154 - Let's Play Japanese Board Games!

I was at Tokyu Hands shopping for a present for my niece recently when I ran into the card game section of the store. I absolutely love board games; I even brought some from America when I moved to Japan. My friends and I have a board game night at least once a month where we all get together and play into the wee hours of the night. We also frequent a board game café in which you pay for a set amount of time and get to play any of the hundreds of board games they have on display.

Anyway, I am in the board game section and decide to try out something new. I buy a simple little whodunit card game in Japanese. However, because I am obsessive, of course it doesn’t stop there; I ended up going to Yodobashi Camera the next day and grabbing a few more from the massive board game section there.

In the end I purchased 4 new games and now it’s time to go home and start reading the rules, which are hard! Of course, all these games I bought are in Japanese, and there are specific board game vocabulary words you must know.

I already had the Japanese version of the card game called Fluxx (I guess it’s been translated into like 20 languages), so I wasn’t a complete beginner to the lingo, but I was definitely looking up words and rereading the rules on some of them. Rules for games are hard to understand in English, so in Japanese it can be quite the challenge!

Overall, playing Japanese games has been a great way to practice my speaking skills, learn new words, and reinforce grammar and vocabulary that I already know.

I want you to be able to do this too!

So I came up with a list of board game specific words to help you on your way. I took all the rules out of the games I own, so I will be using example sentences straight from Japanese games to help you out. After this, you will be ready to play:

Let’s start simple, the word カード means “card.”
The counter for cards is ~枚(~まい) which is the counter used for flat or thin objects.
When you draw a card you use 引く(ひく)which means “to pull.”
The pile of cards in the middle of most game boards is called 山(やま) which means “mountain,” or 山札(やまふだ)which means “mountain cards.”

So putting these words together:

やまふだ から かーど さんまい を ひく
Draw 3 cards from the stack.
Literally: “stack + from + card + 3 + を + pull”

For dealing out cards, most games use 配る(くばる).
Face down cards are 裏向き(うらむき)which literally means “reverse side faced,” and face up cards are 表向き(おもてむき)which means “surface faced.”

かーど を よく まぜ、 うらむき に くばります。
Mix the cards well, and deal them face down.
Literally: “card + を + well + mix + face down + に + deal”

推理する(すいりする)is the word usually used for “to guess.”
当てる(あてる)is a verbs that means “to hit” or “to expose.” In games in means “correct.”
勝つ(かつ)means “to win.”
相手(あいて) means “the other player(s)”

ふせて ある かーど の すうじ を すいりして あてます。
Correctly guess the number of the turned over card.
Literally: “turn over + ある + card + の + number + を + guess + correctly”

あてれば かち。
If it’s correct, you win.
Literally: “if correct + win”

あいて の かーど を さき に ぜんぶ あてた ほう が かち です。
Whoever correctly gets all the other player’s cards first wins.
Literally: “other player + の + cards + を + before + に + all + correctly + way/direction + が + win + です “

The cards in your hand are called 手札(てふだ)or “hand cards.”
The discard pile is called 捨て札(すてふだ)or “thrown away cards.”

ぜんいん、 じぶん の ひだりどなり の ひと に、 てふだ の いちまい を こっそり わたす。
Everyone, slip one card from your hand to the player to your left.
Literally: “all members + self + の + left side + person + に + hand + の + 1 card + を + stealthily + handover”

さんまい の かーど を ふせて すてふだ に して から つぎ の らうんど を はじめます。
When 3 cards are turned over and put in the discard pile, the next round begins.
Literally: “3 の + cards + を + turn over + discard pile + にして + から + next + の + round + を + begin”

These are just some of the most common words and phrases I have found in games.

If you like board games and are willing to put in a little time to read the rules of a Japanese game, it can be great practice. Not just that, but being able to play games with Japanese people can make language exchange a lot of fun. Here are a few of my recommendations for beginners at Japanese games. These have very simple rules and are fun for just about everyone:

Fluxx - I am not sure where this game was originally made, but I have seen it in just about every language. It is a card game in which new rules are made throughout the game, so each round is completely different. You can buy the Japanese version on Amazon.

犯人は踊る - This is a whodunit card game in which you try to figure out the “criminal.” There are a few difficult words, but once you memorize them it is very easy. Make sure to speak Japanese while you play!

FabFib – A number game that is kind of like the game “Bullshit” in which you try to lie about your cards to get rid of them. If you play just one round of this game, you are sure to get better with Japanese numbers very quickly.

This lesson was written by Cassy L., a guest contributor:

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