Ice Ribbon 12/26/15 Live Thoughts

December 26, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

This was Neko Nitta’s last dojo show before her retirement, and most of the matches related to her in some way. Also, since it was the last dojo show of the month photographs were allowed during the show (unlike at my previous IR dojo show).

Neko opened the show with a promo consisting of Akane reading from prewritten notes and Neko emphasizing as needed with her standard “nyahs.” Pantera Rosa interrupted and started whipping Neko. After they were separated she cut a promo, presumably about the main event. After she left Neko stunned the remaining wrestlers by dropping the nyahs and responding directly to Pantera’s threats.  

The first two matches were triple threats, likely building up to something with Neko’s vacated Triangle Ribbon Championship. Risa Sera vs Maya Yukihi vs Yuuka had an interesting dynamic with Yuuka having to fight off the cooperating teammates to start but things eventually devolving as Risa and Maya each tried to win. Some consequences of Risa’s win at her regular partner’s expense were teased as everyone kind of walked out on Risa afterwards and left her looking concerned in the ring. Solid opener.

The second triple threat was a bit  of a mess. 235, Kyuri and Akane Fujita never seemed to get on the same page and there were several obviously blown spots. I’ve seen all three of them in good matches, it just seems they still need a veteran in there with them to hold things together at this point.

Neko’s first match of the night was the Cats vs Dogs Captain’s Fall Elimination Match. Akane Fujita, Leon and Maruko Nagasaki joined Neko to face HAYATE, Rabbit Miyu, Mochi Miyagi and Miyako Matsumoto. As far as I could tell it was elimination style, except that the match would end immediately if a captain was eliminated. Captain’s were chosen by rock, paper, scissors, and neither team was particularly happy with the appointments of Miyako and Maruko. This was a fun match with comedic overtones, such as Mochi getting distracted by Neko bringing out dog treats and Miyako causing most of her team’s eliminations.

The combatants in the upcoming title match at Ribbon Mania faced off again as Aoi Kizuki and Tsukasa Fujimoto faced Tsukushi and Hamuko Hoshi. Hammy continues to not impress me, as she blew an ARM DRAG during this match. I’m going to cry if she beats Aoi for the title. Was an excellent match otherwise, with several awesome spots of the wrestlers stealing each other’s trademark moves.  

The last match was a crazy brawl between Neko Nitta and Pantera Rosa.  that was unlike anything else I’ve seen from IR. Pantera dismissively ignored Neko to start, and once Neko had enough and slapped her Pantera responded by grabbing her whip and beating the hell out of Neko for several minutes. They went into the crowd, Neko ended up bleeding, and it was general mayhem from bell to bell. A victorious Pantera Rosa finally showed some compassion and embraced Neko after the match.

They went to the back together, then Neko came out a few minutes later with Rosa’s mask and a “goodbye letter.” Didn’t understand it of course but the gist of the promo seemed to be Pantera Rosa is gone and Neko also announced her retirement match for Mania.

The show closed with the roster joining Neko in the ring to present some gifts. Neko came out to meet fans and was in good spirits despite the dried blood still all over her face. And the opportunity to get polaroids with the wrestlers inside the ring is still awesome.

A bit of a departure from the usual for Ice Ribbon and not without its rough spots, but overall this was a fantastic stop on the way to Neko’s retirement.

 

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Stardom 12/23/15 and Wave Young OH! 12/25/15 Live Thoughts

December 23 and 25, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

I’ve been lucky to see a huge variety of different promotions so far during my trip. Here’s two more with shows that were both unique in their own way

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Stardom’s year end show was good, although with over half of it devoted to Act’s retirement I’m not sure I have any idea of what their shows are normally like. It opened with a fair amount of ceremony and a big dance number. Once the show proper got underway the three undercard matches were all 5-10 minutes long and it certainly felt like they were moving things along quickly to get to the last two matches.

Azumi vs Starlight Kid was a nice spotlight for two very young wrestlers who both clearly have potential. Azumi’s mannerisms and character in particular shined. Kaori Yoneyama and Mayu Iwatani vs Alex Lee and Datura was good, but the outcome never seemed in any doubt which took a bit away from the short encounter.

Hyper Destroyers (Evie, Hiroyo Matsumoto and Kellie Skater) (c) vs Hiromi Mimura, Jungle Kyouna and Momo Watanabe for the Destroyers’ Artist of Stardom titles was a mix of action and comedy, with the Destroyers’ various confetti shooting implements teased and used throughout. Was quite entertaining, but it was also clear the combined talent in that match could have done a lot more given proper time.

