Analog Joy Club
Analog Joy Club is an archival site dedicated to the research, translation, and exhibition of historical Japanese board, card, war, and role-playing games. The site is maintained by Nathan Altice, Teaching Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz, who is currently writing a book, titled Joy Family, on the history of Japanese board and card games from the post-WWII 昭和 Shōwa period (1945–89).
For an historical overview of the book's subject, please see my 2019 DiGRA paper, Joy Family: Japanese Board Games in the Post-War Shōwa Period [PDF], or my older blog post on “Bandai's Joy Family.” For more info on board game adaptations of videogames, see my article “Super Mario Bros. vs. Super Mario Bros. vs. Super Mario Bros.” (2020) from ROMchip journal. And for more information on the website and game archive, see “Project History & Contributors” below.
The current list of game translations are listed below. Translations are organized by company, series, and year of publication (when known). Each title has a link to a Drive folder that includes archival scans (600dpi .png) of each game's components as well as documents containing transcriptions and translations of all Japanese text in the game.
The translations are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. However, please note that the games, rules, and licensed properties may still be subject to copyright by their respective owners. If you do use the scans or translations for your own project, please let us know!
Although known primarily as a toy company specializing in plastic robots and models, Bandai was one of the most prolific analog game publishers in Japan in the 1980s. Between 1980–1994, Bandai published more than twenty board and card game series, comprising nearly 400 individual games. Joy Family and Party Joy would be their two most successful and long-running board game series.
Board Game Series・ボードゲームシリーズ
This unremarkably-named series was likely Bandai’s first foray into board games. Bandai announced six games for the series in 1973, but apparently only released four. Unlike Bandai’s later board games, these show more Western influence in their design.
- シンドバッド七つの航海・Sinbad’s Seven Voyages (1973) NEW!
Joy Family Series・ジョイファミリーシリーズ
Joy Family were large-format board games meant for family play, created in part to compete with rival toy company Takara's massive success importing LIFE to Japan as 人生ゲーム (Life Game). Bandai released over 70 Joy Family games between 1980–1994, including the breakout hit おばけ屋敷ゲーム Haunted House Game, which sold over 800,000 copies in Japan.
- JALPAK 世界一周ゲーム・JALPAK Around the World (1980)
- おばけ屋敷ゲーム・Haunted House (1981)
- クレイジークライマー・Crazy Climber (1981)
- 恐怖の吸血鬼・ドラキュラ・Terror of the Vampire Dracula (1981)
- 魔界村・Makaimura (1986)
Party Joy Series・パーティジョイシリーズ
Party Joy (or PJ) were portable, manga digest-sized games meant for children to play together. Bandai released 135 numbered PJ games between 1983–92. There were also four PJ spin-off series: Party Joy Cassette Type, Party Joy W, Party Joy Instructor, and Party Joy Matrix Battle. The PJ series covered a wide range of genres, including horror, sports, adventure, travel, and videogame adaptations.
- #001 悪霊島ゲーム・Evil Spirit Island (1983)
- #002 もえよブッシュマンゲーム・Burning Bushman (1983)
- #006 キン肉マン・格闘技宇宙一ゲーム・Kinnikuman: The Universe's Top Combat Sport Game (1983)
- #013 冒険世界一周ゲーム・Adventure 'Round the World (1984)
- #026 日本全国・ミケ猫トマトの配達屋さんゲーム・The Devil's Clocktower (1984) NEW!
- #027 悪魔の時計台ゲーム・Japan Nationwide: Tomato Calico Cat's Delivery Service (1984)
- #028 北斗の拳ゲーム・Fist of the North Star (1984)
- #031 死神伝説I・迷宮の秘宝ゲーム・Shinigami Legend I: Treasures of the Labyrinth (1984)
- #034 呪われた洞窟・死神伝説ゲーム・The Cursed Cave: Shinigami Legend (1985)
- #049 こぐまくらぶ・ケーキがいっぱ～いゲーム・Bear Cub Club: Fuuulllll of Cakes Game (1985)
- #050 死神伝説・１３死神の逆襲ゲーム・Shinigami Legend: 13 Death Gods' Reprisal (1985)
- #063 謎の村雨城ゲーム・The Mysterious Murasame Castle (1986)
- 洞窟脱出ゲーム・Party Joy Store Display / Cave Escape (1986)
- #076 おばけ屋敷ゲーム・Haunted House (1987)
Famous Scene Cassette Game・カセット名場面ゲーム
This short-lived series from 1986 fit a tiny board game adaptation of a Famicom game into a plastic case shaped like a cartridge—or “cassette” as they were known in Japan. Each game focused on a “famous scene” from the adapted game and included small rubber figurines of key characters. The reverse side of each board could also be combined with boards from other games in the series to play a secondary game of position and capture.
- 魔界村・Makaimura (1986) NEW!
