Monday, December 25, 2023

New English Scenario collection for Tsukuda Hobby's Jabro

 Get the Scenarios on

Shown above is Tactics magazine #1, Japanese source for the original article

I've completed my English translation of three scenarios for Tsukuda Hobby's Mobile Suit Gundam: Jabro (1981) game. These scenarios were first published in Tactics magazine, vol. 1, no. 1, Jan-Feb 1982, pg. 53.

First and foremost, here is the link to the download page hosted on You need an account on the site in order to download the file, but if you are reading my blog, you probably already have one: 

TV Episode Scenarios

I originally wrote about Jabro when I translated the game's rules into English in 2022. The game is based on the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series that premiered in 1979. The nine scenarios in the game are based on the events of specific episodes from the TV show. This small collection of three scenarios continue that tradition.

Episode 6: Garma Strikes

A two-unit (MB and MT) "Magella Attack" tank with a couple of Zaku suits

The Gundam and Guntank must face off against 3 Zaku mobile suits and 4 Magella Attack tank units. Each Magella Attack can temporarily separate into two different units: the "Magella Top" turret with its 175mm cannon may fly separately from the "Magella Base" tank hull, which is armed with a triple machine gun.

This is a tough battle for the outnumbered Federation pilots in the Gundam and Guntank (Amuro, Kai, and Ryu). Since this is only episode 6, the young pilots are still inexperienced and their piloting and combat skills in this scenario reflect this.

Episode 15: Cucuruz Doan's Island

A rare Zaku vs. Zaku battle

This scenario is an interesting one-on-one battle between two Zaku mobile suits. Cucuruz Doan is a skilled veteran pilot, but his Zaku suit is only armed with a shield. He faces off against a Zaku armed with a Zaku machine gun and an average pilot. Doan's best bet is to use the hills and trees as cover while closing in on the enemy to engage in melee combat. The inexperienced pilot must try to keep Doan's Zaku at range for as long as possible.

Cucuruz Doan's long-snouted Zaku

In one moment, Doan's Zaku (in background) has a shield on its right arm...

... then it magically moves to the left arm!

Episode 15 has been little-known in the US as the episode was not included in American MS Gundam releases. It is presumed that this is because of the quality problems with the animation in this episode. There are a number of off-model images of the mobile suits, which may have resulted from hiring Anime Friend (a Tatsunoko spin-off studio, I believe) to work on this episode. You can see some of the errors in my screen shots here.

Doan's Zaku with long, skinny legs

A Gundam face that only a mother could love

Episode 27: A Spy on Board

Federation and Zeon forces in the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland

In this scenario, powerful aquatic Z'gok and Gogg mobile suits approach White Base while it is docked in Belfast. In this battle, much of the right edge of the map is ocean (see the striped area in the inset illustration, above). The Gundam and Guncannon are the first lines of defense, with the Guntank joining them in round 4. The Federation pilots are much more experienced by this point in the story and their piloting and combat skills are much better than they were in episode 6.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

New English Rule Book for Urusei Yatsura: Tomobiki-cho Kaigui Wars

Get the Rule Book on

The cover art has nothing to do with the game and would be better-suited as a city pop album cover

I've completed my English translation of the rules for Urusei Yatsura: Tomobiki-cho Kaigui Wars (Tsukuda Hobby, 1985) (うる星やつら 友引町買い食いウォーズ) and posted the rule book on

Get it here (may require site registration):

What is Urusei Yatsura?

This game is based on the Japanese Urusei Yatsura (often translated as "Those Obnoxious Aliens") sci-fi high school slapstick romantic comedy manga series created by Rumiko Takahashi in 1978. It was also made into a successful anime TV series in 1981, with motion pictures, OVAs, and video games that followed. The TV series was recently rebooted in 2022.

Urusei Yatsura anime character line-up

The protagonist of the story (he's no "hero") is Ataru Moroboshi, a lazy, lecherous, unlucky teenage boy who finds himself at the center of many unusual events that happen in his hometown of Tomobiki (mythical creatures, evil spirits, a terrifying potato curse, etc.).

At the start of the series, Oni aliens threaten to invade the planet unless their champion, the beautiful superpowered alien Lum Invader, is defeated in a game of tag by one randomly-chosen Earth champion: Ataru. Ataru wins (by cheating), Earth is saved (for now), and Lum ends up falling in love with Ataru and enrolling in his same high school. Ataru and his friends, family, and teachers make up the main cast of characters.

