Review – Mai-Star

Posted on by Jesta

A hand management game.

Title: Mai-Star

Year Published: 2010

Designer: Seiji Kanai

Publisher: AEG

Players: 3-6

Game Time: ~30 Mins

Set-up Time: >1 Mins

Ages: 14+

Theme: Japan

Mechanic: Hand Management

How to win: Earn the most money.

Game Description

Players take the roles of various geisha, and compete with the other players to win the legendary title of “Mai-Star”. Use the characters surrounding you to increase your popularity, and earn money by attracting guests, the more demanding the better. Focusing only on increasing your popularity won’t earn you any money, yet failing to spread your name won’t make the rich or helpful guests come your way.

Set Up

Randomly choose a start player, that player chooses from one of the six Geisha cards and the rest are drafted in a clockwise order. The un-used cards are returned to the box.

The player who picked the last Geisha will become the new start player.

The deck is shuffled, 5 cards are dealt to each player and the game begins.

Mai-Star Setup

Game Play

The game is played over 3 rounds .

Each player takes 1 of the following 5 actions.

1 – Play a Guest: Take a card from your hand and place it above your Geisha. You can only do this if the Guest’s requirements are equal to or lower than your Geisha’s reputation. If the Guest has an ability it is activated now.

Mai-Star Guest

Suzune is now guarded by a Ronin

2 – Advertise: Choose a card from your hand and place it to the right of your Geisha. The stats on the card increase your Geisha’s reputation. When taking this action, draw a card.

Mai-Star Advertise Action

The actor increases each of Suzune’s stats.

3 – Introduce: Discard up to 2 cards from your hand and draw that many cards.

4 – Exchange: Swap an Advertiser in play for one in your hand.

5 – Search: Draw a card from the deck.

When a player plays the last card from their hand, or the deck runs out, the round ends.

Players add up all the income from Guests and subtracts 2 points for each card left in their hand. This gives you your victory point total.

All cards are shuffled and players are dealt 6 cards (7 cards for round 3) and the game continues.

Game End

After round 3 the game ends. The player with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the fewest cards in hand on round 3 wins.

Round Up

This is a fun game.

Each of the 6 Geisha’s plays very differently and seem to balance quite well and even if you think one is stronger, players can balance the game.

They do mean that you have to play the game a bit differently if you play a different Geisha so that adds to the re-playability.

The decision to play a card as an Advertiser or a Guest is a tough one! Advertisers let you play more powerful Guests but you have to draw a card. You need to keep the cards in your hand low in case someone ends the round.

Guests are fun and can be powerful and can really screw over an opponent.

In our group we very very rarely use the Search or Introduce action as these tend to feel like a wasted turn.

The Introduce action doesn’t reduce your hand size which is what you should be looking to do most actions. Although, in a pinch, it might pay off.

Instead of search I find I’d rather Advertise and add some extra stats to my Geisha and draw a card instead of just drawing a card.

But, the options of the Geisha’s, the cards and the various actions and cool scoring mechanism makes for a fun game.


Another Seiji Kanai win.

I give it 6/10

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