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Touhou Shisouroku: Touhou Koumakyou-hen» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Dominion with Big Eyes rss

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Wait, what?!
Toho Shisoroku: Toho Komakyo-hen is an official Japanese language release of the extremely popular and extremely successful grand-daddy of deck[geeklist=58600]-building[/geeklist]games , Dominion. However it is not a straight up translated release of the game and it's expansions (though that is also available), but rather a subset of "greatest hits" cards from the base set, supplemented with a few from Intrigue and Seaside.

Perhaps more obviously, the game has also been completely re-themed to the magical world of Touhou, where the world's pantheon of supernatural creatures are represented by cute little anime girls unleashing devastating apocalyptic-scale magical attacks upon each other (in between tea parties).

But (if you're reading this review) you knew that already.

Components

Like many deck building games from Japan, Toho Shisoroku comes in a skinny card holding box with a self fastening integrated lid, familiar to baseball card collectors and Magic the Gathering players. Made of folded corrugated cardboard the box might seem a little cheaper than the chipboard boxes used in the US, but I found it more practical than the "big-box" style used for Dominion. For starters the box is about 1/3 of the size of the Dominon box, so that's a bonus.

The box comes with a cardboard spacer that you can remove, so if you sleeve your cards (as I did to accommodate English language paste-ups) all the cards will still fit. I used Fantasy Flight sleeves which are quite thick and they just fit.

Additionally the box comes with a set of cardboard dividers, one for each deck, that make locating and removing the decks easy. They also replace the need to put the "randomizer" cards under the decks to indicate that a deck is depleted.

Ok, it's a nice box, but you're not going to buy the game for the box.

Artwork
Personally I never much cared for the generic medieval theme of Dominion. Of course I felt the same way about Magic, but recent releases have featured really stunning, and incredibly adept illustrations. In contrast I've always found Dominion's illustrations to be stiff and somewhat flat (though not as bad as Summoner Wars... *shudder*). Toho Shisoroku delighted me, the combination of anime artwork (which I am inordinately fond of) and wonderful execution.


The artwork is gorgeous. You don't have to be a fan of anime style art to appreciate the quality of these illustrations. Even the Money, Curse and Location cards are stunning, far richer and more detailed than the images here on the 'Geek give credit to.


Of course the main focus are the action cards, each beautifully illustrated by a different Japanese artist. The artwork is presented in stunning full bleed format. The color is rich, the detail exquisite. I can't help but feel like the cards themselves are a miniature Touhou artbook.

Should you buy it for the artwork? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt.

Gameplay
I really enjoy Dominion. It has almost perfect balance of quick reasonable play time (wait, just one more game) and reasonably deep involved strategy. One of the complaints some folks levy against the base game is the lack of player interaction. I'm not sure, my game group's been playing with the base set plus expansions for so long that I just assume certain Intrigue standbys like Masquerade.

Now I've been lucky enough with friends that I've never had to buy Dominion myself. However I've always wanted a copy. After getting Toho Shisoroku on the table over the last few game nights, I have been delighted with the "greatest hits" mix that includes a touch more interactivity than the base set, but remains easy and accessible to all. As a single purchase copy of Dominion, well it was a lot of work to do the paste-ups, but it's filled the vanilla Dominion niche for me perfectly.

Take it Easy!
So what's it like to play Dominion with Marissa and Reimu? Honestly I found the re-theme to be a little disappointing on a couple of fronts.

Unlike Simon I didn't find it to particularly jarring how some of the cards were assigned to Touhou characters and their signature attacks. Marissa's Mini Hakkero let's me trash a card and gain one costing 2 more? Ok, whatever!

However what I did find kind of disorienting and thematically unsatisfying was the way that the core mechanic of Dominion (which is about commoditized resources being assembled into an economic engine) is at odds with the Touhou-verse's many unique and highly colorful individuals. Yes the girls all continuously fight amongst themselves (before learning friendship through superior firepower), but they are each such strong personalities that it felt anti-thematic to be buying up multiple copies of these well known characters as resources.

It's a common problem many games face when adapting heroic narratives. Players want to take on the role of a favorite character (who hasn't enjoyed being Baltar in BSG?!), but classic CCG and Deck Building Game mechanics don't allow for that. In Japan this problem was addressed in the evolution of many games descended from Magic's lineage, but themed off of popular anime. ChaOS and Rumbling Spell Orchestra are two Touhou themed CCGs that let players build decks around specific characters, in both cases playing them their heroines onto the tableu as a kind of permanent creature (to use Magic terms) which is a personal proxy for the player.

So far the Deck Building games I've seen from Japan have not directly grappled with this challenge. In Tanto Curoe it's actually thematically possible that you are not permanently employing servants, but that each card represents a "time slice" of employment (much like we have a cleaning lady come once every two weeks but in the meantime she works for plenty of other families). In Barbarossa the cards are personifications of generic military units, so of course there are multiple. Yet both these games also point to a direction that may well be utilized in future more character centric deck building games - the addition of a deck of unique (Private Maids and Generals respectively).

Playing Touhou Shisorokou I couldn't help myself but to think of those games. In the end, while I'm delighted to play any Touhou card game, I'm ultimately disappointed that the thematic fit is so superficial.

Subbed or Dubbed?
I imported this game, and made pasteups as part of my ongoing mission to get a little more anime in my gaming. Was it a success?

