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Kobe Game Market 2017 Report from Table Games in the World

To follow up the translation of Nicobodo's report on the 2017 Kobe Game Market, Saigo — who frequently translates game rules from Japanese to English and who tweets a lot about new JP games — has translated several reports from Takuya Ono, who runs the excellent Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has also given permission to reprint the photos from his posts, and I've linked to each post in the section title. My great thanks to Saigo for the effort involved in getting permission and translating these reports! —WEM

Kobe Game Market 2017 Report (original post in Japanese)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The event took place in the same venue (Building No. 3) as in 2016;
the booth layout was not narrow, but it was quite congested in many areas

On Sunday, March 12, 2017, Kobe Game Market 2017 took place at Kobe International Exhibition Hall (Chuo Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture). This was the sixth Game Market in the Kansai region and the second Game Market after the event moved from Osaka to Kobe. The 198 groups of participants — including board game publishers, board game stores, and doujin game circles — sold and displayed doujin board games (including 84 new titles), imported games, used games, books, and other board-game-related items; the attendance was later announced at 4,700 people.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

A line of people waiting under the Port Liner railway viaduct before the opening,
with a passion for board games to beat the cold!

Over one thousand people waited in line before the opening for the limited number of items sold at the event. This year's Kobe Game Market was held approximately one month later than in 2016, with the weather showing some signs of spring. Still, it was below 10º Celsius in the morning. When the venue opened at 10:00 a.m., many people rushed to board game stores DDT and Trickplay. Both of these stores sell unique games imported through their original routes. Many attendees rush to imported games before doujin games. This may be a notable characteristic of the Game Market in the Kansai region.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Chim, the store manager of BOARDGAME.Lab!DDT, cosplaying as a phantom thief;
DDT's feature item is Gangsi, which is a Chinese-themed reimplementation of Fluch der Mumie (Pyramid)

On the other hand, doujin games are gathering attention as well. Many booths were constantly crowded until late afternoon with many games becoming sold out. With people crowding in front of booths, it's become vital to plan in advance to visit some booths. Otherwise, it would be difficult to simply wander around and casually seek games that may interest you.

Still, with fewer participants compared to Tokyo Game Market, I had relatively ample time to have a look at the games. The venue was open for seven hours, the same as at Tokyo Game Market — but compared to TGM in late 2016 in which 539 groups participated, I could, at a rough estimate, spend more than twice the time at each booth. I heard both participants and attendees saying, "This is just the right size." At the venue, I tried out quite a few games, nine titles in total. I hope to report about them separately.

At TGM in late 2016, Oink Games set up a large booth like those seen at the SPIEL game fair in Essen, Germany. They recently established a German branch — Oink Games GmbH — to spread their games farther in Europe. I heard that the female German staff member who helped the Oink Games booth at SPIEL will be the branch manager to market their games. I was also told that Oink Games is considering participation next year in fairs like Gen Con (USA) and the Cannes International Games Festival (France). Such activities would open up a new field for Japanese board games, which so far have been introduced overseas through license contracts with overseas publishers.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Oink Games released Startups at this Game Market;
their recent release The Pyramid's Deadline is also getting off to a good start, already having sold 3,000 copies

At the venue, some news was also announced, such as that of the Osaka-based Kiwi Games board game store opening their second store in late April near Shin-Osaka Station and Kobe-based Group SNE planning to start publishing an analog game magazine, Game Mastery, in August. Let me also note that Toryo Hojo, a Kansai-based satirical game designer, released two new games, namely Oden no Shukusai (A Feel for Oden) and a free-distributed game Trump Wall.

As I did in 2016, in Kobe I attended a gathering on the previous day of the Game Market as well as a gathering held right after the Game Market. There, I met and talked with the people sharing the hobby, both local people of the Kansai region and people from distant regions, such as Kyushu. On both days, after the gatherings, I visited Trickplay where I had long talks until 11:00 p.m., some of which were recorded for the board game podcast "Buta no Nakigoe". With the attendance to the Game Market having increased by one thousand from last year, it's difficult to stay at "the right size". Meanwhile, it was still a cozy event with a feel of "knowing each other's face", a feel that we may be losing rapidly at Tokyo Game Market.


