Fighting Entropy: Spirit Island Board Game Review (First Impressions)

There are plenty of good civilization building games, but Spirit Island takes a wonderful alternate approach where players take the role of spirits trying to protect/reclaim their island from colonists building towns and cities, often at the expense of the natural habitat.

 

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Spirit Island is a challenging co-op with a real sense of entropy and things getting out of hand. Each turn the game controlled colonists the players are working against explore new areas, while building villages and cities in areas they’ve already explored and cause damage to the island, native inhabitants, and spirits in areas they’ve already built in.

The mechanics that govern the progression of what players are fighting against are ingenious, including an interesting, natural mechanic where one of the victory conditions gets less stringent as the game goes on. That’s not to say it gets easier though, as the colonists and their buildings spread rapidly and become more entrenched turn by turn. At the same time the spirits evolve and grow of the course of the game, giving players more options to fight back with. This is something that really feels different among all the games I play, to great effect.

There are couple of different ways to win, speaking to different strengths of spirits and strategies around winning by causing destruction versus purely scaring the colonists away. The game is also specifically designed to scale with the number of players, in all aspects from the number of various counters used to the board size itself. So far it all seems really well designed and balanced.

 

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But the wonderful thing is within that balance they’ve achieved a tangible feeling of pressure and escalation. At times we felt a bit of the type of frantic energy and “quick – what are we going to do now?!” edge usually present in real time games, which is an impressive feat in a game where there isn’t actually any time pressure to the turns. The level of immersion and the way the gameplay draws the players in is fantastic, and perhaps most importantly in a game like this while challenging it is beatable, and players can easily see how close they came even in case of defeat.

I’ve played Spirit Island with 2 players with a couple of different people, and have tried it solo as well. As harrowing as things were with 2 players, I found the single player mode even more difficult as there’s no help to make up for your particular spirit’s weaknesses. It’s a really interesting, different challenge, and I can see myself playing both solo and multiplayer modes regularly in the future.

There are also scenarios, specific colonizer adversaries, and a variety of spirits to play that enhance variety and replayability. This looks to stay fresh and engrossing for quite some time, even before diving into the available expansion content.

 

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Overall Spirit Island is a well executed, highly thematic, fun game of increasing pressure.

Stardom American Dream 2019 in the Big Apple 4/5/19 Live Thoughts

April 5, 2019 in Brooklyn, NY

Wrestlemania weekend in the NYC area saw the return of Joshi puroresu company Stardom to the US for the first time since their two show CA tour in 2015. This was also my first time attending a Stardom event since the end of 2016. There were a number of talents I was particularly interested in seeing, as well as curiosity about what Stardom would choose to present to the foreign audience.

 

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There were some operational difficulties to talk about. Fans were not let into the building until less than ten minutes before the advertised start time, leading to a disgruntled start for attendees having spent significant time waiting in line outside in the cold rain. Attempts were being made to repair the broken bottom rope, leading to the show starting about a half hour late. The rope was never fully repaired and sagged nearly to the mat, unable to support any weight. So the entire show was performed with a functionally unusable bottom rope.

The live stream also reportedly had problems, but the replay is up in its entirety now and as I’m sharing my impressions of attending live it doesn’t have an impact on this writeup.

 

Stardom stressed at the outset that they intended to have a traditional Japanese show for the American crowd, starting with having their regular ring announcer here.

 

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1. JAN (Jungle Kyona & Natsuko Tora) vs Sonya Strong & Violette

Good choice for an opener, with the local team the clear heels allowing the crowd to get really into the visiting team, particularly Kyona. JAN wins a decent, crowd pleasing opener.

 

2. 3-Way: Hana Kimura & Bobbi Tyler vs Brittany Blake & Dr. Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley & Konami

“You blocked me on Facebook. Now you’re going to die.”

Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get boo’d as needed for the story of the match. Excellent work by both. This was a bit rough in parts, but nicely energetic and chaotic in largely good way leading to a fun encounter overall. Crowd seemed to be waiting for a little more of a spotlight on Konami, but she looked good in what we saw of her. Hana picks up the win, and goes CRAZY and starts throwing things at the ring announcer when the wrong music plays. She was on point and in character every second she was visible (more on that later) and it’s really cool seeing how far she’s come as a performer since I last saw her in her rookie year.

