2024年 4月 20日
Indie Tsushin 2024 March-April issueThis article was featured in our 2024 March-April issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
SIGN, a card game about making word constellations

Editor's note: This time, we have included Daikon's original Japanese article as well as the English translation, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

English (translated)

It is an unfortunate reality that as adults, we have fewer opportunities to meet and talk with new people than when we were kids. We are all so busy and it's hard to get our schedules to line up, and our habits become so ingrained that it's harder to break out of our shells and connect with others. In recent years, board games and board game cafés have exploded in popularity, and I feel that these are great new places to get past our reservations and socialize with others. One game that I enjoyed recently is a card game called SIGN, which was created with the expertise and wisdom of the staff of the charming board game café, Asobiba.

SIGN is a cooperative card game for two to eight people in which players take turns placing clues to convey a secret keyword, while one player must guess the word. The title of the game refers to the messages contained in our starry skies. This is represented in-game with small circular Star Cards with words written on them, and Line Chips connecting them into a beautiful constellation that reveals the group's interpretation of the keyword.

Topic card listing five word that can fit into '-like,' Valentine's Day-like, Christmas-like, New Year's-like, birthday-like, and Halloween-like

Each topic card lists five keywords that can fit into the theme. Here, we can see that #4 would be "birthday-like."

At the start of each turn, one topic card is drawn, for example "X-like," which lists five keywords. One player looks away while the rest of the group gets prepared. The official rule is that the first player is the person who has mostly recently seen a shooting star. All the other players receive a set of Line Chips, with symbols printed on them like "equal to," "greater than," "much greater than," and so forth. They also receive a handful of random Star Cards with an assortment of words. And finally, a random card numbering from one to five is drawn, and everyone but the player in the hot seat can see the secret number that corresponds to that round's key phrase. Let's say that the secret number is 4 which, according to the Topic Card, corresponds to "birthday-like."

Round card labeled 'rock' connected with a 'much less than' symbol line with another round card labeled 'letter.'

Which better communicates "birthday-like," a rock or a letter? Players connect Word Cards using the relationship Line Chips.

One of the Star Cards is placed in the center of play, the timer starts, and players must scramble to put their constellation together by placing more Star Cards and connecting them with their Line Chips to show their relationship to the topic. For example, if the starting word was "rock," and a player places the card "letter" beside it, they must decide which word is more birthday-like and convey that using the Line Chips. If they decide that "letter" is closer to being birthday-like than "rock," they would place a "greater than" Line Chip between the two, so it would read "letter > rock." Combine enough of these clues together within the time limit, and the final constellation should convey which of the five keywords is the correct one. Players must work together and use their best judgment to try and estimate how the player in the hot seat will interpret the final constellation.

Full constellation of Word Cards connected with relationship Line Chips, with the Topic Card nearby.

When the two minutes are up, the players are left with a constellation of Word Cards and Line Chips that will hopefully convey the correct keyword.

In my experience, I found the game to be quite balanced because the Star Cards never quite match up with the topics, so players have to get very creative with how to convey and interpret these themes. It's quite tough, but it is a cooperative game, so you can at least struggle together as a group.

After the two-minute time limit is up, the player in the hot seat looks at the constellation of cards and tries to guess which of the five keywords is the message. If they get it right, the turn is a success!

Word Card labeled 'mushrooms' is marked 'greater than' 'handkerchiefs'

The relationships between the words are often very strange and require explanation from the players afterwards, which can lead to some great conversations. Why would they think "mushrooms" are more birthday-like than "handkerchiefs"? Let's find out!

Players are then encouraged to explain their thought processes behind their placement of Star Cards and Line Chips. Players may have personal memories attached to the associated words. Let's say one player emphasized mushrooms as a birthday-like thing. Once the turn is over, that player might explain that it is because they got Super Mario games for their birthday as a kid. It's fun hearing the thought processes that went into these word associations, and can help you learn new things about the other players, and even yourself.

Because of this, SIGN is a great conversation starter. I personally really enjoyed hearing my friends' thought processes at the end of each turn. If you are meeting people for the first time, it's a great way to get to know them. If you already know the others very well, you can see a new and surprising side to them that you would not have otherwise guessed.

There are 40 Topic Cards in total, printed front and back, so you have a lot of variety to work with. In addition, there are also special rules that modify the game if players so desire, such as the Saboteur Rule where one player secretly tries to scramble the message of the constellation. And of course, depending on the experiences and senses of the players, the starry skies will look different every time. It is designed to be endlessly replayable.

Box for SIGN next to a scattering of Word Cards and the constellation during play

Let's swap stories while creating our constellation of words in SIGN!

This is a work of art that could only be made with a deep and abiding love of board games, so it should come as no surprise that it was created by the staff of a board game café. It is a fun and creative game that can be enjoyed with longtime friends and new acquaintances alike. Why not share a story while gazing at the starry sky together?




Topic card listing five word that can fit into '-like,' Valentine's Day-like, Christmas-like, New Year's-like, birthday-like, and Halloween-like



Round card labeled 'rock' connected with a 'much less than' symbol line with another round card labeled 'letter.'



Full constellation of Word Cards connected with relationship Line Chips, with the Topic Card nearby.




Word Card labeled 'mushrooms' is marked 'greater than' 'handkerchiefs'


プレイヤーはその個人的に思う事、今回で言えば個人的な誕生日の思い出などがどこかに仕込まれているかもしれません。とあるプレイヤーがキノコが誕生日っぽいものとして非常に評価が高かったとしましょう。ゲームが終わった後にその人にその理由を聞いてみてください。その人にとっての誕生日ときのこについての物語を知ることになるでしょう。誕生日にスーパーマリオを買ってもらったから とかね。



Box for SIGN next to a scattering of Word Cards and the constellation during play



You can purchase SIGN and other Japanese board and card games from Asobiba's online shop. And if you happen to be in Kanagawa Prefecture, be sure to drop by the Asobiba shop!