Well, yes but not as smoothly as I had expected. While the theme was a slightly dissapointing fit for me as a casual Touhou fan, the theme was simply odd and lacking in any reference points for my friends. Now this didn't really hamper their enjoyment of the game and they quickly picked up on the named character cards. Still it was a bit of surprise to realize that most people around the table were having a completely different experience than me. Since the artists varied from card to card there was regularly surprise when I referred to a character while using a magical attack (something I'll keep in mind if I ever do paste-ups again). This was my second thematic disappointment - alas, the theme I enjoyed remained mostly opaque to my game circle!


Ultimately the process of making the paste-ups was a delightful experience, both as a fun translation problem tackled with help from folks on the 'Geek, and as fun little design project.* I learned a lot, not just about translation, but about card design for legibility, and the preparation of cards for printing which will come in very handy in future projects.

To buy, or not to buy?
If you're just a Dominion fan, Touhou Shisorokou doesn't really offer anything new (unless you count the promo card which is different than the other Dominion sets), so only the most fanatical of completists should apply. For the rest of you, just file this variant as an interesting curiosity.

If you're a Japanese Touhou fan on the other hand, then I think this purchase is a no-brainier. Great artwork, great quality, good playmix. Even if you already have Dominion, you'll likely enjoy this more.

So that leaves most of the people who are actually likely to read this review.

On the Pro side of the spectrum we can rally:
- It's Touhou!
- It's Dominion, with a smaller box and slightly better starter mix! (though if you already own Dominion this might be a Con).
- It's got lovely art.
- English rules and card pasteups are ready and available.

On the Con side:
- Not the best game to Touhou theme fit (though translations are difficult to find for any others).
- It's more expensive and labor intensive than buying a domestic game like Tanto Curoe.
- It's Dominion (even if you don't own it, it is the most classic most simple of all deck building games).

If you're a hardcore Touhou fan, and you like Deck Building games, and you don't have Dominion, then it's fairly easy for me to recommend it.

If you already have Dominion, or if you are only interested in anime themed games generically, then it's a harder call. If you have the time and money you'll likely enjoy it, but it's not so straight-forward. Tanto Curoe might be a better way to scratch your itch.

All that said, I am very pleased with my purchase... and I can't help but wonder when/if we might see a sequel!




* I submitted the English paste-up files to the 'Geek about 3 weeks ago now, so I hope it'll show up soon!
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Aitor
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Thanks for the review and for the paste-ups.

It's amazing to see a Touhou-themed boardgame out there. However, a Dominion retheme seems a bit bland to me, because Touhou is such a confrontational videogame, and Dominion is just the opposite. I hope some day I can see a Touhou-rethemed combat game, or better yet: a Touhou-themed original combat game.

I always thought that the best game to retheme in a Touhou-style would be "Down in Flames". I even made this "fake":



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Thanks!

Hollyhock wrote:

It's amazing to see a Touhou-themed boardgame out there. However, a Dominion retheme seems a bit bland to me, because Touhou is such a confrontational videogame, and Dominion is just the opposite. I hope some day I can see a Touhou-rethemed combat game, or better yet: a Touhou-themed original combat game.


Well, one of the nice things about Toho Shisoroku is that is *is* quite a bit more confrontational than basic Dominion, simply because it has a lot more attack cards.

That said there are a lot of Magic the Gathering style Tohou games that are more duel like - it's just that they're not translated into in English (or Spanish). Rumbling Spell Orchestra is the closest, but the rules have a lot of vauge bits and getting the cards is a challenge. ChaOS has well translated rules but no card translations. Then there are others as well that are so untranslated that they didn't even make it onto the geek!

Quote:

I always thought that the best game to retheme in a Touhou-style would be "Down in Flames". I even made this "fake": :p



LOL! That's awesome! I would totally play that! (On a tangent I've pre-ordered GMT's Down in Flames reprint... what exactly is the difference with the DVG version?)...

I wonder if Strike Witches would also work...
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adorablerocket wrote:

That said there are a lot of Magic the Gathering style Tohou games that are more duel like - it's just that they're not translated into in English (or Spanish). Rumbling Spell Orchestra is the closest, but the rules have a lot of vauge bits and getting the cards is a challenge. ChaOS has well translated rules but no card translations. Then there are others as well that are so untranslated that they didn't even make it onto the geek!


Sounds very nice. Thanks to your review I have just discovered all the Touhou-themed boardgames. I hope someday they make the jump to English.

adorablerocket wrote:


LOL! That's awesome! I would totally play that! (On a tangent I've pre-ordered GMT's Down in Flames reprint... what exactly is the difference with the DVG version?)...

I wonder if Strike Witches would also work...


I would love if Dan Verssen made a "Gensokyo in Flames", but that picture is only a "fake". I have made just one card (Marisa), and I haven't even tested it. I would have made more cards, but I couldn't find any more images of flying Touhou characters taken from above.

However, I do have rethemed a whole game with Touhou. Buttonmen never came to my country, and the stats of each fighter were disclosed, so I used Touhou characters to craft a homemade version:



The new "Down in Flames: Aces High" is more simplified and streamlined than the old GMT game. I haven't played the old one, but I have read that, for example, the new game has no maneuver cards, each card has a Maneuver value and can be used as a Maneuver of that value instead of its regular use.
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