of black and white clothespins as the tempo-keeping tool. There seems to be some dice drafting + manipulation and a bit of card play, too.
Conclusion (Booth: イ-37, Saturday)
James Nathan: There was a curious convention in early September just south of Tokyo at a hotel. You can read a recap of the event here, but the hotel offered free booth space to exhibitors and quite a few non-gamers who happened to be staying in the hotel stopped by to see what it was all about. As has become the trend in recent years, these smaller events are allowing for soft releases of TGM titles and between sales on booth dot pm and these events, the release schedule in Japan is not tied to TGM the way it had been.
Two trick-taking games were released there Tritaratops and Conclusion. Conclusion is a 3P only take on Parlett’s Collusion, a 4P only game where the goal is to win the same number of tricks as exactly one other player (or have the other three players match and be the sole non-matcher.)
Conclusion adds a bidding element and there are some base points to be gained from winning tricks and hitting your bid, but the bulk of the points will come from the Collusion aspect. While Conclusion is three human players only, the undealt cards will form a fourth hand which will be controlled by the player who wins the first three tricks.
Shokkaku Games (Booth: ウ06, Both)
Shokkaku is most well known to me for making games which aim to be inclusive for people with visual impairements, leaning heavily on tactile games. In what is quite a bit removed from that they’re releasing a series of bookmark games. We’ve had games where you need to supply a book to then play a game and games which are books and have bookmark shaped note taking…bookmarks, but this is something different. You use the bookmark as you’re going about your normal reading, but it has you playing games involving what words/letters will lead off the next page, etc. These seem like they’ll probably lean heavily into the structure of Japanese, not just written in Japanese, and be non-translateable.
TAPLE (Booth: ケ04, both)
Publisher: Accent Circonflexe
James Nathan: I don’t think there’s much I need to say about TAPLE. I’ll let the publisher’s video below, of this velcro-based dexterity game speak for itself.
Rand: Again, this minimal use of components in innovative ways is striking my fancy. There’s a bit of Hau La DNA to this one, and I like the touch of kineticism added.
Bungu Games (Booth: ケ24, both)
James Nathan: I talked last time about Bungu Games; it was a new publisher which would collaborate with other designers and publishing circles to make games using stationary supplies. This time they’ve announced 4 new projects that I’ve found so far and they all look like bangers! Here is one from Mashiu Games, a roll and write type game where you roll a two-pointed pencil across the table and get to mark in the area the point lands above (and one adjacent area.) How cool is that! They don’t take reservations, so this will probably be my first stop.
PITA! KAKKUN (Booth: A51, Both)
Publisher: Geo Games
James Nathan: While I’m talking about collaboration booths, let’s talk about the Geo Games and Nanawari collaborations. I’m a big fan of Nanawari’s games, such as Madrino – and they’ll be releasing Madrino 2 this weekend, adding a second floor and team play! They also have a series of educational games. One is around guessing which cards have the same area in enclosed colorful shapes One is around having all cards if your hand divisible by the same number – but also needing to match a mystery meat flip. One is a structural engineering building game – whose tower will be able to hold up this lantern?
But the one that most catches my eyes is estimating the angles of things – with googly-eyed triangles! Roughly, I think you can see other players’ hands of triangles, and if you can ever place a triangle so that it fill the 360° around a vertex, that’s good for you!
Definition of a Chameleon (Booth: ヌ05, both)
Publisher: Fuel Economy Games
James Nathan: Two of the titles I’m not excited for are from a publisher and designer I wasn’t previously familiar with and are likely to come in a paper sack, Definition of a Chameleon and Alice and the Three Keys. Both are games played with a standard deck of cards and minimal components provided by the publisher. Definition of a Chameleon borrows from a game like OWACON/Code of Nine, as players are doing some sort of set collecting, but with limited and asymmetric knowledge of what they are collecting. Alice and the Three Keys is some sort of cooperative path building game on a grid of numbers.
(I’ll note the publisher has a third game also being released – a dexterity game about vomiting which has you pouring things out of a cup!)
Rand: Maybe you could pair the vomiting game with the beta version of Chopstick Master, on reservation with Escape Route from Kenchanne, where players seem to try to fill their stomach as fast as they can by grabbing cubes with chopsticks and stacking them on their stomach card. From a video of play, it looked like there was a way for opponents to steal from your stack, which paints a wild mental picture.
Nukumi Onsen Pioneer (Booth: テ17, Saturday)
Publisher: Kudousan no Game
James Nathan: This is the fourth title or so in the Nukumi Onsen series (including expansions) and another game which has been released in the weeks leading up to TGM. I don’t have any personal experience with this series, but it is well regarded. Nukumi Onsen Pioneer is a bag-building game in the vein or Orleans, where you’ll pull a certain number of chits out of a bag and use them to execute actions on your personal board and interact with a central board.
James Nathan: Lastly, a few games which I’m not going to go into the details of, but I wanted to share some of the titles being released which have more exotic components. In order, the hand-colored Zinnia Flora from Northgame (テ20, Saturday) – for which I think there are 10 copies, costing north of $300, and can be reserved through a lottery; some of the pieces for Miyaken’s Gofunkofun (コ01, both) – a game about creating burial mounds; ruriruri’s new Ｂｉｇ Ｗｏｎｄｅｒ Ｍｏｕｎｔａｉｎ(ア07, Saturday) – where you’re doing an escape room type “raise this object with sticks” puzzles; and lastly, Tabletop Planet Tricosahedron from Opetros No Lab (ト19, Saturday)
James Nathan: There are many distinctly Japanese games being released – such as one about business card culture where you need to discreetly retrieve a business card you gave someone because it turns out it had outdated information on it. There are reprints I had not expected to see, such as Ultriten – or more nichely, the same designer’s trick-taking game about an American Idol type singing competition. A game about fighting over inheritance designed by an inheritance law attorney. A new big box train game from Okazu Brand. And the second trick-taking game to come out based on the 1940’s short story “Run, Melos!” in the last three years, this time from Kazunari Yonemitsu, the designer of Puyo Puyo and BEST ACT.
My tracking sheet has 6 titles I was hoping for that are delayed, and I want to leave you with one which just launched on Kickstarter, Yabuchi Ryoko’s Fashion Game. Which uses transparent clothing outline overlays on top of a series of patterns as you make outfits for a spy or for going to see a horror movie.
I’m so excited to be there in person in a few hours and finally see what it’s all about. 💛
Rand: The bit of this show I am most looking forward to is the flipside when all the Game Market 32-card challenge entrants are a bit more well-known and we can see what kind of creativity has been bred this year.
I’m fortunate to have the freedom to choose a few games to showcase at PAX Unplugged in December. As James Nathan has mentioned a few times, the upfront research into the Game Market releases is useful only to a point. There is always something announced in the last week or in the last days or even at the Game Market itself! At this point, my reservations for PAX Unplugged are in and I’m just living vicariously through James Nathan (and the typical firehose of tweets on my feed).