What are the Kaigui Wars?

Kaigui Wars translated as "The Great Off-Campus Snack Battle" by Viz Comics

The Kaigui Wars refers to a week in which the Tomibiki High School faculty and staff work to "crack down" on the school rule that states students are not allowed to eat lunch off-campus. "Kaigui" translates to "buying and eating" and usually refers to when small children are allowed to buy snacks or treats with their own money. The students refuse to eat their packed lunches and revolt by sneaking through town to eat at various restaurants and food stalls. The school staff are in hiding throughout the town, waiting to catch a student in the act of eating forbidden food while in school uniform.

The school principal directs his units in the field by radio, tracking student and faculty movement in the town on a strategic map that looks a lot like this game's map board

The cat-and-mouse spy game of sneaking past disguised teachers eventually devolves into an all-out war as the lunch break come to an end. The students unite and strike back against their oppressors. The school staff mobilize by car and motorcycle to pursue delinquents. Fighting breaks out in the streets and everyone misses their afternoon classes.

This story happens to be one of my favorite UY stories. It is told in manga form in 買い食い大戦争 ("The Great Kaigui War" or "The Great Off-Campus Snack Battle," Viz Comics, vol. 6, ch. 4) and TV anime form in 買い食いするものよっといで! ("Let's Go Buy and Eat!" or "Lunch is a Battlefield!," 1982, season 1, ep. 46). It was brought back again in the new TV series as 買い食い大戦争 ("The Great Kaigui War," 2022, ep. 13).

What is this game?

The game is a detailed "simulation game" (like a hex-and-counter wargame) that reproduces the chaotic, ridiculous events of the first afternoon of the Kaigui Wars. Players break up into a Student team and a Teacher team (including school faculty, staff, and the students in the "Student Behavior Task Force" who are helping to enforce the rules). Each Student team player controls 3 characters and each Teacher team character controls 4 characters. The game is ideally played by 4 players, 2 on each team.

Game board map of the town of Tomobiki. The large orange square is the school grounds of Tomobiki High School.

The Student team earns victory points by buying and eating food from food vendor spaces (red squares). The Teacher team pursues and captures students (by intimidating them into compliance or by force), escorting them back to school grounds. The students can't buy food in the presence of a teacher and teachers may start the game disguised, hiding at food vendors anywhere on the map.

Sample character card A: Ataru Moroboshi

Each character has detailed characteristics of Stamina (ST), Reflexes (REF), Fighting Strength, Money, and Friendship Levels. This information is tracked on a detailed log sheets that must be used for each character in the game.

Stamina (ST) is vital to this game and characters must spend Stamina to walk, run, drive, ride a bicycle or motorcycle, fight, capture, or escape. Stamina can also be lost in a fight, due to random events, or if one's alien girlfriend jealously zaps one with electricity after being caught ogling another girl. The Student team replenishes their Stamina by eating. The Teacher team automatically recovers Stamina each round. At zero Stamina, a character faints and can do nothing until they recover after spending three rounds unconscious. A fainted student can automatically be captured.

Reflexes (REF) is used when dodging out of the way of hazards, capturing or avoiding being captured, or when trying to escape after having been captured. The acting character subtracts the REF value of the challenge (hazard, other character, school walls they are climbing over) from their own REF, then rolls one die on a chart and cross-references their die roll with the REF difference to determine success.

A fight may break out while a teacher is trying to capture a student or if a student decides to pick a fight with a teacher. The two characters compare their Fighting Strength values and roll one die on the Fighting Table to determine the outcome. Either the Attacker or Defender may lose Stamina points or the Defender may faint outright. Each character in a fight has the option to draw a random Fighting Card for a chance at a ±1-3 bonus or penalty to their Fighting Strength by focusing their willpower or grabbing a nearby hammer or frying pan.

Money is spent to buy food or pay to ride a bus. Ataru starts with 60 money, just enough for a tempura donburi.

