How a Random New Zealand Man Became a Character in Rising Sun

Adapted from my Twitter thread.

Rising Sun and Kotahi

In March of 2017: CMON Games launched Rising Sun on Kickstarter – an area control game designed by Eric Lang. It was a huge success – bringing in over 4.2 million dollars from more than 31,000 backers.

Description from the publisher:
Rising Sun is a board game for 3 to 5 players set in legendary feudal Japan (up to 6 players with the expansion). As the Kami descend from the heavens to reshape the land in their image, it is up to each player to lead their clan to victory. Use politics to further your cause, negotiate to seek the most profitable alliances, worship the Kami to gain their favor, recruit monsters out of legend to bolster your forces, and use your resources wisely to be victorious in battle.

As the project grew more successful, they unlocked bonus stretch goals to add new monsters – including one for the Kotahi, pictured below.

Fast forward to January 2018, when Japanese BGG user Yoshida Shindo (LogicWolf) starts a thread asking “What is Kōtahi?”

Even a cursory amount of research shows the Kōtahi isn’t a real Japanese Monster. There’s zero literature or historical references on it. In fact, “Kotahi” is actually a Maori word!

Apparently, the Rising Sun team must have been doing their primary research on Wikipedia without checking other sources. Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Kotahi on the “List of Legendary Monsters from Japan”

This was actually only added to Wikipedia in September of 2016, then changed to the above in a quick series of successive edits.

BGG User Casey Smith (SwissQueso) was the first to notice that searching for “Manawa Bradford” on facebook brought up the profile of a man named… you guessed it: “Kotahi-Manawa Bradford”, from Dannevirke, New Zealand.

The IP used to edit the Japanese monsters page also edited the Dannevirke wiki page, supporting the theory that Mr. Bradford or a friend of his was responsible for the edits.

I reached out to Kotahi-Manawa and he confirmed the story. A friend of his had made the Wikipedia edits, based on an in-joke about how he gets angry when he games. Prior to my reaching out, he was unaware of the existence of Rising Sun or his presence in the game.

In Conclusion:

Do your research and verify your sources, and, when possible, consult a expert on the cultures you are basing your boardgame on and bring in members of that culture as co-designers, developers, or artists.

Cultural appropriation aside, it’ll prevent you from including fake Wikipedia entries as characters in your game!

Kotahi Art- Adrian Smith
Rising Sun “Kotahi” Art – Adrian Smith

UPDATE: 1/25/18 CMON commented back to me: “We have been in contact with Kotahi, and him and his friend will be receiving copies of the game, including the Kickstarter extras to ensure they get the Kotahi miniature.”

They also posted a New Zealand TV station’s interview with Kotahi-Manawa on their Facebook page in which he says CMON admitted they “got tricked.”

4 thoughts on “How a Random New Zealand Man Became a Character in Rising Sun

    1. When the game claims to be historically accurate but cannot even go beyond Wikipedia to check if an entry is true or false? Well its misrepresentation and opportunism spreading ignorance. I give a damn. They did not need to claim historical accuracy. Just say it is made up – everything is made up.

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