Tentacles, what more can I say? To biologists, it refers to an extremity, commonly associated with octopuses. To anime fans, it refers to one of the more unusual fetishes that exist. For a small fraction of that fandom, it’s the perfect theme for a card game! You heard me. Tentacle Bento is a card game where you assume the role of a tentacle monster infiltrating a Japanese all girls high school. Your objective is to capture as many school girls as monstrosity possible.
The company responsible for this creation is Soda Pop Miniatures. It is a table top game company with a focus on anime styled miniatures. You may have seen them at a few conventions or at least noticed their Soda Pop Girls; gamers girls/models blessed with above average charisma. Their debut title was Super Dungeon Explore which was popular enough to warrant several expansions. I never played it so I can’t offer any real opinion on it.
Tentacle Bento is the second title they wanted to make but lacked the funds to do so. Naturally, they turned to crowd funding via Kickstarter to raise the needed capital. They were doing quite well until it got canceled. You can’t even find the Tentacle Bento Kickstarter on their site by searching anymore. I had to find a direct link to it via BoardGameGeek. Apparently, somebody over at Kotaku thought the whole “tentacle monsters assaulting young girls” thing was offensive and wrote a sternly worded article about it. There was also a piece on it by Insert Credits but my computer thinks it’s an attack site so I’m not reading it.
Soda Pop Miniatures was set back by the scandal but they were not deterred. They simply moved the crowd sourcing operation onto their own website. Even though the kickstarter was canceled, Soda Pop Miniatures still could post updates on its kickstarter page. While losing Kickstarter’s functionality must have been a headache, they still had access to Kickstarter’s audiences which is what really counts. Tentacle Bento was successfully funded at forty-eight thousand, five hundred dollars with three stretch goals passed.
Twenty five of those dollars was contributed by yours truly. While I rarely pledge in general, the fact that they got kicked off of Kickstarter spurred me to act. I pledged to protest the Kickstarter cancellation. It was one of those instances where telling a person they can’t have it only makes them want it more. Free speech protect speech, even if you don’t like it; especially if you don’t like it. It’s the chaotic side in me acting up. I also wanted the cool extras like the poster and special holofoil cards. I’m never gonna hang up that poster in my room though.
Tentacle Bento is the perfect example of a niche game. While I believe that the majority of anime fans have never actually consumed tentacle themed pornography, we are all aware of the cliché if nothing else. Since most of us are familiar with the source material, we understand and accept the game’s mindset. I was perfectly comfortable pulling this out at an anime convention and roping the first people I could find into a game. In a table top gaming environment, I would suggest the game but not be surprised if no one took to it. You wouldn’t catch me dead with it in front of a mainstream crowd. I imagine their response to the game would be a mixture of shock and disgust, and I wouldn’t blame them for feeling that way. This is a card game I wouldn’t pull out on every table.
Considering all the controversy in Tentacle Bento’s production and theme, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s a playable card game. The game works by giving you cards and having you create complete sets of girls, locations, and capture scenarios. Every complete set is worth one to five points and whoever has the most points at the end wins. While any combination of girl/location/capture will score points, the optimal course is make sure your sets all share the same type. However, instead of spade, club, diamond, and hearts; there is sexy, sporting, smart, and cute. Mixing things up are character cards which provide special abilities; and event cards which trigger, uhh, events and randomized the ending time. My other gaming friends have told me it’s basically Rummy: Gold Edition.
As a card game, I would have to put it in the light category. If you’re expecting deep tactical decision-making at every turn, you won’t find this bento box filling. Tentacle Bento is no Final Fantasy Tactics. It also could stand some interface improvements. The game manual is way too small to fully explain the game. I got the basic idea down but the particulars could have been detailed more. You’re basically matching cards once you strip it down to its base. It’s also quite possible to screw yourself over by blowing your load (of cards), rendering you limp (option wise). Many a turn can be spent just drawing a card, finding that it’s useless, and then simply discarding it. I found it to be a large build up of excitement leading to a big disappointment.
The game is not without it subtleties though. Some though and care have been put into the game design but like it’s source material, it requires a certain tilt to understand it. Unlike Rummy, once you empty your hand by pulling out matches for points, you don’t get an instant refill. The way to refill your hand is through the discard pile. Instead of drawing a card at the start of your turn, you can take any amount of cards from the discard pile as long as the bottom card is used in a match where are the cards share the same type. That is the crucial tactical lynchpin of the game. On one end, you’re managing your own hand, making sure you can get matches now and into the future. On the other end, you’re watching the discard pile, waiting for the chance to pounce and snatch up a load of cards for yourself before your opponents do the same thing. You also have to consider which card you discard every turn, because you know what they say about how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Having a big hand will make you feel powerful but it can turn around and bite you. The game ends when the fourth event card is shown, and it always comes sooner than you think. Then all the girl cards in your hand count as negative points! I guess it could be a metaphor about relationships on some level.
Like in many mediocre moe merchandising, the card game is merely the plate on which we are served the feast of fan service. On that level, Tentacle Bento scores again and again. As for the art, taking a look at the pictures I included in this article should tell you all you need to know. While it may not quite be anime style, it’s close enough (and good enough) to satisfy all but the pickiest players. The vast majority of cards feature endowed young women in suggestive scenarios. Don’t let the art distract you from reading the cards though. That is where it really can get dirty. There is a great deal of innuendo packed in there. There are sexual euphemisms that I’ve never even heard of before! For example, the flavor text for the Greenhouse is “It takes a skilled hand to make things grow.” While that is completely true in gardening terms, if you think about it, it could also refer to something quite sexual if you can read between the lines. The cards simply imply it and allow your own dirty mind to do the rest.
If you’re looking for the next Skyrim, Tentacle Bento isn’t for you. It’s an okay card game but there are certainly other, better games out there. A part of me simply can’t dismiss the game though. I’m just too attracted to the idea of it to let it go. Only with this game can you go, “Tentacle Bento is a card game where you play a tentacle monster infiltrating an all girls Japanese high school with the intent to capture as many girls as possible.” That never gets old; just like anime school girls!