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Too Many Cinderellas

Reviewed by: Joe Huber

(Taikikennai Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 10 minutes; about $24 plus shipping)

Back in 2000, Stephan Riedel created a new genre of game. Old Town is often classified as a deduction game, but it’s not – players have no information to deduce. Instead, they make plays in order to try to prove information, scoring for doing so. As a result, I’ve taken to calling such games “Proof” games. Riedel has designed multiple other games in the genre, such as 2013 toomanycind1release Café Melange, but likely the best known game to qualify is Tobago, the 2009 release. Still, not many Proof games have been designed; I don’t expect to randomly come across one. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a shipment from Japan including Too Many Cinderellas and, looking through the game, discovered it to be a Proof game.

One of the great appeals of current Japanese game design is the wide variety of styles being used; in many ways, the Japanese game design world of today resembles the German game design world of the mid-1990s. But even given that, I would never have anticipated the release of a Proof game – or the clever connection to a theme employed. Too Many Cinderellas, designed by Nobutake Dogun and Nao Shimamura, is a 2 to 4 player game where players attempt to prove that one of their candidates for Cinderella is, in fact, the actual Cinderella. The story follows the fairy tale well, though the prince depicted in the game seems to be even less observant than in the story; the prince is not even certain of the gender or species of the girl he danced with.

At the start of the game, each player is dealt four cards, each of which has a number between 1 and 18. Each card will be used, at the holder’s discretion, either as a candidate for Cinderella or as an informant telling the prince something about Cinderella such as that she didn’t wear glasses or didn’t have blond hair. But each player also receives two vote tokens; an “OK” token that can be used as many times as desired and a “NO” token that can be used to veto just one informant. In turn, players play one of their cards as an informant and then go through a second round of playing informants. Then one random card from those left over is turned over as a final informant. The player with the best – defined as the lowest numbered – candidate who has not been eliminated wins.

The English translation for Too Many Cinderellas is not the most clear; as a result, we weren’t sure just how things were going to work as we went to start our first game. But our reaction to our first game – let’s play it one more time – has become a common one; most of the plays I’ve collected have come in pairs. A lot of the appeal derives from the theme, which is not only immediately familiar but amusingly carried out.

The definition of a modern microgame is subject to significant debate, but under most definitions, Too Many Cinderellas qualifies. The game consists of just 27 components: 18 cards representing the candidates/informers, OK and NO tokens for each toomanycin2player, and one extra NO token for possible use by one informant. It’s probably not a surprise, then, that the game plays very quickly; a full game, with experienced players, can be completed in as little as 5 minutes. In spite of the tricky English rules, the game is not difficult to understand; by the end of the first game, players are typically ready to play again in no small part because they see what they wish to do differently the next time.

Unfortunately, the game is not easy to get a hold of. Like many Japanese games, it was released at the Tokyo Games Market, and unless you know someone who attends, it will be difficult to acquire a copy – and not nearly as inexpensive as the minimal components would suggest due to the expense of shipping.

One of the appeals of the game is in seeing different characters being demonstrated to be Cinderella. The 18th character – the “worst” candidate – is a cat; I suspect one goal for nearly every player is to win by having the cat be demonstrated to be Cinderella. In thirty plays, I haven’t seen it happen; the highest numbered candidate I’ve seen someone win with is #15. But it’s another element that draws people back to the game

I received Too Many Cinderellas not by request but as part of a subscription service. I didn’t know what to expect but I enjoyed it immediately and it has grown to become my favorite 2014 release so far. It works well (if with a different feel) with either three or four players and, while not everyone has been open to playing more than twice, the common interest in a second game is a nice feature.

But in the end, what makes the game a winner for me is the fact that it’s a smart, fun game. Old Town and Tobago are very enjoyable games but more cerebral. The short length of Too Many Cinderellas makes for a game that is more chaotic but still with real opportunities to play well and the knowledge that even when things go wrong, you can play again.

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


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