Kobe Game Market 2017: Attended by 4,700 People (original post)

Arclight, the organizer of Kobe Game Market 2017, held at Kobe International Exhibition Hall on March 12, 2017, announced that 4,700 people attended the event. From Kobe Game Market 2016 (with 3,700 attendees), attendance increased by 1,000 people, approximately 30%.

In 2017, the number of participants was 198 groups, five groups fewer than last year. (The second-round application was not launched so as to keep some space in the venue.) The number of new games released at this event was 84 titles, which is 17 titles more than last year. Along with them, many previously-released games, imported games, used games, accessories, and self-published books were displayed for sale.

Tokyo Game Market 2017 Spring will be held two months later in Sunday, May 14 at Tokyo Big Sight. The attendance at Tokyo Game Market has constantly increased by approximately 1,000 people at each event, having reached 12,000 attendees at Tokyo Game Market 2016 Autumn [in December]. It seems that the attendance in the Kansai region is increasing at the same pace.


Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Mask of Moai, Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator, Garimpeiro (original post)

At a Game Market venue, I try to play as many games as possible without spending too much time on buying games or talking. It's partly for gathering information for the Game Market Award and personally due to the fact that buying the games tends to result in leaving them unplayed while many other new games are released almost daily these days. Furthermore, after hearing a request from overseas asking for information on new games, this time I played games at the venue more actively. Most of the booths have only one demo table, so you often wait until the previous group is over. On the other hand, it was a lot of fun to play the games with the playful gamers of Kansai. I'd like to thank the staff who explained the rules and the people who played the games with me.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Mask of Moai (Publisher: GIFT10INDUSTRY)

Following Mask of Anubis, Mask of Moai also uses the smartphone for a cooperative game incorporating virtual reality (VR). First, attach a smartphone with the supplied application installed into the paper VR goggles. Then describe what you see to your team members, who try to create a map of a temple by arranging tiles and pieces based on your information. The goggle-wearing player's position in the temple changes each time the players change their turn. Combine the information from each player to create a large map.

Certified by Mu, a magazine about paranormal phenomena, the game is set in a unique world with a moai statue at the bottom of the sea. Using clay to create the shape of extraterrestrial strange creatures named Rapa Rapas, the players win by helping the Rapa Rapas reach the landing place of their spaceship.

The map and the shape of Rapa Rapas are automatically generated at each game with approximately one million variations. Exploring the fun factors of a board game, there is also a variant with additional puzzle elements along with communication restrictions using yes-no questions and onomatopoeia.

First, describe the landscape above the water, then dive into the water and describe what you see inside the submarine temple. Your communication skills are challenged by a time limit. Furthermore, if you encounter a Rapa Rapa, remember its shape so as to reproduce it with clay after removing the goggles. Getting totally absorbed in the game made me feel somewhat like wandering into the submarine temple.

Mask of Moai
Designer: Takashi Hamada
Artist: Haruka Kajikawa, Toshi Murase, Masashi Sato
2-6 Players / 10+ / 30-60 Min / 4,600¥


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator (Publisher: COLON ARC)

This voyage card game is a remake of Koukai no Hibi (Days of Voyage), which was released by Jiyu Rakka as a 500-yen game at Tokyo Game Market 2012 Spring. It's a light game from COLON ARC, following To Unlimited, and Beyond and Sly Knight Robbery.

The players hold their crew chips in their hands and disclose them at once. After that, flip the current event card and pay or receive chips in order from the first place. Mostly, being first is advantageous with less payment, but it may occasionally lead to a loss depending on the event, thus making you wonder how much you should hold in your hand.

You keep flipping the event cards until the "Touching Land" card is flipped. This provides some ideas to assess the cards that haven't been flipped with some elements of counting. The game ends when the crew chips of one of the players are used up, and the player with the most crew chips wins.

