More than the typical board game blogger, I often find myself playing and covering indie games coming out of East Asia. After all, I have been living in Japan for over a year now and get fairly regular exposure to them.
This past week, I played nothing but indie games from this part of the world, so if that isn't your cup of tea, this would be a good hoping off point for you.
These are the games that I played:
In the Ruin
Players: 2-10 Time: 10 Minutes Designer: Masahiro Kakinokihara, Trůlie Okamocĕk Artist: Makoto Ueda Publisher: Rocca Spiele
Rocca Rails is a small pocket card-shedder in which you are trying to be the first to rid yourself of your hand while building up a beautiful looking 3D-illusion of a railway.
Oddly enough, I picked this one up from a local stationary store, without any real clue what the game was about. I'm kind of glad I didn't look into it too much, because I am sure I would have never bought nor played this game if I had.
The core of the game is very much Uno. For example:
You say "ichi" when you have one card left
You need to play a card of a certain color on your turn, if you can't you pick up a card instead.
There are ways to force other players to pick up more cards.
When you are out of cards, you win.
At first glance, the similarities are a bit off-putting, but let's try to be open-minded for a second. Uno is a classic game and though many in the industry would argue that it is not a good game, it made it into the homes of millions and brought joy to many who played it. Credit where credit is due.
Rocca Rails is an Uno killer in my opinion. It gives you the same overall feeling, but with a bit more strategy and at least a pasted-on theme. Not to mention the added placement mechanics and visual rail-building make it the much more appealing game in my opinion.
My Enjoyment Rating: 6/10
Players: 1-4 Time: 30-45 Minutes Designer: 沢口 游祐 Artist: たかみまこと Publisher: Fudacoma Games
Trends are often here and then gone, but there are a couple of really big trends that seem to be sticking around longer than usual, and this game hits two of them square on the head.
In the Ruin is a Flip & Write game where you are filling in polyomino shapes onto your personal sheet. This isn't just some trend chaser though, as there is a lot of interesting meat on the bones of this one.
Throughout the game you are building the ruin with paths and walls, moving your explorer through the roads you've built and attempting to get treasures that have been laid out across the map. Only certain treasures will be available and player's very much have control over this, which adds a nice layer of strategy.
This game reminds me a little bit of a deckbuilding game called Clank! In both games, there is a race to get treasures and get out of the ruin/dungeon respectively. When you exit the ruin, you vastly speed up the end-game and force your opponents to often take a lot more penalties. This is all about timing of course (as it is in Clank!) but that bit of push your luck makes the mid-game of In the Ruin very tense.
My Enjoyment Rating: 7.5/10
Players: 2-4 Time: 30-40 Minutes Designer: Kazuma Suzuki Artist: 別府さい (Sai Beppu) Publisher: Tarte Games
This is a true indie game and was clearly a passion project of the designer. It is very possible this will only will ever receive one print run, so if you do see a copy there's a good chance it may be the last chance you'll have to get one. The rulebook even includes the often rare author's notes about what inspired the game and it was very touching.
Mitsuhama is a fishing town in Ehime, Japan and this game puts you in the roll of fish merchants who will be buying, selling, and trading 4 types of fish. This is a pure auction game, but it is actually quite clever. The auctioneer rolls 4 dice (representing the 4 types of fish) and selects any number of dice (up to the value of 9 pips) to put up for auction. Then players will do a simultaneous auction. The auctioneer has the chance to buy or sell at the final price.
Each fish is worth ¥1000 exactly, so it seemingly should be easy to figure out how much to bid for each auction, but there are restaurants that have certain needs and will pay handsomely to the and the player who provides them what they need. There is a ton of situational tension that makes the auction much more varied and un-predictable (in a good way).
There is also the ability to fulfill the auction costs with fish you already own which makes your decisions even more interesting. You can offer up a huge amount of yen, but in reality you could give someone fish that neither you or your opponent want or need. It's a little bit mean that way, but heck, it's an auction game, you have to expect it to get a little cut throat.
I was pleasantly surprised by this one, especially since I normally don't like pure auction games. This one is extremely smooth, plays in about 20-30 minutes and gives the players a whole lot of interesting decisions via natural player interaction without a complicated rule-set.
My Enjoyment Rating: 7.5/10
Players: 2-8 Time: 15-20 Minutes Designer: Yu Wang Publisher: Blue Magpie Games
This game is another one that checks a couple of current popular trends; Cats (✔) and Roll & Write (✔).
Tyrannosaurus (the cat) and friends are making a playful mess in the home and as expected by the theme, this package is as cute as a button. The box looks like a wrapped shipping box that was clawed at, the dice are clear with cute colored cats on them, the artwork is silly and charming and the gameplay captures the playful essence of the theme perfectly.
During the game, you will be doing standard roll & write stuff, but there are a couple minor twists that make this one a worthy entry into the genre.
Firstly, the active player keeps one of the 3 rolled dice hidden from the rest of the players, this adds a nice element of strategy and planning for all players.
Secondly, placement restrictions of the hidden die can throw some wild curve-balls your way and foil your seemingly well planned turn (if you aren't careful). In a heavier game, something like this may be frustrating, but in a lighthearted game like this, it just adds to the fun of it all.
Thirdly, due to the general placement rules, it is possible for the game to have a relatively sudden end. The game continues until someone can't legally place both of the visible dice on their sheet. Which may end on any turn once player's sheets start to get moderately full.
Overall the game is a solid and enjoyable roll & write game and I think it will be especially good for cat lover's looking for a cute and playful game.
My Enjoyment Rating: 7/10
Best In Show
Due to time constraints, my wife and I had to stick to some shorter games this week. Lucky for us, we have a ton of these little games thanks to the Tokyo Game Market and Yellow Submarine (our FLGS).
However, only one can be crowned "Best in Show:"
... And the winner is...
This week ended up being a very close call between In the Ruin, Mitsuhama, AND Tyrannosaurus's Holiday. In the end, I just preferred the personal feel and charm of Mitsuhama and was so pleasantly surprised by how simple and satisfying it was, especially for a style of game that is usually not for me.
Definitely check these games out if you have a chance.
Until next time!