 

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3. High Speed Championship: Hazuki (c) vs Dust

Short but effective. Feels like this may have been where they shaved a little bit of time after the late start. Dust is a bit under appreciated I think, and has really found her grove the last couple of years. She worked well with Hazuki, whose general presence and mannerisms were striking. Champ retained here.

 

 

 

4. Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Momo Watanabe (c) vs Utami Hayashishita

Excellent, and even more impressive once discovered that Utami chose to work through a broken thumb here. This completely lived up to expectations, while leaving room for the inevitable rematch to take things a step further. It’s also a nice illustration of Stardom following through on giving NYC an authentic, worthy show, as this was a big, important first time singles title match for them between their current reigning tag team champions. The hype around Utami seems justified, and it’s nice to see Momo excelling as (one of) Stardom’s ace(s). It took a lot, but Momo eventually prevailed with a clean pin over her rookie partner and retained her title. Just the start of the story though I’m sure. This was the match I was most hyped for, and it delivered big time.

 

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Main Event. Elimination Match: Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, Andras Miyagi, Jamie Hayter & Session Moth Martina) vs STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Saki Kashima, Arisa Hoshiki & Tam Nakano) 

Was a little surprised this main evented over the Wonder of Stardom title defense, but I do understand the choice to end on a big all out battle between two top factions. Japanese style rules here, with eliminations by pinfall, submission, or over the top to the floor.

Oedo Tai’s dance makes quite the spectacle live, and both teams felt like big deals during the introductions, heightening anticipations. This was a lot of fun, and made good use of the format. It was really well booked to keep the audience invested, and the crowd erupted when Mayu ultimately pulled out the victory for her team.

 

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I was also particularly impressed by Arisa, who I’ve heard a fair bit about but hadn’t seen. She did a wonderful job as a subtle workhorse here, a role similarly filled by Hayter on the other team. Miyagi seems to be doing well in her new home promotion and is a great fit with Oedo Tai. Kagetsu plays her role really well and it’s easy to see why she’s one of the wrestlers Stardom has built around, and Tam’s always fun to see. Good match to end on a high note with the audience.

STARS called the rest of the roster back to sign off with in a one time show of unity to represent Stardom and thank the fans. Hana alone remained lurking on the stage off to the side where she watched the main event from, dismissively staring at her various former compatriots. Nice touch.

 

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The show ended at 6:15 pm, running fifteen minutes past the supposed plan, bringing the show time to about an hour and forty-five minutes with the delayed start. I was one of the people who left immediately to go to NXT, so didn’t participate in the meet and greet following the show.

The show felt energetic and fine in length overall, largely because the wrestlers made the most of the time they had and Stardom put together a card of smart matchups. As Stardom stated, this card is totally one they could have run in Japan, which was 100% the right approach to make a good impression and potentially draw new viewers into following the company regularly.

 

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Working around not having a functional bottom rope was a challenge, and the wrestlers all adjusted admirably. I do however wish they didn’t have to and had the opportunity to go all out.

I personally feel like Stardom can get in its own way sometimes and find them a bit hit or miss, so was thrilled to see them put their best foot forward and have everything come together from an in-ring perspective here. Overall this was a focused, well presented and performed show under extremely difficult conditions. While there are valid criticisms and preparation issues to address, I hope it will be remembered for the level of wrestling and not the surrounding difficulties. This show was great live.

Frank Sisters Produce (Ice Ribbon) 1/5/19 Live Thoughts

January 5, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Earlier the same day Ice Ribbon had  strong show at Yokohama Radiant Hall. This was a few hours later, and was not a “normal” Ice Ribbon event. Entitled “I Like Frank More Than Three Bowls of Rice,” this was produced by the “Frank Sisters” of Akane Fujita, Kurumi Hiirgi, & Mochi Miyagi and had a decidedly different feel.

 

 

1) Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Ibuki Hoshi

Ibuki’s a fantastic, natural fiery underdog (and in a different way than say Asahi is) and really shines in matchups like these. She had a nice showing of resilience against the force of nature that is the Lady Destroyer before Hiroyo put her away for good.