Act’s retirement match and ceremony had an incredible atmosphere around it, and the entire spectacle was awesome to be at live. Act Yasukawa, Haruka Kato and Kairi Hojo vs. Holidead, Kris Wolf and Kyoko Kimura went for about 10 minutes, with back and forth action that saw Act and her teammates more and more at odds. Things exploded and Act and Hojo fought into the crowd with everyone else along for the ride, resulting in a double countout.

The the “real” match began, as Act rejoined her former Oedo Tai stablemates leading to Act Yasukawa and Kyoko Kimura vs Haruka Kato and Kairi Hojo. This was a fitting send off, with Act and her teammates clearly enjoying themselves against long time rivals. The traditional spot of the entire roster (and then some) splashing the retiree in the corner was amusing to see.

After the match was a ceremony where numerous people came in and presented with gifts / congratulations. At the end was a ten bell salute, a ton of streamers, and a lap of Act being carried around the ring. It was extremely interesting to experience a Japanese retirement match live for the first time. Best wishes to Act in the future.

After intermission was the main event, a huge World of Stardom title match that saw Io Shirai challenging Meiko Satomura (c). This was fantastic, with highlights that included Io perform an INSANE moonsault off of a staircase overhang, and of course the end which saw Stardom’s biggest star capturing their main title from an outsider.

 

On Christmas Day I was back at the Ice Ribbon Dojo, but for a Wave Young OH! show featuring newer talent. Veteran Yumi Ohka was at the show working the ticket table, but the actual matches were (almost) entirely young wrestlers.

The first 3 matches were about what I would have expected – rookie talent getting a chance to work each other and gain more experience in matches that weren’t great but weren’t bad either. I could definitely tell the difference in performances here compared to when I’ve seen these same wrestlers in the ring with veterans. They have a lot of potential though and matches like these are important chances for them to continue to grow and hone their craft.

Side note: I still don’t know exactly how I feel about the lightsaber vs feather fan duels in Akane Fujita and Natsu Sumire vs Fairy Nipponbashi and Yako Fujigasaki.

The main event was a different story, as the Young OH! Tournament Final of Meiko Tanaka and Sareee vs Kaho Kobayashi and Rina Yamashita was phenomenal. All four looked great, and like they have far more experience than they do.

The night didn’t end there however, as the “almost” I mentioned above showed up in a bonus match seeing Rina Yamashita pulling double duty against the soon to retire Kayoko Haruyama. This was a real treat and was just as good as the announced main. Excellent performance by Rina against the much more experienced Kayoko. Got a variation on the roster run in spot again, and poor Rina’s chest was bright red from all the hard chops she took. Nice surprise addition to the card.

 

 

Another fun pair of diverse shows. I’ve been really lucky with both the variety and overall quality of what I’ve seen on this trip. 🙂

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Gatoh Move 12/22/15 and JWP 12/23/15 Live Thoughts

December 22 and 23, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

I continued to have a nice variety of wrestling shows during my Japan trip as I checked out two more promotions I hadn’t previously seen (with more to come).

Gatoh Move is the first promotion I’ve been to with some emphasis on other entertainment as part of the wrestling show. It opened with three song and dance numbers. Two were performed by a foursome of various wrestlers consisting of founder Emi Sakura and three of the younger member of the roster. The last was by the tag-team Buribato (SAKI and MIZUKI), who would face Emi Sakura and Nanae Takahashi in the main event. It was interesting way to start out, and was reasonably entertaining.

The opening match was a mixed tag pitting Hiroyo Matsumoto and Cho-un Shiryu vs Sayaka Obihiro and Antonio Honda. This was as well worked a mixed tag as I’ve ever seen. When a story is being told and they play to the strengths of the format these can be excellent. Having four wrestlers in there with distinct personalities and including a great powerhouse like Matsumoto also helps. Fun start.

The midcard men’s matches were a good mix of styles, from a MMA type contest to a comedy match to a straight up sprint (which was excellent outside of some annoying ignoring of leg work). Most of it wasn’t quite on par with the women’s matches, but was a decent way to fill out the show. I will note that Brother YASSHI has incredible charisma. He was amazing on the mic even without me understanding a word of it.

Makoto and Riho vs Hirkaru Shida and Kotori was a solid tag team contest with a lot of interesting and impressive exchanges. It was great to see Shida wrestle again after a couple of years. Was my first time seeing the younger wrestlers in this match. Both showed a lot, particularly Riho.

The IWA Triple Crown title match between DJ Nira and Kaori Yoneyama was VERY strange, but highly amusing somehow. After appearing normal in the last match, Riho came out bound in the title belts as Nira’s second, acting subservient and getting up on the apron and repeating phrases in monotone to distract Yoneyama whenever she gained control. Nira’s offense consisted of lunging double punches, which missed as often as they worked. Somehow the comedy did come together and Yoneyama’s perseverence and eventual victory made this odd spectacle entertaining.

