I recently returned from a vacation in Japan, where among other things I hit up Yellow Submarine in Akihabara and bought some board games that can (currently) only be found in Japan. As a bit of a pet project, I've translated one of them, "Brigare" from Domina Games, including putting together inserts that you can sleeve into the cards. I'm also sharing a translation I made for another Japanese board game, "San Jose" by Studio Turbine, which I did after my previous trip to Japan, before the pandemic.
A few notes about these translations follow.
Brigare is a cooperative card game for 2-5 players, where the players have to find and defend against evil heretics in a limited amount of time. It's a nicely polished, quick experience that's easy to pick up and not so easy to actually win—in line with much of Domina Games' catalog. I've played it a few times and while I had to double-check the rules to be sure that yes, it really is that hard, it is winnable and the mechanics are quite well described in a short amount of time. Somewhat surprisingly, there's no Board Game Geek database entry for this game, so I have submitted a proposal to add one.
Unfortunately, it's a game with a lot of unique text on the cards, which means that you can't just learn the rules and play with a Japanese copy unmodified. Board games being a global art, there are quite a few examples of games that don't need a bunch of components to be translated to play; I've fond memories of board game meetups way back where people would bring random games that only had, say, French or German rules, and we could sit down and play with just that as long as one person had read up first. Brigare presents a bit more challenge, since players have to keep a bunch of information hidden with cards that have various text.
The inserts I've provided can be slipped into card sleeves and cover the bottom portion of the cards to translate the titles and text of the cards. I don't provide an insert for the reminder cards, but you can use the side that shows the card distribution just looking at the icons, and the explanation of the icons is in the rulebook. I also didn't provide inserts to translate the names of the Area cards, which have no other text on them, because they're numbered on the back and the illustrations make it fairly clear which is which. Personally, I wanted to fit the game into the original box if at all possible, so I used Perfect Fit sleeves and cut the cardboard divider in half to leave just a little more room for the cards to sit side by side. The stack of sleeved cards is still too thick for the lid to fit cleanly, but it holds up alright with a rubber band over the top. (I previously did a little side project to translate some games in Domina's Blade Rondo series, although it turns out the official English versions are coming out soon.)
If you've played some previous Domina Games titles, you may notice some continuity here. Sophie, the protagonist of Argoat (available in English from Japanime Games) makes an appearance along with the emerald-loving rabbits called Bleina (rhymes with "Tina"). More directly, the playable characters are the same as in two previous games in the "Secret of Eden" series, Eresia and Diletto, so I've taken the official romanizations for all the names from those games' materials—which had some surprises: I would not have guessed that ベルケ is spelled Verche, and I initially expected ミカ and サリー to be Mika and Sally, but it turns out they're Micah and Sarie respectively.
For the rulebook, I've tried to follow the page breaks of the original Japanese rules where possible, so you can cross-reference if need be. Two major things I didn't translate are the character endings (on the backs of the cards) and the "special ending" you get for clearing with the Silver Ring on the King of Heresy; I felt that it might be considered improper to post that online since Domina Games haven't done so themselves, even going so far as to omit the special ending from the digital version of the rulebook.
San Jose is a quirky tile-laying game inspired by the Winchester Mystery House, where the players cooperate to build a mansion in a way that protects the Missus from marauding spirits. For this game, I actually received permission on Twitter from the original developer—a small indie group—to use some assets in the translation file. I was tickled to find a game, way across the Pacific in the heart of Tokyo, inspired by a landmark so close to my own home. Most of the tiles in the game have no text on them whatsoever, so the translation was a lot less labor-intensive than some of the other ones I've tried. I don't know of a good way to slip translations onto the few tiles that could use them, since something like stickers would probably come off or at least affect the shuffling of the tiles, so I provided a cheat sheet of the few unique tile effects in the translated booklet.
These aren't the only games I bought in Japan back in 2019; I also picked up Shitamachi Maid Monogatari: The Story of Faltisia, which is a cute drafting game about taking classes (or skipping them) to become the ultimate maid. I started, but ultimately didn't get very far into writing down my translation of the game rules. Fortunately, someone else on Board Game Geek has gone through the effort and provided a rules translation, and this is one of those games where most of the components only have icons rather than text so you can play with just a translated rulebook. Apparently an official English version, called Maid Knight Saga, is coming out soon.
This more recent trip, I acquired 4 new games: in addition to Brigare, I got another Domina Games product called Serviam, and a new Euro-looking game from the same publisher as Faltisia, Princess & Knight, which looks very cute and gay; but I haven't had a chance to try either of those yet, since they seem longer. Another one I bought and did get a chance to play is Mikazukiyo to Koucha no Himegimi (roughly, "Young Ladies' Tea Under a Crescent Moon"), an adorable game about trying to eat a lot of snacks at a secret tea party. It has some clever, silly flavor—for example, you have to pull cards from the deck without "spilling the tea" by knocking over the bead balanced on top of it, and is fairly light, with some Jungle Speed-like reaction speed/dexterity elements and a push-your-luck mechanic. There are plenty of cute anime girls who each brought their own favorite variety of tea, so as a connoisseur of tea as well I quite appreciate it. That game also has a lot of cards with text on them, but there's no hidden information so I haven't put together a translation sheet yet. I do want to give shout-outs to the incredibly kind and welcoming staff of C&A Cafe in the Kanda area of Tokyo, because they were very helpful in teaching this game to my partner and me when I brought it in, even though it was new to them too.
I might or might not eventually post translations of some of the other games, although at the rate that official English versions are coming out perhaps it won't be needed. It's great to see the Japanese board game scene thriving and growing.
P.S. If you're looking for more cool board games, my good friend Max's upcoming survival crafting game Stonesaga is in its last 40 hours on Kickstarter as I write this! Check it out!
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