Sexy, manga-style French maids aren’t for everyone. If you’re in that group, just hit the back button now. Still here? Then get ready for Tanto Cuore, the English-language version of a Japanese game with an Italian name. Confused yet? Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. This divisive title from Japanime Games features artwork and a theme that some might find objectionable. Underneath that is a fun game with high replay-ability. If you can get past the theme, I believe you’ll like it. Here’s our look at Tanto Cuore.
Tanto Cuore is a deck-building game for 2–4 players, similar to Dominion but with significantly more opportunities for player interaction. The original game was released in 2012, and two expansions soon followed: Expanding the House and Romantic Vacation. It’s for players aged 12 and up and takes between 30 and 60 minutes to play. While you can play it with two people, it’s much more fun with four.
You play as the master of a mansion who needs to hire maids to work for you. Instead of money, you hire maids with “love” (I know, I know). You’ve also got to make sure that your maids don’t become ill or pick up any bad habits. The maids are worth a certain amount of victory points, and whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
Tanto Cuore ships with 280 cards, which break down like this:
- 198 maid cards
- 56 love cards (the game’s currency)
- 26 event cards
The heavy manga influence means most of the cards are very cutesy, but the risqué nature of some of the images might put some people off. They have a glossy finish and a decent feel, but nothing to get excited about. My one complaint is that the “maid ability” text – essentially what are card does – is written in incredibly small type. I find it hard to read. Other than that, they look nice. I even nabbed some full-art promo cards when I bought the game last year. It’s fun to shuffle them into the game.
While the cards’ text is frustrating the game box is fantastic. It’s important to keep the cards sorted and Tanto Cuore comes with 24 clearly-labeled cardboard inserts that make storage and retrieval a pleasure. They list the card’s name, category and group number (“8 of 33” for example). There’s also a cardboard insert that allows the cards and dividers to stand upright while allowing enough play to slide sets in and out easily. This game could have been a nightmare to store, but the folks at Japanime Games took care of that.
The manual is soft cover and the type is kind of ugly.
Setup takes a few minutes, but it’s not too bad. You’ll sort the cards into small piles (here’s why the box’s organization feature is so important), essentially forming a 3×6 grid (see image above):
- The 1, 2 and 3 Love cards
- The two head maids, Marianne and Colette
- The 10 private maids
- Bad habits cards
- Illness cards
Players all receive the same staring deck and draw five cards into their hand to use. The first thing they do is use any of their private maids’ special abilities, and then start playing cards out of their hand. Players get one “service” and one “employment.”
A service means players can play one card out of their hand onto the table. One employment means you can hire one maid out of the face-up stacks at the center of the table, this further building your hand. Maids can be played to give you extra services, employments or “love,” which is used to hire maids. Services, employments and love are stacked, so you can have and use as many as you can get.
One of the game’s unique features – and in my opinion, its best mechanic – is the “private quarters.” Players may place a chamber maid (one of the four maid types: chamber maid, maid chef, private and general maid) out of their hand and into the private quarters. This reduces the number of cards in your deck, increasing the likelihood that you’ll draw a card you’ll need, while still counting it towards your final points total.
Now, it’s dangerous to keep maids in your private quarters, however. Other players may send them bad habits or illness. Bad habits take away points at the end of the game, while illnesses prevent maids from using their special powers.
The game ends when three stacks from the draw pool have been completely exhausted. At that point, the players tally up their victory points and see who won.
The Tanto Cuore Experience
Tanto Cuore has enough card synergy to be a fun deck-builder. You can boost your cards up and pull off some nice combos. The chambermaid feature adds a lot of fun, as does sending illnesses and bad habits to your opponent’s maids. It’s a solid game, and the variety of maids gives it a whole lot of replay value.
The only negative here is the theme and the artwork. Some of the images are suggestive and one specific maid’s underwear is visible. Also, you have to get past the idea of buying women with “love” instead of money. For many, that will be a deal-breaker.
Tanto Cuore is a fun, solid deck-building game that will be fun to play time and again. As long as you can get past the theme.
- Easy to learn
- Great box design
- High replay-ability
- Unique mechanic makes it an enjoyable deck-builder
- The art and theme will be offensive to some players
- Some of the text on the cards is hard to read