The main event featured Emi Sakura and Nanae Takahashi vs Buribato (SAKI and MIZUKI). Looked like a mismatch initially, but the younger duo quickly established themselves as a viable threat and this was a spectacular main event. Nearly twenty full minutes of excellent back and forth tag team wrestling.

The show ended with more singing and dancing from the same group that started the show, and the wrestlers made their way around the crowd shaking hands and thanking us for coming. Nice touch and this was a great, fun show overall.

 

 

The next day I saw JWP in the same venue. It’s a perfect place for wrestling shows with good lighting and a decent setup for seating.

After a press conference type intro that hyped the huge upcoming tag title match at JWP’s Korakuen show, Commando Boishoi faced KAZUKI. I was honestly expecting comedy from Boishoi given her attire, but in fact she’s a fantastic no-nonsense wrestler (and did an amazing mini-demo with nun-chucks as part of her entrance). Strong opener.

Leon and Meiko Tanaka vs Hanako Nakamori and Makoto was a great little tag match. Nice chemistry from both teams. I’ve seen Meiko a couple of times now and she’s very impressive for her age and experience.I have a feeling she’s just going to keep getting better and better. Her offense was a perfect fit with that of veteran Leon. I liked the pairing of Hanako and Makoto, and hope they team again.

I’d heard a lot about the Jumonji Sisters (DASH Chisako and Sendai Sachiko), and they certainly didn’t disappoint against Raideen Hagane and Yako Fujigasaki. JWP’s tag champs are incredible, and I am beyond excited to see them against two of my favorites in team Best Friends at JWP Climax. Their opponents here looked good too, playing to their strengths and making the most of Raideen’s size for fun spots.

Rabbit Miu vs Tsukasa Fujimoto was next. Miu is one of the favorites of a friend of mine, so even though she was yet another wrestler I hadn’t seen previously to this I knew a fair bit about her. She looked extremely good here and totally kept up with (as I’ve mentioned a time or ten) one of the best in the world. Miu has great instincts and is able to much more in the ring than you’d guess by her size. Excellent semi-main.

The main event of Arisa Nakajima vs Kayoko Haruyama was phenomenal, and the best match I’d seen on my trip so far. They beat the high holy hell out of each other, with forearm shots that thundered through the crowd. Haruyama’s guillotine leg drop from the top rope with Arisa standing on the second is one of the most brutal looking moves I’ve seen, and I was totally marking out for every German suplex variation they threw at each other. Lucky to be seeing a couple of Haruyama’s last matches, and Arisa is everything I’ve heard and more.

So these were two more awesome shows on my trip. 🙂 The JWP was the best yet, with five top notch matches on a card that just got better and better as it went. It’s been really cool that my first several shows have been all different promotions, as the contrast is really interesting.

Marvelous and DIANA 12/20/15 Live Thoughts

December 20, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

It’s been interesting how different the three Joshi shows I’ve seen so far have been from one another. Marvelous has been the biggest surprise so far, because it was also VERY different from their USA shows.

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The Marvelous show featured three matches, and struck me as “a bit of something for everyone.” Before the matches most of the roster came out and all had some time on the mic with Chigusa. Then they each signed a few foam balls and tossed them into the audience as they left the ring. I was lucky enough to be thrown one. Neat keepsake.

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The opener, featuring Kyoko Kimura vs. Megumi Yabushita, had heavy comedic overtones and was decent for what it was. A mostly straight up tag match was next as Takako Inoue and KAORU faced Alex Lee and Ray. All four had slightly different styles but it meshed well and this was quite good. Big fan of Ray from her time in Shimmer so was nice to see her here. Sad I didn’t get to see her cartwhell bomb, but she’ll be at other shows. Alex Lee kept up well and I’d like to see more of her. Amusing side note for me was that she came out to one of my favorite songs, which I had recently remarked would make great entrance music for someone.

Takako and KAORU made a good heel team and were both about what I expected from their reputations. After the match Takako stayed behind and sang for the crowd.

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Greco-Roman top-rope wooden board drop.

Intermission was a nice little break. Not many of the wrestler were out (that was after the show) but I did get to talk to Ray for a minute and it was great to watch Alex Lee and some other bring a bunch of the kids from the audience into the ring, let them run around a little, and do some simple “drills” with them.

