Unplugged: Tanto Cuore

I’ve been going to the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX for short, for about ten years now.  While I mostly visit the video game booths, there are an equal number of tabletop and card game booths as well.  Every year I always pass by a booth featuring a card game called Tanto Cuore.  I don’t know why I always remember that, but it does seem like a memorable game.  The very kind folks at the booth always offer to show me how to play it, but I’m usually in between meetings and appointments and don’t have time.  But now Tanto Cuore is celebrating its 10th anniversary!  Wow, has it really been that long?  I guess considering I’ve been to PAX for about that length of time, it does make sense.  In honor of that milestone, the makers of the game have offered to let me review it so I can finally play it!  Anyway, Tanto Cuore is a deck building card game where you amass an army of anime maids, and according to the instruction booklet, Tanto Cuore means “Much Heart” in Italian.

So why anime maids?  Well, I don’t really know.  My brother Jeff, who helped me set up and play this game for my review, said there is a popular movement called Gothic Lolita which I don’t quite understand, but this is just a card game so I guess it’s best to not think about it too much.  Anyway, in this game for 2 to 4 players, each person has a pretend mansion that they need to staff with maids for some reason.  Guess these are really messy mansions.  At the end of the game, whoever has the most highest quality maids (depicted by a certain number on the cards), wins the game.  Here is a larger shot of the Tanto Cuore box.

The game requires a bit of set up and space, so make sure you have a clear spot on your table.  You have to arrange cards in a certain way in the center, but luckily the game comes with cardboard plate cards so you know where to put everything.  This arrangement of cards is called the ‘town’ and is where you’ll pick out maids to put in your deck.  When two piles of maid cards in the town are empty, the game is over and you count your card points to decide the winner.  Or at least that’s how I THINK the game plays.  One of the problems I had with the game is that I feel the instruction booklet on how to play isn’t written very well in places.  They don’t even tell you how the game ends and how to decide a winner until way late in the pages.  Luckily since the game has been out for so long, there are plenty of videos on the Internet on how to play the game, so I recommend checking those out if you get confused.  Anyway, here’s a shot of the setup of the ‘town.’

But since the town setup is so big, I had to split it into two pictures.

There are also a bunch of cards I didn’t use in the game, but you can sprinkle them in to change up how the game plays so it’s different each time.  Here’s a shot of those other cards.

Setup and the initial learning curve are the hardest parts of the game.  Once you start playing, it’s easier to understand and it goes by quickly.  Plus you can always do something on each turn, which I like.  I can’t stand card games where you have to wait to have enough points to do anything.  Even the Pokémon card game is like that.  But luckily, in Tanto Cuore there is always something you can do on your turn.

You’ll start out with a pre-set hand, but you can use maid cards and spend “love points” (the currency) to put more maid cards in your deck.  After you do these things, you discard your hand of five cards and it’s the other players’ turn.  Then when it’s your turn again, you shuffle your discards and make a new hand of five.  Certain maid cards can let you draw more cards or get more points, so you must use strategy to get the most of your turn.  Other things you can do are upgrade some maid cards to be chambermaids, and they are put into a separate pile and always come into play.  Or you can buy cards that hurt your opponent’s deck, like illness or bad habit cards.  There are certainly other rules of play, but I won’t go into them here, as I just wanted to give everyone just a gist on how to play.  When the game is done, you’ll wish you had a few of those maids to help you clean up all the cards!

I really liked how the game played once you get started.  Turns are quick and you can always do something in each turn, and every game can be different.  The cards are of nice glossy material and have good artwork.  What I didn’t like was the initial setup and steep learning curve at first.  Plus the subject matter is a little too out there for my tastes.  But the game has been around for ten years, so it certainly has staying power.  There are also a lot of expansions to keep the game fresh, and many feature anime tropes like Beach Party and Winter.  If you are an older player and have a group of friends who enjoy anime and card games, you may want to check this one out if you haven’t already.

Kid Factor:

Because of the complexity of the game, I’d say this one is best for older players.  Plus the subject matter of the game may be considered slightly suggestive, depending on how you look at it.  But it’s also presented in a campy way, too, like an anime cartoon.  But mainly the steep learning curve and setup make it best for older players.

2 Responses to “Unplugged: Tanto Cuore”

  1. If I recall correctly, Tanto Cuore was one of the 2nd generation (maybe 1 1/2 generation) deckbuilding games. (Dominion was the first.) As such, I looked into it a bit but the overall theme I found rather off-putting and misogynistic. I suppose if you’re into this style/genre of art, there’s a decent game there, albeit built directly on the foundations of the original Dominion.

  2. I played this back when it first came out, I had a friend who really liked it and agreed that the art was a bit cringe-y but said it was better than Dominion in some gameplay aspects. I had to agree — but I just couldn’t keep playing in public. I wish they’d make a version with similar mechanics but a less disconcerting theme…

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