Japanese Board Games

Chad Cordova
10 min readJun 18, 2024

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Get ready to explore a captivating world of entertainment with our roundup of the best Japanese board games. These games are not just for fun, they also offer a unique cultural experience, perfect for both avid gamers and newcomers alike. So sit back, relax, and let us introduce you to the fascinating realm of Japanese board games.

The Top 8 Best Japanese Board Games

  1. Hanayama Japanese Honkaku Shogi Chess Set — Experience the depth of Japanese Shogi with Hanayama’s high-quality, classic Honkaku Shogi set, featuring a convenient storage drawer for pieces.
  2. Authentic Japanese Shogi Game Set for Strategic Fun — Experience the ancient art of Shogi Japanese chess with this beautifully crafted wooden game set featuring linden wood pieces, sliding drawers, and an appealing, traditional design.
  3. Elegant Japanese Garden Board Game with Mini-Expansions — Master the art of Japanese garden design with Haba Miyabi, a delightful board game that’s elegantly simple, entertaining, and visually appealing for players of all ages.
  4. Japanese Board Game — Shikoku with 33 Mantra Cards and Pilgrim Cards — Uncover the rich spiritual journey of Shikoku Board Game — a unique combination of mantras, pilgrims, and healing in this enchanting Japanese board game experience.
  5. Hyper Robot: Japanese Thinking Puzzle Board Game — Experience the thrilling challenge of Hyper Robot, a captivating Japanese board game where players strategically navigate robots to reach the target, in a fun and engaging puzzle environment!
  6. Next Station Tokyo: Authentic Japanese Board Game Experience — Next Station Tokyo combines engaging gameplay and creativity in a thrilling race to optimize a metro network, while providing a premium quality experience suitable for friends and family.
  7. King of Tokyo Power Up: Evolution Cards Expansion for Monster Mayhem — King of Tokyo: Power Up” elevates your gaming experience with new Evolution cards, offering unique and unforgettable gameplay for 2–6 players, while maintaining compatibility with both new and old versions of the game.
  8. King of Tokyo: 2nd Edition Japanese Board Game — Battles and monsters collide in the 2nd Edition of King of Tokyo: a highly-rated, fun board game with new illustrations, monsters, and clearer rules, providing a captivating and easy-to-store gaming experience.

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Reviews

Hanayama Japanese Honkaku Shogi Chess Set

I recently came across the Hanayama Japanese Classical Honkaku Shogi Game Set and decided to give it a try. I was really impressed by the high-quality materials used in its construction, and the big size of the board made it perfect for both casual and deep Shogi play.

The set includes a plastic board that is both durable and easy to clean, and each piece has its own storage drawer so they can be put away neatly when not in use. Overall, this is a great Shogi set for both beginners and experienced players alike, and I highly recommend it.

Authentic Japanese Shogi Game Set for Strategic Fun

As a lover of traditional board games, I recently had the pleasure of trying out the Yellow Mountain Wooden Shogi Game Set. I was instantly drawn to its visual appeal and the intricate artwork on the board. The kanji characters on the pieces gave it a unique and authentic touch, making it stand out from other chess sets I’ve tried.

One of my favorite features of this set was the convenience of the sliding drawers beneath the board, where each player’s pieces were neatly organized. This made setup and cleanup a breeze. The quality of the pieces was impressive, as they were crafted from smooth, linden wood that felt great to the touch.

However, there were a couple of drawbacks to this set that I felt were worth mentioning. The pieces seemed slightly oversized for the board, making them difficult to maneuver and fit snugly into their designated spaces. Additionally, the noise made by the magnets holding the drawers shut could be a bit distracting during gameplay.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with the Yellow Mountain Wooden Shogi Game Set and appreciate its unique design and quality. It would make a great addition to any board game enthusiast’s collection.

Elegant Japanese Garden Board Game with Mini-Expansions

Haba Miyabi invites you to create your dream Japanese garden with a combination of elegance and strategy. Each game round, players skillfully maneuver stones, bushes, trees, ponds, and pagodas on multiple levels to become the best garden designer.

The game offers five mini-expansions to add even more variety to the experience. With its beautiful, handcrafted components and a range of difficulty levels, Miyabi is a perfect choice for families and gaming enthusiasts of all ages.

Japanese Board Game — Shikoku with 33 Mantra Cards and Pilgrim Cards

Experience the captivating world of Shikoku, a traditional Japanese board game that brings the ancient pilgrimage journey to life. With its intricate gameplay, players navigate through stunning landscapes, collecting powerful mantra cards and utilizing pilgrim cards to progress on their spiritual journey.

