Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tanto Cuore

Game: Tanto Cuore

Publisher: Japanime Games

Designer:  Masayuki Kudou

Year: 2009

Tanto Cuore is a classic deck-building game from 2009. Of course, that means that this year, 2019, is its 10th anniversary. The game has been very well supported with numerous expansions and three Kickstarter campaigns, as well as a recently announced 10th anniversary edition coming to Kickstarter soon. In its original form, Tanto Cuore is a 2-4 player deck-building game with its routes in classic games like Dominion, but with an anime theme, that certainly raises some eyebrows.


Gameplay

In Tanto Cuore players will take turns playing hands of cards until the end game has been triggered by two piles of maids running out. Each player will start the game with three copies of Colette and seven 1-love cards. From this humble deck they will recruit and utilize new maids to create an ever improving deck of cards.

Each round you will first play one maid card, assuming you have one. These typically do one (or more) of 4 actions: letting you draw cards, letting you purchase more cards this turn, giving you more love to buy new cards with or granting you extra servings so you can play additional maid cards. Many of the maids also have special rules in their text box. The most common of these are chambermaids. These cards do not get shuffled back into your deck when played, and are usually worth a good amount of points, so they are a good way to buy cards without expanding your deck too much.


After playing maids you can play love cards in order to buy one new card. Love is the currency of the game and can be used to purchase any of the available cards. Cards are sorted into a few types: blue cards are general maids as described above. The green cards are the chambermaids that appear in each game, good for victory points, but otherwise not very useful to fill your deck with. Pink cards are love cards, you can spend love to make love! The dark purple cards are private maids, these maids give you ongoing special powers, but you can only have one at a time. Finally the light purple cards: Bad Habits and Illness, are cards that you play on your opponents chambermaids/private maids in order to reduce the number of victory points or turn off their powers.

Buy spending love to buy new maids you will improve your deck, letting you generate more love, to buy better cards which let you generate more love... Eventually you will turn your attention to the chambermaids and other cards that can generate more victory points, though when to do this is a matter of opinion and crucial to whether you win or not. At the end of the game you will score points for all the maids in your deck and chamber that have victory point values on the cards.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

There's an elephant in the room, and it's wearing a frilly dress and wielding a feather duster. So yes, let's talk about the theme. Tanto Cuore will not be to everyone's taste based on theme alone. Which seems strange to say about a deck-builder that shares so much in common with the near themeless Dominion! To be clear this is not a pornographic game, but there is some provocative card art. If you are going to be offended at seeing a hint of cartoon underwear then turn away now.

However, if you can get past, or if you enjoy, the theme then you are in for a right treat. Tanto Cuore serves (hah!) up a fantastic deck-building experience in a surprisingly small box. While much of the game can feel like a multiplayer-solitaire experience, Tanto Cuore has enough cards that add a hint of player interaction to keep things fresh. Some private maids have powerful abilities and so making them ill to shut those down can be a vital bit of breathing room. The maids can create wonderful combos when you mix in enough card drawing and extra servings, but if you go too heavy on this you can find you have massive turns, that don't actually earn you very much love, which only serves to further illustrate how important it is to build a balanced, coherent deck.

There is no deck trimming in the game, and only a few limited options that form a similar function, so you are stuck with any bad decisions you make. Sometimes the right decision is to do nothing, which is an interesting twist in a deck-builder. The safest option then is to grab chambermaids which, while they do very little, can be permanently removed from your deck to keep your deck size low and your good cards frequent. There aren't enough cards in the game to create a 2 completely new sets of cards, and the variation is further reduced by the fact that 3 of the chambermaids essentially have to be used together. However there are still enough cards to keep things fresh between multiple games, and there are expansions available.

Overall Tanto Cuore provides an incredibly pure deck-building experience with meaningful choices all the way through. While some may find the theme distasteful once you are playing you soon look past it to see the mechanically great game underneath. It's well worth picking up!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Deck-building was probably my first love in board gaming. Dominion was the first game I ever received as a gift and we still play it today, enjoying its simplicity and still favouring it over many more complex and layered deck-building games that have come since. Tanto Cuore was first release right around the same time as Dominion and makes no apologies for the similarity, even mentioning Dominion on the box. I enjoy it because it has the same structure – it’s familiar and easy to pick up. In addition to those core mechanisms, Tanto Cuore adds some elements that remind me of the entombing in Valley of the Kings – another solid deck-builder which came much later. With the mechanism for getting maids out of your deck being the only real nod to the shedding that I often enjoy, it’s good that this also forms a huge part of your scoring and deck-building strategy.


Tanto Cuore is now a 10 year old game, but because it’s so classic in its mechanisms, it barely shows its age. I guess the only real ageing factor is the rulebook which is all black and white, but otherwise it’s a solid and compact production. In all likelihood, the reason I’ve never before approached this game is because of the negativity around the artwork. I don’t really have a personal problem with it, although a few of the cards are a little too much. Realistically I never care about the theme in games and here it’s no different.

If you’re new to gaming or still exploring some of the older classics, then Tanto Cuore really stands up to the test of time. It has really slick and fun deck-building mechanisms and is certainly a more colourful addition to a collection than Dominion if you like the style.


You Might Like...
  • Tanto Cuore is as simple as Dominion with some interesting elements of Valley of the Kings thrown in. It's a very clean and engaging deck-builder.
  • There is good variety in the base box, with different ways of scoring depending on the game setup.
  • Tanto Cuore has a fantastic, compact box size for a deck-building game, with room for expansions. It's a format I wish others would follow.
You Might Not Like...
  • Some of the card art will be too sexualised for a family audience or for some adults as a matter of taste - especially the money/love cards!
  • The card stacks are the same at any player count, so a 2-player game can drag compared to higher player counts.
  • There's no simple way to cull your deck in the base game.
  •  
The Verdict
8/10 So long as you're not offended by the artwork and can understand or overlook it as an anime style, then Tanto Cuore is one of the best pure deck-building games out there. Whilst it's underpinned by Dominion, it adds really interesting scoring opportunities with the maids, which steps things up and keeps it interesting from game-to-game. I can't believe we never tried it before and it will definitely become a staple on our game shelves!



Tanto Cuore was a review copy kindly provided to us by Japanime Games.

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