After intermission was the main event, a 6 on 2 handicap match featuring Chigusa and 5 teammates against Dump Matusmoto and Yumiko Hotta. Yes, I’m glossing over the faces, but they were just there to be cannon fodder for Dump to hit with a kendo stick and other objects over and over. The only one who did anything noteworthy was the one who turned on Chigusa late in the match (whose name I don’t know). Hotta came to the ring with numerous pairs of handcuffs hanging off her gear, so it was obvious where things were eventually going. This was an ECW style weapons brawl that went all over the arena.

On the one hand this was disappointing because I saw Takumi Iroha wrestle in NY for Marvelous’ US show and she’s amazing. Was really hoping to see her in a traditional match where she could show what she could do. Instead I saw her handcuffed to the ropes and periodically beaten with a kendo stick. And these type of brawls aren’t exactly my cup of tea. On the other hand this was great for what it was. The heat coming from sections of fans for both Dump and Chigusa was incredible, and the mid-match surprise of legend Manami Toyota coming out to help Chigusa was fantastic.

All the wrestlers came out to meet fans and sell merch after the show, and the lines for both Dump and Chigusa were INSANE. Really glad I caught this, as it’s their only show while I’m here.

At night I went to DIANA. Cool venue on the 5th floor of a giant open shopping center.  I was seriously jetlagged by this point and had to walk around during intermission to try to shake it off, but still enjoyed the show.

The opener was already my third time seeing Hamuko Hoshi wrestle, here against Yuiga. Honestly I didn’t enjoy this match. Hoshi’s character doesn’t click with me and she did not sell pain AT ALL while in Yuiga’s submission holds. Totally killed the match for me. Really hope this was an anomaly, as I’ll be seeing a lot more of her on this trip.

In a great bit of luck I was able to see Jenny Rose vs Kagetsu in Jenny’s last match of her current tour of Japan before she heads back to the states. Both looked good here and Jenny is clearly making the most of her time spent in Japan. She recognized me and my friend from Shimmer shows and it was great to get to chat with her during intermission. I was excited to hear about the Aspire promotion she setting up in the PA / NJ area.

She was back out immediately seconding her CRYSIS seniors Jaguar Yokota and Yumiko Hotta vs Megumi Yabushita and Mima Shimoda. This was more of the one sided illegal tactics from the heels I’m still getting used to over here. Everyone looked good though, and watching veterans who are clearly masters of their craft against younger wrestlers is always a treat.

After intermission was the main event: Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito and Meiko Tanaka vs. Chikayo Nagashima, Keiko Aono and Mask De Sun. Mask De Sun’s hair looks very familiar from earlier in the day. This was a high energy, chaotic main event with the heels doing everything they could to triple team and gain momentary advantages over the powerhouses that are Inoue and Ito. Kudos to setting up a countout finish that actually felt main event worthy, as the veterans trusted their 16 year old rookie teammate to get back into the ring after everyone was brawling through the crowd and concentrated on keeping the other team occupied. So with a single second left Meiko dives into the ring and wins for her team. Kyoko sells this as being a huge accomplishment and being extremely pround of Meiko, which made the moment effective.

Another fun pair of shows, and I’m thrilled to be starting my trip out with a good variety of match types, wrestlers, and promotions (except for too much Hammy).

 

 

Ice Ribbon 12/19/15 Live Thoughts

December 19, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

Bit of a surreal experience for me, as I’m making my first ever trip to Japan and this was the first show I saw once I got here. I’d heard a lot of great things about Ice Ribbon and had seen the fantastic Tsukasa Fujimoto in Shimmer so was extremely excited for this. It lived up to expectations and then some.

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Ice Ribbon Dojo shows are really interesting. The atmosphere is unlike anything else I’ve been to. It’s a small venue but packs a decent crowd. Seating is open but the earlier you bought a ticket the earlier you get to choose your seat. After the show everyone comes back to the ring for a “roundtable discussion” where they all give thoughts on the show and share their upcoming schedule and matches. Not speaking Japanese I obviously didn’t understand this portion, but I still got the general idea and it was still interesting to be at. Photography isn’t allowed at the dojo shows so I don’t have any match / action shots, but I will share pics of the awesome souvenirs I was able to get. The entire roster is available after the show to meet fans and sell merchandise, and they were all very friendly and approachable. 

One interesting thing about the shows I’ve been to so far over here is they have all been 3-4 matches long, which is much shorter than what I’m used to in the US (I know I’ll be at some longer shows later in this trip). They have all felt like full shows though, with great matches that are allowed to develop as needed and they definitely didn’t FEEL short. Pretty awesome.