There is also an additional set of rules to use special event cards with drastic effects for a more dynamic game. The variety of events, some of which imposing a penalty for holding too few crew chips, also led to lively conversation, like "That card would come out soon", "No, no, it's still early".

Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator
Designer & Artist: Yusuke Soraji
Publisher: COLON ARC
2-6 Players / 8+ / 15 min / 1,800¥


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Garimpeiro (Publisher: Group SNE)

In this board game, the players compete in gold mining at the Amazon river. A game which received an honorable mention at the first Group SNE Board/Card Game Contest was developed into this game. With this, all the games which won prizes at the said contest have been made into products: two games which won the awards, namely Space Ninja and Gambler × Gamble!, and three games which received the honorable mention, namely Animal Mind, Demon Worker, and Garimpeiro.

In this game, the players first put out planning cards all at once, disclose their cards one by one in order, then replenish their hand with money or workers along with raising their workers' status. Since you cannot choose the same item as the player before you, select your planning card while considering what other players are likely to play.

After replenishing your hand, place workers in descending order of their status and take action. To perform an action already chosen by another player, more workers are required.

While various actions, such as buying victory point cards to gain special abilities and carrying over your money to the next year, are available, the main action lies in what to do with the gold mine. In this phase, you draw special dice from the bag according to the number of workers you've placed and roll these dice. You gain points according to the number of gold nuggets on the dice roll. The special dice vary in probability, ranging from the white die to get gold with a one-sixth chance to the purple die to get gold with a half chance. It was exciting to both draw and roll such dice.

In the long run, you cannot win by the simple gambling of sending more workers to the gold mine. The special abilities of the victory point cards also become increasingly effective. This is a gamer's game designed precisely down to details.

Designer: Kazuto Masukawa
Artist: Kouji Ogata
Publisher: cosaic
3-4 Players / 12+ / 45-60 min / 4,500¥


Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Wild Gold, Putzroboter, Across the Universe (original post)

Here is my second report of the games that I played at Kobe Game Market 2017 on March 12.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Wild Gold (Publisher: 6jizo [Rokujizo])

In this card game, the players create tools from cards and use them to dig a gold mine. It's the first time for this circle to participate in a Game Market. The name of the circle 6jizo (Rokujizo) comes from Rokujizo Station in Kyoto. This game was quickly sold out at the venue and its reissue is to be waited.

At the start, each player has a "small axe" made of one stone card and one wood card. Using the small axe, you can draw one card from the play area. In the play area, there are item cards — wood, stone, iron, and fire — and treasure cards. As you collect item cards in your hand, you can assemble various tools, such as a "big axe", "small pickaxe", "spear", and "wood bomb".

I found it interesting to assemble each tool by placing the item cards in the shape of the tool. By this rule, it's easily recognizable what you can do in your turn. With the "small axe", you can draw one card from the play area. With the "big axe", you can draw two cards. With the "small pickaxe", you can choose and take one card from the discard pile. With the "spear", you can draw one card from another player's hand and snatch it if it's a treasure card. With the powerful "wood bomb", you can choose to draw four cards from the play area or draw one card from each player's hand and snatch the cards if they're treasure cards. The tools' effects vary, but their easily recognizable shapes were helpful to play the game.

Initially, I thought it would be advantageous for the start player to make more tools than others, but such an advantage is nullified by the rule to "check the upper limit". According to this rule, the active player can have only up to seven items in total of the cards in their hand and their tools. Because of this, the player may have to discard some tools or treasure cards in their hand. You can win the moment you gain 10 points through treasure cards, but because of the upper limit, we often encountered cases where you stop at 9 points and have your cards snatched from other players before your next turn, resulting in a seesaw battle.

I managed to win narrowly by making two "swords", each of which allows you to announce a type of card in another player's hand and snatch it if it's there; I snatched gold (2 points) cards from other players. It's a game with depth in which you need to change your tools flexibly according to the situation.

