Starlight Stage is a game by Hironatsu Yamada, published by Japanime Games. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of producers at a local talent agency. They will need to recruit performers with a variety of talents if they hope to outperform their rival agencies. In the end, the player that can attract the best talent and earn the most Popularity points will be declared the winner.
To begin, each player takes 1 Starting Idol, 1 Newcomer Actress and 1 Newcomer Model card. The remaining Starting Idol cards are placed in the Starting Idol Area in the middle of the play area. These 3 cards will be placed in the player’s hand and are considered as their starting hand. The remaining cards are separated into 3 decks; 1 for each type, the Idol Deck, the Fame Deck and the Event Deck. Each deck is shuffled separately and placed face down in the middle of the play area. For each deck, a number of cards are drawn and placed face up in a row next to the respective deck. The number of cards drawn is equal to the number of players. If there are any cards of the same type drawn, they are stacked together. The Talent Tokens are placed near the decks and room is left near the decks for a discard pile. The first player is chosen and is given the Starting Player Marker, which is placed in front of them. Play now begins.
The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take a turn consisting of 2 steps. The first step of a player’s turn is to flip a card. To do this, the player will simply choose one of the 3 decks of cards, either the Idol, Fame or Event deck. They will then flip over the top card of their chosen deck and place the card into the corresponding row of cards. If a duplicate is flipped over, it is placed on top of the similar card(s) creating a stack.
For the next step, the player will play an Idol card from their hand to have her perform an available assignment. The played card is placed face up in front of the player. This area is known as their Agency Office. If the player has at least 1 card in their hand, they must play it. If they have no cards in their hand, they must pass. There are 4 different types of assignments that a player can choose to take with their idol. They can acquire an Event Card. To acquire a card, the player must pay it’s cost by playing enough Talent points to be able to match the Achievement points of the card that they wish to purchase. They may also use Talent tokens and/or Achievement points to reduce the cost. Used Talent tokens are returned to the Talent Token area and used Achievement point cards are discarded to the discard pile, known as the Anteroom. Once the card has been paid for, it is taken from the Event row. It should be noted, that the player may place multiple Idol cards to acquire an Event card. When acquiring other types of cards, only 1 Idol card may be used. Another assignment that the player may take is to reinvent an Idol card. To do this, the player plays an Idol card, pays the cost of an Idol card in the Idol row, and replaces the card that the Idol that they played with the one that they just paid for. The old card is sent to the Anteroom, while the new card is placed in the player’s Agency Office as if it had already been played. Yet another assignment that the player can take is to acquire a Fame card. To do this, the player plays an Idol card and pays the card’s cost, taking it from the row of Fame cards. Finally the player can take the assignment to take a lesson. To do this, the player plays an Idol card and may then take 1 Talent token of any kind that they would like from the Talent token area. This option is available for when the player is unable to pay the cost for one of the other assignments. Once the player finishes with whatever assignment that they chose, play passes to the next player in turn order. If a player has played all of the Idol card from their hand, they must skip their turn. Once all players have played all of the Idol cards from their hand, the round ends.
After a round has ended, each player will take all of the Idol cards that they acquired or played to their Agency Office and return them to their hand. The Starting Player marker is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round begins.
The game continues until the Fame deck runs out. Once this happens, players finish the current round before completely ending the game. After the game ends, each player will add up all of the Popularity points that they have on their Idol and Fame cards. It should be noted that some cards have a purple star on them that may give additional points. Players compare their total Popularity points and the one with the most is the winner.
The game mainly consists of a bunch of cards. However there are a few cardboard pieces included as well. The cardboard pieces included with the game are the Talent tokens and the Starting Player marker. The Talent tokens are about the size of a quarter and are completely square. They’re black with the particular talent that they represent in color in the middle of the tile. There are tokens for Music, Acting and Charm. The Starting Player marker is a little bigger than a 50 cent piece. All of these are quite thick and sturdy. I like that the size of each of these. They could have went for some small little thin token that would have been hard for me to pick up with my fumble fingers. Thankfully they chose to go bigger. The cards are really quite nice. Each one has some very nice artwork reminiscent of the art you might find in an anime movie or in a manga comic. I will say that there are a few images that are a bit over the top, but it’s nothing really major. It’s definitely milder than some of the images from other games of this type. The game comes with some quick reference cards that are really helpful when playing the game. Each card has a really nice glossy finish that is very easy to shuffle. The backs of the cards look pretty much the same, except that the top right hand corner is a different color for each of the 4 types of cards; black for events, teal or green for fame, purple for idols and pink for starting idols. The box is the same style and size as games like Dynamite Nurse and Tanto Cuore. Needless to say, there’s plenty of extra room for expansions in the box. I quite like the artwork and the quality of the components for this game. It looks and feels great.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is a double sided, multi-folded sheet of colored paper. It’s has a glossy finish to it that looks nice. One side of the rules sheet explains the different icons and types of cards. It also shows how to set up the game with plenty of pictures. The back side of the sheet contains the actual rules in a step by step process. For such a simple sheet of paper, there are plenty of pictures and examples of gameplay. There are also some frequently asked questions to help players better understand the game, as well as a few clarifications on some of the special cards. The rules also includes some tips for beginners along with some basic strategies for helping players play the game even better. Needless to say, for a simple sheet of paper, there’s a wealth of information. On top of that, it looks really good too. I’m quite pleased with the rules for this one.
8 out of 10
This is a cute and fun game. It’s fairly simple too. Basically the player will be trying to draft cards into their hand to be able upgrade the cards that they already have in order to gain more points to be able to win the game. That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. As you’re playing the game you’ll find that you’ll want to collect those event cards and talent tokens to be able to upgrade your idols to get even better idols. Of course popularity is what it’s all about so some of the cards have special abilities that allow them to award even more popularity points at the end of the game for certain other card types that you have in your deck. This is a game that plays quite fast and doesn’t over stay it’s welcome. It’s not one that takes a ton of strategy, in fact it’s easy enough that even younger players can play without too much trouble. The look and feel of the game isn’t overly inappropriate. There are a few cards that might raise an eyebrow, but nothing dramatic. Thematically the game works. You do get a certain sense of being a talent agent as you’re basically hiring new talent and firing the old. Of course I think a thematic playmat or board and some wooden music notes, hearts and blue diamonds would really have made this even more thematic. In any event, I have to say that this is one that I rather enjoy. It’s not a brain burner and works well as a fairly quick filler card game. I think fans of games like Tanto Cuore or Dynamite Nurse should enjoy this one as well. This is one that I would recommend. It just works.
8 out of 10
Starlight Stage is a card game of drafting and upgrading Idols to gain the most popularity. The game is fairly quick and does’t take long at all. Most game sessions last around 30 – 45 minutes. The components for the game are mostly just a deck of nice looking cards. The artwork on each one is very cute and fun, much like the art on an anime movie or manga comic. The rulebook is a simple sheet of paper, but does a very good job of conveying the rules with plenty of pictures and examples. The game itself is fairly quick and simple, without too much strategy involved. This is one that’s easy enough that even younger players can join in. Thematically it gives you a fairly good feel of what it might be to be a talent agent. I really like how the game looks and how it plays. It works on several levels, especially as a quick filler. This is one that fans of games like Tanto Cuore and Dynamite Nurse should definitely enjoy. It is one that I would recommend, especially if you like the art style. No need to ask Simon Cowell what he thinks, as this is a great little card game that I think many players will enjoy.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.