Starlight Stage is an anime or manga… I’m not sure. I had never heard of it until our Editor thrust me in to this world of pop star fantasy.
So I gave it a little goo-gal. Starlight Stage is a spin off Bandai Namco Entertainment game from a larger game called The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, which is in itself a sub-series of The Idolmaster, a popular music rhythm game. Yeah, intriguing isn’t it?
Right, so we know where the genesis came from, but what’s it about? Well it is not a music rhythm card game. That is not a thing… yet.
The story of Starlight Stage is pretty simple. You start with a bunch of teen Pop Idols, desperate to make their chops in the big wide world of super-stardom. The publisher Japanime Games describes it like this:
“In Starlight Stage, players are the head of a talent agency trying to develop Idols and send them out to perform and gain fame. Build up reserves of the three types of talent (Acting, Music, and Charm) to reach greater achievements while performers grow and take on new personas. Featuring appealing art of cute idols and simple, fun mechanics, Starlight Stage is great for gamers and fans of the Idol phenomena alike!”
Starlight Stage at its core is a deck building game. You collect currency cards and event cards in order to upgrade your starlets from simple models and singers into super models and popstars. As your talent grows their abilities help you augment your deck to gain ever more Popularity Points (Victory Points). Pretty simple, huh?
There are a bunch of quirks to this game…
There are multiple currencies and events that count as currency. It’s an odd mechanic and it took the gaming crew and I a while to get a handle on it. Players start with three starlets that each give one point of each type of currency; diamonds, music, and hearts. Referred to as Talent in the game, if a player can’t spend their Starlet they may place her down and gain a Talent Token for later use. You can also use certain events as Talent Tokens and other events give multiple single use Talent points.
Here is where it gets tricky. You need both Talent Points and Talent Tokens to buy various things in the game. They are not interchangeable. Not only that, there are three marketplaces: the Idol Deck, the Events Deck, and the Fame Deck. Each deck has mixed and simple cards that use Talent Points and Talent Tokens… stay with me.
The marketplace is only refilled if a player chooses to draw a card to replace the one or ones a previous player purchased, or if a particular card triggers refilling a marketplace.
You can use events, Talent Points and Talent Tokens to upgrade your Starlets, but Events, Fame and Idol cards can also come with Popularity Points, which if you remember are the key to winning the game.
Finally there is a wild symbol that can masquerade as the three types of Talent Points but not as Talent Tokens. Is that clear?
The game ends when you deplete the fame deck and players count up their points. Much like most deck builders, there are cards that multiply points by meeting certain conditions, cards that require sets and classic super high value hard to acquire cards.
The game mechanics were interesting, but aside from what is a very complex currency system, it is a deck builder. It does not have any interchange with other players so its essentially a solo game, albeit with friends nearby.
There were a lot of wry looks when I pulled this box off the shelf. The theme of this game is very specific. It is based on what is, here in Australia at least, an obscure intellectual property. A property which focuses on pop idols and pin-up style manga. It didn’t really gel with us, we grizzled tabletop wargamers and roleplayers. It’s not meant to, though. It really is a game for people who are interested in that aspect of anime culture, in CCG’s and Dance Dance Revolution style games. People who cosplay obscure anime and manga girls.
That’s who I’d recommend it to. People with some gaming experience and a real love of that style and culture. It has some complexities but is reasonable enough to learn once you get past the initial stages.
If you love the theme, buy this. If you are a gamer more than you are Otaku! perhaps buy a classic deck-builder.
You can find more information, or purchase a copy of Starlight Stage from the Japanime Site – https://japanimegames.com/products/starlight-stage
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