(If you're just looking for the translated rules, they're at the end of this post)

— Intro —

Earlier this year (2022) I fell into the rabbit hole of Japanese doujin (aka "indie", more or less) board games. These games are created and self-published by just one/a few people, and sometimes only a handful of copies are ever made. Japanese games tend to have a certain hard-to-qualify uniqueness, but doujin games combine that with the inherent unrestraint of indie.

Fantastic Tempostick is one such game. I saw some neat photos of it and, luckily, the designer had just opened up a new run of orders. Interestingly, instead of personally receiving payments, the designer requested that anyone who orders the game donate the cost to a charity chosen by the designer. I gladly did so, and it arrived in less than 2 weeks. I didn't find any existing or in-progress English translation of the game, and I had been benefiting from the fan translation work of others for a while, so I was happy to take this game on as my first ever translation project. The designer kindly provided me with a rules PDF to work from.

At the time of this writing, I've been studying Japanese for a little less than 1 month. Obviously not enough to translate the game by my own skill, so I unfortunately had to rely on machine translation. Thankfully, the rules were written and structured very clearly. Except for a minor edge case with one card effect (which the designer easily clarified for me), I didn't have any rules questions that I couldn't figure out myself. I do still want to give thanks to my friend Jake and the Japanese Tabletop Discord server (join if you're curious about Japanese tabletop games!) for helping me out with some localization questions, and my partner Alix for proofreading.

Game cover art. Image provided to me by the designer.

— About the Game —

Fantastic Tempostick is essentially a 2-player dice-drafting pattern-matching game. You play as either Michiru (red) or Nobara (blue), who are competing to be the Drum Major of their school's marching drum and fife band, which performs at the cultural festival every year. The goal of the game is to arrange your Temposticks ("Tempos") in a certain pattern before your opponent does.

Each round, you both roll 3 red and 3 blue dice together. If multiple same-color dice roll the same result, the matching-color player gets a little benefit (more on this later).

Then, you both take turns choosing 1 die from this pool at a time until you both have 3 dice. If your opponent chooses a die of your color, you get another little benefit.

Lastly, you assign each of your chosen dice to 1 of your 3 dice coasters. These coasters determine which Conducting Technique you perform to move your Tempos around. Here's an example:

I mentioned a "special benefit" earlier. Both players have their own Baton Performance Board which consists of a circular track and 3 differently-colored cubes. The aforementioned "special benefit" is that you get to move one of your cubes along this track. When a cube completes a lap around this track, you get a different reward depending on the color of the cube. These include things like extra points or a card with a once-per-game ability.

There are some other small details that flesh the game out, but that's the gist of it. The art is bright and cheerful while also feeling soft. The graphic design is clean and clear. The rules are straightforward while still providing plenty of puzzle to chew on. The physical production is gorgeous too, much better than is standard for doujin games.

The game components laid out (not actual game setup). Photo from Twitter user @bbaaddggggdd

— Translation —

Here's what my process looked like for translating the game.

Step 1 – Basic Text Document

I started off by making a basic text document of the full rules. I mimicked the page structure of the physical rulebook to make it easier to reference throughout the process. It was fun figuring out how to convey the personality and vibe of the game in English. I tried to translate some bits of the flavor text in a way that would make sense to Westerners who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture (and/or don't consume Japanese media). In hindsight, though, I doubt there will be any such people playing this game... oh well. Reluctantly, but with no other reasonable choice, I used Google Translate and DeepL for translation. I found that DeepL often took way too many liberties in adding meaning/color, and that GT was actually much better for interpreting rules (as opposed to flavor text).

Step 2 – Recreate the Rulebook

I think this step is probably above and beyond what most people would do. I tried to recreate the rulebook as close to the physical thing as possible. I used this as an opportunity to learn the Affinity software suite. Thankfully, the PDF imported fairly smoothly into Affinity Publisher, and it was structured in such a way that I could easily replace the Japanese text with English. There were a lot of missing fonts, which appeared to be proprietary Adobe fonts requiring a CC subscription (f*** that). Publisher suggested replacements that looked acceptable to my eyes (the eyes of a font peasant). I had to do a lot of adjustments to things like kerning and line height. The PDF I received was a slightly old version with some layout differences compared to the physical, so I even tried to recreate the physical book's layout/graphic design where applicable.

This entire Step 2 was by far the most time-consuming step. If I had just tried to make a clean text doc, I probably could have been done with the project in a few days, as opposed to the week-ish it took me. I think it was worth it, though. The rulebook the designer made is beautiful, and it helped me learn new software.

Step 3 - Translate the Components

This game only has 15 unique card texts to translate, and they don't require any special graphics – just a solid background with basic text that can be very easily printed and pasted. However, the Target List and Conducting Techniques sheets are both double-sided with lots of text. All of their text exists in the rulebook as well, but they're slightly abbreviated here to function as player aids of sorts. Since I didn't have digital versions of these components, I had to scan them with my trashy printer. The scans came out alright, but it is a little sad to have mediocre scans next to the lovely digitally-created rulebook.

After scanning, I used a mix of Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer to remove/replace text, though I probably could've stuck with just one of those if I was more knowledgable with the software. There's almost certainly a better way to do this, but I (digitally) removed the text by clipping out a blank area of the scan and pasting it over the text. After that, I just arranged everything to fit on as few pages as possible.

Step 4 - Upload

After some final proofreading and seeking permission from the designer, I submitted the game to the BoardGameGeek database. Since (as far as I'm aware) my translation is more-or-less the only English that exists for this game, it was up to me to come up with a tagline/description for BGG too. I did my best to accurately portray the rules and vibe that I think the designer intended. As of this writing, I'm still waiting for the BGG mods to approve the submission and all its images/files. This can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple weeks or more. Hopefully not too much longer...

— Wrap-up —

In the end, it took roughly 1 week to complete steps 1-3. I enjoyed working on this project, though I did get a bit stressed trying to complete it as fast as possible. Since people in the U.S. were likely receiving their copies around the same time as me, I wanted to have the rules available for them as soon as possible. I hope many people get use out of my translation, and I hope it helps more people discover the game. If you're interested in getting a copy of the game, I would suggest reaching out to the designer on Twitter.

My English translation of the rulebook is available on BoardGameGeek. I also have paste-ups I can share with those who can prove to me that they own the game. Feel free to reach out via any of the methods here.