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Japanese Trick-Taking Round-up: Ballet, Weather, Split Cards, and Time Travel

W. Eric Martin
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Many games released by Japanese designers through their own publishing brands are card games since these types of designs are relatively inexpensive to produce, don't take up a lot of space, and can be made in small quantities. As a result, you often see certain game genres frequently among JP games, such as bluffing games, word games, hidden role games, and — the topic of this post — trick-taking games.

The intersection of JP designers and trick-taking games is rich with experimentation, and often you can describe one of these designs in shorthand by focusing on the twist that it gives standard trick-taking. Opinionated Gamers writer James Nathan explored several of these titles in a post prior to Tokyo Game Market in Nov. 2019, with him highlighting a new edition of Günter Burkhardt's Volltreffer from Suki Games (following new editions of Burkhardt's Trump, Tricks, Game! and Mit List und Tücke), a new edition of Dois from Taiki Shinzawa and Kentaiki (this game's twist being that rank and suit are on separate cards, and in each trick you can play on either your previous rank or previous suit but not both), アリサキダンス (Arasaki Dance et Ballet) from Ichigoba Nap and @BUDAcafe (with the cards showing ballet moves, and the trick winner needing to perform the actions on the cards to determine how much they score), and Nokosu Dice from Yusuke Matsumoto and Engames (with players drafting rolled dice that can be played like cards — while also having cards to play as well — with their final leftover die representing their bid for the hand).


These titles are only a few of what's out there. When BGG attended Tokyo Game Market in May 2018, I got a 30-second overview of 七つの予言 (Seven Prophecies) from publisher Bluete Spiele and designer Hinata Origuchi, who normally releases titles through his own brand Ouyuuan.

The twist here is that the lead suits of all tricks in the hand are known before any cards are played, and to score the most points, you must accurately predict not only how many tricks you'll win, but also in how many tricks you'll place second, third, and fourth (depending on whether you have three or four players in the game). Thus, you're making seven prophecies (or ten in a three-player game since you have a larger hand).

Another twist on the trick-taking formula awaits in トリ天気 (Trick-Take BIRD & WEATHER) from IZAKA Makura and 10-Shiki GameWorks. The game includes a fifty-card deck, with the numbers ranging from 10 to 59. When someone leads a card, valid plays by others are cards that match either the tens digit or the ones digit of the card lead, so if you lead a 36, valid plays are any other card in the 30s or 16, 26, 46, or 56. The highest card played wins the trick, and in general that player wins points equal to the lowest ones digit of the cards played in that trick. The complete English rules are online (PDF) should you care to know all the details.


Pompiers! from Sirou Yamaoka and his Siroup Games has a frustratingly vague description on both the back of the box and on the BGG game page:
Quote:
The players take the role of firefighters struggling to extinguish a building fire. They are striving to extinguish the fire in adjacent rooms, vertical rooms and the innermost room. Sometimes, making the right preparations is important to achieve the optimal play. The player's goal is to accomplish heroic feats of firefighting by adapting to the ever-changing situation.
It's better than nothing, but I'm also left with a feeling of "And...?"

• On Opinionated Gamers, James Nathan has a great overview of Time Palatrix from designer Taiki Shinzawa and publisher 倦怠期 (Kentaiki), a 3-4 player trick-taking game in which you're trying to bid correctly as to how many tricks you'll take with your twelve cards in hand (normal) with you playing to three tricks at the same time (not normal). To quote James Nathan: "Time Palatrix is trick-taking game that elegantly allows three tricks to exist simultaneously, and then resolve at once. Each hand it will do this four times. What this allows for is quite creative play, as you can go into the future to short yourself a suit, but moreover: the suit that you must follow may not be the suit that is eventually lead. (I know, right?)"

In slightly more detail:
Quote:
Each player has a mat with three numbered spaces for cards, and on their turn plays a card in one of those spaces. If that card is the first to be played in that number space, it sets the suit for that space. Other players must follow suit on that space, or play on a different space. Once all three tricks are complete, the winners are determined, the cards are cleared, and the next round begins. Points are awarded if you correctly bid on the number of tricks you won.
One of the tricky elements of the game is that the suit set for a trick won't necessarily be the suit led when the trick resolves. James Nathan explains this in detail in his write-up, so head there for more on this fascinating game.

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