Editor’s note: Game Market took place in Tokyo on May 13-14, 2023, and Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English and who tweets about new JP games — has translated two reports — day 1 and day 2 — from Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his post. Many thanks to Saigo! —WEM
Tokyo Game Market 2023 Spring (Day 1) took place on May 13th at Tokyo Big Sight in unfortunately rainy weather. It was shortly after COVID-19 was downgraded to a common infectious disease and, although most of them wore masks, many people visited the show and enjoyed buying and playing board games.
Tokyo Big Sight in rainy weather; some people left the waiting line for a while when they were hit by heavy rain
Entry started at 11:00 with the early ticket priced at 3000 yen or at 12:00 with the regular ticket priced at 1500 yen. Queuing for the entry took quite a while, so the time one could actually spend in the venue was even shorter. It was nearly impossible to visit all of the 800+ booths. To make the most of the short time available, the visitors formed long waiting lines before the opening.
Lines formed outdoors before the opening
As the show opened at 11:00, enthusiasts streamed into the venue, at first for shopping. Long lines were formed also at the booths that had announced the sale of limited items.
Running is not allowed in the venue, so many hurried to the booths at a trot
After the rushed entry settled down, I walked around to see the booths. The venue for Tokyo Game Market 2023 Spring covered an area of 19,760 square meters (including the atrium covering 2,000 square meters). Arclight had a block booth in the atrium (“1F” in the figure below) of the U-shaped venue, and this conveniently allowed the visitors to go back and forth between the West Halls 1 and 2.
West Hall 1
West Hall 2
Man-in-do, a board game printing company, had a stock clearance sale before moving their office after the Game Market. There were lucky finds at prices ranging from 100 to 1000 yen.
Teriteri Man in good spirits at the mobile shop van of Teriyaki Games (Bushiroad)
Boardgame-related accessories and goods of various creators were available at the Toukasai booth.
In the game of AI Smart Four by CAST JAPAN, you play against an AI. As you place smart blocks on the board, the AI recognizes your moves and indicates its moves by light.
At the “Instant Propose Festival” celebrating the fifth anniversary of Instant Propose, paper lanterns hung in a line displaying the word “P-R-O-P-O-S-E”.
At the Thyella Games booth, the staff cosplayed in the Blood Recall style.
Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his game-designing activities, Susumu Kawasaki saw his games being released at many booths all over at this show as “The Kawasaki Festival”. At his own booth, Mr. Kawasaki released しりとり将棋 / Shiritori Shogi.
Azb.Studio, whose elaborate booth constantly attracts attention, released マナとぴあ 最強マナー講師決定戦:名刺交換編 (Mannertopia: Manner for Exchanging Name Cards).
Oink Games announced the release of Chainsaw Man Nine Tiles, a themed version of Nine Tiles, and had pre-sales of the game on this day.
The Kickstarter booth had more presence than the pre-COVID-19 days. Board game projects amount to 40% of the total Kickstarter projects, and the projects from Japan still amount to less than 5% of them, but the Kickstarter people expressed their will to help launch more projects from Japan.
I ran into the board game idol Ayamin at the GP Games booth. She mentioned Catan: Cities & Knights as her favorite game. Here is a photo of her with Kazuhide Yonekawa of GP Games and pro gambler Nobuki.
In the atrium, I encountered many people playing DUEL BOY which you could buy and play at the spot against anyone while standing in the venue. Asozan-Daifunka said that he had played it for three hours.
At 1:30 p.m., there was a talk show with the Italian game designer Simone Luciani on a special stage, attracting a large crowd. Mr. Luciani said that, in Italy, game designers have meet-ups almost every month somewhere in the country, which has led to many collaborations such as Acchittocca. In Japan, it would be like 名古屋テストプレイ会 (“Nagoya Playtesting Meet-Ups”) taking place all over the country. In response to the questions by Makoto Tanaka of Ten Days Games, Simone Luciani mentioned Tzolk’in as a game he would like to redevelop. When asked if raising of the parameters in Golem might have been too much, he frankly replied yes.
There was a surprise announcement that Arclight would release OKAZU Brand‘s Railway Boom for general distribution with Mr. Luciani in charge of its development. Hisashi Hayashi of OKAZU Brand also went on the stage, where Mr. Luciani mentioned that he liked Yokohama, and he was looking forward to developing the game.