 

 

2) Mochi Miyagi & Papillon Akemi vs Makoto & Moeka Haruhi

I’ve only ever seen Akemi before as Emi Sakura W in Gatoh Move, but the gimmick’s very similar here. This was weird, but reasonably fun. Makoto & Moeka might have been the defacto heels, but I found their aggression and games of one-upmanship towards Akemi somewhat amusing and was pleased when they pulled out the win.

 

 

3) Hot Dog Eating Contest Match: Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hamuko Hoshi vs Maya Yukihi & Tae Honma 

Tsukka certainly did not look happy coming out for this. After losing her title and participating in a jump rope match within days prior to this, it was a rough week for her.

Music would randomly be played during this tag match, at which point any wrestler currently in the ring could eat hot dogs (brought in by the respective teams’ seconds). The team that ate the most hot dogs eaten at the end of the match won (winning the fall to trigger the end of the match by pin or submission was worth five “virtual hot dogs” in the final count).

 

 

This was absurd in all the best ways. It was viscerally hard to watch them stuff their faces and then bump on their stomachs seconds later, and as usual with Ice Ribbon everyone was fully invested in making even the most ridiculous of situations wonderfully compelling. This was given proper time to emphasize the gimmick, with the match going almost twenty minutes, and the wrestling in between the eating was top notch.

 

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Tsukka won the fall with the stranglehold while Tae was still chomping on THREE hot dogs at once. However, with a count of 22-18, Tae & Maya still won. Subtracting the 5 virtual hot dogs, Maya & (mostly) Tae outate Tsukka & Hammy by 9 hot dogs. O_o TAE IS A MONSTER. Fantastic in ways I can’t properly describe.

 

 

4) Hardcore Tag: Risa Sera & Yuko Miyamoto vs Akane Fujita & Minoru Fujita 

No surprise seeing Risa and Akane break out the hardcore stipulation for their mixed tag. There was a lot of silliness in this that required a go-with-the-flow kind of attitude when watching, but was highly enjoyable on those terms. They played baseball with rubber duckies, duplexed each other on Legos, and so on.

 

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When things got more “serious” Risa’s tendencies to go a little overboard took me out of the match a bit. There’s a line between compelling violence used to tell a story and unnecessary, cringeworthy spots that look like they hurt the person performing them more than the one receiving it anyway. This was a fun for what it was brawl otherwise though, with Risa & Yuko picking up the win.

 

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Main Event) Kurumi Hiiragi vs Kengo Mashimo

In the past several of the intergender matches I’ve seen from Ice Ribbon have been solely about how much damage the woman can take before losing. This had a more fully realized story/layout with Kurumi actually aggressively fighting back and giving a dismissive Kengo a bit of comeuppance before losing.  Kurumi worked really well against her larger opponent and this was a strong way to end the show. Kengo messed with her more after the match, to LOUD boos.

 

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Talked to Tae after the show, during which she related how full she was and expressed a desire to not eat any more hot dogs for a year.  She also cheerfully displayed her “Best Enemy” award from the earlier show.

 

“I Like Frank More Than Three Bowls of Rice” was something different in wonderful ways, and just a blast overall to be at.

Shimmer Weekend March 2019: Quick Thoughts (Live)

March 30-31, 2019 in Berwyn, IL

Shimmer taped Volumes 109-112 last weekend in their home base in Berwyn. Tomorrow morning they will be live from La Boom in Queens, NY  as part of Wrestlemania weekend.

Going into that show I’d like to share some highlights from last weekends shows. The 4 shows had 40+ matches featuring 40+ wrestlers. So there will be matches, performers, etc I won’t be mentioning (and a thing or two I’m sure I’ll forget/overlook).

 

 

First I want to talk about the more unfortunate happenings of the weekend, particularly because I know there’s concern for Mercedes Martinez and Charlie Morgan. The good news is both are doing well all things considered after in ring injuries suffered on Sunday. Mercedes had the wind knocked out of her and suffered what would be later diagnosed as bruised ribs when her partner was powerbombed on her during a tag title defense on Volume 111. It was a scary scene as Mercedes couldn’t be moved for a good 15 minutes after the match, at which point she was carried to the back. Very happy to hear it’s not as serious as it could have been and that she’s recovering. In fact she says she’s ready to go for Shimmer’s show this Friday and will tentatively be defending the tag team championship.

