Friday, August 21, 2020

Tanuki Matsuri has been good for my frazzled brain

 Okay, here’s the basic idea: Superlude Editions has released Tanuki Matsuri, a Roll and Write game set in the same world as their card game Tanuki Market, as a free print-and-play for Covid relief. It’s not the best PnP I’ve seen that’s been released as Covid relief nor the best Roll and Write I’ve ever seen. But it’s a very accessible family game at a time when that’s what is really needed.

Tanuki Matsuri is about mischievous Tanuki spirits stealing fruit from Granny’s fruit stand and also hosting a party for Granny. Which sounds like a pretty raw deal for Granny but it does work as an excuse for cute pictures of Tanuki so I’ll let it pass.

The rules are just a page long and the whole thing is free (at least for right now) so I won’t get too detailed about the rules. It’s one of those Roll-and-Writes where the die you pick let’s you check off a box on the sheet, in this case either a fruit or part of the flower trail that leads to Granny’s party. Okay, you circle them but the principle is the same. The game ends when you either circle the last flower or temple gate(whose sole purpose is to be a timer)

Ah but there’s a clever bit. Every single thing you circle has some kind of bonus. Circle a fruit. Circle a flower. Circle a score multiplier. Cross out a score multiplier. Circle a temple gate. And it’s pretty easy to chain bonuses and get multiple actions out of each turn. Without the bonus actions, there would be nothing to the game. For all interesting purposes, the bonuses are the game.

Tanuki Matsuri is a very light and simple game . Maybe _too_ light and simple even for a family weight game. I’m also pretty sure there is an optimal path to getting points (maxing out the flower path and the strawberry column), which is mildly mitigated by the bonuses allowing multiple ways to pursue that.

_But_ here’s the thing. As a game aimed at people who are under some level or another of lockdown, Tanuki Matsuri is golden. It’s got a cute theme that will appeal to a wide audience range, including youngish kids. It is very easy to build: one page per two players plus a writing tool and any three six-sided dice (no color combinations required) And it’s very easy to learn and play, which is very helpful in a casual, family game in these strained times.

I have to admit, between lockdown parenthood and remote school, my brain is fried. A year ago, Tanuki Matsuri would have been a blip on my radar. Now, the simplicity of it really clicked for me and I was engaged by it when I sometimes haven’t had the brain power for more intricate games. And our six-year-old liked to chain bonuses, even if he wasn’t interested the scoring system.

I don’t know if Tanuki Matsuri has the legs for a lot of replay or to be a game that is in regular play rotation for months or years to come. But it has been a very good game me for where I am at right here and now and I have recommended it to friends, particularly those with small children.

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