Epoch specialized in reflex-based sports games, like their long-running series of 野球盤 “Baseball Board” games, but they also produced a substantial number of board, war, and card games. Among these, they are best known for their historical wargame simulations from the 1980s.
Epoch released their first Baseball Board in 1958. The handmade mechanical game combined elements of pinball and pachinko to deliver a table-sized simulation of one of Japan's favorite sports. With yearly updates that continue today, 野球盤 is Epoch's longest-running game series.
- 野球盤・復刻版・Baseball Board (Reprint) (1958/2000) NEW!
EWE (Epoch War Game Electronics) Series
From 1983–4, Epoch launched a sub-series of wargames aimed at slightly younger (or beginner) players. The EWE series distilled hex-based wargames to a few key mechanics, a small turn count, limited units, and focused scenarios. In lieu of dice, each game included a six-LED array to determine random outcomes—thus the "electronic" moniker in the series name.
Junior Board Game Series
In the mid- to late-1980s, Epoch released the Junior Board Game series to compete with Bandai's popular Party Joy series.
- 魔界都市・ゾンビゲーム・Makai City: Zombie Game (1987)
- ドラゴンスレイヤー・Dragon Slayer (1986)
Videogame publisher Enix, best known for their long-running RPG series Dragon Quest, began publishing board and card game adaptations of their games in the late 80s/early 90s.
- ドラゴンクエストI.IIボードゲーム・Dragon Quest I.II (c.1993)
Hanayama was one of Japan's first modern card and board game manufacturers in the Showa era. Their バンカース Bankers game, first released in the 1950s, was a uniquely Japanese spin on Parker Bros.’ Monopoly, featuring events and locales native to Japan.
★ Koide Shinkosha・小出信宏社
Alongside はなやま (Hanayama), Koide was one of the first Japanese publishers to design and distribute card and board games in the Showa era. They created sugoroku, karuta, Trump (ie, playing) cards, and board games, and licensed popular television and manga properties.
- １丁目１番地ゲーム・Ichi Chōme Ichi Banchi Game (c.1960s)
Before Nintendo made arcade, portable, and console videogames, they had nearly a century of history producing card and board games.
- 野球ゲーム・Baseball Game (c.1960s)
This short-lived Japanese toy and game company was one of the first to license Nintendo properties for board game adaptations. Takahashi released six Famicom adaptations in very limited release.
Family Computer Board Game Series・ファミリーコンピュータボードゲームシリーズ
Alongside Bandai, Takara was one of the most prolific board game publishers in Japan. Their influential タカラのアメリカンゲーム Takara American Games series debuted in 1968, featuring translated imports of titles from Whitman and Milton Bradley. The latter company's LIFE, localized as 人生ゲーム, is one of the most important and influential games in Japanese history. The American Games series continued for four decades, and 人生ゲーム still receives annual updates separate from its American counterpart.
Between 1983–4, Takara released twelve cassette-shaped board games, each with two games (Side A & B), magnetic pawns for travel play, and an embedded spinner. Besides their unique form factor, the games are notable for their low-brow humor, including lots of toilet humor.
- CG08 (1984) NEW!
Project History & Contributors
The Analog Joy Club project grew out of a UCSC undergraduate game design class I teach called Game Systems. When I first taught the class in winter quarter 2017, I assigned the students to create a board game adaptation of a video game as their final project. I began researching board game adaptations to provide a few examples for my students, and I soon discovered that there were hundreds, leading all the way back to the early 1980s. I also discovered that Japanese companies actively published adaptations in the 1980s, and many of the publishers I knew from videogames, like Bandai and Epoch, had released hundreds of board games, most of which were unknown outside Japan. And thus a research interest was born.
Soon after I began buying Japanese games in mid-2017, I began translating them. At the time, I barely knew the hiragana syllabary, much less any kanji, so I struggled through brute-force translation with a number of online translators and reference dictionaries. It was slow work. A single page of text would take me several days to translate (poorly). But once the archive began to grow, a few UCSC undergraduate students caught wind of the project and offered to help out. Since then, nearly two dozen undergraduate and graduate UCSC students have helped translate more than fifty games, advertisements, articles, books, and more.
Translation and localization require an enormous amount of time and effort, and this project wouldn't be possible without the following contributors:
Yasheng She, Corey Pessin, Tina Peng, Ruihong Simon Yu, Jolina Lam, Christina Quach, Vienna Chan, Zijing Guo, Wenbo Xie, Julia Isom, Carlos Cisneros, Nina Koh, Tiffany Lam, Mia King, Jared Pettitt, Jesus Hernandez, Pengze Zheng, Crystal Yu, Xiao Qing Yu, Paul McCann, and The Arcade Castle
If you're interested in contributing to the project in any way, please contact me via my university email at naltice AT ucsc DOT edu or via Twitter @circuitlions.