The game is designed by Eloi Pujadas and offers a rich experience for 3–8 players, promising a playtime of 30–40 minutes. Published by GDM Games, Shikoku is an engaging board game that combines hand management, open drafting, and action queue mechanics for an unforgettable experience.

Hyper Robot: Japanese Thinking Puzzle Board Game

Delve into the captivating world of Japanese board games with Hyper Robot. This engaging game challenges you to find the most efficient route for your robot, all while avoiding collisions with your opponents’ robots.

With the option for solo or multiplayer fun, the fast-paced gameplay keeps you on your toes, making it an excellent choice for those who enjoy thinking puzzles.

Next Station Tokyo: Authentic Japanese Board Game Experience

Next Station Tokyo, our go-to game for a whimsical adventure in Japan’s bustling city, has been a delightful addition to our game nights. It offers an intense and entertaining gameplay experience that keeps our minds sharp, while allowing us to bond with friends and family. The game’s unique design, made from premium quality material, adds to its appeal, and it’s light enough to take on the go when needed.

Our favorite part? Engaging our little ones into hours of fun and creativity. They, too, are able to participate in the thrilling challenge of redesigning the Tokyo metro plans, all while keeping the brain sharp as they optimize their network. The game’s colorful illustrations and engaging mechanics make it an all-around crowd pleaser, a definite must-have for any game enthusiast’s collection.

King of Tokyo Power Up: Evolution Cards Expansion for Monster Mayhem

Experience the thrilling struggle to become the King of Tokyo like never before with King of Tokyo: Power Up! This expansion introduces powerful evolution cards that allow monsters to benefit from new abilities and enhancements. The addition of the unique and challenging Pandakai character adds a layer of excitement and strategy to the game.

With cards for both the first and second editions of the monsters, this expansion brings fresh depth to the gameplay and adds replay-ability. Play with 2–6 players and enjoy the intense, engaging experience that King of Tokyo: Power Up offers.

King of Tokyo: 2nd Edition Japanese Board Game

I recently gave the King of Tokyo board game 2nd edition a try, and it certainly proved to be an enjoyable experience. As a fan of Japanese board games with an adorable monster theme, I was quite excited to delve into this one. The beautifully illustrated cards and unique monster figures really drew me in, and the components seemed exceptionally well made.

When it came to gameplay, I found the concept of rolling dice to gain energy points and cards to enhance your monster’s abilities to be quite innovative. This game offers a perfect balance between strategy and luck, allowing players to come up with their own unique strategies while still maintaining a certain level of unpredictability.

However, there were some minor drawbacks to my experience. For one, the game can be quite lengthy with six players, making it difficult to keep everyone engaged for the entire duration. Additionally, I felt that the rules could have been presented in a clearer way, perhaps with a more in-depth explanation of some of the more complex card effects.

Despite these minor inconveniences, overall, I found the King of Tokyo 2nd edition board game to be a fun and enjoyable experience. It’s an entertaining game that blends luck and strategy in a way that is both accessible and engaging for players of all ages. I appreciate the care that went into crafting the game components, as well as the unique monster theme that sets it apart from other board games in the market.

Buyer’s Guide

Welcome to our buyer’s guide for Japanese board games. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the essential features, considerations, and advice for selecting the perfect game to suit your preferences and gaming style. We want to ensure that you have all the necessary information to make informed decisions and fully enjoy the world of Japanese board games.

Features to Consider

When choosing a Japanese board game, consider the following features to ensure you find a game that aligns with your interests and offers a rewarding gaming experience:

  1. Theme: Japanese board games cover a wide range of themes, such as strategy, adventure, mystery, and more. Decide which theme appeals to you the most. 2) Complexity: Some games are more complex, with multiple components and rules, while others are simpler and more accessible for beginners. Evaluate your comfort level with game complexity, as this may be crucial in deciding which game you’ll enjoy the most.

Popular Genres

Japanese board games offer a diverse range of genres that cater to various preferences. Some popular genres include:

  1. Strategy games, where players must outwit their opponents by utilizing strategic decision-making. 2) Cooperation games, where players must work together to achieve common goals. 3) Deception games, where players must navigate the dynamics of trust and deception to outmaneuver their peers. By understanding these genres, you can narrow down your choices and find a game that matches your interests.

