Tag Archives: Board Game Geek

Interview: Saigo

Could you quickly introduce yourself, for the people out there that may not know you already?

Okay. I’m Saigo, a translator living in Kagoshima in the southern part of Japan, and I play board games mostly with my two kids. I’ve translated and proofread the rules of some Japanese board games into English. I’m a member of a translation team led by Jon Power (@jonpower), who’s helping people register Japanese doujin (indie) and other Asian board games onto BoardGameGeek (BGG). I’m also a member of Japon Brand‘s annual translation team. Recently, I’ve translated some reports on Game Market by Japanese board game websites, namely Table Games in The World (TGiW) and Nicobodo, and uploaded them as BGG News articles. These translated articles appear shortly after each Game Market, thanks to the generous support of these websites’ administrators and BGG News editor W. Eric Martin. And I have a twitter account (@saigo012) from which I tweet about Japanese board games regularly, sometimes sporadically, on weekdays.

We’re very interested in board game cultures around the world. How would you describe the scene in Japan?

Playing a variety of modern board games is still a hobby for a small population, but there are many people in that group who promote the hobby in many directions, and the population is steadily growing. It’d be nice if the board game culture can be widespread in Japan like in your country Germany.

The Tokyo Game Market is developing a reputation for the high volume and ‘quirky’ style of games published. Why do you think the independent tabletop scene is flourishing in Japan?

With regard to the games produced in Japan, I’m really not the right one to comment on it since I haven’t produced any games, but I’ll try my best. Most of the board games currently designed and produced in Japan are doujin games, whereby the designers directly sell their games at Game Market and other shows, as well as through board game stores. Like the culture of Comic Market (Comiket) on which the style of Game Market is based, one is regarded a game designer the moment they’ve produced a game and presented it at Game Market or elsewhere, regardless of the game’s commercial quality or even playability, and regardless of the number of copies produced or sold. I think this openness has motivated many people to design games freely, some of which may turn out to be “quirky”.

As an insider of the Japanese indie board game scene you have seen many different games. What are some of the more unique concepts or mechanics you’ve witnessed?

I’m afraid I don’t have the sufficient overall knowledge to tell which games are more unique. So, instead, I’d like to recommend you to check out the doujin games released over the years. I see many people coming all the way from overseas to the Game Market in search of good games, but the games brought to the latest Game Market are only the tip of the iceberg. To be more specific, most doujin game designers produce games as their hobby with their pocket money. To keep producing new games, they can’t take the risk of producing many copies that might not be sold out within a certain period. In other words, they don’t have rooms to stock so many copies of their games. Thus, many doujin games, even good and popular ones, are produced in small number of copies without ever being reissued. Under these circumstances, it’s highly recommended to dig into the past and look for the games that have been released and played over the years.

As an example of such an act, Encyclopaedist, which was initially released in 2006 by Josee Design, was reissued by Suki Games at Tokyo Game Market 2018 Spring. This game was long rumored as an “addictive” game that one should try out by many notable board gamers. I bought it this spring and it’s quickly become my go-to 3-player game. (For information about Encyclopaedist, see here)

Another one of my go-to game from the recent past is Painter Detective, which was released in 2015. I’ve played it with people of various ages and nationalities, both gamers and non-gamers, on various occasions, on bar tables and on picnic sheets, and it’s constantly fascinated the people who played them that they requested to play it over and over. I keep hearing many people recommending this game, but then again, it hasn’t been reissued (though it was reimplemented by Painter Detective Girl in 2016.)I recently saw a tweet by its game designer hinting that its sequel might come out, so I’d recommend you to check it out. (For information about Painter Detective, see here)

As a good source of information on such doujin games, Jon Power has listed the many hundreds of doujin games he’s helped people register onto BGG.  And, in this age of advanced machine translation, I’d recommend you also to check up doujin game overviews and reviews on major Japanese board game websites, such as Table Games in the World (TGiW), Fuuka’s Board Game Diary, and Nicobodo. Especially, on Fuuka’s Board Game Diary, the writer reports about the many doujin games she’s played shortly after each Game Market.

You also work as an interpreter on the Tokyo Game Market for overseas publishers. How has the interest of overseas publishers developed over the years?

