My Tokyo Game Market Excitements (a preview toward Spring '19)
Rand Lemley
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Pound for pound, I think Tokyo Game Market (TGM) offers the most inventive and interesting games of any public convention worldwide. Even better, it comes around twice a year! The market is dominated by doujin (同人) publishers, which are like what we may think of as "indie." Many of these games are made by hand and there may only be 10 copies made...ever.

What follows are the games I'm most excited about, and a few that I think are notable. While I cannot attend, I hunt titles and network with their creators to try to get their games across to American shores. Eventually I hope to attend and fully experience the feeling of discovery when stumbling upon some mind-blowing title.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Some helpful places for hunting these titles include: (In nearly all cases, it becomes easier to search when you use the original hirigana/katakana, not the romanized titles)

Amazon.jp - Often does not need a forwarding service. Great for Oink games in particular.

Booth.pm - This is like a Japanese version of Etsy for comics, games and their related crafts. Look for floods of doujin goods to flow into the market briefly after TGM. You can sort by show to see games that were released at TGM. *Needs a forwarding service.

Bodoge.hoobby.net Market - This is like the Japanese version of BGG, and has far more features than our stateside version. One of those features is direct sales by publishers and is a great way to get many hard to find titles, like those from Analog Lunchbox. *Needs a forwarding service.

Suruga-ya - This is a giant store with both new and consigned goods of all types. You can often find gently used games at decent prices. The TGM goods don't flow here quickly, but you can find older gems. *Needs a forwarding service.

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1. Board Game: DAZZLING DICELINE [Average Rating:6.93 Unranked]
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I'm a fan of Analog Lunchbox. This looks to continue their work started with passtally that trends more colorful and lighter fare. Perhaps this is a sign that Spring will trend lighter while Fall trends heavier (Botanical Lab and Airship City were both Fall releases), but this is only speculation.

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2. Board Game: insect inc. [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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This title is an offshoot from Analog Lunchbox called POLAR POND GAMES and I honestly have no idea what to expect. The presentation is stunning.

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3. Board Game: HYAKKATEN [Average Rating:6.24 Unranked]
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Mall Madness from the perspective of the manager/retailer. The photos on the creator's Twitter do it far more justice: https://twitter.com/take_el/status/1127511082912772098?s=20
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4. Board Game: 色映に生へど~いろはにおえど (Iroha ni Oedo) [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Funky trick taker from a consistent doujin designer/circle.

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I will likely buy the entire series released by Smart500 and their collaborators. They pack a tiny game into a consistent package for 500jpy each. You can read more about the Spring offerings here: http://gamemarket.jp/booth/gm2606/

I got a few of their Fall '18 offerings and was pleasantly surprised by two of the three. They're not games to be placed on a pedestal by any means, but rather serve as little, brief curiosities to be discovered through play.

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6. Board Game: Guild of Dice [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
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I am unfamiliar with this publisher, but willing to take a chance on what looks like a dice-as-worker placement and area control.

A decent image of play here: https://twitter.com/merry_andrew_1/status/112753430769676697...

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7. Board Game: In Front of the Elevators [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:5416]
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New title from Saashi & Saashi. For me, that's enough to be interested.

Looks like a play on the mechanics seen in Beasty Bar paired with a theme I don't think I've ever seen.

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8. Board Game: Electioneer [Average Rating:6.76 Unranked]
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This title is not from Japan and is also not new. There is a growing trend of other East Asian designers flocking to Tokyo Game Market in the same way that Essen, UKGE and Gen Con serve a market much larger market than the immediate region.

Electioneer comes to us from Hong Kong and was Kickstarted last year. Now Doubledecker Games is bringing it to the Japanese audience. It looks like a fun and educational game about Hong Kong, as players travel around the city and pick up support from various districts in the city.

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9. Board Game: サイコロニー (Dicolony) [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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The Japanese title (Saicolony) makes more sense as a play on words between dice (saicolo) and colony.

This is a roll-and-write city building game and I don't know too much more, except that it's from Nononon Factory (that funky trick taker above) and not new.

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10. Board Game: Pompiers [Average Rating:6.30 Unranked]
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Another trick taking game. This one has adorable fire-fighting art, ever-changing rules, and English rules

More info here: http://gamemarket.jp/game/pompiers/

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11. Board Game: Board Game Cafe Frenzy [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:9457]
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This title from Citie Lo, the Taiwanese designer of Pleasant Journey to Neko, is called a trick taker though I'm struggling to see how that fits. I'm curious!