The opening match was a six-woman tag featuring The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi and Mochi Miyagi) and Pantera Rosa vs. Akane Fujita, 235 and Kyuri. This was a fun all-out war, with Pantera Rosa playing a full blown dismissive heel and really working over and antagonizing Akane and 235 during the match. It’s going to take me a while to get used to refs ignoring cheating and foreign object over here and train myself not to constantly mentally ask why the faces don’t retaliate with weapons sooner, but it did pay off late in the match here with Rosa finally getting nailed with her own chain (although she later snuck out the win regardless). The Butchers are an odd act. They have an over-the-top dancing entrance that’s great and get a lot of cheers, but wrestle like heels. Akane Fujita left the strongest impression on me here. Everything she does connects with the force of a freight train. She seems to be an amazing power wrestler so far. Great match to serve as my introduction to wrestling shows in Japan.

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Up next was Maruko Nagasaki and Miyako Matsumoto vs Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi. Heard a lot about Risa before coming over so was nice to finally get to see her wrestle. Great showing from all four. Miyako is officially an instant favorite of mine. She’s not a technical wizard in the ring, but her act is pitch perfect. She’s shameless about doing what’s best for her at the expense of her partner, celebrates the least little thing (even such as being picked up for a slam) with hilarious flourishes and posing, in general was just amusing as hell as a quasi-coward, full of herself heel. Wrestling needs various styles, and she’s the epitome of hers.

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Hamuko  made a second appearance of the night in a preview of sorts for her upcoming title match in Aoi Kizuki and Tsukushi vs Yuka and Hamuko Hoshi. Honestly Hamuko is ok but seemed the weakest of the bunch in both matches to me so I’m really hoping she shows more in said impending title match. Yuka and Tsukushi were both impressive, with particularly smooth reversals. I’m a big fan of the champ so far too. Aoi’s “swivel” diving moves (splashes and body presses when she rotates horizontally instead of vertically) are something I’ve never quite seen before and make for great visuals as signature & finishing moves. 

 

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The show ended with Neko Nitta defending her Triangle Ribbon Championship against Tsukasa Fujimoto and Kyuri. Excellent main event. Kyuri played a great role as the totally overmatched youngster trying to hang with the two veterans, Tsukasa was just as amazing as I remember from Shimmer, and it was real treat to see Neko before her impending retirement on 1/3. Neko’s character and mannerisms are great, and she’s a phenomenal wrestler to boot.

 

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As I mentioned earlier the roundtable to close out the show was interesting even though I couldn’t understand what was being said. The wrestlers shook hands with fans at ringside afterwards and everyone hung around for quite a while afterwards. I love the opportunity to get polaroids with the wrestlers, as it provides a nice memento in general but you can also get them signed (unlike having pics taken with my own camera). The opportunity here to get a polaroid in the ring with the ENTIRE ROSTER was cool in ways I can’t properly describe.

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My first Ice Ribbon show was everything I had hoped and the perfect way to kick off my Japan trip. Right up there with Shimmer in terms of enjoyment. Really can’t recommend this promotion enough.

Top Five “New to Me” Games 2015

I’m unlikely to be playing anymore new board games this year, so this is a good time to look back at games that really impressed me.

Ground rules:

  • The only qualification for this list is that I personally played the game for the first time in 2015.
  • I tried around 15 new games this year, so it was quite difficult to narrow this down. Honorable Mentions include, but aren’t limited to, Between Two Cities, Codenames, and Disc Duelers.

 

5. Imperial Assault

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I imagine this is only going to climb in my estimation the more I play. There’s a ton of components and rules to Imperial Assault, but it’s obvious that’s to make it a deeper and more challenging game as time goes on. The introductory skirmish I played was easy to get the hang of and already felt like an actual battle between two sides with distinct goals. The fact that it’s Star Wars just makes it that much better. Fantastic miniature game all around.

4. Mysterium

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At this point I’ve played so many games that something that seems to have a truly original approach intrigues me greatly. Mysterium is a wonderful asymmetric cooperative game that has a departed ghost trying to guide psychics to the culprit of its murder through sending “visions” consisting of cards with abstract art. The hope is that the cards played by the ghost will indicate specific cards on the game board to the psychics, who are working together and can discuss as needed. Was a lot of fun. Full review.

3. Suburbia

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Suburbia is one of those games that looks more complicated than it is and is fairly easy to pick up. The basic gameplay is buy a tile and play it to your suburb, and the tiles tell you everything you need to know about scoring, etc. The depth comes in from the way the tiles interact. This is a wonderful, accessible game that has been a hit with everyone I’ve tried it with so far. Full review.

2. Tragedy Looper

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Tragedy Looper is somewhat of a tough game to get your mind around, but once you do it’s a great mystery game (a genre that’s underrepresented and hard to do well).  It’s asymmetric, with players who are time traveling and trying to prevent a tragedy, and a gamemaster that is trying to stop them. There are limitations on possible actions based on the scenario and various stats of the characters being controlled, which is where clues about what has happened and how to prevent it come from. I’ve only played once so far, but I adore the concept and despite playing VERY poorly as GM I enjoyed the game and am extremely excited to try it again.