More and more people, including publishers, are coming to visit the Game Market from overseas. Regarding the publisher I’m accompanying at the Game Market, they say that they’d like to establish a good relationship with doujin game designers over the years and they keep visiting the show constantly with an interest. I respect their careful and thoughtful action and am looking forward to seeing their visits bearing fruit by and by.

Could you give a sneak peek of what you are working on right now? Which Japanese games can we soon expect to play with English rules?

As a translator, I don’t refer to the information about these games before their designers do, sorry. Instead, I’d like to refer to your great service to keep doujin games at your store with English rules, along with your inquiries asking about the availability of English rules to the designers of the doujin games that have caught your attention, because I think it’s wonderful. As mentioned, many doujin game designers produce and release their games as a hobby in their free time with their pocket money. They normally can’t spare extra time and money for translation and localization. However, the interest expressed by overseas gamers may motivate the designers to take an extra effort to make their games available also to non-Japanese gamers. It’s a mutual thing. Thank you for the interview, and see you at the next Game Market!

From Essen SPIEL to Tokyo Game Market

As of this writing we have less than 4 weeks until the biggest board game fair in the world, Essen SPIEL, open it’s doors to the public. Also as of this writing the BGG preview list by Eric Martin for that event has more than 1000 games on it and new titles are still added daily and there are many more games releasing at Essen which will never have a listing as publishers don’t know about the list or don’t care.

Like for many other publishers Essen SPIEL is the most important fair of the year for the Nice Game team. We can present and sell our games to a gigantic audience and since ‘everyone’ is there we  arrange meetings for game submissions and distribution (Note: If you want to pitch a game idea to us or if your are interested in distributing one of our games please get in touch).

This year we are presenting 3 new games at our booth at 4-E103. We are selling Das Geheimnis der Tempel, which is the German version for Mystery of the temples, a compact strategy game with a innovative crystal grid mechanic.  Furthermore we are demoing two titles:

In Dragon Canyon players competing in reigning over the canyon by battling the opponents and racing to to claim the different buildings in this gorgeously illustrated and quick playing game.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage puts the player into the role of an ancient vampire building a bloodline through the centuries. In this quick-playing legacy card game players will experience a 700 year campaign, unlocking new challenges, characters, and rewards along the way. This game you can also play at Paradox booth 5-A104.

Apart from showing our own games Essen SPIEL is equally important for acquiring new games for our Nice Game Shop.  Since we are based close to Essen we can easily get new titles for our shop directly from the many publishers which are present.

But which games to choose? Obviously we are looking for obscure games published outside Europe or North America. But this is a broad term, the BGG preview list alone has over 120 titles which fit that criteria.

Let me show you some of the games that piqued our interest.

Eco-Links by our partners at Korea Boardgames is a frenetic tile laying game with great theme: restoring natural habitats of various animals and help them reconnect with their families. In the game you are making paths connecting all the animal markers as fast as possible, first player to do so takes the 1st token and flips the sand timer, now all other players have little time to finish. Depending on speed and if you build all paths correctly you score points.

Wangdo is the new game by Korean publisher Mandoo Games, who brought us Rising 5 last year.

In this East Asian themed game we play as anthromorphic bears trying to reign the lands by placing strategically steles on the board, thus securing items and dragon seals. Steles can only be placed adjacent to other steles, but have to have another color than neighboring steles. Then you pay steles equal to the steles surrounding you to the supply. If you manage to get 3 copies of the same item you get to draw one dragon seal card which can change the rules for you if played. The game ends when a player collects all the 4 different items 3 times, thus filling the player board. Theme and illustrations are top notch here and it is one of those games that is easy enough to play with casual gamers or with kids, but gives some tough decisions for the most hardcore gamer, too.

Mayfly is a cooperative game about a fly trying to find a partner. The game is seperated in two parts. First we feed the grub so that it grows into a big and healthy fly. Then, as a fly we have to overcome several obstacles like frogs and birds to find our partner. There are several different endings and the stories at the end of a game are just heart-melting.

Scientia is a game I have played three years ago as a rough prototype and I enjoyed my play of it a lot. The card turning mechanism felt very fresh at the time and the theme is still great. Now it has been illustrated by the magnificient Vincent Dutrait and got a lot more development so I am very excited to try it out. The game is sadly not for sale at Essen but you can test it at the Korean Pavilion.