Wild Gold
Designer: Narasen
Artist: Junta Kamura
Publisher: 6jizo (Rokujizo)
3-4 players / +8 / 30 min


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Putzroboter (Publisher: Butagoya)

In this game, you slide the robot vacuum cleaner "Putzroboter" to collect only the paper clips of your color. It was designed by Mr. Otsubo, a.k.a. "Attack". Mr. Otsubo is the manager of B-CAFE, a board game cafe in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture. Putzroboter's robotic movement is fun.

First, spread all the players' paper clips, then launch Putzroboter from a distance. Putzroboter is a simple structure made of a bowl covering a magnet ball. If you launch it while spinning, it makes a sharp turn. Then remove the paper clips that are pulled to Putzroboter by the magnetic force. The first player to have Putzroboter remove all the paper clips of their color wins.

Since the paper clips of all the players are mixed, it's difficult to remove only the clips of your color, as in Bellz! Along with the luck factor, this game would also require dexterity skills, especially near the end, when only a few paper clips remain, to move Putzroboter to the clips of your color.

Designer & Artist: Attack
Publisher: Butagoya
2-4 players / +6 / 10 min


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Across the Universe (Publisher: Spieldisorder)

This game was made as a homage to the British musician David Bowie, who died in 2016. In the first new game from Spieldisorder in two years (its prototype was demoed at Game Markets in 2016), the players collect stars through bidding and link them to help "the man who fell to Earth" return to his home planet.

In each round, the star cards are placed in a row of four seasons. The players plot their cards face down to bid on each of the star cards in spring, summer, fall, and winter. After all the players have placed their cards, they bid four times, starting with the star card in spring.

The player who bid by the card of the highest number receives the star card (with points) in each season and discards the card played. Meanwhile, other players, in turn, choose what to do with their card played, from among the following actions:

(1) Carry it over to the next bidding,
(2) Return it to their hand, or
(3) Add it to the card pool in front of them.

If you carry over your played card to the next bidding, you can add its value to the next card you play for bidding.

Adding the played card to your card pool is an important action in this game because at the end of the game you can score only up to the total points of the cards in your pool. If the total points of the star cards you've gained through bidding is higher than that of the cards in your pool, you must discard the star cards until their total points fall below that of the cards in your pool. Furthermore, the number of cards in your hand is less than the number of auctions, so you're required to lose some biddings, to add some cards to your pool, and to return some cards to your hand. It's very tactical to carry out this adjustment along with simultaneous bidding.

The star cards also have various marks on them as bonus set-collection and majority points. It's interesting also to take such factors into consideration when you assess the value to bid for the star cards.

Across the Universe
Designer: hi-life
Publisher: Spieldisorder
3-4 players / +10 / 38 min


Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Long Long Line in HELL, Kikka-Sai, Startups (original post)

Here is my third report of the games that I played at Kobe Game Market 2017 on March 12.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Long Long Line in HELL (Publisher: March Hare Games)

In Long Long Line in HELL, ogres queue at supply stations for beautiful gems. It's another dice game from March Hare Games following the fishing-themed dice game Lord of the Die-Angler (2016).

First, each player rolls their 15 ogre dice. There are big and small ogre dice. At the start, you can only use big ogre dice. Small ogre dice are placed on each player's sleep card. To use them, you need to wake them up by rolling big ogre dice.

In your turn, as in Las Vegas, roll your dice and place all dice of one number on one of the three supply stations. Each supply station has a capacity, and when it becomes full, gems are distributed in ascending order of the rank of players who placed dice on it. The ranking is determined according to the number, size, and roll results of each player's dice placed on the supply station. There are not many big ogre dice, so you need to promptly wake up small ogre dice as reinforcements.

You can wake up small ogre dice only by rolling one big ogre die and achieving the dice roll matching that of some small ogre dice. You can re-roll the die, but one big ogre die is consumed for that, too. Used big ogre dice rest for one turn, after which they can be used again.

When a supply station is nearly full, you can choose in your turn whether to place a die in order to rise in the ranking, or instead increase the number of your dice so as to gamble more on your next turn. Even if you choose to increase the number of your dice, your dice rolls are still uncertain, leading to dramatic outcomes.

