4 Reasons You Should Try Dynamite Nurse

I really like deck-building games.  If you check out my Top 10 Games you will see Eminent Domain listed there.  You can also check out my review of    Tanto Cuore — A Better Game Than Expected.  And in the near future, I will post a review of El Alamein, a sequel to the card building game Barbarossa.

Anyway, this brings me to the new game by Japanime Games/Arclight Games: Dynamite Nurse!  And why I think there are 4 reasons you should give it a try!

1 – Japanime Games/Arclight Games have a great track record!

These companies have been pushing out deck-building games for years now.  They not only know how to make a solid game, but the quality of the overall product is excellent.  Cards have great art, box is solid (it’s a standard card box), rules have been play tested well, cards are balanced in terms of power, and the games generally are fun.

Dynamite Nurse 01

The Dynamite Nurse box

2 – You really, really, really get to mess with each other in this game

Do you like games that resemble multiplayer solitaire, where each player takes a turn but you never really have to fight/mess with any other player, you know games like Race for the Galaxy?  Do you like Euro-style resource management games with rules that discourage direct conflict and give special advantages to players lagging behind?  Do you like cooperative games where everyone works together to accomplish some namby pamby  “save the world” let’s all feel good sort of goal?

Well too bad for you, Dynamite Nurse is the opposite of that!  In Dynamite Nurse each player operates a hospital and your goal is to heal patients.  But much like the real health care industry, if you see some patients that are in really bad shape or critical condition, you can assign them to your opponents’ hospitals.  You get victory points for each patient that you successfully heal and lose points if they die (you get  a Kill Mark).  So heal the patients that you can, and send the ones that might die to your opponents!  And there are plenty of cards that let you inflict pain on other players’ patients.  So if you just plain can’t heal your own patients, make life miserable for everybody else’s patients!

Disclaimer: no actual real-life patients were harmed in the making of this blog. Honest.  Only cardboard facsimiles of anime patients were harmed.

Dynamite Nurse 04

Clockwise from top left: a Kill Mark card (you get 1 each time one of your patients dies), the backside of the Kill Mark card (listing VP penalties), Reference Letter (i.e. move those sick patients to your opponents’ hospitals), and Passing the Buck (give someone else your sick patient and take their less sick patient).

3 – There are plenty of paths to victory, because there are a lot of different strategies available from the “town” of cards

Like most of Japanime/Arclight Games deck building games, the “town” of available cards to draft is quite extensive.  Thus, there are many ways to victory.  You can concentrate on drafting cards that give you coins (used to buy more powerful cards), you can go for low-cost combo cards (like White Magic), you can concentrate on events, or you can go for cards to mess with your opponents.  There are many choices.  There is even a rule that if you don’t want to buy the top card on the event pile, you can blindly buy the next card underneath it (if you have enough gold to do so).  Also, when you cure a patient you get to draft the top card on the “Nurses” pile.  Sometimes these cards have negative VP, so there is even a sense of strategic timing involved.

Dynamite Nurse 02

The “town” of cards to draft.  The yellow circles are costs in gold (top right corner) and benefit (bottom left corner), the red health symbols are used to heal patients.

3 – There are three timing mechanisms that add to the strategy

First, there are only 15 Kill Marks.  When the last Kill Mark is drawn the game ends immediately.  So if you better watch that pile (the Kill Marks are stacked from #15 to #1 to let players know how many are left) and plan your strategy to maximize your VP just as the pile runs out.

Second, on each player’s turn another patient is added to the line of patients being transported in ambulances to player hospitals.  On your turn, you can assign the new patient to whichever player you want (e.g. assign patients in bad shape to your opponents and assign ones with minor injuries to yourself).  However, there can only be a number of patients in ambulances equal to the number of players.  Once the ambulances fill up, patients get sicker (i.e. flip over to critical condition) as they wait to be admitted.  And patients already in critical condition will die if they wait around too long.

