The podcast about learning Japanese.

What Card Games with Maids Can Teach You About Japanese

Posted November 25th, 2011 by Enrico in Learning Japanese

Kimberly is taking some time off to focus on her career. As mentioned in her previous post, she’s currently consumed with looking for employment. I will be updating the blog in her place. She will be continuing to maintain the Facebook page and I will continue to mirror that content to Google+.

An additional disclaimer for this post: the Japanese Learner is not affiliated in any way with Arclight Games.

Tanto Cuore box cover

My main method of learning Japanese has always been immersion. I’ve tried to surround myself with as many things Japanese as possible. It’s not always easy (or possible), but when it works, it works really well. Just about anything you like doing can be turned into a language learning opportunity. We’ve talked about such opportunities in video games, anime, manga, and music. Today, I’m going to talk about card games.

About a year and a half ago, I started to get into European and modern designer board and card games. I’ve been building up a small collection and it grows week by week. In particular, I like deck-building games, like Dominion. While browsing around similar games on BoardGameGeek — as if there is a board/card gaming enthusiast who hasn’t heard of the site — I bumped into Tanto Cuore. It is a Japanese designed and published deck-building game, similar to but in significant ways different from Dominion. I wrote about the game in my personal blog, a sort of summary/review based on my experience with the first English printing of the game.

Then, thanks to a friend at my new company, I started to collect the Japanese prints. And after that, I started to look at other games by the same publisher. Now I have several deck-building games, among other kinds, with Japanese card text and rules, which I have spent small bits of time reading and translating to make quick reference notes for when I play the games with my friends (though there is a lot of community support on BoardGameGeek as well, if you’d rather get right to the fun). I have managed to turn yet another one of my hobbies into a Japanese learning opportunity. But what am I learning, precisely?

  1. Grammar and terms for explaining the rules of a (card) game.
  2. Differences in card text that signify mandatory vs. optional actions (e.g. メイドカードを一度捨ててもよい, “you may discard one maid card”).
  3. How to ask questions about a game’s rules.
  4. Theme-specific vocabulary (Dynamite Nurse Returns has some medical vocabulary, for example).

So the quick take-aways from this post are these: if you like board and card games, you can find that in Japanese (Arclight also publishes versions of Power Grid and Thunderstone fully translated to Japanese, among many other great games) and, once again, just about anything you like can and should be turned into a Japanese learning opportunity.

Next week: a little bit of vocabulary in preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

  1. 2 Responses to “What Card Games with Maids Can Teach You About Japanese”

  2. By yasin on Nov 25, 2011

    do you know any immersive beginner/beg-intermediate card games? it’d be great to hear some reviews about some good feet wetters!

    thanks in advance, and i’ll be showing my love on twitter!

  3. By Enrico on Nov 26, 2011

    I’ve found I can teach Idol Project (あいどるプロジェクト) to people who can’t read Japanese at all, given I know the rules and there’s a crib sheet for the particular event cards. Of all of the Arclight games I’ve played, it is the least heavy on card text. However, the mechanics of the game are pretty involved (tableau-building with some economy elements).

    Tanto Cuore (たんとくおーれ) has easier game mechanics (particularly if you already know Dominion really well) and I found the card text to be fairly easy to read once I picked up some particular vocabulary.

    Blanc Noir (ブランノワール) plays very similarly to Uno and is fairly light in both card text AND rules.

    All of this said, there is a particular Finnish dude on BoardGameGeek who is Arclight’s go-to guy for rule translations (to English, at least). Unless the game is _really_ recent (released within the past several months?), there’s probably already a rules translation available, and possibly paste-ups for the cards themselves. That gets the much harder part out of the way so that you can immediately enjoy the game. You can always read the rules in Japanese and read the card text, along with FAQs and errata, to gain a fuller understanding. I will often check the Japanese card text if I find the English translation to be slightly confusing and want to be absolutely sure of what a card does.

Post a Comment