Posted by: gschloesser | August 10, 2011


Designer:  Susumu Kawasaki
Publisher:  Japon Brand
3 – 5 Players, 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

At the Spiel in Essen, Japon Brand was making quite a stir, with over a dozen of their games and puzzles available for eager buyers.  Sadly, I had an appointment to meet with one of the proprietors, but unfortunately he was called away and we were unable to meet.  Still, I left with a sack of their games, which will keep me busy for quite some time. 

One of the most intriguing of their offerings is R-ECO, a self-proclaimed card game of “recycling and ecology”.  Designed by Susumu Kawasaki – I don’t know if he is somehow connected to the motorcycle company — R-ECO places players in the role of garbage collectors, and challenges them to efficiently dispose of the city’s waste.  Care must be exercised, however, as overloaded garbage trucks mean more trash on the streets.

The deck of sturdy, coated cards consists of an abundance of garbage cards, reward cards and four disposal facility cards.  Garbage and their corresponding rewards comes in four varieties – plastic, bottles, steel and paper – and each variety has nearly two dozen cards valued at “1” and three with a value of “2”.  These cards are mixed together, and three are dealt to each player. 

The four disposal facility cards are aligned on the table, and the corresponding reward cards are stacked upon them in a set order, from top to bottom:  0, 1, 2, 3, 3, -2, 4 and 5.  This is important, and plays a critical role in the strategies players pursue.  Finally, one garbage card is placed in the “dump site” of each disposal facility, which is located directly below the card.    

Each player turn is quick, as players take the following actions: 

1)      Play garbage card(s) to a factory.  A player may play one or more garbage cards of the SAME TYPE above the corresponding disposal facility.  If the total value of the garbage in the factory totals four or greater, the player takes the top reward card from the facility and displays it on the table in front of him.  The garbage cards in the factory are then discarded.  Otherwise, the cards remain in place. 

2)      Take garbage card(s) from the Dump site.   Whether the player received a reward or not, he must take ALL of the garbage cards currently in the disposal facility’s dump site (those cards below the disposal facility card).  These cards are placed into the player’s hand. 

If the player now has more than five cards in his hand, he must discard the excess amount into his “illegal dumping” pile.  These cards will deduct from the player’s final score at the end of the game.  As in life, it is best to avoid illegal dumping at all times! 

3)      Fill the Dump site.  After the player takes the cards from the dump site, it is refilled to an amount ONE GREATER than the number of cards currently at that facility’s factory (above the disposal facility card).  

For example, if there are currently 3 cards in the paper disposal facility’s factory, four cards are added to the dump site. This means that the next player to place a card at this facility will be forced to take all four cards from its dump site into his hand, increasing the likelihood that he may have to illegally dump some cards.  Pardon the pun, but that stinks! 

This is undoubtedly the most fiddly – and aggravating – aspect of the game, as it forces one player to constantly be dealing cards to the various disposal facilities.  Turns occur quickly, so that one player is doing this repeatedly, without much, if any, rest between turns.  It is a necessary evil, though, and fortunately does  not ruin an otherwise enjoyable game. 

Players alternate repeating this procedure until all of the reward cards from one facility are distributed.  Players then tally the value of their reward cards, but they must possess at LEAST TWO reward cards of a garbage type in order for them to be counted!  Collecting just one reward card of a garbage type is fruitless.  Further, players must deduct one point for each card in their illegal dumping pile.  If a player managed to finish the game without any illegal dumping, he receives a one point bonus for EACH player who did illegally dump during the game.  The player with the most points is given the Clean City award, and wins the game. 

R-ECO is a game of hand management, proper timing, and seizing opportunities.  It is important to keep cards flowing into and out of your hand, but being very careful not to take cards that will force you to illegally dump.  Be cognizant of the cards available in the various dump sites, and try to collect cards that will build sets in your hand.   Seize the opportunity to take reward cards when possible, but don’t be too hasty.  Knowing the order of the reward cards allows players to plan their acquisitions, so that they receive the higher-valued rewards when they surface.  Also, it is important to make sure you secure at least two rewards of a particular type in order for them to count in the final tally.  

While luck does play a role, there is enough planning and control here to keep things interesting.  The decisions are not overly taxing, but still significant.  Another big plus, is that the game moves along at a brisk pace and plays to completion in 20 – 30 minutes. 

R-ECO is an excellent filler, one that can be played and enjoyed by both serious gamers and in a casual setting.  If other games in the Japon Brand line are this good, I will have a splendid time playing through all of their games I acquired!



  1. Fun little card game. I enjoyed the hand management involved. 7/10

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