Dual Language/Language Independent Games From Japan
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A list of games from Japan that either contain English text in addition to the Japanese or use symbolism to circumnavigate language altogether. As Japan's language and history have fascinated me for many years, I am drawn to these games in a way unlike any other. While some duel language games have received re-released english versions, I would much prefer seeking out the originals for that very quality as well as the Japanese aesthetic.
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1. Board Game: Fairy Tale [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:744]
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A straightforward drafting game. I own the Z-Man Games edition, which is probably as close as I'll get to the original. As it primarily utilizes symbolism rather than dual language, I'm quite content with my copy. The only thing missing from the original cards is the card name in Japanese, which I can live without. They also edited the text somewhat to make the effects more clear. The game is a lot of fun, especially with a full five players. I know some people prefer the later release, which changed the art style and iconography, but I intentionally sought out the Z-man version for those very reasons.
 
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2. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:367] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
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Trains first came to my attention via a video review from the Dice Tower. Since then, it has gained enough notoriety to receive an American reprint from AEG. It also made enough of an impression to reach Tom Vassel's Top 100 games list this year. I know acquiring a copy of the game itself would be easy, but I absolutely hate the art of the reprint. The original had pictures of actual trains that, while arguably quite similar in appearance, made me immediately nostalgic for my years spent in Japan, riding the trains from my remote town to the city station. Settling for the reprint would also mean losing the Japanese text, which is far more crucial in this game than something like Fairy Tale or RRR.

Gameplay wise, I have played and enjoyed Dominion and it's my understanding that this is the closest copy of that game among all the deck builders that have sprung up since. However, I've also heard the board adds an additional element that many seem to enjoy. Sadly, as with many games on this list, I was made aware of this game too late as it seems it has been out of print for quite some time.
 
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3. Board Game: Lost Legacy [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
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Though I suspect many people would include Love Letter on list similar to this, for me it has been completely eclipsed by Seiji Kanai's followup game, Lost Legacy. This may be the first item on this list that I will actually acquire an original Japanese version of, as a friend in Japan recently purchased a copy of the stand alone expansion for me and will ship it around Christmas time.

Kanai seems really fixated on 16 card deduction games, not that I'm complaining. For me, the style of this game is what really draws me in. Lost Legacy and its expansion each contain two completely different decks that task the players with finding various "Lost Legacies", which are ancient artifacts of great power. It uses the same draw one, play one gameplay of Love Letter. It also contains player elimination, which would normally be a turn off, but the game plays quickly enough that I don't think it will bother me. Really looking forward to this one.
 
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4. Board Game: RRR [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:4859]
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A fun looking abstract. This is one that I wouldn't mind purchasing stateside of it got a decent reprint, as there is no Japanese text on the cards themselves.
 
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5. Board Game: Say Bye to the Villains [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:3063]
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An odd English title, given that "成敗" translates to "punishment". This seems like a really cool, light co-op game, which means it hits a lot of my preferences. Players, taking the role of various medieval Japanese heroes must train and gather information on their opponents before ultimately deciding who to fight in the final confrontation. The simple rules and easy to understand time mechanic mean it would be accessible to new players. It also seems far less mathy than my current favorite card based co-op game: Sentinels of the Multiverse. Still I think Say Bye to the Villains would give me the same feelings as I get playing that game. Also, though hard to find, I may actually be able to order a copy of this game as well.
 
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6. Board Game: Sukimono [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:5361]
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This game is simply gorgeous. The market system seems quite interesting as does the mechanic where you are quickly searching through a deck to find certain cards before grabbing a turn marker. This last aspect seems a bit like the one found in Ladies and Gentlemen. I could probably be convinced to buy a re-released version of this game assuming they kept the original art, as text is once again minimal but honestly even the text on these cards is beautiful. My only concern with this game is the potential for a runaway leader, as having the first player marker gives you a lot of advantages over the other players and if you can consistently get it, catching up might be a problem for other players.
 
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7. Board Game: Settlers of Catan: Rockman Edition [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:8578]
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Admittedly not a dual language game (to my knowledge). However, if I were to buy a copy of Catan, it may as well be the version featuring an incarnation of one of my favorite video game characters. I've translated a few Japanese TCGs before, so I imagine this would not pose much of a problem, given that it likely plays identically to the original. Unfortunately, this game has been out of print for longer than most games on this list, so my chances of actually getting a copy seem very low.
 
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8. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:690]
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Another language independent game that I wouldn't mind getting the English version of, though I would prefer the first Z-man release as opposed to the recent reprint as it maintains the original art. I don't know how you would categorize this game, other than to say it is an abstract card game. The rules seem very simple and clear and it's yet another light, quick game. This one's still available, so I may yet get my hands on it.
 
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9. Board Game: Grimoire [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:2087]
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This game has some really cool mechanics. I like the spell book as a means of determining player order as well as the track that increases your available spells each turn. This is yet another game that's gotten a re-release by Z-man Games. I hadn't realized how many Japanese titles they had picked up and reprinted until compiling this list. Still, I would much prefer to have the original Japanese, even though the reprint maintains the same art, as it is a game that more heavily relies on printed card mechanics.
 
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10. Board Game: つかいま! [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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There's very little information on this game as of now, but glancing at the official Japanese page shows it to be a sort of light deduction/set collection game. On your turn, you can draw a card either from the facedown deck or take one of the face up cards surrounding it in an attempt to make a set of three of the same animal. If your hand size reaches five cards, however, you have to discard one face up to the center. Everyone is trying to figure out what the other players are collecting so that they don't put out cards useful to their opponents. Do you draw from the deck to hide what your collecting (at the expense of gaining a random card) or draw a face up card (alerting other players to your plans)? There's also an extra element where each player has a secret desired animal that will get them more points in the end. It sounds like a solid filler and I really like the art. I've got this one on order, so hopefully I'll get my hands on it by Christmas.
 
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11. Board Game: Manga Party [Average Rating:5.42 Unranked]
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I'm actually looking at getting a game called Hit Manga, but it seems to play identically to this game. Basically, this is a Karuta variant with manga panels in place of classic Japanese poems. On a players turn, they draw a card and act out the single panel scene depicted on it. The other players race to smack the card they think is a match for the reader's clue. Guessing right gets you a point, while guessing wrong will ban you from the next round. If no one can guess the reader's clue, the reader will have to take a penalty card. Play continues until the deck is depleted, at which point scores are tallied and the player with the most points wins.

I played a lot of Karuta during my time in Japan, even incorporating it into a number of class lessons. I'm really looking forward to this new take on the game.
 
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12. Board Game: In a Grove [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3300]
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Another language independent game that was set to get an American re-release, this time courtesy of Asmodee (though there has been little information on it as of late). A simplified deduction game, I suspect this one will be a hit with my SO as well. If they keep the same art design, and with such a simple game it would be odd if they tried to change it, I will probably wait to pick up the American release despite its rather terrible box art.
 
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