Game Mechanics

Japanese board games often feature unique game mechanics that set them apart from Western counterparts. Some common mechanics include:

  1. Tile-laying, where players place tiles on a board to create patterns or structures. 2) Puzzle-solving, where players must solve a series of interconnected puzzles to progress. 3) Card drafting, where players select cards from a shared pool to build their strategy. Understanding these mechanics can help you make more informed decisions when selecting a game.

Advice for First-Time Players

If you’re new to the world of Japanese board games, follow these tips to make the most of your gaming experience:

  1. Start with simpler games: Begin with games that have fewer components and rules, so you can familiarize yourself with the mechanics and gameplay before diving into more complex titles. 2) Read the rules thoroughly: Make sure to read the rules and understand the objectives and strategies of the game before you start playing. 3) Practice patience: Japanese board games often require prolonged sessions to complete, so be prepared to commit time and effort to learning and mastering the game.

FAQ

What is the origin of Japanese board games?

The history of Japanese board games dates back to over 1,500 years ago, with the earliest known example being Go, which originated in China. Over time, Japanese game designers developed unique games, often with a focus on strategy and nature. Today, these games remain popular both in Japan and worldwide.

Some well-known examples of Japanese board games include Go, Shogi, and Shaku-shaku. Go is a strategic game of territory and attack, where players attempt to control more territory than their opponent. Shogi is a chess-like game with unique elements, such as the ability to “drop” captured pieces back onto the board. Shaku-shaku, also known as Draughts or Checkers, involves capturing opponent’s pieces and removing them from the board.

What is the purpose of Japanese board games?

Japanese board games serve multiple purposes. They are a form of entertainment, allowing players to challenge one another strategically, develop their critical thinking skills, and engage in friendly competition. Many Japanese board games also have deeper cultural significance, often reflecting themes of nature, philosophy, and spirituality.

For example, Go has been described as a microcosm of the universe, with its intricate patterns and endless strategic possibilities symbolizing the complexities and interconnections of the world. Additionally, games like Mancala, which is played with seeds or stones, have been used in various cultures as gambling games and educational tools.

What makes Japanese board games unique?

Japanese board games stand out for their intricate rules, strategic depth, and cultural significance. Many games have a long history and have been refined over time, resulting in a rich variety of options to explore. Furthermore, Japanese board games often incorporate themes of nature, spirituality, and philosophy, imparting a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and thought.

Unlike some Western board games, Japanese games tend to emphasize strategy and planning over luck, making them more mentally challenging and rewarding for players. Common themes include territorial control, tactical decision-making, and balance between offense and defense. Additionally, Japanese board games often have unique elements, such as the ability to “capture” pieces and use them later in the game, adding an additional layer of strategy.

Which Japanese board games are considered the most popular?

Go is widely considered the most popular Japanese board game, both in Japan and internationally. It is a strategic game with endless possibilities, and its simple rules make it accessible to players of all skill levels. Moreover, Go has a long history in Japan, with notable players dating back centuries.

Other popular Japanese board games include Shogi, Shaku-shaku, and Mancala. Shogi, also known as Japanese Chess, has a rich history and has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. Shaku-shaku, or Draughts, is a simpler game that shares similarities with both Go and Chess. Lastly, Mancala is a popular ancient game that has been played in various cultures, including Japan. Its simple mechanics and strategic depth have contributed to its enduring popularity.

Are Japanese board games suitable for people of all ages and skill levels?

Yes, Japanese board games are suitable for people of all ages and skill levels. Many Japanese board games, such as Go and Shogi, have simple rules and can be learned quickly by beginners. As players gain experience, they can explore the game’s deeper strategic elements and develop their skills. Additionally, there are various levels of complexity within Japanese board games, allowing both casual players and competitive enthusiasts to find games that appeal to their interests.

Furthermore, Japanese board games often have a strong cultural component, making them valuable educational tools for players to learn about Japanese history, philosophy, and customs. Many games are designed for players to immerse themselves in a world of strategy and elegance, offering a unique experience for people of all ages and skill levels.

Can I play Japanese board games online or with friends?

Yes, you can play Japanese board games online or with friends. There are various platforms and websites that host online games of Japanese board games, such as Go and Shogi, allowing you to connect with other players from around the world. These platforms often offer features like real-time gameplay, analysis tools, and learning resources to help players improve their skills.

Additionally, Japanese board games can be played with friends in person or through various board game apps and digital platforms. Some popular board game apps include BoardGameGeek, Yucata, and Board Game Arena. These platforms provide access to a wide range of Japanese board games, allowing you to enjoy them with friends, even if you’re not physically together.

As an Amazon Associate, we may earn from qualified purchases.

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