Being a restaurant-owner in 1920s San Francisco is tough, especially for an immigrant family. There are customers to please, chores to finish, cops to bribe, and, oh yeah, deadly hopping vampires to drive away every night. No, this isn’t Netflix’s latest series (although, I’d watch the heck out of it, if it were), it’s a new TTRPG by Banana Chan and Sen-Foong Lim and the Kickstarter goes live Tuesday, July 14th.
Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall combines board game elements (a board, cards, dice) with collaborative storytelling and role playing for a fully tactile, immersive experience. Every player takes on the role of a family member with different skills, items, memories, dreams, and responsibilities. They then work together as a group to run their restaurant, navigating the difficulties of small business ownership, and protect each other from the monstrous creatures that stalk the night.
Gameplay is split into 4 parts: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Dead of Night. Morning and Afternoon are dedicated to operating the restaurant: cooking, cleaning, serving customers, dealing with rivals, etc. After the sun sets, the Jiangshi (hopping vampires) awaken, adding complications to dinner service, and getting more dangerous as the night goes on. Every “day” begins with players drawing Restaurant cards to determine their tasks. They then choose one of the tasks to roleplay, guided by the game master. Skill checks during the roleplay portion are determined by a pool of 8-sided dice. Any 4s cancel out the highest number, the highest remaining roll determines the success of the check. Players can opt to use the board’s special powers to help them succeed, but those powers are limited.
The Restaurant Board features 4 powers to give the players advantages, but in order to access to them, they must complete the tasks on their Restaurant cards by the end of the day. Every player begins with 6 hours of Resilience with which to complete these tasks. However, as the game progresses, the stresses of everyday life and the constant threat of the Jiangshi rob the characters of their Resilience. This loss of Resilience can lead to nightmares, fatigue, and even to the characters becoming Jiangshi themselves. Players can team up against these odds, using special items (Heirlooms), to learn more about their foes and live to fight another day.
This game is a unique experience that’s sure to be welcomed by lovers of Top Chef and horror films alike. Very rarely in roleplaying do real-life problems loom just as large as supernatural enemies, but in Jiangshi, a health inspector or crooked cop is just as concerning as a qi-sucking monster. Perhaps even more so. Another element to appreciate is the creative team. Every single writer on this project is a person of colour, and you can tell in the narrative and the design. Everything from the dice used (lucky 8s and unlucky 4s!) to the special items (Heirlooms that connect characters to their ancestors) speaks to an authentic, heartfelt connection to Chinese culture. The richness of the world offers countless opportunities for players to build exciting, memorable adventures together, grounded in one of the most relatable narratives around: a family trying to achieve a dream.