Board Game Night: ZiPANG Portable

I had a wonderful board game night last weekend. I wanted to write about some of the games I played, and enjoyed. As I’ve only played each of these games one or two times, these won’t be full reviews, more “first thoughts” articles. So these will be short and sweet, and not necessarily in depth.

ZiPANG Portable, designed by Ko Shasahara is very easy to describe as a more intricate feudal Japanese themed version of Love Letter. Instead of one card in your hand, there’s two, and you play for coins, instead of hearts, but it has the same quick round, last man standing core as the (possibly more familiar) Love Letter.

But what does that mean? In Zipang, each player is dealt two cards, and pays one gold to the pot in the centre of the table. On their turn a player draws one card and plays one card. Each card has a different effect on the game, and your ultimate goal for the round is to knock the other players out, and be left with the highest honour score in your hand of those remaining. The winner takes the pot, and you repeat, shuffling the cards back together, dealing out two to each, and paying one gold to the centre. The game ends at the end of the round where the first player has run out of coins; once that round finishes, the player with the highest gold wins the campaign, and becomes the shogun.

Some cards let you attack other players, and then they have to show you a battle score higher than what you’re attacking them with, or you’re knocked out of the round. Other cards let you steal gold, or play a card from the discard pile, or cancel another cards effects on you. But every card has a battle and an honour score, and players must juggle the battle score to keep them in the round, and the honour to let them win at the end of it.

It is a beautifully simple little strategy game with great art that fits perfectly with its theme. The game fits into a conveniently portable little box, the mechanics are simple and easy to learn and the game-play is fun. Tough it might take you a few rounds to figure out what’s going on. Once you’ve read over the player reference card a few times and figured out what the other cards do, you’ll have a much better grasp on which cards to play, and which to hold back until the end of a round. The battle and honour points are balanced well with the strength of the cards abilities, so even if you’re stuck on things to do you’ll often have more points to help you through to the end of the round. So if you like fast paced easy to learn games, or love the feudal Japanese theme, check out ZiPANG Portable.

You can see more about ZiPANG here.

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