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Tokyo Game Market, Autumn 2017 — Report from Table Games in the World

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Editor's note: I missed out on Tokyo Game Market in December 2017, but Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English (hire him!) and who tweets about new JP games — has translated reports about the event from Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his posts, and I've linked to each post in the section title. Many thanks to Saigo for translating these reports! —WEM

Day 1 (original report in Japanese)

On December 2, the first day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market took place at Tokyo Big Sight. Game Market was initially launched in 2000, and the 34th Game Market has expanded to a two-day show for the first time because one-day events are no longer sufficient to serve the increasing number of participants and attendees by merely expanding the size of the venue. As a result of shifting to a two-day show, the number of participating exhibitors (when compared to the Autumn 2016 Game Market) increased by 35% to 730 groups, and the number of new games released at this event increased by 35% to 466 titles (provisional figure).

From gallery of W Eric Martin
From the entrance, Catan's red and Oink Game's blue colors look prominent

When the event opened at 10:00 a.m., the people who had been queuing since before 6:00 a.m. rushed in at once. The venue, which covers an area of 11,680 square meters, did not feel overcrowded, but people formed long queues in front of some booths to buy limited items and expansion sets of popular games. A reported four hundred people queued in front of the BakaFire Party booth to buy the latest expansion set for Sakura Arms. There was a line of almost two thousand people waiting before Game Market opened (according to Rael-san's report), so one in five people among them are estimated to have queued for Sakura Arms.

After the crowd rushed in at the opening, I walked around to visit each booth and check the newly-released games. The Game Market management office has gathered information on newly-released games through its questionnaire survey, but the information gathered so far is still not complete, which might affect choices in the Game Market Award selection, so I decided to visit each booth to view everything first-hand.

It took me almost all day until closing time, but eventually I managed to visit and check all the booths, except for some that left early. Quite a few people may have noticed me walking around with a laptop in one hand. It was a hard work, but it allowed me to talk with many people and also make some lucky finds, so I think it was worth it.

At this Game Market, I heard some people mention the presence of many overseas visitors and couples. Many of the people from overseas were apparently Chinese. I asked Game Market participants from China about this, and they said that such visitors probably included many people studying in Japan as well as board gamers who came all the way from China, Taiwan, etc. Many people from Western countries were also seen in the venue.

The attendance on the first day is estimated to be approximately 11,000 people. With some booths having sold out their stock for this day, I have high hopes also for the attendance on the second day.

I managed to try out two games this day.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In Laurel Crown, designed by Seiji Kanai, the players collect fighters through drafting and battle in tournaments. The fighter cards, whose ranks range from from C (lowest) to S (highest), each have a different ability. These fighter cards are lined up, and the players take them one by one.

Five tournaments then take place according to various regulations (such as battles between S-rank fighters and those between male fighters). The players send fighter cards from their hand to the battle and reveal them at the same time. The fighters' powers are determined by dice rolls combined with special powers. The players, in descending power order, gain honor points, then move on to the next tournament. In this way, the player with the most honor points wins. The fighters' powers are hugely influenced by dice rolls. I also enjoyed the occasional surprises, such as a C-rank fighter defeating an S-rank fighter. (2-4 players / 14+ / 20-40 min.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Troika from Oink Games is a tile-flipping game to gather jewels and fuel from a planet and return to the home planet. Tiles numbered 1 to 15 are placed face down in the play area. On your turn, flip a tile and choose to take a tile (whether face-up or face-down) or return an unwanted tile to the play area. The tiles transform into a gem when you assemble a straight of three tiles and serve as fuel when you assemble a three-of- a-kind; you lose points based on the remaining tiles not used.

Each round ends when all the tiles have been flipped, and among those who have fuel, the players with more valuable jewels gain more points. After three rounds, the player with the most overall points wins. The quantity of each numbered tile is open information, so you can assess which tiles to take according to other players' acquired tiles. There are relatively many 7s that are useful for both scoring and forming the fuel, which increases the competition for them. This is a fairly light game with a clever twist. (2-5 players / 7+ / 20 min.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The cloth game board and shiny checkers of Graffiti Gammon (from HAPPY GAMES)

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Appetizing German beer cards of Willkommen, Bierfest! (from 10-Shiki Gameworks)

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Raid on Taihoku (from Mizo) is a serious game from Taiwan

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Wooden Domemo (from Chronos) sold as an alternative to the recently released cardboard version

From gallery of W Eric Martin
In SAN_GE SHAKA (from ADGGames), place flowers on a wire netting via magnets to form patterns