Charlie Morgan suffered a severely sprained ankle during a tag match during Volume 112. She will need some time to recuperate. I hope she has a speedy and full recovery. Charlie has set up a GoFundMe to help with the unexpected medical bills (which has already reached it’s original stated goal).

 

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I feel a little odd going from sharing information on their injuries to discussing their matches, but I don’t want skip giving proper credit to two of the stand out performers of the weekend. They tore the house down against each other in an excellent semi-main on Volume 110 in Charlie’s anticipated Shimmer/US debut.

Mercedes & Cheerleader Melissa had a good tag title defense against Sea Stars (Ashley Vox & Delmi Exo) on Volume 109 and what was shaping up to be one of the best matches of the weekend defending against Hiroyo Matsumoto & DASH Chisako prior to the accident. Melissa grabbed a chair and got DQ’d to end that match after Mercedes injury. Mercedes has been in peak form and excellent in everything I’ve seen her in for a while now. I was really excited about all of the matchups she was in, and they all delivered.

 

Speaking of the newly named Reiwa Ultima Powers, Sendai Girls’ DASH Chisako made her Shimmer debut this weekend. She’s a 13-year veteran and one of the best high flyers in wrestling. Also a personal favorite of mine, and I’ve been dying to have her in Shimmer for years. She & Hiroyo make a fantastic team, and DASH’s Shimmer debut on Volume 109 of them against the previously mentioned, underrated Blue Nation was a lot of fun. Later in the day RUP would have the best match of the weekend (imho) against Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa & Holidead). The four put on an energetic, captivating clinic on tag wrestling.

 

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DASH & Hiroyo won both contests (the first with DASH’s gorgeous Hormone Splash and the second with Hiroyo’s Rock Drop) to earn a tag title shot on Volume 111. As mentioned above it was amazing while it lasted, and I’d love to see a rematch of any of these matches sometime. Twisted Sisterz reportedly will have another chance to steal the show on Friday, as they seem to be in line for a title shot of their own against Mercedes & Melissa.

 

 

The Lady Destroyer finished the weekend in a really fun encounter against the Undead Bride Su Yung. Hiroyo will ride the momentum of that win to a title shot against Shimmer champion Nicole Savoy to open tomorrow’s show in what will no doubt be an incredible encounter.

DASH finished the weekend getting a singles victory in a short but exciting 4-way against Keira Hogan, Ashley Vox, and the third visiting Joshi of the weekend, Cherry.

 

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Like DASH this was Cherry’s debut weekend. Cherry’s also a veteran, and actually has a couple years more experience than even Hiroyo and DASH. She’s largely a comedy wrestler in Japan nowadays but showcased her technical skills in three matches over the course of Shimmer weekend. In addition to the 4-way, she debuted in losing effort to Charli Evans of Blue Nation to open Volume 110 (Charli working several Joshi a weekend is a trend I very much approve of) and was victorious over Veda Scott on Volume 111.

 

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Going back to Twisted Sisterz, Rosa & Holidead looked fantastic all weekend, and after the previously mentioned loss to RUP and a losing singles effort by Rosa against Shazza McKenzie on Volume 111 the duo finished strong with a solid victory against Miranda Alize & Hyan to give them a touch of momentum going into tomorrow’s title shot. 

 

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Shazza is a bit hit or miss for me personally, but had a really strong weekend with a victory over Alisha Edwards, a closely contested (and tainted) loss to Allysin Kay and the previously mentioned win over Rosa leading to a shot at Savoy to close out the weekend. The victory against Shazza was a final exclamation point on a dominant weekend for the champ, who also defeated Britt Baker, Hudson Envy, and Allysin Kay in four extremely good defenses. Envy looked downright vicious in a wonderful way in her two matches on Saturday (she wasn’t on Sunday’s shows) and AK-47 has been killing it every time she gets in the ring lately.

 

 

The last big story of the weekend involved Heart of Shimmer champion Dust, and the way her Paradise Lost partner Rosemary continually interfered to make sure Dust stayed champion, including in a close contest on Saturday that was somewhat of a breakout performance for challenger Solo Darling.