Friendship Levels are rated from 1 to 10 and show a character's feelings toward other characters. Friendship Levels are used when students ask favors of each other to borrow money or food or convince members of the Student Behavior Task Force to release captured students. Friendship Level is also used when a teacher is trying to coerce/intimidate a student into complying and returning to school. Ataru's Friendship Level with D: Lum is 10, he is devoted to her (though he would never admit it). His Friendship Level with his homeroom teacher H: Onsen-Mark and rival B: Mendō is 1, he thoroughly dislikes them. Note that he would also do anything for a pretty girl, as shown by an inflated Friendship Level of 9 with C: Sakura (the school nurse), E: Ran (Lum's childhood friend), F: Shinobu (ex-girlfriend), and N: Ryūnosuke (schoolgirl fighting to express her feminine identity after she was raised as a boy by her father). Those characters do not feel the same way about Ataru.

Sample event card Umeboshi (Dried Plum) IM

Event cards really bring the sense of chaos and random, unpredictable events from UY into the game. Each round, players secretly draw one event card for each character. Normal event cards may be equipment teachers can use when capturing (like a net or a lasso), a large temple bell that may fall on Mendō and incapacitate him, a pretty girl who passes by and distracts any male students, or may do nothing at all. These cards may be held by the character and used later as needed. When an Immediate Effect (IM) card is drawn, it is shown to all players and takes effect immediately. The above example is Umeboshi (Dried Plum), which affects Lum's alien physiology by making her drunk when she eats them. She is incapacitated for 2 rounds and any other character who happens to be in the same area as her during that time runs the risk of being zapped with her electric shock power and losing a devastating 8 points of Stamina.

Order of Operations

Each of the game's 30 game rounds is divided into a daunting and complex 14 different phases:

  Stamina Recovery Phase

  Bus Movement Phase

  Teacher Movement Phase

  Teacher Event Phase

  Spotting Phase

  Intimidation Phase

  Capture Phase

  Teacher Fighting Phase

  Student Movement Phase

  Student Event Phase

  Escape Phase

  Friendship Phase

  Student Fighting Phase

  Buying and Eating Phase

Note that this is supposed to be a fun and silly game about teachers chasing students around town as they try to eat snacks. This is far more detailed than other simulation games by Tsukuda Hobby that I've translated, including their Star Wars: Death Star, Hoth, and Endor games (6-8 phases each), Mobile Suit Gundam: Jabro (5 phases and based heavily on Squad Leader), and the Macross games City Fight (3 phases) and Dogfight (6 phases).

The game starts to bog down in the tedium of details. First, every Teacher team character must roll to determine how many Stamina points they recover. Then, each  bus vehicle must move along on of three different bus routes. The Teacher team moves their units and draws one event card for each character. Then, teachers must spot students in the same area before they can attempt to intimidate them into following the rules. If that doesn't work, they can physically try to capture the students, which may cause a fight to break out. Then, the Student team moves, draws event cards, tries to escape, asks favors from friends, and may opt to attack any Teacher team characters. Finally, the Student team may go shopping at food vendors, choosing options from a detailed menu for each different food vendor.


The game does a very good job of simulating the Kaigui Wars events, as seen in both the manga and TV series. Unfortunately, the game drags on with bookkeeping, card drawing, vehicles, capturing and escaping, and stacking game effects. The randomness and overabundance of options make it difficult to determine a winning strategy. The map board is large and most characters typically move 2 areas per round, so it takes multiple rounds to move from one important location to another.

I like the events in general but many of the effects are too limited. For example, when the deranged monk Cherry shows up (a fairly important character in the TV series), everyone in the same area loses 8 points of Stamina. That's it. However, in the TV anime, Ataru was able to bribe him with food and he helped the kids escape from Sakura (the school nurse and Cherry's niece). That interaction is much more interesting than, "everybody in the same area gets hosed."

There are too many dull events that simply cause damage, incapacitate characters, or can only be used to counter other event cards. There are no events that cause a character to increase character movement, affect Friendship Levels directly, gain money, or as a bonus/penalty to Fighting Strength. This part of the game is ripe for expansion without adding further complexity.

The Japanese blog Their Finest Hour has a good review of the game that I agree with. One big problem is if there are too few characters in the game, then characters rarely interact with one another. If there are too many characters in the game, the game bogs down in detail and takes too long to play.

Final Thoughts

This is a game I've wanted to translate for a while and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, it is every bit as overdesigned as I hoped it wouldn't be. Tsukuda Hobby's own system ranks it complexity level III (3) on Tsukuda's 1-6 scale, comparable to some of their simulation games based on military anime. This game would've played a lot better with a lower complexity level (and I'd argue that it is closer to games with complexity level IV (4)).

