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Let's Talk - Japanese Board Games

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14 Mar 2019 14:25 #293820 by ChristopherMD
I was just thinking about modern Japanese board games. My first experience with Japanese board games was importing Fairy Tale back in 2004 after reading about it in Essen posts. It is still on my forever shelf although I've since changed to a Z-Man edition that had expansion cards. Have also played Warriors of God once which I believe originated in Japan and I'm a fan of the solo game Coffee Roaster. I know quite a few games, and CCG's, have come out of Japan and yet feel like there is probably a lot more we never hear about because there is no Jay Tummelson getting English versions printed that I know of. Although deck-builders were popular for a while and we got a few with sexist anime artwork (not saying all anime is sexist just shit with giant-bosomed maids). What games from Japan have you played? Any games do you wish had English versions/releases? Any you think flew under the radar? Are there any mechanics or design principles they have that you wish would catch on more?

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14 Mar 2019 14:37 #293826 by ubarose
I love Japanese games. They are so quirky.

Wizkids is releasing Hako Onna this fall.

therewillbe.games/news-new-and-upcoming-...om-wizkids-this-fall

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14 Mar 2019 14:45 #293831 by Vysetron
There was a brief period, I think right around when Love Letter got hot, where there was a sudden burst of imports and localization. AEG is still kind of bringing them over, but they aren't promoting or supporting them beyond the release. Oink is the other major source at the moment and they're doing good work.

I love the design space that a lot of Japanese games explore. Their physical production is far less wasteful and the play space tends to be very focused. Fairy Tale is an incredibly hateful drafting game, Cheaty Mages is better Colossal Arena, Greedy Kingdoms is a fantastic resource management/yomi game for 2, Startups is the best game to pick up the No Thanks mechanism since No Thanks, etc. They tend to be about pushing a single mechanism to its limits and I enjoy that a lot.
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14 Mar 2019 14:57 #293833 by ChristopherMD
Can't believe I forgot about Love Letter. Another one that's sitting on my shelf too. Such a clean design that I'd never turn down even though I usually hate short "filler" type games.

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14 Mar 2019 15:09 #293835 by Jexik
My wife's favorite game is Tragedy Looper, it's pretty out there too. I think it's best with 2 and bogs down with more.
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14 Mar 2019 16:44 #293847 by Gregarius
I really love Sail to India, though few in my group agreed. It packed so much into so little, both time- and components-wise.

The Oink games can be very hit-or-miss, but both Deep Sea Adventure and The Insider have been huge hits with multiple groups.
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14 Mar 2019 17:05 #293848 by Vysetron

Jexik wrote: My wife's favorite game is Tragedy Looper, it's pretty out there too. I think it's best with 2 and bogs down with more.


We all owe Zev a debt of gratitude for bringing over games like TL. Absolutely mind shattering stuff. Zman published Code of Nine as well and I think it's great, even though only one other person I've ever played it with agrees. He's always had a good eye for foreign designs. Part of why I'm so excited for Hako Onna.

I didn't mention Kuro/Manifest Destiny earlier and I should have. They put out some really interesting stuff. Ars Alchimia is one of my favorite worker placement games. The amount of punch packed into that tiny box is really impressive.

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14 Mar 2019 17:14 #293849 by jeb
Can't believe we made it this far without talking about MAGICAL ATHELETE, which had the whole "Japanese board game" experience: odd spelling, cool art, weird game, tragic translations. It's insanely fun and unfair and no one cares because anyone who did had a stroke and died when Magician + Philosopher + Ghoul and a rolled 1 happens the first time.
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14 Mar 2019 18:10 #293857 by mezike
I really enjoy Magical Athlete although it feels like you will have two awfully dull exercises in repetitive dice rolling for every genuinely hilarious combination that you luck into.

We have a guy at our club who is mad keen on games from Asia so we see a lot of Japanese and Korean games in particular, and others besides. The quality is all over the freaking place but there have been a few gems. A couple of Oink games titles have gone down well, mainly Insider, Fake Artist and Deep Sea Adventure. I've also written a fair bit about Crime Hotel which I love, and Too Many Cinderellas is silly fun that I'm pleased I picked up a while back.

Let's Make A Bus Route is a recent one that has been popular at the club (but I've yet to play), as is Tokyo Highway. A few years back there was a fad for string games, some of which worked better than others, none of which have stayed around.

Mini Park is the game that I was struggling to remember the other day in Charlie's thread on Indie games, it's from a Chinese designer I believe. But just to prove that my memory is still terrible after all, there was another game that I only got to play a few times on one occasion about a regal divorce in a kingdom of anthropomorphic rabbits that was a good lark.

Fairy Tale is one of the classic early drafting games that was originally from Japan. Machi Koro is popular although not one that I personally care for.

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14 Mar 2019 18:12 #293858 by Vysetron
Oh man, Magical Athelete! What a wonderfully stupid game. I completely forgot about that one, probably because I don't own it. Maybe I should fix that.

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14 Mar 2019 19:14 #293862 by jeb
I also really enjoy TARGET ARNHEM: ACROSS 6 BRIDGES, a really solid small form factor hex-and-chit wargame set in Operation Market Garden. It's a great intro title for this kind of game, with impulse, supply, and different kinds of units, stacking, &c.

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15 Mar 2019 10:40 #293890 by Erik Twice
There are a good bunch of Japanese games I would like to play but that haven't been translated and probably won't. They have a different school of design there and their own hardcore games and classics. Here's hoping we see more and more of them.

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