If you like board games, are fascinated by Japanese culture and would like to combine the two, this article might be for you.

Being a lover of board games and Japanese culture, in my long pilgrimages in the game world I have paid particular attention to games with a Japanese setting. I report you, without pretension of exhaustiveness, my personal list of the games that, in such sense, have struck me more. I will divide them into three categories: wargames, strategy games, and filler.


Empire of the Sun

EotS is a Wargame for two players that traces the phases of the war in the Pacific from 1941 to 1945. The game combines in an innovative way the traditional “hex & counter” system (i.e. geographic map divided into hexagons on which move pawns representing war units with specific characteristics of attack and defense) to a “card driven” game engine (the phases of the game are developed through the use of special cards that can be played or according to the event that “make happen” or according to the operation points that they bring).

Card driven manages to harmonize strategic planning, tactical contingencies, intelligence actions and brute force, helping to make EotS a gem of its kind.


Sekigahara is an excellent light wargame, very elegant both in its game system and in its components. The game brings to life the events of the struggle that, at the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshitra, characterized the great shogunates and finally led to the unification of Japan at the hands of Ieyasu Tokugawa. The use of wooden blocks to represent the units is a very good choice not only aesthetically but also functionally, since it allows an excellent rendering of the “fog of war”.

The game has been for some time in fourth place in the ranking of wargames of boargamegeek, and it is worth noting that its Designer has donated the proceeds of the first edition to the families of victims of the tsunami that hit the Tōhoku region in 2011.

Strategy games


Nippon is a game based on the mechanics of the worker placement and area majority, that evokes the modern Japanese industrialization occurred thanks to the Zaibatsu, powerful and rich families that have made a decisive contribution in this sense (such as Mitsubishi). The game is a very interesting management game that combines a low interaction on your personal dashboard and a high direct interaction on the common map.

If you dream of having a monopoly on the Japanese market in the production of bento, washi, silk, lenses and watches, this game is for you.


Samurai is a game of majorities made with a lot of class in which you play as a daimyio who tries to take power away from the Emperor by winning the favor of the priestly caste, controlling the economy (based on the cultivation of rice) and conquering castles to have greater military strength.

Particular mention should be made of the victory conditions, since the game does not reward hyper-productivity but balance: the winner is the one who will have supremacy in at least two of these three areas or, if equal, the one who will have more influence in the remaining areas.

Iki: A Game of Edo Artisans

Iki is a worker placement game that mixes the washer mechanism (cf. Gerts) and the occupation system (cf. Rosenberg). Remarkable artwork, that takes up the art of the Edo era, while the board is inspired by the Kidai Shoran, a 12 meters long painting that represents the market streets of ancient Tokyo; average weight of good workmanship.



Kanagawa is a filler set in the prefecture of the same name, whose bay hosted the famous school of the master Hokusai (the author of the great wave of Kanagawa, to be clear, whose art influenced many European artists. You will be pupils of the Master and will have to paint the best picture following his teachings and letting yourself be inspired by the seasons.

Excellent materials for a simple but not trivial game.


Hanabi is a collaborative game that overturns the classic way of playing cards: in this game you’ll have to build wonderful fireworks but holding the cards so that only your companions can see them, who will have to provide clues to make the player understand what to play.


Geishas try to ingratiate themselves with the emperor: in fact it is an updated and enhanced version of the classic tris.


Tsuro is a game based on placing tiles and network building. The game is very light but fun because it supports up to 8 players: ideal for a carefree evening with friends.


Tokaido is a game with point-to-point movement and object collection. It is a very pleasant family game that takes up the famous pilgrimage road that winds along the Japanese east coast; special mention to the fact that it is not a game in which the competitive component is felt particularly: in this game the goal is the same journey, particularly suitable for those who are beginning to learn the Japanese language given the presence of cards in which the representations are accompanied by the Western transcription of the corresponding name in Japanese.

Sushi go!

Game for large companies that allows you to learn at the rhythm of draft the name of Japanese dishes.

Warning: induces cravings for Japanese food.

What do you think? What are your favorite Japanese-themed boardgames? Write it in the comments.