Tuesday, 27 March 2012

boardgaming in photos

9 Mar 2012. I taught Allen to play A Few Acres of Snow, randomly deciding that I'd play the French and him the British. I made a big big mistake in the early game, despite have played 5 times before. I didn't protect Quebec properly and it was raided successfully by Allen. Aaarrgghh! I kind of saw it coming, because I knew he befriended some Red Indians early. I should have been more proactive in defending against such a raid.

The raid on Quebec set me back severely. And then I made my second mistake, which was flatly stupid. I wanted to resettle Quebec, so that the Quebec card in my deck would become useful again. I didn't realise that in my deck only the Quebec card (which I couldn't use at the time) had a settler icon. I held on to a Trois Rivieres card and a boat card, and kept waiting for a card with the settler icon so that these three cards together would let me resettle Quebec. But such a card didn't exist! I realised my mistake after one full cycle through my deck, and only then hurriedly bought a settler card from the neutral pile.

Allen went with the settling approach, hoping to settle and develop villages to towns to end the game. I was far behind in settling, so I must go with the military approach. Allen bought a bit too many cards into his deck, which slowed him down. Eventually I was able to bring just enough military force upon Boston to conquer it, winning the game. This was one long game, where an experienced player's not-quite-forgiveable mistakes and a new player's tendency to bloat his deck both slowed the game.

Tigris and Euphrates on the iPhone continues to be fun. The AI's are good enough (or maybe I'm not very good yet) so the game is challenging.

Sometimes I get beaten by the AI's, but at least I rarely come last, usually being able to come at least second place. I do need to work hard to win.

10 Mar 2012. The kids (7 and 5) wanted to play Ingenious. They have a general idea that they should place icons next to long strings of matching ones, but I do sometimes needs to point out even better placements. They are getting the hang of how to do scoring, sometimes Shee Yun (7) even corrects my scoring mistakes.

What's funny is sometimes Chen Rui (5) tells me not to place my tile at a certain spot because she wants to put hers there. Sometimes I oblige.

Quoridor was free on the iPhone so I downloaded it. This is an abstract game where you try to move your pawn to the opposite side of the board to win. On your turn you either move your pawn one step or you place a wall. You only have 9 walls and once they're used up you can't place any more walls. The only rule in placing walls (other than physical constraints) is you can't complete cut off your opponent's path to your side of the board. You can at most force him to take a longer path.

The AI seems weak though. I won my first game, and quickly lost interest. The game should be more interesting against human players. But then I'm not really into abstract games. And... let's not go into whether Eurogames are actually just abstract games with pasted on settings.

12 Mar 2012. The children playing Twister during the school holidays. They asked me to play with them, and I managed to persuade them to just let me be the spinner guy.

Their limbs are not long enough or strong enough for them to do well...

... but they have fun.

13 Mar 2012. Shee Yun (7) now often asks me to play Monopoly with her after seeing me play it on the iPhone. I downloaded it when it was free and am now starting to regret it. Not that I'm bashing Monopoly. I just think it doesn't quite work as a 2-player game. But Shee Yun likes games where she gets to collect money.

She likes to read the Chance cards and Community Chest cards herself, and just forges ahead even if she comes across words she doesn't understand.

I had to mortgage almost all my properties. I think I was eventually able to buy the most expensive dark blue set (the Park Lane and Mayfair Ave equivalent), but by then Shee Yun had two completed sets both having buildings. We did no trading at all, because there was no incentive to do so. We completed our sets by ourselves without needing to trade. She had the lead and had no reason to trade with me, although she did ask me why we weren't trading (which she had seen the AI's on the iPhone version doing). I didn't want to trick her into making a trade that would benefit me more than her.

My bankruptcy was a relief. I landed on her hotel. Maybe when she grows up I should tell her that I loved her so much I played 2-player Monopoly with her. Now that's (gamer-) fatherly love!

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Plays: 2Px1.

I played Mondo with Michelle during our recent visit to Meeples Cafe. This one we didn't play with the children, since I couldn't think of a good way to handicap ourselves to give them a sufficient advantage. So they played The Kids of Catan by themselves.

The Game

Mondo is a real-time game where everyone simultaneously tries to place tiles to fill up his player board. There is a timer, and when it runs out, the round ends, and players do scoring. A tile can have one to three different types of landscapes (water, desert, grassland or forest). It may have an animal, and it may have an active or a dormant volcano. When you place a tile, you should try to make sure the sides match with the board and with other already-placed tiles. It is not mandatory, just that you get penalised for every mismatch. You want as many animals as possible, because each scores 1 point. You want as few volcanoes as possible, because the player with the most volcanoes gets penalised based on the number of volcanoes he has. You only have 7 minutes to fill up your board. If you finish early, you can grab a bonus tile. Naturally the first to grab such a tile gets the one with the highest value. Once time runs out, you do scoring.

