At heart, Tanto Cuore is a cutthroat maid themed deck building card game. For those not familiar, with deck-builders play is based off of players drafting cards for their decks as play. Drafting is often an ongoing mechanic using cards already drafted to continue doing so. In most cases, the cards used will be contained in the base game. This is opposed to games such as Pokemon’s Trading Card Game or Magic the Gathering.Game play is easy to pick up for all kinds of tabletop fans. Often compared to Dominion and other deck building games, Tanto Cuore stands out for the adorable anime style artwork.
In the box
Tucked in the box is the instruction book, cards, and cardboard dividers. 198 of the cards are Maid Cards, an assortment of Maid Chiefs, General Maids, and Private Maids. For Tanto Cuore, Events are the Illness and Bad Habits that can afflict maids and negatively affect victory points (VP). The cardboard dividers serve multiple roles. They keep the box sorted make a great base for the town cards to rest on. They can be used to blind draw Maids, randomizing Town, keeping game play during replays.
Notable Keywords and Setup
Many deck-builders have a market and purchase system to draft cards. Tanto Cuore does too. Instead of a market, the purchase area is called the Town. Masters use “Love” as currency to Employ Maids into their decks. The House is the player’s area of play. Keeping in theme, player’s draw decks are called the “Waiting Room”, discard piles the Kitchen Entrance, and VP pile the “Private Quarters”. The important keywords for play are Serving, Love, Employ, and Draw. Serving is the equivalent to taking an action. Love acts, as stated prior, as game currency used to draft Maid cards to player’s decks for the draft action, Employ. Draw is straightforward, it allows players to draw from their Waiting Room.
Despite many cards set up simple. The cards being used for Town are laid out in rows. Love cards are on one end, Private Maids on the other, Maids and Events in between. Tanto Cuore’s manual recommends a list of cards for start and sample layout, which is pictured below. For randomizing, players would still use the Love cards, Event cards, and two Maid Chiefs, Marianne and Colette. Ten General Maids, either purposefully or randomly, are chosen to change up available cards. The starting deck for each player is three Colette, and seven 1 Love cards.
Player’s role is the Master of House. Their goal is to be the best Master, their affluence displayed by amassing the most VP. Each Master’s turn has four phases; Starting Phase, Serving Phase, Employ Phase, and Dismiss Phase.
Starting Phase marks the start of a turn. Masters will already have drawn their hand, five cards from the starting deck. This is when special abilities available also activate. If their Maid has an Illness, their special ability is void. Players may resolve this by expensively dismissing a 3 Love card. Dismiss returns that card to Town, but then ability would be available after.
Serving Phase is playing the current hand. By default, Masters have one Serve and one Employ. Serves can be used with hand to build advantage. For example, if the player has Kagari in hand, they may choose to be served by her first. Kagari’s ability is gaining two more servings and creates possibility for chaining. Players can also Chamber their maids. Chambering is moving the card from player’s hand to their Private Quarters, or VP pile. If a Maid can be chambered, the card will include what requirements need to be met to do so.
Employ Phase and Dismiss are fairly self explanatory. Love from player’s hand and gained from the Serving Phase is spent to Employ from Town. Again the default is one Employ and up to the amount of Love held may be spent but Serving Phase can alter this. Dismiss is discarding the current hand and new Employs, and drawing back up to a hand of five.
Two card types exhausted from Town is endgame. Once that happens, the player that employed the last of the second pile will finish their turn and initiate VP counts. Hands and discards are returned to the players deck for final count. The manual will give a detailed account of scoring, but in summary, the player with the most VP after bonus and negative effects are counted wins.
Game play flows well. The estimate of thirty to sixty minutes is surprisingly accurate. Players stay engaged because of the spectacular meanness of Events and Private Maid abilities, sabotage is always a great way to bring out competitiveness. The game does require a table, but is compact enough to play on the go. Take Tanto Cuore to game nights and conventions. The timely play is great for in between longer games and for weird waiting times. The cards hold up well but sleeves are a good investment.
The maid theme stands out in the world of deck-builders and continues into available expansions. While stand alone, expansions can be integrated for greater drafting variety. While maids may not appeal to a universal audience, Tanto Cuore is still worth trying for the fun of it. It easily sits among the favorite ranks other deck-builders like Dominion and Ascension. It may even be a better intro to genre then the aforementioned for new players.