Tanto Cuore – Japanime Games – Review

Tanto Cuore - Japanime Games - Review 1

Tanto Cuore is going right next to my other favorite deck-building games. 

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Theme and What is it?

Tanto Cuore is a deck-building game where players employ cute maids to serve them.  The player with the most valuable collection of healthy maids at the end of the game is the perfect master and wins the game.  Tanto Cuore means “Much Heart” in Italian.  The entire game uses heavy thematic elements to explain normal deck-building mechanics established with Dominion. 

This marks the 10th anniversary of Tanto Cuore!  Check out kickstarter to find the 10th anniversary special edition of the game!   

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Gameplay Mechanics

Players use their love points to employ new staff.  Only one new staff may be hired unless a current staff member has increased that limit.  Newly employed staff usually head to the kitchen entrance (discard pile).  The master of the house calls maids at his side (hand) to serve him during his turn.  Each player starts with one serving on a turn but some maids will generate extra servings to allow other maids to serve in the same turn.  

At the end of each turn, most cards return to the kitchen entrance and the master summons those in the waiting room (draw deck) to his side (hand).  If the waiting room is empty and the master needs to summon more to his side, all the staff in the kitchen entrance scramble to the waiting room in a jumble (shuffle) where they will enter in whatever order they ended up.  

To spice up Tanto Cuore more than a standard Dominion style deck-builder, there are special private maids and chambermaids available in the game.  A chambermaid might have a normal serving power but can for 1 serving – 2 if a chambermaid chief – instead work in the master’s Private Quarters.  Most chambermaid bonuses grant end of game victory points while some benefit primarily from not being a part of the main staff anymore.  Each master can only have one active private maid at a time.

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Initial Impressions

This looks like a highly promising deck-builder!  I am a huge fan of the genre and was looking forward to figuring out what special twists Tanto brings to deck-building.  The first big thing it offers is special private maid bonuses to distinguish the players from each other and offer some variable timing to the game based on when the unique cards come up.  The second big thing it offered were event cards.  Players can generate bad habits for their opponent’s chamber maids (-1 point each) or give one of their maids an illness removing all victory points and card effects from the ill maid.  

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Game Build Quality

The cards are of quality construction and the dividers for the sets of cards are well organized.  The dividers also have numbers on them for a reasonable sorting order (descending cost).  The box was designed with sleeves in mind so that a cardboard spacer makes the game fit as packaged.  By flipping the spacer vertically, thin sleeved cards will fit snugly.  And premium thick sleeves with solid backing will still fit in the box by removing the spacer entirely.  

This is a very courteous step Japanime Games has taken.  It ensures players will be able to use the provided materials effectively regardless of how they protect the game.  I wish every company took the time to make sure their components will remain useful in the real world.

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Artistic Direction

As you would expect from Japanime Games, there is a HUGE anime theme to the art!  It looks straight out of a manga.  The maids are all intended to be in various cute clothing and poses.  Some of the art has more suggestive posturing or angles than others.  Where the line is between cute, overtly sexualized, and obscene is very different for different cultures and even individual players.  For me, this set stays firmly in the cute region of the spectrum with a single card that strays into the middle category with an upskirt point of view.

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Fun Factor

All deck-builders have a charm to the way everyone starts with the same opportunities and resources.  With the ability to only play a single maid in a hand early in the game, our plays have quickly diverged into drastically different tactical styles.  The maids that allow extra servings and combos are utilized by all players to open up more combination play potential.  

In the end, the private maid unique abilities have been the most exciting part about Tanto Cuore.  The main market stays completely static until piles start emptying (the game ends when 2 piles are empty).  But the private maids keep cycling entirely unique cards with strong abilities and often end gaming scoring bonuses.  Giving up your current private maid bonus to hire a new one can hurt, but leaving great stuff for your opponent can be just as devastating. 

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Age Range & Weight

The rating is 13+.  Mechanically, players could learn deck-building games earlier than that.  Most of them have this same age range.  They have a barrier to entry getting used to the main mechanisms that are then very easy to swap between all the games within the genre.  Thematically, this game is worth parents considering if it is right for them.  Most people will not mind at all while some will find the theme offputting. 

The top right maid in the above image (Milly Violet) is the only card art in this set with this type of viewpoint.  The top left card (Sora Nakachi) seems to have side view naked pixies around her.  Those should be all you need to decide if the art/theme is over the line for your players or not a big deal.  

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Conclusions

Tanto Cuore is going right next to my other favorite deck-building games.  It will come out on the table regularly.  Most deck-builders don’t even try to explain why you are buying cards, shuffling them together, playing those cards for effects, and buying more cards with them.  Tanto Cuore takes those mechanics and explains them soundly within its theme.  If you want to call it “actions” or “maid plays” to make your life easier than counting your remaining “servings”, feel free!  

Compared to the early Dominion sets (which came out 1 year before Tanto Cuore), it has a few fine tuned elements that make it a more appealing choice to my regular players.  We are looking forward to even more great twists when we play the next games in the Tanto Cuore series!

Tanto Cuore - Japanime Games - Review
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Tanto Cuore is going right next to my other favorite deck-building games.  Joseph Summa Tweet Publisher: Japanime Games Designer: Masayuki Kudou Artis

Editor's Rating:
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