Tanto Cuore Expanding Everything

Amoirsp here again. After mentioning Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders for board games, once in awhile I do like playing a deck-building game such as Dominion. While the design of Dominion was really good, it also gives a burnt out effect after playing it for a while. With 9 sets and countless hours of play, the game becomes a bit overwhelming. Under lower-level competition, it ends up being a race for who can pull off a combo or hit the most green [Provinces] soonest. Personally I preferred more ways to score and deter points penalizing a strategy, and that’s when I encountered Tanto Cuore. While this game also shares its fair bit of flaws, it at least has some interesting intuitive design.

Tanto Cuore has 3 total releases in English thus far: the base game, Expanding the House, and Romantic Vacation. Rather than explaining how the game works and explaining each card’s strength and weakness in great detail, I wanted to focus on the third expansion in particular and how it interacts with previous sets. Tanto Cuore Romantic Vacation focused on a theme of “Reminiscence” in which you discard certain cards to achieve an effect. Still, the very basics should be mentioned.

The deck for every player consists of 7 1 Love cards and 3 Chambermaid Chiefs. Every turn possess a serving phase and an employ phase, where by default you get one serving and one employ to go along with your starting hand of 5. After the end of each player’s turn, the remainder cards in hand are discarded and a fresh set of 5 cards are drawn for the next turn. When the deck is depleted and a situation requires the deck with a draw or another variable, take the discard pile and shuffle it as if it was a new deck. If shuffling is required while still in the same turn, do not shuffle any maids that were actively played during the turn, but do shuffle any cards in the discard pile. As cards are employed as the game progresses, the deck size gets thicker and potentially stronger.

Tanto Cuore has four general symbols: Draw, Serving [playing a maid], Love [purchasing power], and Employ [purchase]. These symbols can exist on general maid cards, in which using a maid would consume a serving. During a turn, you generally have 5 cards in your hand. The goal is to use maid cards with love cards to advance your deck progress to procure the most amount of victory points by the end of the game against your opponents. A player needs to balance between having sufficient Love cards to employ what is on the field, and make choices when to push for cards that have more points but no effects, have effects but no points, or a mix of both. Cards that provide more points may have steeper costs or additional conditions to fulfill to reap the benefits.

A key mechanic that exists in the game is the private quarters system. This is a location outside of your deck where you compile cards that give you victory points and bonuses without being cluttered in your deck. These cards outside of your deck would also be open information and can be subject to cards that directly interact with them. There are certain General Maids that have the ability to be chambermaid into the private quarters by consuming 1 serving. A Chambermaid Chief consumes 2 serving to make the card more difficult to set aside.

The general guideline is that there are color-coordinated type cards.

Blue cards – General Maid, unless otherwise specified. Facilitates directional strategy and improves deck potency.
Green cards – Maid Chief, Chambermaid Chief. Victory point cards, has no other function
Red cards – Love. Used to employ other cards in the game.
Black cards – Private Maid (Base Set & Expanding the House). Provides beneficial passive/triggered effects.
Purple cards – Event (Base Set). Negative/nullifying sources used on private quarters that have maids in them.
Orange cards – Building (Expanding the House). Point sources can protect and do not clutter the deck.
Yellow cards – Reminiscence (Romantic Vacation). Conditional triggers with powerful effects and points.

Every set of cards that are unique to a set or expansion are cards that do not directly interact with the deck. Private Maids allow passive assistance, Event cards allowed players to send negative points to players using maids in the private quarters, and Buildings allowed potential player protection from Event cards while providing more victory point sources that do not clutter the deck.

For the very basics, Romantic Vacation features a card type called Reminiscence where you discard cards from your hand that fulfill the requirement to gain points and possibly trigger an effect. This is a nice feature since it allows you to actively utilize maid employ costs [numbers located on the top left corner], as well as make use of cards that otherwise would clutter your deck, such as green maid chief cards which otherwise have no functionality.

In Romantic Vacation games, if they go long, can produce very big sized decks because there is no way for this set alone to completely rid of love cards that go into a deck. Despite the clunky deck, this is still bearable because the bonus and victory point momentum generated from a Reminiscence is really high. The Reminiscence system usually discards maid cards as requirements, allowing you to utilize unused segments of your hand even if servings are fully depleted. The benefits of Reminiscence triggers are so effective it is almost always the top priority to amass as much as possible, much different than previous sets with Private Maids, Events, and Buildings where you want those unique cards to complement your strategy.

