AnimeChicago’s Gaming Table: A 2017 Retrospective
Happy New Year! 2017 saw the launch of Gaming Table, a sub-group of AnimeChicago (formerly known as “Asobimasho” – Japanese for “let’s play together”). This is a really unique offering from AnimeChicago because I invest a lot of my personal time and effort into learning, crafting, and running the games at each meeting. It’s a creative hobby for me, and one I’m always seeking feedback from and that I want to continually improve at.
What is the Gaming Table?
As part of AnimeChicago’s overall mission of celebrating Japanese pop culture, Gaming Table is a monthly meetup group that celebrates Japanese pop culture through playing games, with a focus on traditional Japanese games, tabletop RPGs with animesque elements, and adapting games found in anime and playing them in real life.
What did we do in 2017?
The Studio of Animental Evil
Our first session was a game of Dungeons and Dragons with an anime twist. The party (which included a jaded samurai, a JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure character, and Yuri Katsuki from Yuri on Ice) infiltrated an abandoned anime studio, which turned out to be haunted by the evil spirit of an obsessive One Gold Piece fan who sadly died before his favorite series concluded. After clearing out the studio and solving various puzzles, the party earned the combined approval of Lord Genome, Gendo Ikari, and Hayao Miyazaki, and defeated/befriended the evil weeaboo ghost and ushered in a new era of anime that’s actually good. (Oh, if only…)
Gentei Janken (Restricted Rock Paper Scissors)
This was an adaptation of the game from Kaiji, and it was also our most well-attended event of the year! Each player received three stars and twelve cards, with the objective of spending all of your cards and winning stars from other players. Some won big and some lost it all, but pretty much everyone learned the same lesson: gambling is bad for you, unless you’re either very lucky or a huge jerk. Bonus points to our players who wagered unusual items, such as abstract approval or not-so-abstract slices of pizza.
We were fortunate enough to have Aldwin and Taka from the Chicago Area Mahjong Club come and teach us to play! We split up into two groups and played a few rounds of Japanese style Mahjong. Players learned how to make sets with their tiles, call out riichi, pon, and ron, and how to extend their noses by meters at a time.
We played Magical Burst (a system based on Madoka Magica) with a punk twist. The party was summoned to a brawl among powered-up tough guys, and found an increasingly warped testosterone-fueled nightmare dimension in the school basement. Between angry bikers, strange money-related powers, and endless pompadours, everyone got an opportunity to show their inner Grief Seed-powered badass side.
We met again at Beermiscuous to play a game of imaginary smuggling and lie detection. Each team was given a pile of (“monopoly”) money and key cards used to access their accounts, and an opaque envelope in which to smuggle cash. Teams alternated play by sending a representative to carry an amount of cash, and a representative to guess the amount of cash carried. With four players split into two teams, we negotiated over thirty rounds. In the end, we all won the same prize: learning how much we all suck at lying.
We studied one of the most popular board games in Japan for out last traditional game of the year. After a quick tutorial, we ran three games concurrently over the course of a couple of hours. With Shogi’s unique “drop” mechanic, each game was a close back-and-forth. Each player left with a better understanding of the game, and at least a couple have continued to play the game outside of the Gaming Table.
We adapted the Materialization Shiritori game from No Game No Life by using pen, paper, and imagination instead of magical powers (sorry. IRL Magic TDB in 2018). Each player drew objects on paper while telling a story and obeying the rules of Shiritori (the first letter of your word must be the last letter of the last played word). Players enjoyed the rules-light, flowing nature of the game, and we decided to use this as a quick ice-breaker for future meetups.
Our most unconventional tabletop game of the year saw us each creating big monsters with even bigger character flaws and personal issues. With incredibly evil creatures such as Tamagolbez – a giant floating egg with monstrous psionics but equally monstrous social anxiety, and MUKO-chan – a deadly robot who just wants to be a normal teenage girl, we focused on the everyday difficulties of being a kaiju in modern society.
For our final tabletop game of the year, we enacted a Holy Grail War that never occurred canonically in the Nasuverse. Players defended a castle from a siege of a self-replicating god who could summon any of the Servants at will. Ultimately, they triumphed in the war, but then betrayed and killed each other at the end. A tragic end for tragically flawed heroes.
The Nonary Game
And for our final game of the year, we adapted a version of the Nonary Game from the Zero Escape series of visual novels. Players gathered at Beermiscuous, only to find that they had been infected by a lethal virus (oh no!) and, of course, the only way to find an antidote was to unravel a time-travelling ontological mystery. Players searched the room for puzzles, solved the puzzles for clues, followed the clues to mystic revelations, and leveraged the revelations to crack an impossible password. Everyone was saved in the end, and the room had been escaped. For now…
What went well?
Our games really came alive thanks to the creativity and quick thinking of all of our players. Interactive gaming is a hobby where you get out of it what you put in, and everyone showed great enthusiasm and effort.
Shout outs to Beermiscuous for being an awesome host for us. We regularly hold our “real life” games in their space, which is comfortable, quiet, and has easy access to alcohol. Isn’t life amazing?
What could have been improved?
Finding a consistent and easily-accessible space for tabletop gaming has been rough. We started out in the Indie City Co-Op, and then moved to my company’s offices. This year, we’re planning on using the Tower House cafe in the Sears Tower through the Winter and Bonus Round Cafe through the Summer for our tabletop and board game events, and continuing to use Beermiscuous for our adapted game events. This could change, though!
Scheduling was also a pain point. This group has a high “bus factor” – if I get run over by a bus (or get sick, etc.), I can’t easily ask someone else to run a session for me because most of the game planning is in my head, not on paper. I’m making it a personal goal to organize the events with a longer window of preparation this year to minimize on last-minute cancellations and venue changes.
What are we planning in Winter 2018?
For our first game of the year, we’ll be playing card games using Hanafuda decks. There are many different kinds of games that you can play with a Hanafuda deck, and it’ll be fun for me to learn and teach a variety of them! We’ll focus on games with simple rules and easy scorekeeping.
Become a host or customer in a host club, run and staffed by superhumans, psions, wizards, and general badasses. We’ll be playing with the RISUS system, so it’ll be one of the most fast and loose rule sets seen at the Gaming Table.
In the Minority Game, from Liar Game, you have to lose to win! It will play out over several rounds of elections where the objective is to win as few votes as possible. Gather allies and form shrewd strategies to avoid being voted out.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who came out to events or otherwise gave their support during 2017. It’s thanks to your creativity, patience, and willingness to suspend disbelief that each session is as much fun as it is. Here’s to another year of play in 2018!
Do you have feedback for the Gaming Table? Games you’d like to play? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org