Japan: A Tale of Gaming from the Other Side of the World September 20 2017

Japan is well-known for its collectible hobby culture. From card games, such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, to the hundreds of gachapon machines you'll find spread out across the country. It's hard not to get enraptured in it all. The arcades, the idol culture, the anime and the epicenter of it all, Akihabara. Recently, two of our staff members set out to venture across Japan. And we're happy to say we've added a sizeable amount of imported games to our ever-growing library here at FTW Cafe.

Jenga continues to be one of the most played games in our library. But we managed to find a game that puts the plain, boring game of blocks to shame. Say hello to Oh! Sushi Game. Instead of brown wooden blocks, you have a wide variety of different types of sushi. It's a bright and playful take on the classic, and even offers 10 different modes of play. You can play the classic stacking tower mode. Or if you dare, you can bring wasabi into the fold. The sushi pieces are hollow and you can place wasabi tokens inside, which contain penalties such as "Do a robot dance" or "Have the person on the left blow into your ear". There's a mahjong mode, an ordering memory game, a puzzle game and much more. It's the type of game that won't fail to wow your friends. Oh, and it even comes with chopsticks. 

Many of the games we picked up were Oink Games publications. They come in these minimalist, tiny boxes that are really well-designed. Even the games we got that weren't from Oink were small-sized. Square-footage is a bit of a luxury in Japan and unlike game shelves in North America, they need smaller sized boxes to accomodate their living spaces. 

Hanamikoji is a head-to-head card game where players vie over the favour of seven geisha-masters. It feels like a mixture of Battle Line and Lost Cities. It's got a gorgeous aesthetic with these oversized geisha illustrations. The back-and-forth gameplay is tight and keeps every move feeling critical. It's easy to jump into for gamers of any level.

One of the more well-known Japanese games we've finally got a hold of (which was long overdue, I'll admit) is A Fake Artist goes to New York. First of all, I love the names of their games and this one definitely takes the cake for my favourite. In this party game, one player is assigned to be the Question Master and the other players will take on the role of the Artists. The Question Master chooses a category and word to give to the Artists. However, among the Artists is a fake! The Fake Artist is not given the word, and therefore has to fake knowing what the drawing is supposed to be. The Artists take turns adding a stroke to the drawing, as little or as big as they desire. If the Fake Artist is not caught, the Question Master and the Fake Artist are awarded points. If the Fake Artist is caught and cannot guess what the word is, the Artists are awarded points. 

It's a really neat implementation of a few popular party games in Telestrations and Spyfall. It's got unlimited replayability as the Question Master can freely decide to choose any word, and is not just restricted to a deck of pre-written cards. Oink Games have published a lot of amazing, small-packaged games, and A Fake Artist Goes to New York is definitely the coolest.

Image Factory is a funny cooperative party game; a bit of a rarity in its own genre. One player acts as the "answerer" and the rest are the robots working in a factory to complete orders. One day the orders are mixed up and the "answerer" has to sort out the correct orders. Robots receive 2 Order Cards and have 30 seconds to read and draw something that best resembles the combination of those two cards. All Order Cards are shuffled together and the "answerer" then must guess which Order Cards were originally paired together to their drawing. 

These are just a few of our favourites among the big batch of games we've added. If you're ever curious to try them out, just ask one of our staff members! Many of them have English instructions (English of the broken variety), but some don't. We've done our best to translate them and learn how to play them, so we can help guide you along the way. 




Most Anticipated Games - September 2017 Edition September 13 2017

Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we take a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly.


Clank! In! Space!

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure was an unlikely hit when it released in late 2016. It was a bit of a late bloomer in terms of hype, but it has managed to garner enough attention to get itself a spinoff game. Clank! In! Space! is just that, Clank! done in space (bonus points for excessive exclamations). Instead of pressing your luck inside a dragon's lair, you're testing fortunes inside a space emperor's ship. 


Clank! In! Space! is pretty much just a reskin of the original, with a few added gameplay elements that act as mini-expansions. As someone who missed out on the original, I may just pick this one up as what is pretty much Clank! GOTY Edition (for those of you familiar with video games). 

Clank! In! Space! arrives on game shelves this Fall.


Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game

Scott Pilgrim is great. The movie, the graphic novel, the video game and most things associated with the universe are standout. So with a tabletop experience on the way, there's reason to feel excited. Built as a deck-builder, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game lets players take on the roles of the different characters in the universe. The goal is to collect power-ups along the way and defeat the Evil Ex. Yeah, this game is going to be awesome.


Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game will be available sometime after August 30 2017.


Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn

We're huge fans of the Civilization series on PC, and while their last board game felt a little flat in comparison, their upcoming offering definitely builds some hype. In Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, the pace looks a little faster, and the victory conditions are randomly generated at the beginning of each game. There is an inherent difficulty to replicating the intricacies of a computer game in a tabletop. Games of Civilization can often take days in realtime, but unlike computer games, it's much more difficult to save tabletop game progress. Hopefully A New Dawn can find the balance between giving players enough variety in progression while maintaining an enjoyable pace of play. 

The aesthetic of the game falls right in line with the computer games, and this time they've switched to hex-style tiles. A few more mechanics have been added to the fray to hopefully better replicate the computer games, such as City-States and Barbarians. I'm cautiously optimistic that this could be the Civilization game we've been properly waiting for. 

Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn has a tentative release date of Q3 2017.


Stuffed Fables

The spiritual successor to Mice & Mystics is finally coming. And not only has it spawned a new game, but according to Plaid Hat Games Stuffed Fables is just the first in a line of what is being referred to as AdventureBook Games. The AdventureBook is multi-purpose, unfolding the narrative, references for the rules and even acts as the game board itself. Each choice made by the players, allows them to build their own unique story. 

The biggest complaint I heard from Mice & Mystics players was that the combat system was too repetitive and because of it, the actual gameplay portion felt bland. But for those looking for engaging narratives, it was a big hit. It's been 5 years since the initial release of Mice & Mystics, so hopefully designer, Jerry Hawthorne has found a way to keep both ends of the experience enjoyable.

Stuffed Fables is scheduled for Q4 2017.


Now Boarding

I will always look forward to a new Tim Fower's project. He's always got a unique take on under-utilized themes in tabletop games. His latest game Now Boarding is his attempt at a cooperative, pickup-and-deliver style board game. Real-time cooperative games are nothing new, but are always a great way of adding tension and chaos to collaborative experiences. The goal is for players to do many things within 30 second intervals, hoping to get passengers to their intended destination. 

Now Boarding looks like the type of game that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The one hole may be in the randomness of things, but that's kind of an inherent mechanic in all cooperative games. Overall, it reminds me a lot of a F2P game called Pocket Planes that I used to play on my phone all the time. There's something alluring to me about acting as an airline. Perhaps its the wanderlust.

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Now Boarding ships to backers in February 2018.



FTW Staff Picks - Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure September 13 2017

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.


Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure

Genre: Deck Builder

Designer: Paul Dennen

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 45 minutes

For fans of: Dominion, Munchkin, Star Realms

We are always on the hunt for great new deck-builders. It's an easy genre to get hooked on, and there's no shortage of options when it comes to fun experiences. One of this year's big hits came from a relative unknown. Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure is Paul Dennen's first foray into tabletop games, and with purely word-of-mouth pushing his game it has managed to garner a lot of praise. That's kind of what makes the industry so exciting. Here, the cream generally rises to the top, and Clank! is one of the finest offerings of the year.

As most deck-builders begin, Clank! starts players off with the same 10-card deck. There's a row of randomly drawn cards to available to purchase, alongside a few staples that are always present. The goal as always is to earn the most points. Where Clank! diverts from the formula is in its dungeon-crawling board with a bit of a push-your-luck element. In order to traverse the dungeon, players need combat and movement points to press through monsters and caverns. The deeper the players travel, the more bountiful the rewards. However, this is not an empty dungeon. This dungeon belongs to a vengeful dragon, who looks to punish any plunderers who dare challenge it. The more noise players make, the more likely they are to incur the wrath of the dragon. Push too hard, and it could spell doom. 

Instead of having a round timer, Clank! gives players the ability to signal the end of the game by being the first to exit the dungeon. Timing this, can mean the difference between winning and losing. As the game draws to a close, the dragon becomes more and more fierce. The deeper the players are, the more likely they are to be killed and unable to score any points. As players sprint for the exit, the metaphorical walls close in on them. You get a total of 4 turns, to hopefully amass as much treasure as possible while finding an escape route. 

The dungeon map that comes with the game is double-sided, with one side for more advanced play. The cards provide a lot of interesting and diverse strategies. There are certain synergies that play up the greedier elements of the game, which is unique to the genre. There are very few deck-thinning cards, which makes purchasing a more thoughtful process. You don't want to end up with too many cards, with not enough time to draw. The balance of the game is impressive for its kind. And each play has only made me want to try new strategies. With an expansion already out, and a spinoff on the way there's plenty of Clank! to go around. And I'm down for all of it.