Full disclosure: A review copy of Hatsuden was provided by itten.
Alright, time for one of the last itten games that I’ve been sent. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to check out Yeti in the House (no idea how that’s going to work, but we’ll figure it out maybe) and Tokyo Highway 4p, but I’m also wildly excited about Moon Base, so hopefully I’ll get to try that at some point. We’ll see! It’s all an adventure. Current focus is on Hatsuden, though, so let’s get to it!
In Hatsuden, you play as competing renewable power engineers trying to hook up renewable energy lines to local cities. Naturally, it’s better if you can exert the most influence over them, so you’ll need to build big power plants to prove that you have the biggest claim to their energy. Along the way, you may even discover Special Technology that can help turn the tide towards you. Will the balance of power end up tipping in your favor?
Not a ton to do, here. First, put the five Renewable Energy Cards in a line between both players:
Shuffle the Power Plant cards and deal each player 5:
And then shuffle the Special Technology Cards:
Both players should make space for two rows by putting the City Cards on the edge of the row so that they form a column:
And once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start!
Hatsuden plays similarly to Hanamikoji, Battle Line, and 7th Night in that you are vying to control cards in the center by playing high-value cards on your side of the play area. Unlike the others, though, your goal is to provide well-regulated renewable power to a city nearby, so you need to be responsible about your placement. At the end of the game, each Renewable Energy Card will be claimed by whichever player has the highest value total of Power Plants below, but with extra bonuses to the players who provided the correct amount and type of power to their local cities.
Each game takes place as a series of turns, where each player may perform one of the following actions:
Construct a Power Plant
On your turn, as an action, you may play any Power Plant card face-up to a column to try and generate power equivalent to that value. If you play a 4, also draw a Special Technology Card. These give you benefits like letting you up the limit of a City, play a card without revealing its value, and even making one Renewable Energy Card worth double points at the end of the game.
If you play a card such that the total of your row is higher than 11 (12 if you have the City +1 card in that row), you must flip another card face-down to show a Pylon so that the total is now 11 (or 12) or less.
Upgrade a Power Plant
Similar to Constructing a Power Plant, you may play any Power Plant card on top of an existing Power Plant card, provided the new card is strictly greater than the previous one. If not, you cannot play it as an upgrade. Like Constructing, you still draw a Special Technology Card if you play a 4, and flip a card to the Pylon side if your total is now over the limit.
Construct a Pylon
As an action, you may play a Pylon by playing a Power Plant card face-down into your play area. It counts as 0, and cannot be upgraded after it’s played.
Revise Power Line Scheme
This one is simple; discard any card face-up to a discard pile.
End of Turn
At the end of your turn, draw a new card to replace the one you used this turn. You may draw from the discard pile, if you prefer, or the top card of the deck.
End of Game
Once either player has completely filled their play area with pylons and power plants, the game enters its end phase. The other player is granted one turn to finish their business, and then any empty spaces of theirs are filled in with pylons. Once that happens, scoring begins.
First, award each player points based on their row total. Pylons, as mentioned elsewhere, are considered to have a value of 0. For each row, score the following depending on the sum of the power plant values for that row:
- 8 or less: -1
- 9: 0
- 10: +1
- 11 – 12 (with the Special Technology Card): 0
Now, award each player the Renewable Energy Card(s) for the columns in which they have the highest total. If they claim the 2x Special Technology Card this way, award them an additional point.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
None whatsoever; it’s a two-player game.
- If your opponent has a total >= 7 on a power plant, it’s worth just abandoning it. The best you can do is tie with a 7 (or lose to them if they have an 8), so focus your efforts on the other Renewable Energy types, if you can do so. It’s just unfortunate if that’s the one with the 2x.
- If you play two 4’s on a single power plant, you’ll likely win it and lose something else. That’s a lot of power to have on one type (especially given that your limit per row is 11), so you’re probably going to lose at least one other power plant to your opponent. It’s possible that that’s worth it; you might be earning that 2x bonus or you might have tanked an opponent who played two 3s on that Renewable Energy type and are forcing them to reconsider. That said, if there’s no need for you to win by that much, it may be worth thinking about spreading your wealth on a wider scale, if possible.
