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Train Grim Reapers, Manage a Ski Lodge, and Find Japanese Games at SPIEL ’23

by W. Eric Martin

• In his June 2023 report on the Spring 2023 Tokyo Game Market, Takuya Ono of Table Games in the World included this image, writing “Apparently, there is a plan for collaboration between Game Market and SPIEL. Wait for further news!”

I can’t tell you anything about that collaboration yet, but SPIEL ’23 will feature a single booth (2-E116) highlighting titles both old and new from Japanese publishers itten, Oink Games, and Saashi & Saashi:

The first two publishers have attended SPIEL previously, but in their own booths, whereas SPIEL ’23 will be the first appearance for Saashi & Saashi, which plans to bring as much of its catalog as possible.

I’ve received a list of the new titles that Oink Games will feature, but I’m still waiting for info from the other two publishers. The hall plans for SPIEL ’23 show a decent-sized booth, so ideally attendees will have plenty of space to check out their games.

The original• Japanese publisher Game Nowa is trying to fund (KS link) a second edition of Kenichi Kabuki‘s game Grim Reaper Preschool, a trick-taking game in which players take on the role of preschool teachers who are trying to corral their students — students of death, mind you:

Grim Reaper Preschool / 死神プリスクール is a “must-follow” game, but players can follow either the lead suit or the rank of the card. If played cards are all of the same color, the highest number played wins the trick; if at least one played card is of the same rank, then the lowest number played wins. In the event of a tie for high or low, the tied card played later wins. (If no one follows the lead card, the first player wins the trick.)

Second edition

The winner of the trick collects all played cards, then leads the next trick. Once all the tricks have been played, players score for collecting consecutive cards in a suit as well as for collecting four or two cards of the same rank. (The Japanese equivalent for “grim reaper” is “死神”, or “Shinigami”, a word that includes the numbers 4 (“shi”) and 2 (“ni”), which is what makes those numbers special in this game.) Collect no tricks, and you receive the best score possible for a round because you have avoided all of your students and enjoyed a relaxing day!

After a series of rounds, whoever has the most points wins.

The original• Another Japanese game with a second edition in crowdfunding (KS link) is Tower Chess, a Taiki Shinzawa design first released in 2016 by 倦怠期 (Kentaiki), with the new edition coming in 2024 from 双子のライオン堂 (Twins Lion Do).

Here’s how to play this two-player-only game:

Tower Chess is a chess variant that’s played on a 6×6 grid with two fewer pawns on each side, without knights, and with all of the pieces being flat tokens rather than three-dimensional pieces.

Aside from the size of the game board, the main twist in the design is that rather than pieces being removed from the board, they are stacked. When a piece is moved, only the topmost piece of a stack is moved. Pieces that were once covered can move again once all the pieces that were on top have left. You may “capture” your own pieces by landing atop them.

As usual, the player to first capture the opponent’s king — in this case, by placing one of their pieces atop it — wins.

Snow Planner is yet another game being crowdfunded (KS link) by a Japanese creator, but in this case the game is new and the designer, Akashi, is a newcomer who’s part of the board game design collective 14games in Tokyo.

Here’s an overview of this 2-4 player game:

Snow Planner is a dice-placement game for 2-4 players who each take the role of managing an inn near snowy mountains. Players take turns placing a die on the game board, and once all the dice are gone, the round ends.

You will invite guests to stay at your hotel, with them paying you at the end of a round and ideally staying additional nights so that you don’t have to find more guests. By placing tiles on your board, you upgrade the hotel, increasing bonuses and earning more income. Dice can also represent employees, who gain you resources with their work time; additional dice can be earned, both permanent and part-time.

Each player starts with one of the talent cards, giving them unique powers during the game. By using this power and their dice, players can fulfill goals and projects or attract VIP guests.

In the end, whoever earns the most points wins.


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