Full disclosure: A review copy of TOKYO JIDOHANBAIKI was provided by Jordan Draper Games.
Well, the new Tokyo Series Kickstarter is currently live, so it seems like the right time to cover one of the games in the first series. We already talked about JUTAKU, which I really enjoy, so JIDOHANBAIKI is next on my list.
TOKYO JIDOHANBAIKI is less of a game and more of a game system — it contains components and rules that you can use for any number of games, similar to The Lady and the Tiger or Jabberwocky. It has several more games than those sets put together, however, running the gamut from dexterity to deduction to stock to drink poker. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll try and streamline it for y’all if possible, but I may post more about this again later if I feel up to it. Either way, with so many games to try in TOKYO JIDOHANBAIKI, which will end up being your favorite?
Setup depends wildly on the game, but I’ll explain the generic components here and talk more about the setup of the games I’m going to discuss in Gameplay. That makes some kind of sense, so we’ll go with that.
The first thing you’ll likely notice is either the vending machine:
Or the various bottles:
Take both out and set them aside until you determine a game. You’ll want the drink crates, as well:
You’ll also want the money:
There are some 5000-yen pieces that come in black but don’t photograph well against the table I’m using. In general, I love the metal currencies in games so I try to always play with them when I can. Last up, set the cards nearby. There are color cards and can type cards; both are useful for the games you might play.
Let’s talk about the games!
I think the easiest thing to do here is talk about three games I’ve enjoyed playing, rather than try to explain all of them because then this review would come out in 2023 and be a short series of young adult novels. Unless you’re into that.
Either way, I’ll talk quickly about Lemon Squash, Pura, and Pura Pura!
It’s dexterity game time because of course it is. In Lemon Squash, you want to knock over your drinks in the right order before your opponents do the same for theirs.
Organize the six crates into a rectangular arena (tighter is harder, wider requires a bit more strength which is hard in its own way). Set the vending machine on one end, and put a 500 yen piece in the center.
Give each player a full set of drinks of one color, then take the short cans and drop them into the vending machine. The furthest can out of the vending machine is the start player, and that’s your player order. The remaining drinks should be set up randomly inside of the arena upright.
Now, arrange the color cards in player order so that you know who goes when, and randomize the drink type cards, removing the Short Can card. This is the order that players need to knock drinks over during the game. Give each player 5 100 yen coins, and you’re ready.
On your turn, flick your short can and attempt to knock over a drink. You always take your first shot from on top of the 500 yen coin. If you knock over a drink, you place it on the card of your color. The rules state that you must only use one finger to flick, “no thumb leverage”, which is very specific language so I’d do what it says.
If you knock over the wrong drink (or too many drinks), give 100 yen to the supply and reset the incorrect drinks. If you lose all your yen, you can buy your way back in by returning all your drinks to the arena (randomly) and taking another 5 100 yen coins.
If you overshoot and the can leaves the arena, set it on the edge where it escaped, upright. Similarly, every turn you’ll set the can you flicked upright anyways.
The game ends when one player has knocked over 5 drinks of the correct type in the correct order. Note that you do not need to knock over the drinks that match your player color; any drinks will count just fine. The first player to do so wins!
Pura is a solo puzzle game where you, a recycling sorter, try to organize your incoming bottles; a noble pursuit.
To set the game up, make a 3×3 grid of the six crates (two rows of three crates oriented vertically) and randomly add bottles to the crates until they’re filled. If any individual crate has more than three of a specific drink type, swap one of those drinks with another drink in a neighboring crate. Then take 10 100 yen coins and 3 500 yen coins; set those aside. Finally, place the 12 cards and vending machine at the top of the play area. You’re ready to roll.
Your goal is to remove all the cans and bottles from the boxes. Simple, right? Well, you have to follow certain rules. First things first, you may always actively rotate and move the crates around (including swapping their location), but they must stay as a 3×3 grid (this means if you move a crate you must replace it with another one). Now, on your turn, you may spend a coin to perform one of its associated actions:
- 100 yen coin:
- Remove all drinks matching a specific card from a single crate. If you completely clear a crate by doing this (removing 6 drinks), you may take 300 yen back from the supply.
- Swap any or all drinks on one side of a crate with the adjacent side of the adjacent crate. This means two drinks are eligible on the short side or three on the long side of the crate.
- 500 yen coin:
- Dump a crate of drinks into the vending machine. Whatever comes out of the vending machine is considered removed from the game, which is good! However, sometimes drinks get stuck in the machine, which is bad. If you’ve spent all your 500s and there are any drinks stuck in the vending machine, you lose. That’s the worst!
The game ends when you have removed all the drinks from the crates. If you run out of money before that happens, you lose! You also lose if you can’t get a drink out of the vending machine.
