Is it a match-a?
Matcha is inspired by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, centred on spirituality and servitude. Well, only in so much that during the game you are collecting tokens representing various utensils used in the tea ceremony and the game’s cards are illustrated with geishas pouring tea (matcha). The drawings themselves are beautiful and have a hand-drawn quality with delicate and precise brushstrokes. Yet there is no getting away from a sense that the ‘exoticism’ of the theme and art are acting as the main attractors to the game, while the tradition of tea making has almost nothing to do with the gameplay or its mechanics.
What stands out the most about the gameplay itself, however, is its deliberate minimalism. This two-player game only has 18 cards and a bunch of tokens making for a compact set-up. Throughout the game, players attempt to match cards on the table based on their suit or number by playing cards from their hand. A correct match earns a token, a certain number of which is required to win the game.
Both the suits and the numbers have looped hierarchy: for example, a four, the highest number in the set, of course, beats three and two, but at the same time loses to a one. This neatly takes the luck of drawing a ‘good hand’ because playing the highest value is not a guaranteed win. Instead, the game centres on the careful calculation of what both players have in their hands and which matches are better to be won or lost to get the right mix of tokens. This can equally be discouraging when you see your hand, the cards on the table, and through a simple process of elimination can determine this round a loss. Yet, this feeling does not linger long, as the plays are quick, and the elegance of gameplay easily draws you back in.
This review originally appeared in Issue 51 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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