Simone Luciani being interviewed
Arclight plans to promote the fun of board games to the general public beyond the current trend of party games by introducing not only gamers’ games such as Railway Boom but also medium weight games. As part of this effort, a special booth with demo tables was built to have the visitors play Spiel des Jahres winners, under the title “本当に面白いユーロゲームの世界” (“The Really Fun World of Euro Games”). The games brought here were all classics, and many visitors who had played them before were seen recommending them to their friends and playing them together.
Special stickers were distributed to the people who wrote their impressions on the free pamphlets.
Arclight Games Award 2023 nominees (from among those released last autumn) were announced. The five nominees are Komorebi Parade, Build Castle, DUEL BOY, Railway Boom, and Tornado Splash 2. The nominees from among those released at Tokyo Game Market 2023 Spring will be added to these to determine this year’s winners, which will be announced at the next Tokyo Game Market.
Apparently, there is a plan for collaboration between Game Market and SPIEL. Wait for further news!
At 3:00 p.m., an interview with the French game designer Roberto Fraga, the author of Ninja Banana, a.k.a. Shrimp, took place at the Sugorokuya booth. He talked with humor about how he came up with Shrimp, on which Ninja Banana is based, when he was playing SET while watching Forrest Gump, and that banana might have been cactus instead.
Mr. Fraga said that he designs a lot of action games because he values experience, and that he wished to be a painter after retiring from being a game designer. His wife Florence, who was being interviewed with him, seemed to enjoy the trip to Japan, saying that they could travel around the world thanks to games.
Roberto Fraga answering questions from Koji Maruta of Sugorokuya
Sugorokuya had pre-sales of capsule toys dubbed “Sugorokuya Miniature Card Game Collection”, which would be released in May. They sold out quickly.
At the awarding ceremony of Japan Boardgame Prize 2023 (hosted by NPO U-More), Makoto Tanaka of Ten Days Games received the first prize in Voters’ Selection for the Japanese edition of Ark Nova. Mr. Tanaka was very busy on this day, also teaching game rules at the Euro game booth and interviewing Simone Luciani.
I will report on some of the games that received attention in my write-up of Day 2.
The weather on Day 2 was cloudy with a pleasantly mild temperature. Compared to Day 1, it was less crowded. (It felt like crowds were concentrated in certain booths.) In such a condition on Sunday, you could ask about the games and even try them out at the booths. While Saturday would be more advantageous for making sales, many exhibitors experience difficulty having their booth visited due to high competition, while Sunday provides the advantage of being visited with more ease, even if sales might be lower.
Families and couples visit the show more on Sundays. This is similar to the difference between the weekday and weekend SPIEL visitors in Essen. Considering that SPIEL is much more crowded on weekends, it seems that Game Market is still more of an enthusiast event.
Game Market Management Office has announced that the attendance was 12,000 on the first day and 10,000 on the second day, adding up to 22,000 in total. Compared to Tokyo Game Market 2022 Autumn, the attendance was almost the same on the first day and increased by 1000 on the second day, consequently reducing the difference in attendance between the two days.
In the afternoon, there was an event to announce the opening of Analog Game Museum. Actually, the Analog Game Museum has already started to collect games at Jun Kusaba’s grandfather’s family home in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture. Being a private house, it cannot be open to the public or provide rental service, but approximately 2,000 titles released at Game Market have been collected and stored there to be registered.
After an introduction by Jun Kusaba, there was a symposium on cataloging board games by library information specialists: Akihiro Takakura, a.k.a. “fighting game librarian,” Minoru Ito (Adol), and Kazufumi Fukuda, who works at International Professional University of Technology in Osaka. The symposium covered topics such as the importance of cataloging for cultural assessment, the need for documentation, providing access, and other information not found in boardgame databases, such as BGG and ボドゲーマ (Boardgamer), and the importance of including credits also for indie creators.
Although there are still many issues to be addressed, such as raising funds for activities, collecting the games released before the establishment of Analog Game Museum, and securing the workforce for cataloging, Mr. Kusaba calls for the participation of many members in this “participatory co-op game”. This was followed by a talk with members, including Noriaki Watanabe (Drosselmeyer & Co. Ltd.), Seiji Kanai (Kanai Factory), Keiji Kariya (former general manager of Game Market Management Office), Hitoshi Yasuda (Group SNE), and Kazunari Yonemitsu (game designer).