1. The Duke

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The Duke came out of nowhere to become my second favorite game of all time.  It’s an incredible two player game with elements of chess reworked into a much more accessible and variable experience. The vast number of movement patterns allows for deep gameplay, yet the smaller board and limited starting pieces keeps things manageable. The combination of each piece having its movement grid printed on it and the fact that the pattern is different on each side is just fantastic, and makes this both incredibly new player friendly and deep. Full review.

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And that’s it. Was a great year. What are everyone else’s new favorites?

Blueprints Board Game Review

Blueprints is a fun, quick to learn game that centers around building secret structures with dice. Really, what more do we need? 😉

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Gameplay

During each of the 3 rounds of the game, players build structures on a blueprint card hidden behind their personal shield out of dice drafted from a random supply. At any given time there are 7 dice in the center of the table, from which the current player chooses 1 and adds it to their building. After 6 turns each the round is over and players reveal their buildings for scoring.

There are 4 types (colors) of dice, which all increase your building’s value in different ways:

  • Orange dice add based on the number of other dice (any kind) it touches.
  • Green dice add based on the total number of green dice in your building.
  • White dice add based on the face up side.
  • Black dice add based on how high in your building they are placed.

Buildings are worth an additional 6 points if you manage to complete your blueprint for the round, but while you can’t build on X’ed spots you are otherwise NOT REQUIRED to follow the blueprint. The highest buildings each round gain “medals,” which translate to victory points at the end of the game. Building scores reset between each round.

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Besides the medals there are “prizes” awarded each round, and this is where the game really opens up to varying strategies. There are always the same 4 prizes available:

  • Building contains 4 or more of the same number face up.
  • Building contains all numbers 1-6 face up.
  • Building contains 5 or more dice of the same color.
  • Building is 5 or more dice tall at its highest point.

Obviously a couple of these are contradictory, but it is still possible to get more than one a round. The prizes are each worth as much as a silver medal, so there are times when abandoning your blueprint or otherwise failing to maximize your building score might prove advantageous.

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One last element I want to talk about is “desired materials.” Each round two (different) dice are chosen to be the most and second most desired materials (dice) for that round. Tiebreakers are decided based on how many of these type of dice each player has in their building. This becomes VERY important since only one of each prize is given out each round, and often more than one player will qualify. The mechanic itself is wonderful, since by drawing the in-demand dice from the same supply players build from those dice are automatically slightly more scarce for that round.

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Overall Thoughts:

I’ve played this a few times now with different groups and like it quite a bit. It’s extremely easy to teach and plays very quickly, which makes it valuable to have on hand for in between longer  games. However the setup and nuances make it more than just filler and add a reasonable amount of strategy and depth. It’s quirky, well designed, and most importantly fun.

 

Mysterium Board Game First Impressions

Mysterium is a game I spotlighted in my look at  new and different board games. The concept of having an asymmetric, completely cooperative game is intriguing, as usually everyone fills the same role (aside from player specific powers) or the asymmetric player is a game master / adversary. The setting and look of the game is also quite unique, so I was really looking forward to trying it out.

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Gameplay

The gist of Mysterium is that most players are psychics trying to solve the murder of a ghost who’s haunting an old mansion. The ghost is the asymmetric role played by one player chosen at the start. A certain number of people, locations, and objects are chosen (depending on the number of players and chosen difficulty level) and laid out to form the board. In secret the ghost randomly chooses a subset of copies of those cards to form the clue paths for each psychic.

Each psychic has a specific person, location and object that form their personal suspect path, and the ghost’s job is to give them clues to figure it out. This is done by sending the psychics “visions,” cards with abstract images very similar to something you’d see in a game of Dixit. The ghost gives each psychic at least one card per turn trying to match that player’s clue card for the round. The psychics can discuss what they think everything means, but the ghost must stay silent and not give any verbal or physical clues.

All of the psychics must complete their clue paths within seven turns or the game is lost. If they do, there is a final round where the ghost provides three cards pointing to one of the established clue paths (one each for suspect, location and object). This is the true murderer. The each psychics get to look at a number of these final three cards determined by how well they did in the earlier phase of the game, and there is no discussion here. The psychics vote and if they pick the right suspect the ghost’s soul is laid to rest and everyone wins.