- You really want to have two rows of 10. That’s two free points, right there, and games are often decided by two to three points, so, it’s probably worth considering where you choose to invest your points-related energy. Either way, you do not want to fall below 9 in a row; that’s just taking a needless penalty, which will almost certainly lose you the game.
- There’s not a lot that you can do if you have a particularly bad hand. If that happens, just play some pylons and hope for the best. Naturally, you’ll be a bit frustrated if you happen to draw the perfect card right after you shut that channel down with a pylon, but unfortunately that’s just sort of the way that Hatsuden works, sometimes.
- It’s not really clear that you should ever do the Discard + Draw action. You can, I guess, but it’s a pretty poor use of a turn unless you’re sure that you’re just gonna end up putting a pylon somewhere. If you have zero good options, go for it, because when the game ends everything fills with pylons anyways, but hopefully you have something better to do than that.
- Playing a card that causes another card to flip is often a solid strategy move. It’s a great way, for instance, to surprise a player by lowering your investment in a Renewable Energy type that they’ve already written off, which will usually cause them some humorous consternation. It’s also just a good way to stay at 10 but add new cards and spread your investment around to try and win more types.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the theme. Renewable energy is awesome, and a game about trying to make the best of it is a really useful one, especially lately. I actually like it a lot, and wish they would make more games set in this general “universe”. Mostly because of how clean the art looks.
- The art is delightfully minimal. Clean cards with bold lines look great, the symbols for the various types of energy also look great; the whole game looks pretty great, frankly.
- Great table presence, too. The whole thing ends up looking really cool on the table, and I really like it for that reason.
- Plays quickly. I’m confused why it says 30 minutes on the box; I’ve never played a game that takes more than 10.
- Portable. It’s a quick two-player game that doesn’t require much space to play it; that’s always a nice thing.
- The box is both oddly-dimensioned and surprisingly hard to open. These are both nitpicks, but, hey, it’s my review site. It seems like the box top is slightly smaller than it should be, so it kinda sticks and you have to pull it off. Or maybe it’s the paint? Don’t know.
- It feels like it would be nice to have more special cards. There aren’t a ton as-is, and I generally feel like the 2x bonus is more powerful (albeit more swingy) than the others. I would be interested to see which could get added in an expansion or something.
- Most of our games are decided by who gets the 2x bonus. Generally, we end up tying on at least one, so the person with the 2x wins out. I think this is probably an argument for us to be playing a bit more aggressively so that we can knock each other out earlier, but hey, what do I know. Generally speaking, the player who gets the 2x almost always puts it on the spot where they just played a 4, so they have a clear advantage in doing so.
- Some games are just … lost from the start. If you draw almost no fours and your opponent draws all of them, you’re basically done. It can feel a bit dissatisfying when that sort of thing happens. Also, if you end up with a hand full of 1s, you’re probably not taking any of the power cards. A lot of the game depends pretty heavily on what cards you have in your hand.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, I enjoy Hatsuden, but I feel like among games of this type I am probably going to play 7th Night more often. Both are two-player games about majority control of certain points, but I think the abstract movement of 7th Night beats out Hatsuden’s “play cards from your hand”, even with the bonus cards. I do like this theme better, however, and I want to give itten credit for this being a solid theme; we need more games focused on sustainability and renewable energy, and this and Ocean Crisis are two of the only games I have that really think about it. My general complaint is that this never quite ends up feeling super strategic, to me; I just play a few 4s, hope for the best, and then try to go after the 2x card, if I can. I never end the game if I don’t have 10 in both rows, which might be the issue? Maybe there’s an advantage to ending the game more quickly to mess with my opponent? Hard to say. I do like the Bonus Cards a lot, though; I think they’re a fun and easy way to keep the games fresh. The art is also super nice; it’s very minimalist and abstract, and it makes the game stand out really well on the table (as long as you’re not playing on a white table). Either way, Hatsuden is a neat little two-player game, and if you can get an opportunity to try it, or you’re looking for a very portable two-player game, I think it’s pretty fun!