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Japanese Game Round-up: Tend to Ghosts, Finger Gifts, Build a Raft, and Create Energy Drinks

by W. Eric Martin

The next Game Market in Tokyo takes place on December 9-10, 2023, so with a month to go before that show, let’s highlight a handful of Japanese game releases I’ve run across in the past few weeks:

ぎりぎりエナドリ is the newest title from designer/artist ましう(Mashiu) of ましうgames (Mashiu games), who I last covered in January 2020. (I love my optimism in that post. I was going to Game Market in April 2020! So excited for that trip!!)

“ぎりぎりエナドリ” translates as “Last Minute Enadori”, with “エナドリ” being short for “エナジードリンク”, or “energy drink” — but the English title on the box is a beaut all on its own: Possibly safe energy drinks.

Details of the gameplay are minimal, but somewhat clear from the image above: Play cards to make energy drinks. As my gym-obsessed son has learned, though, you can’t just consume all the energy drinks you want, and the game’s tagline seconds this idea: “If you don’t drink, you can’t win — and if you drink too much, you lose. Enjoy the dilemma.”

• A second title from ましう falls into the 500¥ game category, with those designs typically being a postcard game or something else with almost no components.

Ninjanken / 忍者んけん is a rock/paper/scissors-style game in which you can throw one of five “jutsu” (hand symbols) against other players to try to defeat them and gain scrolls.

Each round, each player simultaneously throws a jutsu while holding a Ninjanken summary card with their other hand. When a player scores by landing rock vs. scissors, etc., they move their finger along the scroll chart on their card to show everyone else their score; additionally, they must fold down the jutsu they used, which means it’s now off limits for them to use.

To reset their jutsu, they must throw the “okay” jutsu — but if someone throws the “devil horns” jutsu at the same time, then the player slides their finger toward the bottom of their card. If they get horned again, they’re out of the game!

• Another finger-based game coming to Game Market in December 2023 is Last Penguin / ラストペンギン from designer Kenta Murayama and publisher Neta-verse LLC:

In this Twister-like game using fingers, players take turns drawing a secret gift card, secretly checking what’s on it, placing the card anywhere they like on the table, then placing one or more fingers on it and inviting other players to do the same. As more cards are placed on the table, a player might decide to move a finger from one card to another. When only one player has a finger on a card, they claim it and discover what they’ve won — or sometimes “won”.

The cards have values from +7 to -3, or they contain an action, such as discarding an acquired card, releasing a finger, or commanding another player to release a finger. Beauty cards are worth +6 pts, but if you collect a second one, it’s worth -3 pts. The top hat is worth +1 pt, but if you place it on your head and keep it there until game’s end, you get +5 pts instead.

Players are not allowed to move the draw deck or placed cards, and are meant to use all the fingers of one hand, if possible. A player may also use fingers on their other hand as long as they can still draw on their turn.

Last Penguin is being crowdfunded through the end of November 2023 on Bodofun, the new crowdfunding service from Bodoge, which is essentially the Japanese equivalent of BGG. Bodoge lists more than 25,000 games in its database, with an emphasis on JP games, although international games are listed as well. (Bodoge also lists 569 board game cafés and retail stores in Japan so that’s something BGG should take inspiration from.)

Bodofun launched on November 1, 2023 with ten titles, and in its announcement Bodoge promised that it’s screening projects to ensure the people running them are trustworthy. Why? Because of this (Google translated) promise:

…if we fail in product development and cannot deliver the product, we will refund the amount you paid. Additionally, each project has a deadline for shipping the product. This may be six months or one year after the product is scheduled to be shipped. We will also refund your money if we find that we are unable to send the item by that deadline.

Please rest assured that Bodofun management will be responsible for refunds.

• Designer Masaki Suga will release a new card game from his POLAR POND GAMES brand: Gravekeepers, a design for 2-4 players:

In Gravekeepers, you become a guide to the spirit world. While possessing two gravekeepers, you patrol a cemetery of four rows and four columns, listening to the troubles of ghosts wandering in the graveyard and guiding them to the spirit world. Be careful not to let yourself fall down by accepting too many worries…

In more detail, first lay out the graveyard cards in a 4×4 grid, then place ghost cards on specific cards based on the icons on them: white ghosts on white white, black on black. The white gravekeeper moves vertically in the graveyard, while the black gravekeeper moves left and right.

On a turn, declare “white” or “black”, then move the matching gravekeeper. Collect all of the ghost cards in the row or column next to where the gravekeeper stopped, then place one card from your hand face down on the graveyard card at the intersection of the two gravekeepers. Finally, activate the effects on the empty graveyard cards in the row or column where you collected cards.

At the end of the game, calculate your score based on your cards in hand and card effects. Whoever has the most points is eliminated, then the player with the most ghost cards wins.

• While on the topic of ghosts, let’s consider DroPolter from Paul Schulz and Oink Games, which seems like a juiced-up Ghost Blitz thanks to the addition of hand management — but not how you might think:

Your hand is always full in DroPolter, which makes it a challenge to drop only the correct items that the ghosts want to see.

To start the game, each player has a hand of five items: a red plastic cube, a blue wooden key, and so on. Each round, someone flips the top card of the deck, then players race to drop only the correct items from their hand. If you drop something you shouldn’t, you’re out for the round. If you’re the first player who drops everything correctly, congratulations! You’re rewarded with a tiny bell…that is placed in your hand and cannot be dropped in the future.

The first player who collects five bells wins.

• Oink Games has a second new title coming in December 2023: Rafter Five by Oink’s Jun Sasaki and designer Mashiu — yes, we’ve circled back to the beginning of this post!

Here’s an overview of this 1-6 player game:

In Rafter Five, you and your fellow players want to build as large a raft as possible — but you want to end up being the only one who can board it.

To start, stack the box top and bottom to create a base, then place the five wooden rafter pieces on the starting card on top of the base.

On a turn, lift a rafter, place a raft card on the playing area, replace the rafter, then place one of your treasure chests somewhere on the raft…ideally in a precarious position because if someone else knocks off this chest, they must keep it in their hold. If a player collects five treasure chests owned by other players in their hold, they’re out of the game! (You can knock off your own chests without penalty, but you’re making the game easier for everyone else.)

While both DroPolter and Rafter Five will be available at Tokyo Game Market in December, they will actually debut at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, which takes place Dec. 1-3, 2023.


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