In his presentation at the event to announce the establishment of Analog Game Museum, Kazufumi Fukuda mentioned that the data of the registered items are already available on GitHub as “AGM Search”.
At the “ThunderGryph Games Award in Game Market 2023”, held on the special stage at the same time, Gonzalo Aguirre Bisi of the Spanish board game publisher ThunderGryph Games, chose from among the games he had picked at Game Market, Elemental Trunk Man (from Tokyo Game Makers) as the grand prize winner.
Gonzalo Aguirre Bisi of ThunderGryph Games and Oguland of Tokyo Game Makers
Here are some of the games I checked during the two-day show. I referred to the list of games in my previous article “ゲームマーケット2023春：注目の新作ボードゲーム” (Most Anticipated New Releases at Tokyo Game Market Spring 2023) and also added some works that caught my attention. Trick-taking games were popular again at this Game Market. In addition to the games from Japan, Inside Job, a social-deduction trick-taking game from KOSMOS, was popular at the GP Games booth.
• Trick-Taking Games
Uchronicle (from Kogumayan) is a trick-taking game in which you may follow suit and need to win tricks. In order to win tricks, you can change the trump suit, but a failure to change it without maintaining consistency of the past cards in line will result in removing and taking unfavorable cards as negative VPs.
Game Design: Blachoco / Illustration: Amagu
2-3 players / 12+ / 30 min
Trick o’ Roof (from Yoidore Shuzou) is a trick-taking game in which players change the color of roof tiles in the order they win and arrange them according to the request cards. The highest ranked player starts with one tile of each color to place, so it is easier for them to meet the request, while the available colors become fewer for later players.
Game Design: O-sake / Illustration: Minosumisu
2-5 players / 10+ / 30-60 min
In Tighee (from VicVillage), the players basically try not to win tricks. You earn positive points for winning 4/8/12 tricks, but negative points for winning any other number of tricks. The black suit counts as the color of the card drawn from the deck, so watch out for it. The game is themed on the tigers and ghee (butter) from The Story of Little Black Sambo.
Game Design: LEO / Illustration: Higawind & Agomi
3-4 players / 10+ / 30-40 min
Savage Bowl: Trick Taking Game (from Burekeke Games) is a trick-taking game to win a specified number of tricks, with the first half of the game being won by coming in second place. In the first half of the game, you can discard a card from your hand each time you come in first place, which allows you to adjust the number of tricks to win, but can you, really?
Game Design: URiO / Illustration: Tori Hasegawa
4-5 players / 10+ / 30-45 min
• Euro-Style Games
The Man Who Was Thursday (from Jupiters Club) is an area-control game from Korea and was inspired by a mystery novel of the same name written by G.K.Chesterton. The players guess which agents, each representing a day of the week, belong to who while concealing which agents belong to themselves.
My Trolley Town (from Studio GG) is a pick-up-and-deliver, tile-placement game to connect buildings and railroad tracks, and transport and convert resources into victory points. This has attracted attention as a new game from Studio GG, who is famed for games, such as Little Town.
RATORO (from Sui Works) is a worker-placement and set-collection game using two types of workers: cows and mice. Mice can be placed where cows are, but not vice versa. Each action requires offerings as the cost, and the offerings can be taken by some actions.
Game Design: Hugame / Illustration: Natsumi Miyanose
2-4 players / 14+ / 30-60 min
Harvest (from ForGames) is a remake of a legendary title that used to be sold at JR train station kiosks in the 1990s. Players place vegetable cards and harvest them from their fields when three or more cards are lined up and meanwhile place rotten vegetables, which count as negative points, in their opponents’ fields.
Game Design: Yukihito Morikawa / Illustration: Osamu Inoue
1-6 players / 8+ / 20 min
Splash Party (from Jelly Jelly Games) is a last-one-standing game in which you push other players’ colored pawns into the pool while concealing which colors you are playing. Originally designed by Heinz Meister in 1999, this is a remake by Cocktail Games, and its Japanese version will be released this summer.
