The more I think back on my life as a gamer, the more I realize how much that identity has interacted with—and even informed—my other hobbies. Even as recently as when I discovered Call to Adventure (which I wrote about earlier this month), my excitement and anticipation from that game has rekindled my interest in fantasy novels, and that’s had me reading them a lot more lately than I had been. Similarly, my entry into the trading-card-gaming scene in the early 2000s coincided with a boom in anime-themed TCGs (likely inspired by the tremendous success of the Pokémon Trading Card Game in the late ’90s), and it was the .hack and Fullmetal Alchemist trading-card games that appeared around that time that introduced me to those two franchises, and consequently to anime fandom in general. These games typically didn’t survive long, as they depended on an audience of fans of the anime franchise in question who were also collectible-card game hobbyists, but at the same time they identified a very real overlap between gamers and anime fans.
Because both games and anime have fandoms built around mediums rather than specific genres, the collective interest in each is rather large, and is steadily growing. And as the anime audience here in the west has become ever more mainstream, so too must the games designed to appeal to that audience. So, there is a very real need for a light party game of the Cards Against Humanity ilk which replaces the adult humor with humor based on an awareness of the anime industry and its unique tropes—Channel A: The Anime Pitch Party Game is that game.
Channel A, by independent game designer Ewen Cluney, has players imagine themselves as the brains behind hot new anime series. Each turn, one player is the producer who draws the top five cards of a premise deck and chooses two premises they like, which the other players must then combine in some way to form the basis of a series pitch (a short “elevator pitch” that describes what the series is about and why it would be popular). The combinations themselves are the most hilarious part of the game, as they can range from being as straightforward as “Feudal Japan” crossed with “Samurai,” to as unconventional as “Boys’ Love” crossed with “Cthulhu Mythos.” The players must challenge themselves to not only incorporate each premise fully into their pitch, but to give their pitch a title that will stick in the mind of the producer (or everyone at the table if playing a more democratic voting game, as I prefer). To aid them in this, players have at their disposal a hand of 10 title cards containing buzzwords drawn from popular anime titles, like the “Seed” from Gundam Seed, the “D” from Initial D, and so forth.
The only drawback I have seen is that players new to Channel A often experience analysis paralysis in figuring out what title their hand can possibly give them which ties into the premise. But what I always stress here is that because this is a game about anime, the titles themselves can be as nonsensical as real-world anime titles have been; Bubblegum Crisis had nothing at all to do with bubblegum and only a bit to do with crisis, and as I understand there was once a yuri miniseries called Candy Boy. The meat of the game lies in creatively devising one’s pitch, and while a good title can often drive the pitch home, when all else fails, a series about “law enforcement” or “supernatural battles” can certainly be titled Creamy Tales, and you only need to justify the connection if you feel inspired to do so. Pro tip: I’ve made a house rule when running the game that the single-letter title cards (Z, J, D, etc.) can count as either the letter itself, or any word that starts with that letter. This makes it easier for players who don’t much care for random letters in their titles to use those cards.
If you love anime at all, or even if—no, especially if you love having a bit of fun at the industry’s expense, I would recommend picking up Channel A right now, except the game has been out of print for a while and it’s difficult to even locate a copy, let alone one for a reasonable price. The good news, though, is that Evil Hat Productions has picked up the game’s license, and is currently raising funds through Kickstarter to produce a new edition of the game known as Channel A: Alpha Genesis Edition, with new and easier-to-shuffle cards (the old version had cards that were super resilient but not at all shuffle friendly). I’m hopeful that the new release could potentially bring Channel A more into the public eye and make it a property that can occupy store shelves alongside Cards Against Humanity, Codenames, and other beloved party games.