In this week’s High Five Challenge, we took a look at the top 5 Asian Inspired games. These are family-friendly and approachable games that draw inspiration from and highlight Asian culture.
I have a couple of Honorable mentions that missed my list for various reasons (listen to the show to find out why), but they are still excellent games. Not to mention, I completely forgot about Sushi Go!
Machi Koro, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, and Dragon Castle are fun family-weight games with Asian themes. Naturally, or I wouldn’t be mentioning them here… honorably, of course.
Set down your chopsticks, let’s get on with the list.
Honshū is a hybrid trick-taking tile (card) placement game. Each round, players submit one of their building cards to the center of the table. The player who submits the highest value card chooses from all of the cards and adds it to their town. Players slowly build their village by laying cards above or below the cards they’ve already placed. In many tile-placement games, like Kindomino, you lay tiles on the table, but rarely do you build on top of or underneath existing tiles. This unique twist gives players fascinating choices and plenty of options. Trying to maximize points in this game is a delight.
Sure, this game has a loose theme about building three Japanese gardens, but it’s a simple card game in reality. Each turn, players draft two cards to add to their gardens. Players can only place cards in numeric order, so managing risk is vital. However, the Asian-inspired artwork on the cards transports me halfway across the world. I can’t quite describe how this game makes me feel, but the connection is strong. Throw in simple rules and rewarding gameplay, and you’ve got yourself a strong contender for any High-Five Challenge.
Takenoko is a game about a giant panda in a Japanese garden. Players attempt to score points by planting and irrigating fields, growing bamboo, and feeding the panda. The artwork is bright and vibrant and has just the right amount of backstabbing for a family-style game. You know, enough to encourage laughter and not lifelong blood feuds. Did I mention there is a super cute panda in the game?
If you were to design a “zen” board game, Tokaido would be it. In Tokaido, players travel along the East Sea Road, attempting to have the most memorable journey. Along the way, you’ll sample local foods, buy souvenirs, explore beautiful vistas, and make offerings at temples. The fun part is that the player furthest behind on the road gets to take the next turn and travel as long as they want, but any stops they skip over are left open for any remaining players. Choose wisely. Tokaido is so relaxing to play, and the artwork is clean and elegant. Plot twist! Tokaido and Takenoko were both designed by Antoine Bauza, the brains behind Game Schooler Recommended Game, 7 Wonders.
Fuji isn’t the most well-known game on this list, but I think it provides families with a unique cooperative experience. In this game, players must escape from an erupting volcano, Mount Fuji. As players work cooperatively to evade the lava, they roll dice to move along tile pathways to safety. The trouble is, the game restricts how/when players can communicate with each other. As the game progresses, the lava destroys the tiles it comes in contact with, so players need to move briskly. It’s a fun game with unique challenges that I enjoy. Don’t worry; the lava won’t actually destroy your game; it’s imaginary.