W. Eric Martin
I'm headed to Tokyo Game Market in mid-May 2017, so I've been compiling a (short) TGM preview of titles to which (you and) I might want to pay attention. This preview has only a few dozen titles on it — just a smattering of what you can find on the Game Market website — but since I don't speak Japanese, I've tried to highlight titles that I might actually have a chance of playing. Here are a few of those games, with (I hope) more being added to the list over the next week:
• Tomoki Motohashi's z3r0d4y, a.k.a. Zero Day, from Takoashi Games is a one vs. many design in which the admin tries to beat the 1-3 hackers and the hackers (assuming there's more than one) try to defeat one another while also besting the admin. In more detail:
In z3r0d4y, the admin aims to fix vulnerabilities in a computer system before hackers steal too much information.
The admin wins by acquiring a certain number of progress tokens based on the number of players, and to make progress, the admin must perform "operations" multiple times successfully while avoiding interference from hackers. To do so, the admin will rely on timing and must secure sufficient credits.
Each hacker wants to steal information before others can do so (and before the admin fixes the vulnerability, of course), and once a hacker steals a certain amount of information tokens, they win the game immediately. To do this, they need to gather information, interfere with the admin's operation, and install virus proxies.
• Path to Yaaru is the latest from Fukutarou, designer of Wolf & Hound, Familiar's Trouble, and Festival of Thousand Cats, through the publishing circle Fukuroudou. Here's a short description of the game from the designer:
Path to Yaaru refers to the Egyptian heavenly paradise of the Fields Of Aaru.
This is a card-drafting game set in Ancient Egypt in which you head to Yaaru, the promised land, with help from the Egyptian gods. The card-drafting system has a twist in that you may not freely pick any card. Hence, while advanced players may plan deeply beforehand to control the later stages of the game, beginners may simply focus on the current state and pick from the smaller choices. Who would be the first to Yaaru, passing the obstacles alongside the path?
With cute illustrations, the game should appeal to a broader audience. The game is published in Japanese, with English rules available online.
• Spirit of Totem is a card game from Junction+ that debuted at Tokyo Game Market in May 2016 and will be present again in May 2017, with this card game being available with either full-sized (88mm x 63mm) cards or half-sized (63mm x 44mm) cards. That option isn't something you see every day — although Blue Cocker Games had a quarter-sized(!) version of its new card game ARGH at FIS in Cannes — but it's something that can happen more easily in Japan, I suppose, given the possibilities of short-run publishing that the prevalence of name cards makes possible.
As for the gameplay, here's a summarization of the English rules:
In トーテムのこころ (Spirit of Totem), players attempt to create a totem pole from cards before anyone else. Most cards depict one or three color-coded spirit icons at the top of the card, with the colors being repeated at the bottom of the card as well; a few cards picture a thunderbird, and these cards are used to top a totem or cast a spell.
Each player starts with two cards in hand, and on a turn first draws one card, then plays or discards one card. When they play a totem card, they can start a totem or add to a totem — but when adding to a totem at least one of the colored marks on the card being added must be placed in the same column as the card being covered, even if this means the card being placed doesn't line up exactly with the card below. If the top card shows red, yellow, blue, and you want to add a yellow, brown, blue, then you can line up the yellow marks or the blues, but not both.
When a player plays a thunderbird, they can cast one of the four spells in play, after which that spell is placed face down until all four spells have been cast, after which they're all revealed once again. The spells are "Wind blows left/right", "Zap", and "Gift". The caster of the wind spell chooses a height above the first level, then all cards at the level and above are shifted one column left or right, depending on the wind. If parts of a totem have no support, then those cards are discard. Zap removes the top card in a player's totem, and Gift requires each player to pass one card in hand left and the other right.
As soon as a totem consists of at least four cards and the top card is centered with the bottom card (regardless of the positioning of the intervening cards), the player can top the totem with a thunderbird card to win the game. If the player has an earth totem on top — that is, a card showing the same spirit icon in all three spots, then the totem doesn't need to be aligned to be topped with a thunderbird.
トーテムのこころ also includes rules for solo play, with the player needing to build totems of 7, 8, 9, and 10 cards without the use of spells in order to win.
• Korocchi! by conception's Shimpei Sato is one of those real-time pattern-recognition games that most everyone I play with hates, possibly because I'm usually good at them and leave others starting at their socks. Hmm, hope that doesn't sound too conceited. Something in my brain clicks for these designs, and I've played a lot of them, and as I've learned time and again, if you do anything long enough, you do get better at it. In any case, here's a description followed by a video showing the traditional "pause-pause-pause-pounce!" effect:
In Korocchi!, you try to find the correct card that is determined by two (or three) unique dice, and whoever touches the correct card first score points. Each of the two dice in the basic game has two pieces of information:
• Color die: Shows you the outside color and inside color.
• Shape die: Shows you the outside shape and the inside shape.
Three different creatures (cat, bat and obake) are depicted on the cards, with these creatures appearing in three colors. Each card depicts one large creature in one color holding a tiny creature in another color. By pairing the two dice, you know precisely which one card to touch from all those face up on the table.
For an additional challenge, you can roll the third die as well. The faces on this die might just show that you play as normal scoring one or two points, or it might show the shapes or colors being reversed — which means you need to look for the opposite card (sort of) instead.