Mizo/Teenage Riot has to be one of the publishers pushing the boundaries of board game theming the most these days. Last year they presented at Essen Raid on Taihoku, a coop game about the people living in the city during the bombings in WW2. Then they followed up with Zoo of Depression in which they players take the roles of animals native to Taiwan in their struggle for survival against all odds and the urbanization of the island.

Now they are bringing Dare to Love to Essen, which was crowdfunded very successfully in Taiwan earlier this year. Dare To Love is as far as I know the first game called LGBTQ friendly on the box. In this one vs. many game one player assumes the role of Asomrof who tries to stop or kill the lovers of the people he imprisoned. The other players acting as those lovers trying to stop Asomrof and free their friends.

The presentation is absolutely spectacular with a cardboard dicetower, transparent plastic standees and great artwork all around.

Eye my Favourite things is actually an older game now coming back in a new edition and seems to bring some innovation in the trick taking genre. Quoting from Board Game Geek:

Each player asks some topic of the next player, such as favorite movies, cartoons, animals, etc., and that neighboring player writes down their top five favorites on cards in sleeves. Behind these answers are hidden cards numbered from 1 to 5 and one non-favorite on a card numbered 0. These six cards are now your hand for playing tricks.

You don’t know what card answer corresponds to what rank number, so you have to guess the next player’s preferences and tendencies, and play one card based on your judgement of their tastes. Once cards are played to the trick, the hidden numbers are shown. Your neighbor’s preference rank is the card’s strength. Card 5 is highest, 0 is lowest, but if 5 and 0 appear in the same trick, 0 wins.

In short, understanding your neighbor is the key to winning the game.

Strange Vending Machine is flying a bit under the radar which is a shame because it is a game that many people will enjoy. Essentially it is a push-your-luck set-collection game in which you take cards you can only see one half of it and add them to your collection. According to the symbols you have gathered at the end of the game you will score points.

Now, the cool part is that the game comes with little cardboard vending machines in which you put little cardboard coins and then you get to draw a card. If you don’t have coins you could also take all coins out of one vending machine (ideally the one with the most coins in it) but beware of the false coins with which you can pay, but which are minus points at the end of the game.

Last but not least I would like to give a shoutout to APIBGI, the Indonesian association for board games which will have a big booth at Essen this year. They will bring a total of 24 games of which 12 are for sale. Some of them we could also try like Acaraki and The Festivals, and now we are very curious to see what new games are brought to the fair. Hilko wrote a nice overview article about the games which are for sale, which you can read here.

While Essen SPIEL is still on the horizon and we are still busy finishing up everything we want to show there, we already started the preparations for Tokyo Game Market, which will be taking place November 24-25 at Tokyo Big Sight.

Many publishers already announced their games on Twitter and we went ahead and created a Preview list on BGG with all the new important releases.

We will go into full TGM mode after Essen but already it is easy to say that especially the new Yokohama Duel by Okazu Brand will get a lot of attention. Also, there is a new Shun/Studio GG release called Mystery Homes and a new game by Ayatsurare Ningyoukan called Jumble Order which we are looking forward to. On the more quirky end of the spectrum there is Masala Magic which is a cross between Poker and Incense smelling (a la The Perfumer). The components just look insane especially considering the price of just 4000 yen. Then there is Mech Maker by Proto Craft, which is a crossover of mech dueling game and modeling kit.

Definitely a lot to look forward to at the next Game Market.

As already discussed in previous edition of the Global Boardgame News Iranian publisher Houpaa Games will be bringing Dej, the Persian edition of the classic Citadels, to Essen SPIEL.

This game will be exclusively available at our booth 4-E103 and if you want to make sure that you get a copy you can fill in the reservation form we have created. On Friday and Sunday at 1 PM there will be also the author Bruno Faidutti at our booth to sign the game.

We will also be bringing the whole Li He x Facio lineup to Essen. If you make a reservation here, we can add those sweet cat dice bags!

And that’s it for this edition of Global Boardgame News. If you are in Essen make sure to visit us. We will bring the whole Nice Game Shop. If you don’t come to Essen and like the look of the games here, then don’t worry as we will have all of them in the online shop after Essen.