2-6 players / 6+ / 10 min
Flower Market (from Sato Familie) is a set-collection game in which the players, as wholesalers, buy flowers from the market and sell them to florists. You need to borrow money as funds during the game and settle it at the end of the round. While you hope to buy the flowers when their price goes low, your customer florists may be snatched by your opponents while you are waiting. It helps to move up in the turn order by an advertisement, but that also requires borrowing money.
Game Design: Toshiki Sato / Illustration: Kotori Neiko
2-4 players / 10+ / 40-60 min
Concord (from OKAZU brand) is a co-operative game in which everyone simultaneously plays a card to complete missions without directly consulting one another. The mission chosen by the active player provides clues for guessing each other’s hands of cards.
Game Design: Hisashi Hayashi / Illustration: Ryo Nyamo
2-5 players / 8+ / 30 min
• Word & Party Games
リレカエイズム (“RIrekae-Izumu”, literally translated as “RHwap-Sythm”) (from Kakugari Books) is a word game to rhythmically draw phrase cards and read out the phrase on each card one after another with the initial letters of two words swapped. It may be likened to a family-friendly version of “Junkie Oyama Show” (a sketch from legendary radio comedy group Snakeman Show).
3-6 players / 6+ / 15-30 min
んこんこ / Nkonko (from Mosaic Gakari) is a tongue-twister word game in which the players take turns to flip and line up the word cards, which all end with “んこ” / “nko”, and read the entire line of cards from start to finish quickly without stuttering. It is played in a manner similar to TomaTomato, but with somewhat naughty words included.
Game Design: Mosaic Gakari / Illustration: Miyumaru
2-8 players / 13+ / 10-15 min
In なむあみどうなつ / Namu Ami Donut (from Bodogeimu), the players take turns to chant a sutra to which they secretly insert a word related to their earthly desire in a way that only their partner can guess it correctly.
Game Design: Gomaneko / Illustration: Shintaro
3-5 players / 10+ / 20-30 min
Capital Horse (from Kentaiki) is a horse-racing game using Japan’s prefecture rankings. You can make bets ranging from single wins up to trifectas. The horse names are literal English translation of kanji characters used for the prefecture names.
Game Design: Taiki Shinzawa / Illustration: Misaho Sugawara
3-6 players / 7+ / 30 min
The Silent Captain (from Yog Games) is a co-operative game in which the leader as the captain of a space battleship listens with their eyes closed to other players (crew) who read out the lines on the cards they simultaneously play one after another for one minute. After that, the captain opens their eyes and announces the direction to teleport their spaceship and the direction to fire the main cannon. The game challenges your capacity to vaguely grasp and memorize a vast amount of information.
Game Design and Illustration: Yog Akase
3-6 players / 12+ / 3-5 min
• One- or Two-Player Games
Ziegen jagen! (from Gomi Kokusai) is a two-player game to collect goats in the mancala style. The players take turns to pick up all the tokens in the space where their meeple is located, place them one by one in subsequent spaces, and if the number of goats exceeds the grass in the space where you place the last token, you can acquire them. This game won the Rakuichi Fresh Dragon Grand Prize at Nagoya Board Game Rakuichi in April this year.
Game Design & Illustration: Kyashi
2 players / 8+ / 15-30 min
マンガすごろく：ゴッホとテオ / Manga Sugoroku: Vincent and Theo van Gogh (from Atelier Mimir) is a sketchbook-style multi-ending (snakes-and-ladders-like) e-sugoroku game in which the players co-operatively play to help the brothers Vincent and Theo van Gogh create great paintings. The more motivated they get, the greater the paintings they can create.
Game Design & Illustration: Asami Yamanaka
1-2 players / 12+ / 30 min
TOWARDS GUT ALLEY (from 4tousei) is a solitaire dungeon crawler to allocate adventurers in the mancala style, acquire items, and defeat enemies while advancing through the dungeon in order to defeat the boss at the showdown. Each time you defeat a boss, a curse is placed on the adventurers, and I heard that even the author only made it to defeat the fifth of the seven bosses.
Game Design & Illustration: mor!
1 player / 10+ / 30-300 min
There are also other notable titles whose components I did not get to see at the venue, but I plan to play and report on them one by one. We will also conduct our questionnaire survey on newly-released games on Table Games in the World to gather first-hand feedback from those who have played the games.