The game rules include a "beginner" scenario designed to be played by 2 players. This removes many extraneous details (including the bus movement, spotting, intimidation, friendship, and student fighting phases). Instead of choosing food items from an extensive menu, Student team characters automatically restore all Stamina points and earn 3 VP for visiting a food vendor. This is a good step toward making this a playable game without losing too much of the game's flavor.

Ideally, I'd like to see this game redesigned from a modern point of view. Characters should move more than 2 spaces at a time. A fight should involve both players rolling lots of dice against each other, not looking up the outcome on a bland CRT. The nameless teachers should be replaced with recognizable characters. Vehicles should not be required to follow detailed traffic rules (that section of the rule book is like reading a DMV handbook). The game should play like a frantic and humorous episode of UY, not a detailed war simulation.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

New English Rule Book for Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid

Get the Rule Book on

Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid contents and my rules translation

I've completed my English translation of the rules for Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid (Central Hobby, 1989) (インディ ジョーンズ ピラミッドの秘宝) and posted the rule book on

Get it here (may require site registration):

There was no record of this game on BoardGameGeek, so I also populated a new entry for it:

Team Up

The game is played by 2-4 players playing against each other, or 4-8 players playing in 2-person teams. Each team member takes a different role, either Indy or his female companion Heroine. Cards are dealt to the players (Power cards to track Indy's power level (health) to Indy players, Heroine cards to Heroine players) and the Indy and Heroine players of matching colors team up together.

The Heroines all look alike, but they are mechanically different. The top two affect movement and the bottom two affect combat.

Two of the Heroine characters (as noted on the Heroine cards) give a big +2 bonus to either movement or combat. That's great! The problem is that the other two Heroine cards give a big -2 penalty to either movement or combat, with nothing to counteract that penalty. That's not great! When playing an 8-player game, two of the players become pariahs that nobody wants to team up with. That is not fun. The only explanation I can think of is that some are adept, active partners (like Marion Ravenwood) and some are enemy agents trying to undermine Indy (like Elsa Schneider). Still, it is a poor design choice.

It gets weirder on the second floor of the pyramid, where "Heroine Contests" are permitted. When one player pawn lands on another, the moving player may choose to fight in order to force the other team to swap Heroines. If they win, the Heroine cards and players are traded between the two teams. The game story makes it clear that Indy and the Heroine are lovers, so this trading just seems wrong (Indy, you cad!).

How to Play

The team members take turns moving their team player pawn on the map board (first, the Indy players take their turns, then the Heroine players). A player selects and plays an Explore card from their team's hand of 2 cards to move. Their pawn may be moved in the directions shown on that card, a number of spaces (corridors and rooms) up to the Indy player's current power level.

Players use cards to track Indy's current power level

If the player pawn enters a room space, movement for the turn ends and the player follows the instructions for the type of room entered. Stairs lead up to the next level in the pyramid. Medicine rooms (which only the Heroine may enter) can heal Indy's power level or allow the player to harm another team's Indy. When entering an unlocked room, a card is drawn to determine the trap or monster (bat, mummy, snake, or spider) that is encountered. Monsters are fought by rolling one six-sided die and adding the result to Indy's power level (Indy always fights, even on the Heroine's turn) and adding any bonus or penalty. If the total exceeds the monster's power, the enemy is defeated and the player team gets to keep the equipment (medicine or a key) listed on the monster's card. If the total is equal to or less than the monster's power, Indy loses one power level in damage and the monster is discarded. Keys are used to enter locked rooms, where tougher monsters and stronger equipment (whip and gun to give bonuses in combat, mine cart to give bonus movement) await.

The end goal is the locked treasure room on the third level of the pyramid. A player team must be the first to defeat a power level 11 monster and seize the magic jewel in order to escape the pyramid as victors.

A Card Game? An RPG? A Board Game?

Indiana Jones and the Hidden Treasure of Pyramid bills itself as an "R.P.G. card game" (RPG カードゲーム), but this is a misnomer.

When a player enters an unlocked or locked room on the map board, the player to the right draws a card (from either the Unlocked Room or Locked Room deck) and describes the encounter to the active player (instead of saying "It is a bat with power level 6," say, "A creature pounces on you with a high-pitched cry!"). From this description, the active player decides whether they want to use a weapon or not, then rolls one die for combat, and presumably describes the actions taken. This is where the role playing comes in, but as a board game, it is unnecessary. Each player has a role to play (Indy or Heroine), but there is little of the standard traits we might identify from a role-playing game. RPGs were very popular in Japan in the mid to late 1980s, and this was likely a marketing move to capitalize on their popularity (much like how the board game Cloak & Dagger (Ideal, 1984) is touted as a "role-playing game" during the USA RPG boom of the early 1980s).

