We love fantasy, SF and horror setting games but to be honest, not many themes make us as hyped as East Asia and Japan. When we learned that there’s a game with over 200 tarot sized cards, each featuring classic a japanese woodblock print painting and a ruleset, that actually seems fun as hell and creative – we couldn’t just walk past it. Meet Philosophia: Floating World – a game launching on KS next Tuesday.
From Greek Philosophers to East Asia
Does the name of the game sound familiar to you? Cogito Ergo Meeple have debuted last year with Philosophia: Dare to be Wise which we wrote about last September. Despite the name, the new Philosophia differs a lot from its predecessor both in terms of rules as well as (obviously) the theme. We move away almost 6000 miles from ancient Greece to Japan to explore its world and gain precious Ganbaru Tokens for our achievements and: become victorious.
Painting the Floating World
Before we start discussing gameplay, let’s say a few words about how Philosophia: Floating World looks, because it’s something really one of a kind.
All cards are illustrated with real ukiyo-e art (with some tuned-up colours here and there). If you’ve ever seen The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai (and you probably did), you know what we’re talking about. The guy and other similar artists created hundreds of colorful pictures depicting scenic views and life in Japan around two centuries ago.
All cards, miniatures and even the box look stunning and will please anyone who loves this type of setting. But let’s stop with praising the visuals and check whether the gameplay itself is worth it.
Or “do your best” in Japanese. The word fits the game well, as the Ganbare Tokens awarding your successes which usually determine who ends up as the winner. While playing, you will collect cards, perform actions and do everything to collect 4 of these tokens which are awarded for successes like: building 3 shrines, one pagoda, defeating a mythological monster and learning about ancient philosophies.
There is a second, more sneaky way to win. As each player holds a certain secret only known to them. Uncovering it allows you to win with just 2 Ganbare Tokens, but it might not be easy.
Setting Up Your Faction
Philosophia: Floating World was designed for 1-6 players and despite many components and depth, a single game takes up to 75 minutes. Gameplay starts by every player picking a character card and their corresponding location cards, a special token, starting items and of course – a miniature to represent them on the map.
Next: the rest of the set-up phase occurs including giving 3 shrines and 1 pagoda to each player and setting all the decks on the board (Seasons, Monsters, Locations, Items and Wisdom). After placing the location tokens (the number differs depends on how many people are playing) and adding some final components: the game begins.
The Three Phases
The game is divided into turns and each of these has three phases. They go on and on until someone fulfills one of the victory conditions. So what do we have here?
First comes the Draw Phase, highly related to the “simultaneous deck builder” nature of the game. You start by drawing six cards from your own deck, then pass them to one of your rivals. Next they remove one card and put it on your discard pile and divide the rest into 2 groups: 2 cards and 3 cards big. You have to choose which group of cards you’ll use and which to discard.
Next there’s the Collect Phase where you get your hands on various items and bonuses related to the cards you own. This often includes drawing more cards, collecting coins, time tokens, builders et cetera.
The Action Phase is the real meat of the game. The variety of things you can do here is pretty huge. Players take these actions at the same time, and when a conflict arises, the so-called Influence Track helps with resolving it.
Let’s talk more about all the actions you can take in the third phase. Your available set includes these marked on location cards and on your own player board as well as movement (with Boat Passage Tokens) and fighting monsters when standing on certain parts of the map.
Actions you can choose from the sources above are numerous. You can for example “burn” cards which simply means removing them from the game to alter your deck and don’t get them later on.
You can also host Festivals that give you valuable bonuses. Studying is also possible and leads to gaining new Wisdom Cards related to various philosophies and religions in Japan (Shinto, Zen, Confucian and Daoist). These are incredibly useful for some of the winning conditions, like the one that rewards building shrines.
You can also fight monsters (including a colossal skeleton!) and succeeding in that usually requires specific items and weaponry. Other actions include shopping and searching through locations to discover your opponent’s Secret Location (finding one is also one of the requirements for victory).
Philosophia: Floating World on Kickstarter
As you’ve probably already guessed, we’re in love with Philosophia: Floating World and can’t wait for the campaign to launch. Wonderful theme, mechanics that match and use it perfectly, and dynamic gameplay with hundreds of options creates something one of its kind.
According to our info, the game launches on September 1st and will also include an advanced mode called Teapot Expansion, an alternative mode with non-simultaneous turn taking, a variant with unique player powers and a proper solo mode for some single player fun.