 

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On Volume 111 The Sinister Sweethearts (Brittany Blake & Samantha Heights) got a chance at revenge in a tag match against Paradise Lost that would earn Heights another shot at Dust if the Sweethearts proved victorious. They did, but Rosemary would get Dust disqualified in said title match later in the day to preserve the title. Shimmer authority figure Lexi Fyfe was having none of it, and Heights will get one more shot tomorrow in the main event with Rosemary banned from the building.

 

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There was a lot more going on, with Shotzi Blackheart’s and Aerial Monroe ‘s matches standing out in my mind. Indi Hartwell is really excelling in a heel role, and introduced new “best friend” / enforcer Steph De Lander to back her up. The pre-show match between Harlow O’Hara and Rocky Radley on Sunday was impressive, and I’d like to see more of both in the future. It was great to have Kris Wolf around for a pair of matches as her career winds down, and the big 8-woman tag tomorrow featuring her in her second to last match will be fun.

 

 

Overall the weekend featured an excellent mix of talent leading to interesting matchups. Not everything was great, and not everything I mentioned was perfect, but overall an enjoyable batch of shows with good effort from nearly everyone and some fantastic highlights. Tomorrow’s lineup looks great, and I recommend anyone who gets the chance check out the show.

Sendai Girls 1/6/19 Live Thoughts

January 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

Because of the timing of my trips and usually staying in Tokyo I don’t get to see a whole lot of Sendai Girls shows. But I adore several members of the roster and the opportunities I do get to attend live are always great. This is my third show of theirs, after 1/6/18 headlined by a battle of legends and 4/19/18 featuring those two legends in separate singles matches against two of today’s hottest stars. This card looked a bit different than those on paper, but no less interesting.

 

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The show opened with a short match that saw Marvelous’ rookie Mei Hoshizuki against veteran DASH Chisako. Marvelous has a strong track record training up and comers, from Maria Takeda looking good the previous day at Ice Ribbon at only two weeks experience to the absolute star Mio Momono has become, among others. Sixteen year old Mei was at about a month and a half here, and looked decent against the aggressive, dominating veteran. Dash is a favorite of mine and one of the best high flyers in the world, and it’s always a treat to see her wrestle in any capacity.

 

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From a rough welcome for a visiting rookie we go to absolute ridiculousness in a 4-way between Eiger, Sakura Hirota, Hikaru Shida, and KAORU. Exactly the type of match one would expect from a pair of comedy wrestlers in with two weapon wielding opponents, and was quite amusing and held together with some creative spots and the occasional flash of wrestling prowess. Eiger surprisingly won by pinning everyone, including reigning Oz Academy champion Shida. Bonus amusement was had in the form of Eiger going over to the concentrated Chihiro cheering section (more on them later) a few times to spook them.

 

 

Aja Kong, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Alex Lee & Mikoto Shindo vs Meiko Satomura, Cassandra Miyagi, Mika Iwata, & Minami was an exciting 8-woman tag with a solid central story and various nice undercurrents.

 

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Minami was absolutely fed to wolves here, including a point at which she went for a tag and Meiko told her in no uncertain terms to get back to the center of the ring to face her monstrous opponents some more. It didn’t seem like she had been in for too short a time, but Meiko was clearly pushing the rookie (and perhaps teaching some match pacing at the same time). They all also played it up well (Meiko spun to the crowd and see to dare them to defy her judgement in a great moment), and with the specters of Hiroyo and Kong bearing down on the Minami throughout it ending up getting the crowd behind her even more. Which lead to a great finish that saw her eventually getting the win for her team to a strong pop. There was also tension between former partners Alex Lee and Mika Iwata, my last time seeing Cassandra Miyagi in Sendai Girls, and general strong work from all involved.