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Thoughts:

This is a great game that really expands on the base of something like Dixit and turns it into a full blown deductive game rather than (an admittedly awesome) party game. I played as the ghost and found it quite challenging but a lot of fun. We did well for our first attempt, with everyone completing their clue paths, although we didn’t manage to have the majority finger the right suspect at the end.

It seems the game will scale extremely well simply by varying the number possible suspects based on player count and difficulty chosen. The difficulty impact on the ghost player is likewise well executed: the ghost is limited to the number of times he can discard cards based on the level. Choosing clues to give based on seven randomly picked abstract cards is tough and being able to discard once a round (on easy) was a big help. It will definitely be appropriately more challenging on higher levels by reducing that.

The production value is excellent here. The art is appropriately well done and has lots of little details to both make the cards flexible and open to interpretation and to challenge the player trying to decipher the clues. The theme fits perfectly and the various components enhance the atmosphere.

 

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Overall

I had heard good things about Mysterium and wasn’t disappointed in our first play. I love mystery based games and this is an original one with great twists on mechanics used in other games. Wonderful addition to the game closet and I”m excited to play again sometime.

 

Top 5 Matches of 2015 (so far): Live

I have a fair bit of wrestling to watch remaining on the 2015 calendar, but mid-December still seems like a good time to look back at the best 2015 had to offer. Here I’ll list the Top 5 matches I was lucky enough to see live, in chronological order. This was a great year and this was a tough list to make. There’s a LOT of great stuff that just missed the cut.

Match reviews copied from my show specific blogs when possible.

1. Aja Kong, Dynamite Kansai, Kyoko Kimura, and Mayumi Ozaki vs. 3G (Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa) and 3S (Misaki Ohata and Hiroyo Matsumoto)

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This match is not available on dvd yet and I will in no way be able to do it justice from memory. Legitimate legends making their Shimmer debuts, eight amazing athletes, and a bitter sweet goodbye weekend for Tomoka Nakagawa made this an amazing experience. I consider myself honored to have been there.

 

I just barely picked this over Nakagawa’s final match (with Skater) against the Canadian Ninjas, because while both were great this match was a touch better, where the aftermath and  Tomoka’s farewell were the larger part of the atmosphere for the Ninjas match.

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2. Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr.

This is the match I went to Evolve 47 to see, and it was everything I hope for. Thatcher is my favorite wrestler at the moment and what I’ve seen of Sabre so far has been extremely impressive, so to say I was psyched for this match would be a vast understatement.

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I think the term “wrestling clinic” is thrown around too much, but if ever it was appropriate it’s here. Thatcher and Sabre spent the entire match fighting over holds and reversals trying to get an advantage. And that was the key: they FOUGHT for everything. Nothing looked like a “sequence,” it always looked like two guys desperately trying to gain an advantage over one another and win the match.

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It’s extremely difficult to keep an entirely grappling based match gripping throughout and never lose the crowd, especially in the main event of a card that featured high flying, strikefests, and no-DQ savagery. It’s an accomplishment that speaks volumes about the skills of both men. I remember a particularly great stretch that featured an exchange of strangleholds for several minutes, and there were tons of innovative reversals and holds that had the fans oohing and aahing.

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Sabre added some stiff kicks late in the match and Thatcher some suplexes, but it came back down to the grappling with Sabre focusing on Thatcher’s arm and Thatcher going after Sabre’s legs. In the end Thatcher reversed into a heel hook Sabre couldn’t get out of. Phenomenal match I’m ecstatic I got to see live.

3. Sasha Banks (c) vs Bailey was next for the NXT Women’s Championship. It’s weird how HHH comes across as supportive and important to NXT while Steph seems to be trying to make the spotlight rub off on her and claim credit for other’s success when their promos really aren’t that different. Still, I’ll take the extra attention for the women’s division and having her declare the women’s title match a co-main event was pretty cool.

Again the video package summarizing the feud was excellent and effectively conveyed Banks’ dominating, bullying persona and Bailey’s struggle to prove herself and prove herself while being outpaced by her compatriots. Bailey’s another former member of the Shimmer roster, but didn’t get too much time to shine there before being signed to WWE developmental. Both wrestlers were phenomenal here, and this easily took match of the night on a card filled with more established superstars and great performances.

Everything was pitch perfect. The in-ring story built move by move and had the crowd captivated the whole way. Banks is so good she had to work insanely hard to get booed by the New York crowd, and still managed it well enough to give the key moments extra impact. The meta-story of Bailey’s struggle and hard fought victory finally proving her legitimacy was amazing, and the crowd erupted for her win. And I’ll be damned if I ever thought someone could make a bell-to-belly suplex a believable finisher in 2015. The “curtain call” moment with Charlotte, Becky, Banks and Bailey was just right.