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Darekara Dice (from Hakonosoto) is a communicative item to determine the start player

From gallery of W Eric Martin
New Board Game Party exhibited various versions of TimeBomb published in different languages

From gallery of W Eric Martin
An untitled prototype by Northgame — it is pure beauty

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Exhibiting various accessories, such as meeple buttons and dice trays

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Vol. 2 of the manga "Bodoge de Asobuyo!!" (Come to Play Board Games!!), which appears serially on this website (TGiW) was released;
Ojisama Hige Atsume (Dandy Beard Collection), the imaginary card game that appeared in this manga, was also sold as a real card game


Day 2 (original report in Japanese)

Continuing from yesterday, here is my report on the second day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market. The turnout is slow compared to the first day, with approximately 1,200 to 1,300 people queuing before the opening (according to the Rael-san's report). Nonetheless, there was much attendance after the opening, and it was a lively event until the end.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Who will win the Best Game of the Year?

After checking the booths exhibiting only on the second day (Sunday), I participated in the awarding ceremony for the Game Market Award. The ceremony was held at the farthest corner of the venue, but nearly eighty people gathered at the ceremony, perhaps partly due to it being the only special event held in the venue at this Game Market. The ceremony was hosted by Tetsuya Ikeda, who was assisted by Rameru Suzuno (from Spiel Yuenchi).

First, the Awards of Excellence, which had been announced on November 4, were given to the people who had produced these five games. Following that were announcements for Kids' Game of the Year, Expert Game of the Year, Special Award, and Best Game of the Year.

Game Market Award 2017
• Best Game of the Year: 8bit MockUp (from Sato Familie)
• Kids' Game of the Year: Kittys (from Little Future)
• Expert Game of the Year: The Founders of ENDE (from imagine GAMES)
• Award for Excellence: Path to Yaaru (from Fukuroudou)
• Award for Excellence: Bob Jiten (from TUKAPON)
• Special Award: - KUFU - (from ruri ruri games)

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Jun Kusaba, chairman of the awards committee, hands the award certificate and shield to Tori Hasegawa, illustrator of 8bit MockUp, which won the Best Game of the Year

Toshiki Sato, who designed 8bit MockUp, could not attend the ceremony and was apparently on his way to Hokkaido. Mr. Hasegawa commented, "Neither of us can drink, but I would like to go for a drink to celebrate this with Mr. Sato and the people who helped us", to which the host Mr. Ikeda replied, "Then you can celebrate with milk or something."

Since we couldn't hear from him at Game Market, I interviewed Mr. Sato by email. I heard that, from the game design idea of using oblique lines on the tiles, Mr. Hasegawa came up with the idea of applying 8-bit game artwork, seeking a feel of video games such as Populous, Dragon Quest, and Xevious.

TGiW: Please tell us about the process of this game's creation.

Sato: After building the game system in the winter of 2016, we worked on deciding the theme and adjusting some details. Actually, I was hesitating whether to actually release such a game. Its mechanisms are similar to Carcassonne and Karuba, so I was not sure if it was worth releasing a game without much innovation. When I first talked to Mr. Hasegawa about it, he said, "How about an 8-bit game?" and that inspired me. The production of this game owes much to our desire to create an 8-bit world, regardless of it being innovative or not.

TGiW: What point did you think and work out the most?

Sato: We had its rulebook proofread and refined quite a lot. Around the time of the Autumn 2016 Tokyo Game Market, there was much discussion about doujin game rulebooks, so we worked on this game's rulebook carefully, hoping that it could be a good example.

TGiW: Please comment on receiving the award.

Sato: I am truly grateful for this fortune whereby we can create games with so many people's help. Please keep watching us as we will keep creating new games.

TGiW: What are your future plans?

Sato: We have sold out the second edition of 8bit MockUp at this Game Market, so please wait for a while before we print more copies. We are planning to release a new game at the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, so please try it when it comes out.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Five people receiving the awards. Congratulations!

I met and talked with G. Benassar, the Licensing & New Business Director of Asmodee (France), at the venue. Here is my summary of his comments. He said that after encountering the board games that initially debuted at Game Market and were later introduced to Western countries — games such as Machi Koro and Love Letter — he began visiting Game Market starting in May 2017. Mr. Benassar said that at Game Market, he was impressed by the amount of passion put into the games as well as the unique graphics and fresh ideas. Hoping to extend such ideas more professionally, he said that they were considering the distribution of some titles.