 

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I was not familiar with rookie Ayame Sasamura prior to this trip, and was impressed with what I saw from her at SEAdLINNNG on 12/28 in a triple threat against Sakura Hirota and Ayame’s own reigning SEAdLINNNG Tag Team Championship partner Arisa Nakajima. That isn’t the only title she held either, and here she defended her Sendai Girls Junior Championship against Millie McKenzie (who I saw at Tokyo Joshi Pro two days prior). Excellent work here from two wrestlers with under a year and half experience each. Both have a lot of potential and bright futures ahead of them (not to dismiss what each has already accomplished of course). Millie scores a bit of an upset and becomes the new SG Jr Champion in a great match.

Since this show Ayame was injured and required foot surgery (forfeiting her SEAdLINNNG tag title as a result). I really hope to see here recover in full and make a return to the ring when able.

 

 

I also tend to get too few opportunities to see DIANA’s Sareee wrestle, so I was really excited for this main event. She was particularly fantastic here, going tooth and nail with the dominant Sendai Girl’s Champion Chihiro Hashimoto in a surprisingly visceral title match. Incredibly impressed with the performances of both wrestlers here, which was no surprise. Chihiro is an incredible wrestler with equally incredible presence, and it’s a joy to hear her dedicated cheering section go wild for her during her matches. Sareee pushed the champs limits, but Chihiro persevered and kept her title. Would love to see a rematch down the line.

 

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Another really fun, engrossing show from Sendai Girls. My next opportunity to see them live can’t come soon enough.

Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19 Live Thoughts

January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s biggest show of the year helped start off 2019, and had three really intriguing matches scheduled for the top of the card.

 

 

A year to the day after their quadruple debut in a tag match against each other the Up Up Girls, sporting brand new gimmicks and names (kind of), teamed together in an 8-woman tag against Haruna Neko, Marika Kobashi, Mina Shirakawa & Pom Harajuku

The Up Up Girls are now Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, Pinano Pipipipi & Raku. The new names and looks were unveiled at a concert a few days prior. For the most part the new gear stuck to the established color scheme for each but now varies by their individual tastes and personalities. I kind of feel like the one who most needed a new direction changed the least (including leaving her name the same with just a different Japanese spelling), but overall all the new looks are good, nicely unique, and complimentary. The way Hinano fully embraced repackaging is great (she’s the only one who really changed her name, not just adding a last name or changing the spelling, and she also went multi color in her gear and changed her distinctive pigtails), and Hikari’s goth tendencies coming through is awesome.

 

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Back to the match, it was an ok affair with a fair bit of the expected awkwardness given seven of the eight competitors had a year or less experience. It went a bit too long for what it was, but the effort was there, a few wrestlers stood out, and the Up Up Girls felt like a nicely unified unit on their way to a victory.

I will admit that Pom’s wrestling tends to grate on my nerves a bit. For example I’ve never seen her even so much as feint anything other than the shin kicks when rushing people in the corner. So instead of Pom looking like she outsmarts her opponents or something by kicking the shins as a response when her opponents throw their hands up to block their faces, her opponents always look like complete morons for blocking their faces in the first place. She has potential and we’ll see how things go, but everyone has their own preferences and pet peeves and her act’s not coming together that well for me so far.

 

 

The second match was a triple threat “Queen of USA match” with Hyper Misao vs Yuna Manase vs Veda Scott. The three fought over a star spangled hat (which eventually became three star spangled hats), danced when they managed to wear the hats, and Veda won when she was able to dance long enough uninterrupted. Meh. Not my thing, but it was short enough and the rest of the crowd was highly amused.

 

 

With a bit of buzz about her departure from Actwres Girlz, Maki Natsumi made her TJP debut teaming with Millie McKenzie against the BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino). Really good match, with Maki and Millie both looking impressive and having great chemistry as a team. While I’m still waiting for a bit more momentum to be built for the repackaged Nodoka Temna, Maki & Millie going over here was definitely the right call.

 

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My first look at Saki Akai in a while was honestly a largely forgettable affair. She teamed with rookie YUMI to defeat Himawari Unagi & Yuki Kamifuku, and my only recollection of this match is leaving it wanting to see more from Yumi in the future.

 

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Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’ve been dying to see my personal favorite from the promotion, the Muscle Idol Reika Saiki, get a shot at the legend. Reika just keeps getting better and better, utilizing her incredible power in wonderful ways and really strives to excel at everything she does. Meiko is quite simply the greatest wrestler in the world. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this battle. Reika went toe-to-toe with the 23-year veteran at several points, and had an excellent, hard hitting, back and forth showing before Meiko put down the upstart. My match of the night.

