W. Eric Martin
On the day before Tokyo Game Market, which took place May 14, 2017, I attended a preview event hosted by designer Shimpei Sato (Onitama, Eggs of Ostrich) where a number of Japanese and Taiwanese designers and publishers showed off their TGM titles in advance. Here are four of the games I saw and played at that event:
• Mark Gerrits' Mini Rails from Moaideas Game Design is a magically simple rail game for 3-5 players. At the start of each round, you draw colored discs equal to twice the number of players plus one from the bag, then in player order (as shown by the pawns on the player order track) players take one of two actions: buy a share or place a track. Whichever action you don't take the first time, you must take the second time. When you buy a share, its value is zero no matter activity has already taken place in that color. When you place a track, the value of all existing shares goes up or down $1-3 depending on the space covered, with all discs of a color being placed contiguously.
As you take discs, you determine player order for the next round. Whichever disc hasn't been taken drops down to the bottom row; that action represents the company paying its taxes, and now that color will score points for all shareholders at the end of the game, with the value for each player being determined by the location of that share disc on their player board.
The game has a few other details, but that's mostly it. With only twelve disc choices in the game, along with the placement of those discs on the board, every choice matters. I played horribly in my one game, not looking ahead to what might be placed where and setting myself up for failure. Moaideas will have a presence at SPIEL 2017 should you not be able to travel back in time to TGM.
• Crows Overkill from EmperorS4 is a new version of Roy Nambu's Sanzen Sekai: I'd kill all the crows in the world to be with you a little longer, which he originally self-published in 2015. The title is less flamboyant in the new edition, but the setting remains the same: You're visiting your sweetheart and want to stay as long as possible, but your lover is very sensitive and you know that as soon as the crows start crying out that you'll have to leave, so you resolve to kill as many of them as possible in order to stay longer. I would imagine that the feathers and blood all over your hands would be a bigger turnoff than the squawking, but hey, who am I to judge?
You start the game with three bird cards in front of you and two shamisen (action) cards in hand. On a turn, you gain three more bird cards — which might show 1-3 crows, roosters, owls, warblers, or bats (and no, bats aren't birds, but they're here as well) — and two more action cards, then you must take actions so that you have fewer crows in front of you than the current limit. Oh, and no owls. They hoot all the time, so you must scoot any owls along to another player. The bird deck contains a few gong cards as well, and each time a gong is rung, the hour advances, which lowers the acceptable bird count. Suddenly you can't have a pair of roosters in front of you, or even one warbler, so you must shoo them along to some other lover, being content to ruin their relationship to ensure your personal happiness.
• Sweet Honey, Bee Mine! is from Katsuya Kitano and New Board Game Party, creators of Who Soiled the Toilet? in 2016. This game combines bluffing, hand management, and your ability to be a jerk in one tidy package. In a round, each player starts with a hand of five cards, with the cards being similar to a Pairs deck (one 1, two 2s, up to ten 10s), but with some of the cards from 1-5 being labeled "low" and some from 6-10 being labeled "high"; if a card isn't labeled, then it can be anything from 1-10.
Each player reveals one card simultaneously, and whoever reveals the highest card starts. On a turn, the player choose one card from hand, places it face down with 1-3 honey chips on it, then draw a new card. The next player can either place the same number of chips on it to pass the card to the next player or take the card and chips; if the card matches a number the player already has, they are out of the round and must ante a number of chips equal to the card number to the pot. If no one takes the card, then whoever first played the card must take it, scoring lots of chips but killing themselves if they played a number they already had.
The round continues until a player has cards that sum to at least 35, they have three cards valued 1-5 in front of them, or they're the only one still in the round. That player wins the pot, then everyone scores points equal to the number of honey chips they have. After a certain number of rounds, whoever has the most points wins.
• Host Sato taught his new game Korocchi!, the description of which I wrote previously:
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.
The gameplay matches precisely what I thought it would be: ye olde game of rolling, staring, and pouncing. Sato's tie-breaker rule for when two players touch the right card at the same time is hilarious: Whoever yells "Korocchi!" louder wins. "Korocchi" combines the Japanese words for rolling (as in dice) and grabbing, so the yelling makes sense.
You can also use the cards to play a memory game by turning them face down. On a turn, a player reveals two cards and if both the outer colors and the inner colors match on the cards, then the player claims the cards and takes another turn. Whoever collects the most cards wins.