In addition to its office in France, Asmodee has offices in countries such as Germany, USA, and China, and it sold 34 million copies of analog games globally in 2016. It distributes games through labels such as Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, What's Your Game?, and Pearl Games. If the games that initially debuted at Game Market were to be distributed from Asmodee, Mr. Benassar said that the game circles' names would be kept likewise as labels, so it seems that the names of more doujin circles will be known globally sooner or later.

I managed to play three games on this day.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Rattaneer from OKAZU Brand is a middleweight game with a playing time of less than one hour. From ten area tiles arranged in a row, each player chooses two tiles as their destinations, then all the players reveal their choices simultaneously. You can earn money, hire pirates, loot boats, then convert that loot to victory points according to your chosen areas. Starting from Area 1, check whether there are any empty (unconnected) area tiles. The actions stated on the areas after the empty area do not take effect. Aiming for a destination that's farther away brings you a higher risk of having your chosen action negated paired with the outside chance of monopolizing an area and gaining more reward. I enjoyed the gameplay whereby you try to lead and predict other players' actions to have their tokens placed up to your destinations. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Sly Knight Seekers from COLON ARC is a card game in which the players seek a robber by team play. Play your card to identify and take a card at an end of the hand of your opponent, who is holding their cards in ascending order. Using the cards you have exchanged with your teammate and what you have heard as clues, try to guess the whereabouts of each card by counting. It is also possible to take a chance on simultaneous investigation to take many cards at once, so you had better stay on your guard at all time. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30 min.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The Queen of the Hansa from Yuruart is a board game in which the players, as Hanseatic traders, compete for trade supremacy. On your turn, play one card from your hand of two cards, then replenish your hand with a card from the area of the matching color. Settle accounts regularly after playing five cards. The players who have played cards with more trade goods per each color gain more points. The points gained from each area fluctuates.

Along with the set collection of important figures and competition for majority in Lubeck City (with cards being played face down and revealed at the end), this game requires thoughtful decisions despite the simple choice between two options on each turn. (2-4 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)

Fumie no Tame ni, meaning "For Fumie", is a two-player deduction game designed by Seiji Kanai and published by One Draw that also gathered attention. I could not play it at the venue, but it is worth mentioning.

The game takes place in a world where a high school girl named Fumie met a mysterious death. The players travel back in time to a few days before her death and try to save her. Fumie no Tame ni contains a secret whereby some cards' effects are gradually revealed during the gameplay. Demoing by playing the game was not available at the venue, but it is not a game with a legacy system. You can play it to the end and play it again. I also heard that its illustration by Noboru Sugiura, who did the artwork of the initial Love Letter, also drew attention, and many of the people who bought this game were female visitors. According to Hayato Kisaragi, who runs One Draw, Fumie no Tame ni is a very unique game and the people's opinions on it would be divided. I could not play it, so instead, here is a photo of Hayato Kisaragi and Seiji Kanai.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin
According to Keiji Kariya, general manager of the Game Market Management Office, there were slightly more exhibitors on Saturday and the advance tickets for Saturday sold more. However, many people attended the event on Sunday with a day ticket and Mr. Kariya guesses that many of them were families who came by casually. With regard to that, opening the kids' game section on Sunday worked out well.

Among the 730 groups who participated in exhibiting, 42% of them exhibited on both days, 33% did only on Saturday, and 25% did only on Sunday. Mr. Kariya said that he had not expected that the Saturday and Sunday shows would be so well-balanced.


Attendance Figures (original post in Japanese)

The Game Market Management Office has announced that a total of 18,500 people attended the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market, Japan's largest analog game event. The attendance was 10,000 on the first day and 8,500 on the second day. In total, this number was 5,500 people and 42% higher than the 13,000 attendance figure for the Spring 2017 Tokyo Game Market in May.

In recent years, the attendance at Tokyo Game Market, which is held semiannually, has increased by approximately one thousand people at each show: 5000→6500→7200→8500→9500→11000→12000→13000. At this pace, the current Game Market would have had an attendance of approximately 14,000, but even more attendance was expected by expanding to a two-day event for the first time. The attendance did not double from the previous one, but it nonetheless increased significantly.

The dispersing of attendees over two days reduced congestion and also brought some advantages, such as ease of moving in the venue and joining demo tables. On Sunday, I noticed people who had participated on the previous day as exhibitors were now visiting other booths, and I saw an aspect of this event where people can enjoy and communicate interactively as both exhibitors and visitors.

The upcoming events are the 2018 Osaka Game Market, which will be held on Sunday, April 1 at Intex Osaka; the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, which will be held on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 at Tokyo Big Sight; and the Autumn 2018 Tokyo Game Market in November, which will also be a two-day event.
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