Yomi

Gamers’ Games are Major Fun for the more experienced gamer. For one reason or another, these games are a bit more difficult or require a greater time investment than the games we generally award BUT we feel that they are well worth the effort.

Yomi is a card-based fighting game for two players. The game sets up a world in which ten characters fight in a tournament called Fantasy Strike. Each character has his or her or its own special abilities, but at heart, Yomi is a very colorful game of paper-rock-scissors. DON’T LEAVE YET!! I wouldn’t waste your time with that old chestnut. The learning curve for Yomi is actually quite steep BUT if you can keep in mind that the prime mechanic is a glorified exercise of paper-rock-scissors, then you will understand why I even considered reviewing this game for Major Fun.

Let me digress for a bit. The advent and subsequent popularity of collectible card games is a topic of fascination for me. I do not like CCGs in general. Not because of game play issues, but because of economic and equity issues. To my mind, the artificial rarity of games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon creates a lot of waste and favors those who have more money. Constructing an effective deck is a wonderfully strategic and challenging endeavor, but it seems heavily weighted in favor of those who can either afford to buy lots of packs to sift for a few treasures OR those who can afford to buy a good card from someone who could afford to buy a lot of packs and sift for the treasures.

It is no surprise to me that card-based, deck-building games like Dominion and Yomi have emerged and are popular. These games use the engaging and strategic qualities of the CCGs, but all players start from the same pool of cards (or at least pre-established and balanced sets of cards). The only economic question is: can you afford the game? Once you have the game you and your opponents have everything you need. Winning and losing rests on your strategic choices (with a bit of luck).

Yomi contains 10 decks of cards and two playing mats where you place your cards and keep track of your character’s health. Each 56-card deck represents a character in the Fantasy Strike tournament. The cards are numbered and suited like standard playing cards (2-10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades). Each deck has 2 Jokers. The suits and numbers are one of the complicating factors of the game but each card essentially allows the player to make one of three actions: Attack, Throw, or Block/Dodge. This is where the paper-rock-scissors mechanic enters. Attacks beat Throws. Throws beat Blocks/Dodges. Blocks/Dodges beat Attacks. Each player starts with seven cards in hand. The round begins when each player selects a card and places it face down on the mat. Both reveal their card at the same time and use the paper-rock-scissors mechanic to determine who wins. Attacks and Throws and Dodges cause damage. Blocks prevent damage. The object is to reduce your opposing character to zero health.

Simple enough BUT complications abound. Each character has special abilities. Cards can be played in combination. Some cards must be played with other cards. Some cards negate other cards. Results from one round can affect how cards are used the next round. Not only does each card have a wealth of information encoded in symbols and several small boxes, but many of the cards are double sided (turned one way the card is a Block but turned the opposite way it is a Throw).

Needless to say, reading lots of fine print is a must in this game and even then you probably won’t appreciate many of the strategies that will work for each character until you have had a chance to play several times. There is a big time investment up front, but once you become familiar with the cards and the order of play, you realize that each deck represents a difference in style and strategy, not substance. What is impressive is that each deck, each character, has a unique skill set and these are balanced so well. A lot of thought and effort went in to creating characters that are equally matched.

I certainly appreciated the online version of this game. You can play the game against other humans OR you can play against the computer. I have only played against the computer, but in doing so it helped me understand how many of the special abilities work and how some cards can be played in combination with others. This helped me teach the card game to new players and bring them up to speed.

There are fighting games that are certainly easier than Yomi (Slugfest’s wonderful Kung Fu Fighting comes to mind), but the balance, variation, and strategy of Yomi makes it a rich and highly re-playable game. Competitive, addictive, and fun.

Yomi was designed David Sirlin and is © 2011 by Sirlin Games.

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