Third, your hospital has only two beds, and if you have more patients admitted than that, your patients get sicker.  So the proper assigning of patients to players, admitting your patients to your hospital before they die in an ambulance, healing them to open up beds, and watching that Kill Mark pile are all part of a successful strategy.

In the game we played last night, Stew and Lee were both in the lead (Bob and I were behind by a good margin), but Lee had managed to get all 3 patients in the ambulances assigned to Stew when Lee used a card to move all of them to Stew’s hospital, where he didn’t have beds for them all, they subsequently died, Stew grabbed the last 3 Kill Marks, and the game ended with Lee winning.

4 – You can be the Dynamite Nurse!

Dynamite Nurse 03

The Dynamite Nurse card!

Whoever has the most Kill Marks has to grab the Dynamite Nurse card.  At the end of the game, it counts as two more Kill Marks, which is going to inflict more negative victory points on whoever has the card (see the photo of the Kill Mark card front and back above).  But, when you have the Dynamite Nurse card, you get an advantage: a good number of event cards and cards that mess with your opponents get put back into the town after you use them — but not if you are the Dynamite Nurse!  Instead, you can put them in your discard pile where they eventually get shuffled into your deck, get back into your hand, and you play them again!  Check out the “Reference Letter” card in the photo above.  If you are the Dynamite Nurse, that card is much like the musical Cats…you can see it over and over and over and over!

So if you like deck building games, or like anime products, or just plain like a good card game, pick up Dynamite Nurse and kill some patients…er, I mean heal your patients.  Did I mention that my wife is a registered nurse?  I didn’t?  Oh well, anyway she says that Dynamite Nurse in no way resembles actually nursing care.  I just thought that I would let you know.

 

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Tanto Cuore — A Better Game Than Expected

The Inverse Rule of Gaming

Okay, we all know the “Inverse Rule of Gaming,” right?  You know, the basic idea that the more female flesh used to sell a game, the worse the game must be.  Don’t believe me?  Have you seen the commercials for Age of Fire?  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Kate Upton…but whenever a game company uses attractive females to sell its product, you just know that the game probably has no other selling point.

Well, the inverse rule also applies to cartoon or illustrated use of females as well.  I am sure we have all seen the game apps that advertise themselves with some drawing of a busty long-haired warrior.  C’mon guys, you know that the app must be crap!  Anyway, since Anime is very popular now not only in Japan but across the Pacific in the United States, Anime drawings are also used to sell games.

And that brings me to Tanto Cuore from Arclight Games (Tanto Cuore).

Tanto Cuore box

A box of Tanto Cuore

As you can see from the box cover, Tanto Cuore is a game about Japanese maids!  When I first saw this game on a shelf, I thought, oh no another poor Japanese game being sold with cute anime drawings.  And drawings of maids no less!  And who wants to play a game about maids?!?  The back of the box describes the game as, “We will work with great heart when you employ us!  Be the ‘greatest master’!”  What the?  It further says, “The players take the roles of ‘masters of the house’, employ a lot of cute maids, and are served by them while slowing filling out their house (card deck).”

I don’t know about you, but I was wondering if maybe this game should’ve been put in the adult section of the store instead! Hahaha!

Okay, I checked out reviews on line and people said nice things about the game.  I really like the Eminent Domain ( Eminent Domain ) deckbuilding game so I thought, why not give Tanto Cuore a try.

The Game

Like most deckbuilding games, Tanto Cuore is pretty simple.  You use a common currency (Love in Tanto Cuore) to recruit maids from a common pool of cards which you then add to your discard pile, which eventually cycles back into your hand.

Here are two of the three Love cards:

Tanto Cuore love

1 Love and 2 Love cards

 

The heart in the upper left corner is the amount of Love needed to recruit the card (yes, you have to use Love to recruit move Love, kind of sounds like a Beatles’ song or something). Each turn a player empties their hand of their Love, counting how much is played and using that amount to recruit more cards.  The player also tries to play as many Maid cards from his/her hand as possible.

