I’ve never been huge on anime. I only started watching some when I went to college, and I’ve only found a handful of series that I really enjoy. So, I would have assumed that I’d not really care for most games a company called Japanime would put out. That would be incorrect however, and for good reason! I think Japanime’s games are often overlooked because of their themes and art styles, especially in America. So I want to talk about a few of my favorites in case they aren’t on your radar yet, because they should be. Spoiler alert: They are really good at deck builders, so if you like deck building games, this is a list you want to check out.

5. Dragon Pets

You may feel as though I duped you here, because this is in fact not a deck builder. But I promise, this is the only one that isn’t. 😂 This game is primarily about set collection, as you are trying to get pairs of dragons in order to score points. It’s fairly simple, but there is a bit of strategy in when to try and grab certain dice, when to re-roll, and when to pull back your meeples. I just think it’s so cute, and has a great color scheme, which gives it some points!
Check out my review!

4. Core Connection

This is a deck building game that’s not just about building a good deck (actually, most games I don’t even buy very many cards), but about using the cards you put in your deck effectively, as they can serve multiple functions. You can flip them over as resources which can be used to buy new cards, and play tactics, which help you get ahead. You can also equip attachment cards to your mecha in order to make it more powerful in melee/ranged attacks, and durability, which will be necessary to fight monsters. Fighting lets you earn energy, which you need to win the game. It is definitely unlike other deck building games I’ve played. It can sometimes take some time to build up a strong enough mecha, and it can sometimes be frustrating to face a really big monster and not stand a chance, or hit an event in the monster deck that hurts you, but overall it’s a really cool concept that works well.

3. Kamigami Battles

Another unique deck building game! In this one, you have a God and a Temple, both with a bit of energy on them that you can use to activate their abilities. You are trying to attack other Gods and eliminate them by depleting their energy, but you can also win by earning 25 energy on your own God. There are a bunch of cool powers on all the cards in the game, which make every game different and exciting. It’s also a game where you have to play your cards in a certain order based on some colored symbols on them, and if you can’t match them, you can’t play them, giving it a puzzley nature where you have to be cautious about how many cards you buy, and what symbols they have. It can make for some great combos too, which is always cool.

2. Heart of Crown

This was actually the first game I ever played from Japanime, which made me interested in trying more. I thought the game was so unique. It was the first deck builder I ever saw where the cards have arrows, indicating whether you’re able to keep playing more cards or not; it really makes you think about what you buy, so you aren’t cutting yourself off from good hands consistently. It’s also the only deck builder I’ve played where you have to actively pivot your strategy midway through. You go from familiar deck building elements – building up a better and better deck that lets you keep buying – to then not wanting your deck clogged with purchasing cards, because you want to hit cards to earn “points” for your Princess. It’s a game with a really interesting dynamic, and very smooth gameflow, despite that pivot, which can seem a little jarring in your first play. I’m also obsessed with the digital version, because it plays just as smoothly, with no card upkeep!

1. Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade

My favorite Japanime game, and one of my favorite deck builders in general as well! You play as one of the main characters from the anime, going to different planets to capture bounties, and, eventually, trying to capture Vicious himself. You have to manage your deck, of course, as well as your fuel, and try not to get too many wounds in your deck. Each character has special abilities, and you can use those of other characters when you share a spot, which is really cool. (Ed is my favorite character on the show, but I can’t deny that Jet is my absolute favorite to play as). It’s definitely a more intricate deck builder, but it’s a lot of fun, and plays really smoothly once you get the hang of it. Top notch, for sure.
Check out my review!