A clunky deck that focuses on Reminiscence has two downsides: as the game progresses, not only are the Reminiscence requirements less likely to match your hand, but towards later in the game depending on the board state, momentum can be quickly lost as far as actually finishing the game goes since the number of maids that give victory points upon employment is actually very few. If anything, the decision making is more convoluted in this set because of having several choices within the same turn. There are more blue cards in this set that can not only generate 0 victory points if not in the private quarters, but also can provide negative (or loss of positive) points. This actually dissuades hoarding a large quantity of lower employ cost maids which are more commonly seen in previous sets. Regardless, there are many different methods to obtain victory points.

As far as card strength goes, the maids in Romantic Vacation were set up so that the expansion is playable as a standalone. When comparing the effective usage to previous sets, it is possible to see that certain Romantic Vacation maids are completely inferior. The Reminiscence system is extremely potent in generating victory points, and due to the lack of cards that directly affect other players, there are hardly any methods to shackle other players down. This makes the decision making fall under risk and reward from choices in deciding what to employ and when to play certain cards. Reminiscence cards are also highly contested, so the general availability on the board changes after every trigger.

There are two sets of Reminiscence cards: 1 and 2. Type 1 have 3 VP and provide a special effect when obtaining them such as gaining cards or reducing opponent hand sizes. Type 2 ranges from 6 to 10 VP and either provide only points, or possess an even more powerful ability in exchange for a steeper cost to fulfill. Most of the type 1 Reminiscence have to be depleted before a Type 2 Reminiscence can even appear. Sometimes the bonuses from type 1 Reminiscence such as card gain can indirectly supply the cards necessary to trigger later Reminiscence. It is easy to forget that certain Reminiscence requiring specific employ costs are not restricted to maids only, as 2 Love and 3 Love cards can be discarded on a select few.

As far as card quantity goes, every blue card on the board has a quantity of 10 unless it has an employ cost of 6 or more in which the quantity is 8. For the green cards there are 24 Beatrice [Chambermaid Chief] and 8 Sophia [Maid chief]. Since the game ends when two maid piles or a specific game-ending Reminiscence are gone, the different  size of the piles do affect the game. Other than Reminiscence, Romantic Vacation also has a maid point system where you get points by fulfilling certain steeper conditions, or lose points for having too many of certain beneficial card types by the end of the game.

Rather than review each card, it’s fairly evident to see the strengths and weakness of each card and quickly surmise a directional strategy. A general rule of thumb is to remember to make progress while getting cards. There’s little point in stacking a large amount of servings if there are not enough maids to use. However, because of Reminiscence, which are based on employ cost conditions, it has a luck factor where the cards to fulfill a Reminiscence may exist in your deck, but not in your hand at the time you see the Reminiscence. Not only that, but there’s many risks in deciding whether to activate a Reminiscence immediately, or using a maid first to draw or trigger an effect and hope to still be able to activate a Reminiscence to add incremental advantages.

For combining sets of Tanto Cuore, while the explosive potential is quite intriguing, the interactivity between the three sets are quite unrelated to one another.Some more power combinations do exist, or a distribution that calls for the same strategy could end the game very quickly. Likewise, sluggish matches may exist due to a low amount of victory point sources, or having a setup where certain Reminiscence triggers are nearly impossible. Unfortunately, with all the potential you can do with the various card combinations, expanding many sets will end up being diluted because each turn by default only begins with five cards, one serving, and one employment. The mix of sets presents opportunity to take different approaches to maximize victory points, as every strategy has different desired lengths to take to optimize.

For more specifics, having Buildings around seems to conflict with Reminiscence progress, but it does avoid additional clutter if you trigger a Reminiscence then get a Building with the remaining cards in hand. Likewise, certain Private Maids can go in conjunctions with strategies that use a strong engine.  Having access to many different options is great, but in the end you likely end up going one certain direction, as opposed to splitting points across many sources since the differences sources do not really impact each other. Every set’s unique feature cards merely provides sources that affect points without directly cluttering the deck.

Due to the nature of this deck building game featuring maids, the game is often left underplayed. The local playgroup tends to prefer playing 7 Wonders or a different game, though they do see the design aspect that covers issues they found in Dominion. I’m not a fan of the 2D maid concept and find it difficult to induce interest in this game from mere visual alone, but I enjoy the game’s system quite a bit. The Tanto Cuore base set is available on the iOS for $2.99 by Playdek which I find amazingly efficient, but lacks the expansions for the time being. Still, I prefer to play the deck-building game live in person mixing the expansions together, so I am looking forward to the next expansion Motto Tanto Cuore in English.

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