Tokyo Game Market taking place on June 1, 2014, let's take a look at the previous Game Market to see some of what was on offer at that show. My thanks to Jools for offering this report. —WEM
Japan's biggest gaming event, Game Market, takes place twice each year in Tokyo and once in Osaka. The March 2014 event took place in the Osaka Merchandise Mart. Independent game designers and producers come from all over Japan to sell their latest designs. Such notable games as Love Letter and Trains first made their appearances at this increasingly internationally famous event.
The roots of the Game Market as an indie games event lie in the small Comic Market events of the 1970s when anyone could bring along a small print run of their lovingly crafted comic for public sale. The Comic Markets are now so big that a half million people attend. Considering that Japan lacks a major crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter, you can see that it was only a matter of time until a board game equivalent was established among the otaku community.
Gamers queuing for hours before opening time to get the first pick of the season's games — a necessary evil as the indie game makers can usually afford only very small print runs.
After the doors open, huge lines quickly form for the most sought after games. The biggest line of the day was for Product Arts' Akindo and Birth.
Akindo is a beautifully produced game with minimalist graphic design and luscious real metal coins. Players make blind bids on cards available for auction each turn. Acquiring these cards allows you to win at game end through a set collection mechanism and also determine your odds of getting money via the dice roll at the start of each turn. What really sets this game apart and makes it worthwhile is the fascinating veto mechanism. If a majority of the players are unhappy with how the dice roller divvied up the dice, then the whole turn is vetoed and the role of the dice roller moves on. A really fun game.
Whilst technically a roll-and-move, Birth is really an abstract strategy game with an element of luck involved. You start the game by rolling all of your dice and one by one take turns placing them on the board. The numbers rolled determine how many spots beyond the previously placed die you can play on and also determine the points you can score at game end and whether or not you knock any other player's dice backwards or forwards. A little bit thinky but not too thinky. A fun game.
Fresh off of an appearance at Spiel 2013, Assaultous (by Takoashi Games) is probably best described as a cross between Settlers of Catan and Chess. As odd as that may sound, it's a combination that works. Your board pieces allow you to stake claim to new hexes which in turn increase your chances of getting resources in a Catan-esque fashion at the start of each turn. Choosing between stretching yourself thin to maximize resources or consolidating your forces in a defensive position can be a bit of brain bender. I think I actually enjoyed this more than Tash-Kalar.
Uzumaki Switche's Stamp Graffiti is a simple party game based around a novel concept. Players try to guess what you've drawn on a whiteboard after you've created an image made out of shapes displayed on the card that you played from your hand that turn.
As its international profile increases, the Game Market is starting to draw games from neighboring countries. Perhaps most interesting was Blood of the Werewolf by Taiwan's Homosapiens Lab. Something of a cross between The Resistance and Hanabi, it's a hidden role traitor game in which everyone can see your loyalty card except you! This one leads to some interesting discussions as you try to persuade people of their role.
This appeared to be a Magic: The Gathering type game with the concept of battling monsters replaced with battling biblical characters! If only the language barrier hadn't been a little too great for me. Copies from the show came with a free Jesus Christ promo!
A set-collection game with lovely game components that resembled a take-out burger. Not a great deal of depth to it; perhaps one for younger gamers.
It's a bit of a misconception that Japan's gaming scene is dominated by microgames. The indie games of the Game Market are very much dominated by microgames, though, what with their manufacturing cost being so low. This charming little game was all about rolling dice to see which pose players have to strike before their opponent.
Representatives of what must surely be Japan's oldest and biggest board gaming club. If you're a gamer in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto etc.), track them down at the BGG guild JIGG Kansai Game Club.
Masked gamers making a scene.
As has become a bit of a tradition, there was yet another promo sheet of cards for Lost Legacy — the kind-of, sort-of sequel to Love Letter — available at the show. This set looks particularly wacky.
Flakes of Ice, a solo game that sold out at the show.
More Taiwanese games from Homosapiens Lab.
The really cute Jenga-esque game Cat Tower.