Play the Anime in Your Living Room: Discovering Anime Board Games and Card Games

When I think of anime and traditional games, e.g. card games and board games, the things that come to mind are Yu-Gi-Oh! or maybe something Pokemon-related. On the more hardcore end are games such as Weiss Schwarz, which allows you to build and cross over multiple series in a competitive TCG, or the digital card game Shadowverse, which carries an anime aesthetic.

What I never knew until very recently is the amount of anime and manga-themed games out there, as well as the degree to which they try to either faithfully capture the spirit of their source material or whatever idea it is they’re trying to convey.

The resource I found that gave me a bit of insight into how deep this rabbit hole goes is Hoobby.net’s Boardgamer section, which you can filter by “anime” or “manga.” Due to issues of accessibility and time, I haven’t had the chance to play any of them (and thus cannot actually give a real assessment), but I can appreciate their existence.

Some of the games focus on a broader theme from anime and manga. “Book Makers,” for instance, puts you in the role of readers of a shounen manga’s tournament arc, and you’re basically sending in reader surveys to determine which characters progress in the competition. Sadly, it seems like the game is out of print, or at least no longer has a functioning website. Perhaps the idea was too niche. Another game, “Light Novel Label,” has the player as a light novel editor fostering your authors.

Others are based on established properties, and it’s in that realm that the sheer variety of the games I found genuinely surprises me.

It’s one thing to have a simulated tactical board game based on Girls und Panzer. It’s a popular title and the competitive tank-battle motif plays perfectly into the format. Even the Love Live! board game isn’t terribly surprising, even if its concept of “make a sub-unit and gather more fans” is more of a stretch than GuP. Where it gets really wild is in examples like the Pop Team Epic card game and the Mayoiga: The Lost Village card game.

The Pop Team Epic card game, or more specifically the “Pop Team Epic KUSO [SHITTY] Card Game,” is actively designed to be hilarious but also kind of anti-fun–appropriate for such a trollish manga and anime series. In the instructions, it says, “Whoever remains is the winner. If all players are out, then Bandai Corporation is declared the winner.” The Lost Village’s card game seems to be a mystery/horror game where you play as five of the characters from the anime and try to survive your trauma, but anyone who’s seen that TV series knows that it does not lend itself well to a board game, and perhaps not even to an anime. The most important thing is that you can indeed play as the breakout “star” of the series, Hyouketsu no Judgeness.

Perhaps the most shocking game I found in terms of just existing is the board game for Genma Taisen, aka Harmageddon, from 1983. It’s not entirely out of left field, but I just never expected that anyone would have tried to distill that series into some kind of playable format, though the fact that it predates the Famicom might be a contributing factor.

A lot of the games don’t seem to have much longevity, which is tragic in its own way. Maybe someone will see one of the less beloved games and give it a second chance, and sparking some kind of second wind. Until then, they seem more like curios and conversation pieces.

This post is sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. You can request topics through the Ogiue Maniax Patreon or by tipping $30 via ko-fi.

Splaket 11 + Popket Rebroadcast Double Doujin Event Report

On my recent trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit not one but two doujin events at the same venue: the Splatoon-themed Splaket 11 and the Pop Team Epic-themed Popket Rebroadcast. Both were held at Ota City Industrial Plaza PiO, which is the same venue as the Love Live! event I attended two years prior.

Splaket

Splaket wasn’t overwhelmingly large by any means, but it did get plenty of foot traffic. I actually saw a few parents bringing their young, Splatoon-loving kids there. I like to imagine they were otaku parents introducing their kids, but Splatoon is big enough a series that I’m not sure that’s guaranteed.

What stood out to me most, however, were the ways artists and creators of these doujin works transformed the Splatoon concept to fit their needs. It’s like the world established by the games is just detailed enough to girl the imagination and just open enough to let that same imagination fill in the blanks. I saw detailed weapons catalogs, fashion guides, BL, yuri, straight romance, Callie and Marie, Marina and Pearl, and everything in between. It made me feel what an astounding success Splatoon is in terms of visual aesthetic and design.

Popket

The first thing I saw upon reaching Popket was the event catalog—a standard of doujim events. However, when I tried to pay for it, it turned out that the ¥333 price tag meant exactly that amount. It’s based on a Pop Team Epic joke about how animators make only ¥3,330,000 (approximately $33,000 USD) in spite of the grueling labor required. if you wanted them to keep the change, they wouldn’t let you! It was free to enter, but if you wanted that extra item, you had to come prepared.

Given that Pop Team Epic actually had a fair amount of mainstream penetration in Japan, I was expecting a fairly large event, but it was actually significantly smaller than Splaket. I’m not sure why this was the case, but I wonder if it was a combination of factors, like scheduling and Pop Team Epic being a difficult series to parody for the purposes of doujinshi.

The goals of fan works are many, but two are taking the original property to new and curious places, and trying to faithfully extend it such that the characters remain familiar as they’re adventures continue. But Pop Team Epic defies nearly all expectations. How do you parody a work that practically parodies itself? How do you tell jokes on its level? It’s not easy.

What I saw from Popket was less parodying Pop Team Epic and more using it to parody other series. Rather than trying to put Popuko and Pipimu in new situations, the doujin creators mimicked the drawing style of the original artist, bkub, to spoof other works. It reminds me of that artist who keeps drawing parody doujinshi of various series in which all the characters look and act like they came from Fist of the North Star.

Overall

It was an afternoon well spent, and a good chance to connect with Japanese fans. As always, I wish there was more of a doujin culture in the US and elsewhere.