4. No DQ Shimmer Title Match: Nicole Matthews (c) vs Madison Eagles

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This had been building for quite a while, as layers for the feud between Eagles and Matthews were being established even before Matthews threw a fireball into Eagles face to win the title. Given their history this Shimmer Title match was no-DQ. This was the appropriate war we all wanted, and they threw everything they could at each other (including Kay Lee Ray at one point). Eagles defeated Matthews with a Hellbound to a chair to become two-time Shimmer Champion and provide the perfect finish to the first day of tapings for 10th Anniversary weekend.

 

5. Shimmer Title Match: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Nicole Savoy

 

I really just wanted to put “every match I saw Nicole Savoy in” for this last entry. She is INCREDIBLE, both in the ring and with her heel mannerisms, particularly for her relatively short amount of experience. Promoters have certainly noticed, as she’s been given matches against several of the best in the world. Half of her Berwyn Shimmer matches this year were against visiting Joshi talent, including a huge victory over Hiroyo Matsumoto and great outings against Misaki Ohata, Yumi Ohka, and Sonoko Kato. She more than held her own in the ring with the veterans.

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And the greatest example of that was her first Shimmer title shot against recently crowned 2-time champion Madison Eagles. It was fantastic, highlighting Savoy’s potential and ability to hang with the very best. Besides the expected brutal strike exchanges, the grappling was excellent, and really felt like both combatants were constantly trying to gain/press the advantage and win the match. I actually found parts extremely reminiscent of Timothy Thatcher vs Zach Sabre Jr from Evolve 47 mentioned previously. Great stuff.

 

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It’s been a great year for pro-wrestling and I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the best I’ve been lucky enough to catch personally.

Japan Crate December 2015 Review

December brings another unique box of snacks from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional content. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but 1 of 11 possible Legend of Zelda Mini-Figures. While I don’t recognize the character I got, the figure is quite detailed for the small size and looks good.

Now let’s look at the edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before (repeatedly), I adore cola flavored candies. So the Hia Shuwa Cola hard candies, one of the Premium exclusives, were easily my favorite item this month. The three “levels” (types) were all good, although I’m not sure why one was called “gummy.” I understand the fizzy and soothing ones. 😉

Naga-I Sawagumi Orange is described as a “sour gummy tape,” although I got more of a sweeter version of the candy I know as orange slices than something sour. Regardless, I loved it.

Both named flavors in the Black Bean & Soy Sauce Scones were extremely subtle, but that was perfect here and the underlying corn taste tied it all together. This is my favorite savory cheetos variation so far.

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Celio Lifeguard Drink. Subtitled as “Super Life” in the booklet, this was almost a combination soda / energy drink. Honey and royal jelly give it a much more pleasant flavor than normal for energy drinks.

Demitasse Pocky is apparently a new limited edition flavor made from seasonal ingredients. The coating was thick dark chocolate, and as such these were fantastic.

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The Decent

I liked this month’s Umaino Sticks better than the previous flavor (beef tongue). They were less salty and the fact that we got three different flavors to try instead of just one was great. The veggie salad tasted more like the corn snacks I’ve gotten (and enjoyed) in the past than a combination of veggies, the Tonkatsu didn’t quite taste like Tonkatsu to me but was fine, and the cheese was similar to cheese puffs. All three were good, but I liked the cheese the best.

The delayed item from last month was Fujiya Lollipop Bag, a bag of classic style lollipops in four flavors: orange, grape, apple, and strawberry. Exactly what you would expect here.

 

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There were a LOT of drinks / drink mixes this time. Awa Moco Moco powder formed a fizzy, creamy fruit drink. I got strawberry, which would have been my preference among the 3 possible flavors (banana and melon were the others).

The DIY kit this month was Cute Tororin Parfait DIY Kit, which is intended to make a strawberry parfait with pink candy topping and icing. I doubt I’m the target demo here, but I like this all the same. It mixed quickly, and well and made a good tasting parfait with a creamy texture.

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Bad Kid Beer was supposed to be in fact a “magic powder that creates a creamy grape soda when mixed with water.” The grape flavor was very light but this was a fine soda-ish drink mix.

There was another “drink in a flexible plastic bottle packaged like candy” this month, and they still amuse me in presentation. I took the advice of the booklet and tried freezing my Pachishuwa Dynamite Melon Soda. There was no indication of how I was then to get it out of the package, but the soft plastic sliced easily enough and I poured the slush into a bowl. This Premium exclusive had a strong melon flavor and I liked it better than the previous beverage of this type. The freezing idea was a nice touch.

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The Meh

Nothing this time. YAY!

Conclusion

Great batch this month, with a lot of variety and several unique inclusions. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5.