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.