In early May I flew over to Japan for the Tokyo Game Market Spring edition which took place on May 5 and 6 at Tokyo Big Sight. We already talked in the last few Global Boardgames News articles about many new releases there and at the convention we had the chance to play them and buy them for our NiceGameShop.
Traditionally the Game Market weekend starts one day before the actual Game Market with the preview events, the biggest being the Yellow Submarine preview event organised by Macoto Nakamura and the Japon Brand Gaming Party hosted by Japon Brand of course with many international guests.
In this 3-8 player game players try to get 6 different jewels by defeating the various monsters. In a turn a player describes the monster they want to battle with with three features, like “the monster I am going to battle has wings”. But they have to only tell the truth about 1 of these features, the other 2 could be lies. Then all the players simultanously place their pawn to the monster they think the leading player wants to battle. Then the leading player battles the monster by dice rolling and using equipment if they have. If other players participated in the battle the also battle and if they manage to defeat the monster they split the treasure, with the leading player having the first choice.
For many monsters you need your fellow players to defeat it, but you don’t want to many players knowing which monster you want to battle, as you share of the loot will decrease.
Another beautiful game which went kind of hot at the fair was passtally by analog lunchbox. In this 2-3 player game players have two actions in a turn with the actions could be placing a tile on the board and/or moving the player piece on the outside of the board. At the end of the turn it is checked which of this player’s pieces are connected and through how many tiles the connection goes. The more, the better and scoring depends on how many. As you can imagine this is getting brain burny quite easily which is why the publisher put a rule into the rulebook to use a timer and limit a turn to 1 minute.
While the Japon Brand gaming party is all about Japanese publishers showing their games to overseas publishers, the Yellow Submarine preview event is more geared towards publishers showing their games to fellow Japanese publishers as they will have no time trying out games at the event itself.
Meteor is a dexterity dice game in which the players throw their dice on the board and where they land the resources appear. With the resources it is possible to buy upgrades and win the game.
Encyclopaedist is a fascinating 3-player only game. Every player chooses a colored ring and a post-it pad in the same color and writes down secretly one category, like for example “something you can hold in one hand” or “something that makes you wet”. That post-it you hold secretly for the entire game.
In a turn the player moves the pawn to one of the seven spaces. Now each player has to find a word that is fitting for the space. To take the example with “something you can hold in one hand” (let’s say it’s green) and “something that makes you wet” (let’s say that is red), the space where those two categories overlap could hold “water pistol”, but not “lake”, which would move in the red category and the player who chose lake would have to fold the color of their post-it so that it does not show any more. So the further the game progresses the more you can see what every category actually is and by that choosing the right words for every space. Goal of the game is to have your colored post-it with a word in every of the seven spaces.
This is a really clever game and from what I’ve been told a kind of legendary Game Market game which was sold out for a long time and got now a neat new edition by Suki Games.
On the next day I made my way to Tokyo Big Sight for the Game Market. It is always amazing to see the masses of people travelling to Tokyo Big Sight like they are drawn to a gigantic alien space ship. Game Market attendees are only a small fraction of people here, as there were several fairs and conventions on the same weekend.
On my way to the hall I found the nice people of Grandoor Games who were just giving the finishing touches to their new game Annecto Punch. This was barely an hour before the doors opened. While Game Market is getting bigger each year and Japanese board game market is growing, most publishers are still very indie and it is not unusual to see a game with handmade components.
This was one of the entrances to Game Market. We could go in early…
As last Game Market Oink Games were the first booth you see after entering the hall. They were one of several publishers with an Essen-style big booth and were showing their new game Moneybags and Zogen, which was just released one month before at Osaka Game Market.
Der Tunnel: Escape from East Berlin by Ficdep Games caught my eye early as I was born in Berlin myself. In this 2-player game one player is the leader of a group of people trying to get to West Berlin and the other player is the secret police trying to stop and imprison the group. In a turn the leader will play their chips facedown in the 3 different areas with Construction for building the tunnel, Funding for making money and City for doing nothing. The secret police plays cards on the same spaces and then cards and chips are revealed. If the secret police played the same person card as a chip there that person gets arrested, bringing the secret police one step closer to the victory condition. If not, the leader may build the tunnel and collect money, depending on the ability also upgrading the persons in the process.
The chips then go back to the leader for the next round but the secret police has to discard all the cards used in that round, making that people safe to play if they weren’t caught in the last round.
The publisher has previously released Kremlinology and I think they are tackling very touchy subjects. Who would like to play as the secret police? But the real gripe I have are the names for the people in the group trying to escape. Curl? What kind of name is that?
One of the prototypes I got to play was Meow-Jong by Li-He-Studio and Aza Chen. This game is simplifying the traditional game Mahjong and is adding cute cats and dogs and will be coming out later this year.
On the second day there was also a steam punk exhibition and many more RPG booths than on Saturday. Yannick Deplaedt, who helped with many Japanese games getting signed by French companies commented on that:
“Saturday was a very busy day while Sunday was kind of bland, unfortunately. The doujin scene might have suffered from the number of visitors. Many amateur designers ended up with lots of stock still available while on Saturday, many games sold out. One fourth of the venue was filled with RPG designers, and I thought that was somewhat a pity, since RPG makers have plenty of events to attend during the year.
I hope these issues will be taken into account for the next edition of the Game Market. I’m afraid most doujin will choose Saturday instead of Sunday (that’s for sure what I will do, or maybe both days if it’s financially an option), pushing the people in charge of the Game Market to draw names and ask some of them to attend on Sunday.”
I have heard a similar opinion by many publishers exhibiting only on Sunday. With the shift from a one day to a two day show only a few publishers could afford to book the booth for two days. At the same time Sunday is drawing a much more casual crowd, similar to the difference in Thursday to Sunday at Essen.
And this is it: our game haul after two days of buying, playing and scouting at Tokyo Game Market. We can’t talk about all the games here, but if you are interested chances are we already talked a little bit about them on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook channels. And if not please get in touch and we may be able to shoot a video for them.
Many of those games are also available now on our NiceGameShop, so check it out.
One week after Game Market I was visiting the Moonlight Boardgame Festival in Kaohsioung, Taiwan which will be the topic for the next report. I have also filmed both events and the videos are now on the Youtube channel.