Just play Pura twice. I kid! It’s not a very good joke.
In Pura Pura, you’re playing a similar sorting game to Pura, but with some new twists. Make a triangle out of three crates, and place the fourth crate in the center. Fill the three outside crates with three colors’ worth of bottles, randomly, and take the three corresponding color cards and shuffle them up with the drink type cards to make a 9-card pile. Like Pura, no crate can have more than three drinks of a certain condition (type or color).
Set out 4 100 yen pieces, 3 500 yen pieces, and 2 1000 yen pieces. You’re ready to go!
So, during the game, you’re gonna need to swap some stuff around. You want all three crates to only hold drinks of one color. On each turn, flip the top card of the deck. You may move one drink matching that condition to another crate in the same position. If it’s in the top left of the current crate, you can only move it to the top left of another crate. You can move a drink between any of the four crates, if you have space to do so. If you draw a card and all the pieces you could move are in their correct positions, set the card aside until the end of the round. At the end of the round, you can spend these cards to get 500 yen back (or two cards to get back 1000 yen).
If you go through all nine cards, return one 100 yen piece to the supply. This is the end of a round. Shuffle the nine cards and go again.
On your turn, before, during, or after moving a drink, you may spend some yen to perform a special action:
- 500 yen: You can move a drink to an empty adjacent space in the crate. It cannot be moved diagonally, though.
- 1000 yen: You can swap two drinks in the same crate. The drinks don’t have to be adjacent.
You win if at any point, the three outside crates each only contain drinks of one color. Count your money, and that’s your score! If you run out of 100 yen pieces, you lose, unfortunately.
Player Count Differences
Most of the player count limitations just determine which games you can play. It might have been a neat thing to have the rulebook laid out (or including a chart) (…or a table of contents) to make note of what games support what player counts. Personally, I’ve been enjoying some of the solo / two-player games, but that’s because that’s what my standard player count tends to be, so it’s hard to say if I have a preference or if that’s just a reflection of my personal reality.
Honestly, there are like, 20 games in this collection. I can’t give you strategy tips on all of them, especially since they run the gamut of mechanics and styles. My best advice is to just get 100% into them and do your best to have fun.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Is this the most adorable game??? Look at the tiny bottles. Look at them. They’re so small. So cute. Look at them. I love them. Oh, my god, it comes with a tiny vending machine. I love it all.
- A wide variety of games included. There’s something for every taste in here, which I really appreciate. You can basically bring this everywhere (and it fits in a Quiver, which I really appreciate). It’s got a range of player counts, a range of mechanics, just … all over the place.
- The modularity is so cool! You can combine it with TOKYO METRO and / or TOKYO JUTAKU for even more shenanigans. I like that a lot and I’m excited to see if that’ll still be the case for the next TOKYO SERIES games.
- The box is snug but everything fits. It’s very satisfying, being honest.
- Tiny bottles require tiny stickers. On one hand, they’re free and basically provided to purely enhance the game experience; on the other hand, it took me an hour and oof. I haven’t had this much fun since I had to wrap all the money in Millennium Blades.
- I’m confused by the rulebook’s organizational scheme. It’s not alphabetical, and it’s not by complexity, so what … is it?
- There’s a real risk that you might not like a bunch of the games in here. That’s not the worst thing unless you get unlucky and only play the games you don’t like, which might bias you against the whole collection. Having something for every taste means that you’re very likely to find something you also don’t like at all. I worry that plenty of people are going to dismiss this collection for that (and that’s totally fine), but I think there are some really fun games in here, personally. That said, it’s true that I’m underwhelmed by some of them, as well. I think that’s fine, though.
Overall: 8 / 10
I had a fair bit of confusion as to how I was going to rate this one, but I’ve already covered similarly ambitious titles in my reviews of DropMix and Stonehenge and the Sun. I think there’s something to be said for that kind of ambition; it’s bold and, while it’s not always exactly right, it’s almost always impressive. I think JIDOHANBAIKI is similarly impressive. Some of the games I’ve played are a lot of fun! Others, I’ll be honest, I put down after one play and likely won’t pick up again. It’s a hundred floors of frights; they can’t all be winners, I think the saying goes. And that’s okay! Part of the experience seems to be the joy you find in everyday objects and how that can influence a game design, and I’m totally here for it. I have not yet shown the collection of games to someone who was not delighted by it; the aesthetic is amazing, the components and the tactile experience are excellent, and like I said, the ambition is clear. I’m pretty enthusiastic about the whole TOKYO series, and if you’re looking for a game that’s going to push that envelope (or a game that’s going to be even more expansive than, say, The Lady and the Tiger or Jabberwocky), I’d definitely recommend taking JIDOHANBAIKI for a spin! It’s super neat.