Play Time: 45-60 Minutes
Tanto Cuore is the game that started it all for Japanime Games. The deckbuilding game inspired by Dominion has been around for ten years now and is still the flagship title for the publisher. Now on the heels of its 10th anniversary, we are going to take a look at the classic game about keeping a house full of maids.
In Tanto Cuore, players are given a small deck consisting of Love cards and Chambermaids. The Chambermaids have little value early on, and mostly only act as clutter until players can utilize their abilities later. Love cards are essentially currency, which is used to acquire new maids from the center of the playing area. As the game progresses, players’ decks will grow, filling their “house” with maids. With enough skill, a deck will be full of cards with chemistry that will lead players to victory.
The maids in a player’s deck are never “trashed” and usually go back into the deck (like most games deck-builders), though there are exceptions. Each player has a chamber where they can send their maids, which effectively removes them from the deck. Chambermaids usually grant victory points but only activate in the chamber, enticing players to use their actions to chamber them. There are also private maids that go directly to the chamber when hired. These cards give the players long-term effects, such as extra love, draws, or even debuffs for opponents. Most of the private maids are good for giving their player extra victory points.
The game ends when to maid piles empty, then the player with the most victory points wins. Most of the maids don’t give victory points, so players will need to juggle maids with great effects with maids that give victory points. While a decent amount of luck is needed to draw the right cards, having a coherent strategy and sticking to it is the key to having the best house in Tanto Cuore.
The deck-builder plays well and allows for quite a few playstyles. One player might want to focus on low-cost maids that can generate a few points early on, then try to end the game quickly. Another might be more meticulous and build a massive engine for drawing cards. The third player might focus on chambering chambermaids. There are many viable ways to play in Tanto Cuore, making it fun to experiment with. There are many maids in this game, and only a few of them are used in each game. Players can choose what maids they want to play with, which can lead to every game feeling fresh.
Tanto Cuore’s main appeal for most players is going to be the art. Tanto Cuore plays a lot like Dominion, without too many significant changes to the game’s core. Of course, it isn’t a clone, but the main reason why someone would choose Tanto Cuore over another deck-builder is going to be the theme. Anime and manga fans will love the game’s beautiful art, which is colorful and full of personality. There is a decent amount of fan-service in this game, which is sure to turn away some players. There isn’t anything in Tanto Cuore that you won’t see in almost any anime, though. I found myself drawn to a few cards just because of how cute the art is.
The game is designed for 2-4 players and handles all of the player counts exceptionally well. Two-player games are fast-paced and more focused than games with more players. I enjoyed dueling with another player quite a bit in what often felt like a race. With 3-4 players, Tanto Cuore moves at a much more leisurely pace. There are cards that players can use that directly harm other players, and those are much harder to use in a group game since that tends to lead to enemies.
When played by its target demographic, Tanto Cuore is a blast. It’s an exciting deck-builder that fully embraces its theme. There are many ways to play and even more maids. The theme isn’t for everyone, but what theme is? Tanto Cuore is a fun experience that fans of deck-builders and anime will enjoy having on their table for a long time.