Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall (Kickstarter)

I’m what you might call a casual foodie. I love learning the histories behind different culture’s cuisine. I suppose that stems from a desire to look for the world beyond my small-town Alberta roots, and culinarily bland genealogy. But the one escape I had from my tasteless every day was Chinese food. Two out of three of the nicest restaurants in town were fancier Chinese restaurants. I think it’s common knowledge that most of what the western world knows as “Chinese food” is not remotely authentically Chinese, in fact, what we enjoy as Ginger Beef has its roots right here in Alberta. But in all the places where history meets gastronomy, none tells as rich a story as Chinese food and Chinese restaurants. 

While I could go on about that, the point was more meant an indication at how excited I was when I came across Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall. That being VERY.

Mechanically, the game is an RPG hybrid with a number of board game elements. But to get the best description of what it is, rather than just how it works, comes right from the campaign page:

This is a game about a Chinese family making their living by running a restaurant in one of America’s Chinatowns, circa 1920. Despite societal backlash and anti-Chinese laws, they have turned a profit and their quality of life has recently improved.

Night, however, brings a new terror.

The game plays over a set number of days and nights, with the day consisting of the legitimate, real-world, challenges facing many immigrant families, as well as dealing with the Mung Cards that represent lingering dreams from the previous night. If not handled during the waking hours, remaining Mung Cards can weaken players as they encounter horrifying jiangshi (hopping vampires/zombies from Chinese folklore) during the night.

There’s a more detailed explanation of gameplay in the campaign, but one of the more interesting mechanics is that whenever the family’s pool of dice is rolled, any die coming up 4 cancels out the highest number(s) rolled. This is a great reference to the number four being considered unlucky in traditional Chinese culture.

The pledge levels for the campaign seem fairly reasonable. $20(USD) gets the digital Print and Play edition (included in all the higher levels as well) and $65 gets a physical box set with absolutely everything needed to play. It’s $90 for the Deluxe Edition that adds in a set of limited edition art prints, plus a cloth game mat. Finally, $300 gets you the Deluxe Edition and the opportunity for you and three friends to play an online game run by the game designers.

The only disappointing thing for me is that the Deluxe cloth board is not also available as an add-on. Art prints rarely interest me, so it is the only part of the Deluxe Edition I might be inclined to care about.

If you’ve never looked at my picture at the end of these reviews, I’m a white guy. I will never have more than an academic understanding of the struggles faced by immigrants, or any BIPOC community. But I can learn, and this game not only looks like amazing fun but also an opportunity to look into our history as western nations. There is nothing here I don’t want to excitedly dig into. So look up some Shidaiqu jazz music, sit back, and back the heck outta this.

You can back Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall on Kickstarter until August 12, 2020.

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