Tanuki Market (2019) Review
Before I start talking about the upcoming game, I'll remind you what a Tanuki is. It is a small carnivorous mammal that looks like a raccoon. In France it’s called a raccoon dog. The only canine to hibernate.
In Japan, it is known as Tanuki (bake danuki). This name is not insignificant because it is also associated with a Yōkai of the forest. Renowned master of disguise, it was in the Middle Ages that this spirit began to be mainly represented in the form of Tanuki. Symbols of prosperity and opportunity, it is a benevolent figure of Japanese beliefs. Represented very often with a giant scrotum called kinbukuro (money bags) or kintama (golden balls), a straw hat and a bottle of sake, the Tanuki is also sometimes a little mischievous, but always kind.
But why am I telling you about this animal? Simply because the game that follows puts you directly at the head of a team of five Tanuki. Indeed, in Tanuki Market, you will have to collect food to feed a group of this little jokers at the expense of Mamie Reinette. Tanuki Market is a little card game by Alexis Allard released by Superlude Éditions. It allows 1 to 5 players to compete to recover the best possible combinations of cards to feed their Tanuki.
The village market is in full swing. The stalls are full of food and other local products. Within this village, not too far from the forest, Mamie Reinette's famous grocery store is open every day. Mamie Reinette runs her shop with an iron hand but ... sometimes she has her back turned or becomes a little sleepy. When these moments occur, the Tanuki, not far away, benefit. Without waiting, led by a Polo the Pilferer who is in top form, they try to grab the crates of fruit into their trolleys, heading towards the forest and the good belly of these adorable little beasts with hair. Everything is going well until the return of Mamie Reinette. This one will have no pity and will chase them as fast as possible.
It is therefore in a childish atmosphere that the game will unfold. For the set up, each player chooses a color and then takes the five cards associated Tanuki group. These cards have panels numbered from 1 to 5. These represent the tables on which the fruits will be stored. Small detail, the numbers represents the order in which to display these cards but also the value of points that each card posed here will bring back at the end of the game (I will come back to this). Then you take as many trolleys as players. Mixing well the rest of the cards (having first place the Mamie Reinette card as indicated) and you are ready.
The first player receives the Polo the Pilferer card. They will have the heavy responsibility of starting and distributing the fruit. Begins with placing Polo on one of the trolleys available. Polo occupies one space in this trolly (yes, it's a bit strange). From the moment Polo is placed, the round begins and each player, including the first player, can at any time retrieve a trolley. A player can only take one.
The player, who place out Polo, is called the pilferer during this round. The pilferer must draw a card from the deck. Drawing and looking at one at a time. Two choices are then available:
Whether the pilferer has taken a cart or not, they continue to fill others by renewing this action. If they have already taken a cart, they can only draw and directly put the card on one of the trolleys still available. If they can not put the drawn card down because the trolleys are already full and they have already taken one, they must then rest this card on the top of the deck without showing it to others.
But aren't there games like this already? Unlike other that use this system for example Coloretto or Zooloretto, Tanuki Market opts for real time. Indeed, from the moment Polo is laid, a player can collect an available trolley, whether it is full or not. Sometimes you'll be able to steal a cart from the pilferer before they can pick it up. The author has incorporated a (light) system of the speed mechanism, to what is already a little deceitful game. This small subtlety give another interesting aspect to this little card game and differentiate it somewhat from its "playful predecessors".
Once a player has recovered a trolley, they are out of the race for that round. But now that they have brought a trolley back to the forest, they’ll need to display the fruits on the tables. Always starting by filling the leftmost empty table. On each table, there can only be one type of fruit. As said before, the table number also corresponds to the value of points that each card will bring back at the end of the game.
For example: if I have three cards on table 1, each card will score 1 point.
I already have a strawberry on my table 1 and a watermelon on my 2. I just picked up a fig, a strawberry and a banana. I have the choice to put my fig or my banana on the table 3 and the other on the 4. My strawberry will necessarily be on my table 1 with the other. Each table has only one type of fruit and each fruit needs to be placed on a table already holding that fruit.
Once each player has chosen a trolley, it's the end of the round. The trolleys are returned to the middle and the player who has picked up the Polo card becomes the Pilferer of the new round. Play continues like this until the appearance of Mamie Reinette (which happens to be the sixteenth card from the end). Mamie Reinette perceiving that fruit is being stolen, will end the game at the end of the round of her appearance.
You count the points and ... no, that's not all. The fruits are not all identical. Some cards have small subtleties to them. Some have immediate effects.
This is the case of the moving of fruits. When such a fruit is added to a table, all the contents of the table must move left or right. If there was already one type of fruit, you swap the two types. It is mandatory. Sometimes it's good, sometimes ... we do it anyway. There are also effects that do not engage at the end of the game.
You must then pay attention to the types of fruit that players recover but also their abilities at the risk of being trapped. Turning a 5-point table into a 3-point table hurts the final score. This idea adds a lot of replayability and welcome tension. The scoring of the points is done according to the collected cards and tables, as well as bonus of three points for whoever holds the Polo and Grandma card during the last round.
For players looking for something deeper, an expert variant exists. This replaces the basic trolleys with special ones having each one of their own peculiarities. Each special cart is double-sided, thus offering different limitations. We can’t lie, once we understood the game, we played with this variant to increase the pleasure and replayability.
As a fan of “Push your luck”, I was curious about this game that uses a system that I like a lot in Coloretto. Without necessarily renewing the genre, Tanuki Market offers very nice, small additions that spice up the game. The game is very family-friendly and it is not the beautiful illustrations of Naïade (Xavier Gueniffey Durin) that will make you think otherwise. Very colorful, quite childish, very cute, the illustrations put you in the mood of a sly sneak thief.
Level iconography, everything is clear. Once the rules are read, you will not return and everyone easily enjoys playing without the difficulty to understand. The powers of the cards are visible and easily decipherable. The game can be played relatively everywhere (taking up a little room on a table but it can be more or less compact).
A solo version exists. But just like the two player version, this remain anecdotal. Indeed, the more of you there are, the more interesting the game will be. With less than three, you can do whatever you want and even at three it remains light. Which seems logical enough for this type of game.
Without necessarily taking big risks, the game has trouble finding it identity. On the other hand, for those who do not know its predecessors, Tanuki Market offers itself as a good little family game, fluid and cunning. Simple to play, visually appealing, it can easily bring together young and old for fun and short games. The choice of special trolley cards offers the game a lot of replayability. The interaction is very present especially with many playing. The open ended side, to choose a trolley when you want can surprise in the first game but soon you’ll take your bearings and pay more attention to what you want, what others want and what to avoid. But sometimes speed will deceives you and make you trap yourself.
Tanuki Market offers a good colorful family entertainment. Simple to get out and explain, a mix of collection mechanisms, risk taking and real time will find its place and delight for the young and old. A card game to put place in anybody's hands assuredly. Beware of your neighbors, maybe one of them is a disguised Tanuki. I invite you to play a round with the soundtrack of the excellent Pompoko (studio Ghibli).
Technical note 9/10
The iconography is very clear. The game installs quickly. It is easy to access for young and old. The illustrations are effective and childish.
My score BGG 7/10
(Good game, usually willing to play.)
The game offers quite well-found ideas even if it is difficult to emancipate from its playful predecessors. Simple and fast, it offers some moments of fun. The real time may surprise but once you get used to it, it adds interest to the game. The trolleys available in the variant allow good replayability.
Combined score of 8/10
And now it's up to you