The game ends when two of the supply stations become full. Calculate your score according to the gems you've collected. You can score more by collecting the same type of gems. Thus, the players collect the gems tactically, like "I don't need this very much, but I can't allow that player to take this." With the dice rolls' unpredictability and careful calculation for the area control, this game is rich in variety.

Long Long Line in HELL
Designer: Satoru Nakamura
Artist: Mamiko Taguchi
Publisher: March Hare Games
3-4 players / 12+ /30-40 min


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Kikka-Sai (Shinojo)

Kikka-Sai is a two-player game in which you try to meld three chrysanthemum dice to win at a chrysanthemum show. It's the latest game by Shinojo, which has published simplified mahjong card games ALL GREEN and Yaochu! This game, also called "a two-player dice mahjong game", has a flavor of mahjong, but it's a quite distinctive game along with the theme of a chrysanthemum show. At the Game Market venue, its demo booth was constantly busy with people such as couples and pairs of female visitors playing the game.

There are three types of chrysanthemum dice, namely white, yellow, and orange. You're required to collect three dice, a sequence or triplet, of the same color or all different colors. The game starts with each player drawing two dice from the bag and rolling them behind their screen.

On your turn, draw a die from the bag and choose to swap it with one of the dice behind your screen, discard it, or add it to your two other dice to win a hand (tsumo). You can also win by claiming a discard (ron). After one of the players wins, calculate the score. There is a predetermined dice roll in trend (dora). If you win by its matching color or value, you gain an additional score.

According to your score, your opponent's "point die" value (starting with 6) is reduced. If it falls down to 0 or below, you win.

I played a game with Mr. Ikeda, the manager of the Foyer Pikkorino board game café in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. Right from the start, Mr. Ikeda melded chrysanthemum dice in trend to achieve a high score. Aiming for a come-from-behind victory, I tried to collect the dice roll in trend, but he melded again while I was still struggling. The scoring points varies depending on whether or not you have the dice roll in trend, leading to an enjoyable dynamic play.

Designer: Takahiro Shinozaki
Artist: Kotori Neiko
Publisher: Shinojo
2 players / 8+ / 15 min


From gallery of W Eric Martin

Startups (Publisher: Oink Games)

In this card game, the players invest in six companies to make profits as top shareholders. This reimplementation of Rights (2015), supporting more players along with a Knizia-esque dilemma and tasteful company logos, is quite intriguing.

On your turn, all you do is draw a card and play a card from your hand. Basically, you play cards in front of you. At the end of the game, the player who has played the highest number of cards of each company (i.e., invested in it) receives payment from other players who invested in the same company.

Naturally, you don't wish to play the cards with which you're unlikely to become the top shareholder. In this case, in Rights you pass such a card to the player to your left; in Startups, you place such a card in the play area ("market") in the center of the table. The next player can choose whether to take that card from the play area or draw a card from the draw pile. When drawing a card from the draw pile, the player must pay money and place it on the card in the play area. The player who takes the card in the play area also takes the money on it. If taking the card can make you a top shareholder, it's a timely offer, though it could be a trap.

Furthermore, the antimonopoly chips make the game even more exciting. These chips are initially given to the first player to take each company's card, then move to the current top shareholders during the game. Having these chips makes it difficult to take cards from the play area, thus preventing the current top shareholder from taking a strong lead. It might be wise to stay in second place and achieve a come-from-behind victory at the end, but can you really do that?

In the end, the players also reveal their hand, so you won't really know who'll eventually become the top shareholder. The top shareholder receives money from other shareholders according to the number of cards each shareholder invested in each company, and the player who has earned the most money wins. During the payment, each one money paid is flipped and becomes three money when received. Thus, it would be wise not to give up early and instead extend your investments for a chance.

At the demo table, I enjoyed an exciting game of five players in which the winner was unpredictable until the very end. Compared to Rights, which supports up to five players, Startups can be played with up to seven players. The gameplay would also vary according to the number of players.

Designer & Artist: Jun Sasaki
Publisher: Oink Games
3-7 players /10+ / 20 min
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