Konichiwa! Do you like visual novels? Dating simulators? Do you want a real fictional husbando or waifu? Can’t get enough of romantic anime, or manga full of bizarre twists and outrageous body proportions? Then put aside your waifu body pillow and move to a big mansion full of Husbando Butlers and Waifu Maids in Tanto Cuore: Winter Romance. Surviving winter in style, so kawaii!
Irasshaimase! Welcome to the mansion! Tanto Cuore is a Japanese deckbuilding series published by Japanime Games, in which each player takes on the role of the lord or lady of a large mansion somewhere in the countryside. Several volumes of this game have been released in the past years. In past entries, players could go on giddy getaways with their maids in Tanto Cuore: Romantic Vacation or have a nice cold drink in Tanto Cuore: Oktoberfest. In Winter Romance, a blizzard is coming, so time to make yourself comfortable for winter. Winter Romance introduces butlers and Christmassy romance.
That aforementioned mansion is so big that you first have to gather a whole court with all the specialist maids and butlers. The aim of the game is easy to explain: the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins! Players acquire victory points by collecting various maids and butlers, “Love” cards (to be used as currency) and more. These cards allow you to earn victory points at the end of the game, as well as employ even more maids and butlers. You can even employ chambermaids and act as a romantic matchmaker for extra points. You might even experience a real wedding between the butlers and/or maids. So build that chapel and pair the happy-go-lucky big bosomed lady with the mysterious butler wearing a ‘Dracula-like’ suit.
Players will recruit their help in the nearby village. That seems like a limited pool of good service providers, but it seems like the whole village works in these type of manors. Among other things, these household helps will cook for you, make your beds and look after you during the harsh winter. Just make sure the cosy winter doesn’t get too comfortable, because before you know it, they will leave with their new lover and are gone with the winter wind.
To set up a game, players place two piles of cards with chief butlers and/or maids on the table. After this, I will only refer to maids since specific card effects apply to both cards and previous sets only included butlers. A set of other general maids are chosen and a pile of cards for each of these maids is placed on the table. Cards with events, buildings, meeting spots, friends and love are placed. All these cards form the village, from which players are able to buy cards.
The gameplay of Tanto Cuore is similar to the deckbuilder Dominion, and that inspiration is plenty of obvious. Therefore, for fans of Dominion and similar simple deckbuilders, the mechanics may not be innovative, but they will be familiar and thus the complexity is very manageable. Players are given a personal deck of ten cards at the start of the game. The composition of this deck is identical for each player. Players all draw five cards and are ready to play.
Each turn, a player goes through four phases. At the beginning of the turn (starting phase), a player checks whether certain card effects are activated (e.g. chambermaid effects or meeting places). A player then starts the rest of his or her turn with one serving (serving phase). A serving is actually equivalent to an action that allows you to play a maid from your hand. Each serving shows a unique effect and possibly up to four effect symbols. Those symbols are general effects that appear on multiple cards. Depending on the symbols depicted on the played card, players can draw cards from their deck, have extra servings, may buy more than one card during the employment phase or have extra love to use during the employment phase. So each servant also has unique effects explained on the card.
During the employment phase, players can hire new maids (or buy other cards). Hiring or buying is done with the love from the just played maid cards and love cards players have in hand. Besides hiring maids, players can also buy other cards such as new love cards or buildings (e.g. meet-up spots).
With acquired meeting spots, players can make a rapprochement towards another player at the beginning of a subsequent turn. They place a maid in the hope of matching it to the maid with the highest value in the other player’s hand. Players can play love cards to approach the required love. If there is a match, these cards disappear from the game (sometimes only temporarily as love is volatile). With trials, however, players can test the relationship and possibly break it again. These couples earn points at the end of the game.
Some maids can be used as chambermaids. These cards are then no longer in the deck, but gain bonus points at the end of the game or other bonuses as a result.
The game ends once enough stacks in the village are empty. Players get points based on recruited cards, chambermaids and pairs of lovebirds.
Tanto Cuore is a simple deckbuilder with a recognisable system. Perhaps not extremely innovative within the genre, but this makes the game easy to handle even for the anime fan who is not (yet) an experienced tabletop games fanatic. The different maids and game mechanics that each set introduces, provides enough variety. Winter Romance adds Christmassy romance and some extra equal representation (like butlers and and the possibility of same sex couples) making the game extra inviting and representative for fans of anime and the deckbuilding genre. So besides maid waifu’s you can get cozy with hubando’s too, nya! Furthermore, all anime stereotypes are present so fans can go all out. The addition of romance adds an extra element with direct interaction between players. We do advise players to put together a well-varied set of maidens to make the game extra fun and challenging. All in all, a kawaii deckbuilder with a distinctive theme that will undoubtedly please the diehard Anime fan.