Gorgeous production as always from The Wood/Das Holz Spiele.

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12. Board Game: Singularity [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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This is also not a new game, having been released at the Fall '18 TGM, and sees players as investors in a near future that has the singularity on the horizon. How should you develop your technology to remain competitive in the market?

This group's title Improvement of the POLIS won game of the show a while back and this one looks incredible, if language heavy. Pasteups ahoy!

More info here: http://gamemarket.jp/game/singularity/
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13. Board Game: Stock the Gathering [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
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Also not new (also Fall '18 TGM...and also an economic game).

Awesome art from Tansanfabrik and a twisty take on stocks via piece movment. Here's a Twitter thread with a good explanation, if you rely on translate: https://twitter.com/STOCK_GATHERING/status/11275107060588134...

As with above, these are language heavy so I'm a bit hesitant even though they look right up my alley.

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14. Board Game: Bonsai Uchu [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
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New title from Jugame Studio, who continually pumps out gorgeous art and simple rules. I haven't had a winner from them in a while (Perfect Hotel and Wine Rating are tops for me), but I'm willing to give it a try.
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15. Board Game: Across the United States [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:8039]
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Train game from Hisashi Hiyashi that has a really cool action selection mechanic. Lay down a card to build track and take the action on both terminuses of your track, then play another card for stock. This one looks crunchy!
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16. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2525]
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This entry is for Mitsuhama, what looks to be a real-time dice-rolling, fish market negotiation game. Stellar art from Sai Beppu too.

A bit more info here: http://gamemarket.jp/game/%E4%B8%89%E6%B4%A5%E6%B5%9C/
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17. Board Game Publisher: Jibsail Games
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While I don't think of Japan as having a large wargame scene, I'm happy to see Jibsail continue to bring interesting titles. Last year, they introduced a COIN-like game set in the Todai University protests of 1968-69. The language barrier is far too high for me, but I hope I get the opportunity to play and learn from it in the future.

This year, I think they are releasing a hex and counter game set in the WWII pacific theater and featuring fierce air combat (https://twitter.com/jibsail_games/status/1105320544910467073...).
 
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18. Board Game: 素数大富豪 (Prime Daifugo) [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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There is a published version of this older card game coming from doujin vets, Fukuroudou. This is a shedding game in which players, in order to play cards, must form prime numbers from their hand.

Don't worry, it comes with a chart...and English rules.

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19. Board Game: くだものがたり (Fruitale) [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
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Here's roll-and-write that somehow transforms into a resource gathering/economic game. We're still seeing some amazing genre pushing roll-and-writes from Japan and this looks like a top bet.
 
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20. Board Game: Sea Cube [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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I won't be buying this (it's huge), but I do want to highlight it as a curiosity. One player looks into a box through a series of periscopes and describes where treasures lay within the box. The other players try to interpret the description to map things out on their boards.
 
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21. Board Game: KOBE [Average Rating:6.20 Unranked]
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I don't know too much about this game except that it seems to be a commodity speculation and trading game with a beautiful minimal art style.
 
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22. Board Game: Elemental Trunk Man [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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This entry is for Elemental Trunk Man, a followup to Time Trunk Man from Tokyo Game Makers, which was a favorite of many folks from Fall '18 TGM.

Players roll meeple-like spirit pieces and gain mana to unlock trunks. It looks like just the kind of simple, silly fun I enjoy.

More info here, including an English game overview: http://gamemarket.jp/blog/tokyo-game-makers-item-lists/

And here: https://twitter.com/tokyogamemakers/status/11264971866471342...
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23. Board Game: NEBUTA BEAT [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Imagine a rhythm game, but played in the analog world...and you can't see which notes are coming. That's kind of what Nebuta Beat is.

The Nebuta festival has a traditional dance and chant associated with it (My favorite video I've found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wewDLBAtLs8) that is played out in the game by playing cards from your hand and joining in the dance according to the card shown.

Looks brilliant. Here's the game in action: https://twitter.com/kujiradama/status/1127231767658676225?s=...
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24. Board Game: みんなのお茶請け (Everyone's Served) [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Another trick-taker, this time from an OKAZU collaborator working under their own brand, Hammer Works. The cards are unsuited and, as the title suggests, nearly everyone receives a card at the end of each trick. The player with the highest total value of cards at the end of nine tricks wins the game.
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25. Board Game: Moon Base [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:8702]
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itten games continually impresses through unique components, simple rules, and a whimsical sense of play.

Their new offering, Moon Base, looks to be a stacking, balancing dexterity game.
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