 

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In an interesting parallel, the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Title Match involved the same four wrestlers as the prior year’s event, but in different pairs. Yuka Sakazaki now held the titles with Mizuki, and her former championship partner Shoko Nakajima challenged alongside Gatoh Move’s Riho (who teamed with Mizuki to challenge Yuka & Shoko the prior year).

I found the previous year’s match just a touch better overall, but that’s slight criticism and this was still an excellent, high energy example of tag team wrestling. Again all four’s jaw dropping athleticism was on display in innovative double teams and exciting action. Down the stretch this became about Shoko trying to prove herself against her former partner, and she looked absolutely emotionally wrecked afterwards about coming up short and being pinned by Yuka.

 

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The main event for the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship saw the company’s ace versus the overachieving rebel as Miyu Yamashita defended against Maki Itoh 

Itoh’s limitations in the ring meant this wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but that was never the point. She grown into being a decent wrestler through force of willpower, and that journey and her incredible charisma make her impossible not to root for. This was always going to be a battle of the champion outclassing the brash upstart punching above her weight, who would then either refuse to die long enough to wear down Miyu and score the upset, or eventually succumb to the champ’s assault.

 

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Between Itoh’s unique moveset (including spots like blocking an axe kick with a headbutt) and the story and limitations I mentioned, this match might not be terribly accessible to new viewers in isolation. But for those who have been following Itoh’s quest it was captivating and exactly what it should have been, and the crowd was into it the whole time. It was not quite Itoh’s time it seems, and Miyu would emerge with her title intact.

 

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Decent, crowd pleasing show from Tokyo Joshi Pro to kick off the new year. A little hit or miss in the undercard but still quite fun overall, with a pair of excellent matches plus an appropriately worked main event closing out the show in a strong way.

 

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game Review (Spoiler Free)

Given the mystery based nature of the game let me state up front that this review will be spoiler free.

 

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I’m a big fan of immersive storytelling experiences in games like T.I.M.E Stories, and a huge mystery buff, so was extremely intrigued by the concept of a modern style investigation in the form of a game.

Players are agents of a special investigative agency in current times, and that’s pretty much all the background needed before jumping in. Cards and well implemented online features provide information as the cases proceed, and it’s all up to players to decide how to use the (in game) time they have to pursue leads and then piece together the answers needed for the particular case they’re tackling.

The rule book warns that there’s no “right answer card.” This isn’t a matter of searching for that one statement that jumps up and down saying “you win now!” There’s plenty of information to analyze, but players will never see it all and have to make choices about what to investigate and (even more importantly) make inferences from what’s discovered. A series of summary questions at the end of the case will determine if the players were successful, or if they’ll need to try that particular case again.

The feel of the game and level of immersion were incredible. Playing felt like we were doing detective work. This is a storytelling experience as much as it is a game, and each case will run around 3 hours or so. But it never felt that long.  The way research is integrated, the story elements,  a real sense of discovery and tension, and the constraints of not being able to investigate everything while still feeling like we got enough to figure things out kept us engaged and excited.

There are historical and real world connotations wonderfully tied into the fictional narrative that unfolds, and the mechanics and the way everything comes together is really clever and well done.

I played this with one other person. It went extremely well with the two of us given our level of gaming experience, etc. I think for most groups three people would be the sweet spot, although the game is listed as for 1-5. Everything is highly connected from case to case in the included campaign (five cases), so it’s highly preferable to continue the campaign with the same group from start to finish.

I’ve seen some understandable criticisms of some of the leaps of intuition needed in a couple of places and of some plot points. But I thought the mystery level overall was challenging but reasonable, and the story engrossing and well enough executed as the campaign unfolded from case to case. One case bordered on frustrating in some ways for us (and we did have to replay it), but it was still fine in the end, fit into the greater picture well, and we loved the other four.

With the length, note taking, gradually unfolding pace, and other elements I’ve mentioned, there is a rather specific target audience that will enjoy Detective. For me it was a wonderfully compelling cooperative game. Simply incredible overall.