Here is an example of a Maid card:

Tanto Cuore maid

Genevieve Daubigny: one of many maids

Like many games, icons are used to convey information.  Here there are three highlighted icons and one faded icon on the bottom of the card (and remember that the heart in the upper left is the # of Love needed to recruit this card).  The stack of cards is “draw” , the heart is more “Love”, the hand is “serve” and the faded icon refers to “employ.”  In short, on your turn you can only serve (in other words, play) one maid from your hand and employ (in other words, select a new card from the common pool of cards) one new card per turn.  Put as you play maids, they can give you more servings, cards, love, employment, etc.  At the end of your turn you discard any cards that you could not play and draw back to your hand size.

Thus, there are only these four icons to memorize!  Very simple and quite easy to understand.  Literally, when I introduced this game to the other TTGC members, they quite quickly were able to get the hang of the game.  It is just this simple: lay down your Love, play a maid (and try to get more servings so that you can play more maids), try to build up as big a pile of Love as possible, and then employ 1 or more maids.  As your stack of cards gets bigger every turn, eventually you can lay down more Love and draw more expensive maids.

Of course, some maids have special abilities and/or victory points.  Here is an example of a maid that everyone begins the game with:

Tanto Cuore vp maid

Collette Framboise: note the two different spellings of her first name on this card.  Sometimes when games get translated into English mistakes like this happen.

 

As you can see above, Collette is worth 1 victory point (shown 3 times on the card with a symbol in 3 of the 4 corners).  She also has a special ability: Chambermaid.  Basically if you spend the indicated number of servings (2 in this case), you can remove Collette from your hand and place her on the table.  Doing so thins your hand and optimizes it for future draws.  Collette has no other special ability or helpful icon, so every time you draw her and don’t get her Chambermaided (is that a verb?), she is useless and gets recycled back into your hand through the draw pile.

Each game there are two victory point maids (Collette above is one of them) and 10 regular maids.  The box contains 16 different regular maids and players select 10 of them randomly or by any other method before the game starts, so no two games should be exactly alike.  Moreover, different maids combo with other maids so the overall strategies in each game are going to be different based on the 10 maids used.  There are also Private Maids, which are special maids that you do not put in your hand but rather put them into play on the table in front of you.  Here is an example:

Tanto Cuore private maid

Rosa Topaz: A Private Maid that gives you more Love each turn

 

Anyway, the game is won by having the most Victory Points after 2 piles of maids are exhausted.  The game plays very fast.  Typically after one or two go arounds, play is quick, typically with the active player playing his/her hand and one of two others shuffling their discard piles back into their draw decks.

Why you should play this game

It is very, very fun!  It is also very, very easy!  Moreover, this game is not just multiplayer solitaire.  There is player interaction.  There are cards (not mentioned here in my review) that mess with your opponents’ private maids and cost them victory points.  Moreover, as you employ cards from the common pool, you deny them to your opponents. Thus, while Tanto Cuore is not directly combative (this isn’t Advanced Squad Leader after all) there is tension between the players and you might have to modify your strategy if others start snapping up the same maids that you want.

Once you get past the whole cute maid thing, Tanto Cuore is actually a very solid game. I haven’t played Dominion, which kind of was one of the first popular deckbuilding games, but from what I have read and heard, Tanto Cuore is a slightly more sophisticated (is that the right word given all the pictures of maids?) and enjoyable game.  To be completely honest, when the TTCG plays Tanto Cuore, we almost always refer to the cards by their first names and after a while you don’t notice the illustrations at all.  Typically after a game I could tell you exactly what icons were on a card but I can’t recall the picture.  So even if Anime illustrations of maids might be a bit too much for you, trust me, you will like the game so much that you really won’t be bothered at all by them.

Of course, if cute maids are not enough for you, try Barbarossa from Kamikaze Games (Barbarossa).  It is Anime girls fighting as the Germans as they invade the Soviet Union in the Second World War.  No joke!


I hoped you liked this shorter format review.  Feel free to follow or leave comments.

Until next time: Make Mine Marvel