As I promised in my previous post of Motto Tanto Cuore, I’m going to try explaining all of the subtle changes that Arclight Games made to this game in order to make it the most intuitive and fastest set in the series. It’s also perhaps the reason why the series ended with this expansion, since it’s going to be really hard to top the level of refinement that went into this set.
I’ve spent an entire blog post on ideas for how to put together a formidable deck in the vanilla set of Tanto Cuore, but to be honest I could’ve compressed that entire blog post into one sentence and it still would’ve carried the same weight. Here’s how I’d word it:
The best way to put a deck together in Tanto Cuore (as well as almost every other deck-building card game out there in existence) is to find a ways to get rid of the starting cards in your deck, replace them with around 2 or three cards so your deck cycles are as short as possible and only buying more cards when you feel that ones you currently have are starting to lose their effectiveness.
One of the key mechanics Tanto Cuore has (which is also what differentiates it from other deck-building card games out there) to keep deck sizes small was through chambermaiding. A chambermaided card never enters your deck again and instead stays on your playing field for the rest of the game…
… Although if it was a maid that came from your hand, their core abilities would shut down and be replaced by whatever it said in the Chambermaid Bonus description on the card itself (except for Colette in this set who likes to troll you when you’re actually playing the game).
Purchasing a Private Maid automatically chambermaids them so you don’t have to do anything else.
For those that haven’t played Tanto Cuore in awhile, here’s a short video showing you a player going through their Starting Phase with a Private Maid and then chambermaiding and getting served by the same maid during their Serving Phase:
Despite these cool ideas, there were a few nagging issues with the chambermaiding and the Private Maids in the initial release of the game:
♥ The random order that Private Maids appear during the course of the game is more annoying than it is beneficial. Not only that, but the opportunity cost of digging through the Private Maid pile to reach the particular one you need at this phase of the game usually hits diminishing returns after getting your second one.
For example, Sora appearing for Employment at the beginning of the game sucks because there’s no Event Cards currently in play yet. There’s also the nagging temptation that you want to get her just to prevent her abilities from being used by anyone else later on, but then you’d be crippled for the rest of the gaming session if you did because you just can’t get other useful Private Maids at this phase of the game without shutting down Sora for good since the abilities of the new Private Maid you acquired is the only one that’ll be active out of all of the Private Maids in your collection (not to mention 7 Love for a 2 Victory Point card that does nothing else is a really terrible tradeoff).
♥ Event cards are designed to punish players for buying Private Maids or working on chambermaiding strategies too early in the game. This is a nice concept, except they’re either outright impossible or trivial to deal with based primarily on whether or not Claire is around for Employment. I can spend an entire blog post going into specifics on what’s wrong with these cards when used in the base set, but the gist of it is if players have access to Bad Habits yet can’t get Claire as an option for Employment, everyone’s discouraged from taking advantage of the game mechanics that makes Tanto Cuore different from the other deck-building card games out there because Claire’s the only one that can get rid of them, and all it takes is owning one chambermaided card for you to be the target of this catastrophic death spiral. However, if Claire’s around then it’s almost too easy countering a player trying to win using an Event card strategy since it’s going to be an all-in affair with the odds really stacked against the attacker because the developers kind of forgot to add ways to end a game if a player decides to go this route.
These two issues are primarily what Motto Tanto Cuore tries to deal with in this expansion. Unlike the Private Maids, the High Class Maids are all available from the start of the game (if you choose to use all of them, that is). The randomness of the Private Maids is still felt, but this time it really feels like it comes from the players themselves and not from some random number generator; one player might choose a particular High Class Maid because their hand works well with that specific maid for this Round, another might choose a different maid because their current hand allows them to get a Preparation Card, while the next player might curse the First Master for picking the same maid they needed to accomplish the same thing and now has to resort to Plan B:
To really make the Private Maids feel obsolete, some of the High Class Maids have similar key abilities that were the most desirable by players (most of the time, anyway):
If you take a good look at the description of what these cards do, you’ll notice that they usually require you to discard something from your hand in order to trigger their ability. Now you might say that’s not that much better than getting a Private Maid, except there are three key differences:
♥ High Class Maids don’t cost any Love for you to pick up.
♥ You can immediately use their ability since you pick them up at the start of the Round instead of at the end of your turn like a Private Maid.
♥ They are not susceptible to Event Cards because they do not count as a chambermaided card.
And to make these differences more obvious, you can actually include Private Maids and Event Cards (Illnesses only) into this set to show you how much more powerful the High Class Maids are.
So how do the High Class Maids make the game even faster and more interesting than in Classic Tanto Cuore? Like in the previous sets before this one, your starting deck consists of 7 Love cards and three Chambermaid Chief cards. For this set, Colette makes her return:
Except she’s infinitely more useful this time around!
To give you an example of how much more interesting the game is on the first turn, here’s a flowchart of what you can do on your starting turn based on what High Class Maid you pick:
So each player in a 4-player game can make an interesting choice just by drawing Colette in their hands, and that’s not even including Ignis or Fredrika!
So how does Arclight Games deal with Illness balance in this game then? There are only two cards in this set that can be chambermaided, with the other card being this:
The card synergy between Dawn and Colette is extremely strong. To make things even more interesting, every player will only own three Colettes in their entire deck because she is not available for purchase (there is only a maximum of 12 Colettes in this set, so only a maximum of 4 players can play), even though she has an Employ cost, (which is actually pretty cheap for how powerful her chambermaid ability is) so getting Colette sick is a devastating blow even if your opponent isn’t aiming for a Dawn/Colette chambermaid combo because a chambermaided Colette can determine whether or not you can snag a Preparation Card for your upcoming turn if you have the right maids in your hand but don’t have enough Service Points to pull it off.
Not only that, but the developers limited the amount of cards that players can purchase that are chambermaidable. The only other chambermaid cards that you can include from the previous sets into Motto Tanto Cuore are 10 Private Maids and a stack of ten individual General Maids that can be chambermaided.
So this all sounds like Arclight didn’t really put a lot of careful thought into the Illnesss cards, but in fact they actually did because it’s quite possible to win using an Event Card Strategy in this game since as long as you have the right combination of maids to empty a Preparation Card Stack, you can spend your Love resources to keep your opponent’s chambermaids in check. It’s also much easier to stockpile a lot of Love in this game if you reduce your deck size by using Ignis, support your initial hand of high Love with Ariette, and then buy 1 or 2 General Maids that give you 2 Love when you play them.
And besides, even if all of your chambermaids are afflicted with Illnesses, that’s not the best way to win in this game anyway because most of the Victory Points are actually obtained by acquiring Preparation Cards, which is a more eloquent refinement over the mess that was the Reminiscence Cards found in
Doki Doki Romantic Vacation. However, even though I promised I would explain what I didn’t like about it in this part of Motto Tanto Cuore, I didn’t think that my post would get as large as it did, so I’ll have to reserve that for the last part of this series.
– Carl Dayagdag