Three decks of Explore, Unlocked Room, and Locked Room cards. Which deck is which?

It does use cards, but that doesn't necessarily make it a card game, either. There are three different types of cards drawn from different decks during the game: Explore, Unlocked Room, and Locked Room cards. Additionally, there are Heroine cards and different Indy Power cards that the players hold onto throughout the game. The problem is, all of the cards in the game have the same card backs! It is easy enough to organize the cards into different decks by looking at their card fronts, but it is easy to confuse them when they are flipped over.

Upgrading the Game Components

Original IJ: Treasure of Pyramid game pawns on the left, my Game of Life: IJ pawns on the right

Each player team is noted by a standard board game pawn GRYB color: green, red, yellow, or blue. However, the game includes colored metal pawns of gunmetal, bronze, silver, and gold (the pawns look like djed pillars 𓊽 to me, matching the Egyptian theme). This disconnect between the color on a player's cards and the color of the game pawn makes no sense to me. I replaced them with the Indy pawns (in standard GRYB colors) from my The Game of Life: Indiana Jones board game.

The game's map board is printed on a thin sheet of paper that has been kept folded in the game box for decades. The creases in the folds are hard to smooth out, so I placed a sheet of plexiglass over the map to help keep it flat and protect it while playing.

The Play's the Thing

I tested the game out to see how it plays. The Explore cards have a certain number of compass directions printed on them (from 1 to 4 different directions), and the player pawn can only be moved in those directions on your turn. This limits the player's choices, but only rarely did I find I could not move at all. You always have a choice from a hand of 2 different Explore cards, so there is usually at least one interesting destination that your pawn can move to.

Indy's power level is vital to both movement and combat, so it makes sense to keep him at 6 power whenever possible. Medicine can be found in medicine rooms and unlocked rooms, so it isn't hard to find enough healing to keep you topped off. You may lose precious time by healing, but a power 6 Indy can move twice as far and his 50% more effective in combat than a power 3 Indy.

Final battle with the treasure chamber monster, guns blazing and at full power. I still lost.

The treasure chamber fight is not easy, since you need to score an attack power total of 12 or more. If you are stuck with the -2 combat Heroine, this battle is impossible without using a pistol (even then, you only have a 1-in-6 chance of succeeding). In the example above, I used a key to enter the locked treasure chamber at full power (6) and used my pistol (+2), rolling a 3. My attack power of (6 + 2 + 3 = 11) tied with the monster's power, which means I was defeated. I had used up my key and pistol, lost 1 power level (down to 5), and had to return to the staircase at the start of the floor. Chances are, you will lose the treasure chamber combat unless you are the lucky player teamed up with the +2 combat Heroine and are wielding a weapon, too.


I already stated that the Heroine game mechanic is problematic but I'm not the only one. I've read a recent play report from a Japanese game club that played this game and complained about how the penalties are not fun (I lost the link to their post, though). An easy fix would be to make all Heroines give bonuses, either to combat or movement (though, I still think the combat bonus is more powerful since it is so important at the end of the game).

Now, if the game had some sort of hidden role mechanic where one Heroine is secretly working for Belloq and trying to win by betraying all the Indy players, that could be interesting. As this game is designed, there is just a 50% chance that any Heroine is an albatross around Indy's neck and nobody will want to play with them.

The end game can drag on too long, with several teams attempting to clear the treasure chamber but failing at the final combat. I suggest a variant where the final monster's power decreases by one level each time it is in combat. That way, the fight gets a little easier over time, guaranteeing that SOMEBODY will eventually win and bring the game to a conclusion.

I do like the map design and the overall concept of the game. It reminds me of Dungeon! (1975) and Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1988). The choices of monsters on the cards are strange. Bats, snakes, and spiders all make perfect sense in and IJ game. Mummy and ghost enemies make some sense, as both are hinted at in Raiders of the Lost Ark (mummies in the Well of Souls, ghosts emerging from the Ark of the Covenant). But the zombie, treasure keeper (axe-wielding hunchback), and haunted chest (an undead monster inside of a treasure chest) look like they are more appropriate in a Castlevania or Wizardry video game.