You gain points for animals and for every correctly enclosed landscape. You are penalised for empty spots, mismatched sides and volcanoes. In more advanced variants, there are additional scoring methods you need to think about, e.g. needing to fulfill certain criteria, or having the most of a certain animal.

This is the basic side of the player board, where the world is surrounded by water. Here I have 5 correctly-enclosed landscapes, the 3 forests, and the desert in the centre and the desert on the right.

This is the advanced side of the player board, where the world is surrounded by 4 different landscape types. I have 7 correctly-enclosed landscapes here, 2 forests, 2 grasslands and 3 deserts. Only the desert and the forest on the right contain mistakes.

You play 3 rounds, and the player with the highest score after 3 rounds wins. There is one mechanism which tries to disadvantage the current leader. Before the 2nd and 3rd rounds start, a volcano marker is given to the leader at the time, so that in the upcoming round, dormant volcanoes are treated as active volcanoes only for this player. The volcano mechanism is interesting, because you need not try to have no volcano at all, you just need to have fewer than one other player. So there is a game of chicken here in how far you dare to go in using tiles with volcanoes. Sometimes it may be worthwhile taking the penalty, because volcano tiles are often good tiles.

The Play

Michelle and I only played the basic game. I quickly discovered the angst of whether to take tiles with volcanoes. In order to complete more correctly-enclosed landscapes, I needed tiles with more landscape types, but such tiles usually come with volcanoes. At first both of us were wary about taking volcano tiles, but after the first round, in which I scored higher than Michelle, I decided to not worry too much about taking volcanoes, as long as I wasn't taking too many of them. This helped me a lot in completing correctly-enclosed landscapes. Michelle was a bit too conservative about taking volcano tiles, which hampered her. In the end I managed to outscore her despite the volcano penalties from all 3 rounds.

Unlike Galaxy Trucker where tiles are one-sided and start face-down, Mondo tiles are double-sided and are all available when a round starts. You can easily scan the piles of tiles on the table for the combination you want. However it can still be hard to look for specific tiles you want. The more specific your requirement, the harder it is, e.g. you need three different landscape types in a particular configuration, you prefer tiles with animals, you prefer tiles with no volcanoes.

The Thoughts

Mondo is quick and pleasant. It's hard to avoid comparison with Galaxy Trucker, but I wouldn't call it just a simplified version of Galaxy Trucker. Despite the real-time side-matching and tile-placing, it somehow feels different. I'm not sure why. Mondo is much quicker to set up. There is no surviving-a-space-flight phase after each round - you score immediately based on how you have constructed your world. There are a number of considerations when you build your world, but they are not as complex as those in Galaxy Trucker. What surprises me is despite the similarities, they feel different enough that I think it's OK to own both, unlike Power Grid and Power Grid: The First Sparks which I think you only need to own one (I prefer the more mathy original).

Mondo is straight-forward fun. A little solitairish because you can't meddle with others' worlds, but with the more advanced rules (which I have not yet tried) there will be more competition. The game is suitable for non-gamers and casual gamers, but you probably want to stick to the basic game. It's a good family game too. At the same time it's a game that hardcore gamers can enjoy and don't need to tolerate just to be able to play with children or non-gamers. There are multiple ways to handicap more experienced (or stronger) players, if required.

Michelle gave this her seal of approval. Should I buy it?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mow, Black Sheep, Jungle Speed

I recently had a family outing at Meeples Cafe again, this time playing Mow, Jungle Speed, Zooloretto, Black Sheep and Mondo, all being new to me except for Zooloretto, which was requested by my daughter; and all having animals except Jungle Speed. We had a great time, spending almost 3 hours there. I was quite surprised when Shee Yun (who just turned 7) won at Zooloretto. I didn't teach the rules or scoring method in detail and just taught as we played. I'm still not sure what Michelle and I did wrong. I thought Michelle was doing well, but too many animal types at the barn gave her too many negative points. I'm not sure what Shee Yun did right either. During the game we did give her advice now and then, but she mostly made her own decisions, mainly enjoying collecting animals in her pens and not really strategising much.

Shee Yun's winning zoo in Zooloretto.

Mow is a light and quick card game. It is a little like 6 Nimmt / Take 6 / Category 5, but even simpler. On your turn you try to play a card into a row at the centre of the table. If you can't, or choose not to, you take all the cards in the row and put them into your (negative) score pile. Every card is numbered, and also has a number of flies depicted. When you add a card to the row, it must be added to either end, i.e. you can only play a number smaller than the smallest number in the row, or bigger than the biggest number in the row. The flies on the cards are the negative points you get if you take the cards. There are some special cards, e.g. some allowing you to insert a card in the middle of the row, some allowing you to change the direction of play. The game ends when the deck runs out.

All cards in Mow feature cows, and most depict flies too, which are negative points. Cards with dark green backgrounds are special cards. These two in my hand can be inserted between two cards, as opposed to being placed at either end of the card row.

There is some, but not much, strategy. Usually you try to get rid of the middle numbers, so that you can save the special cards and the extreme numbers for when things get dangerous. Sometimes you may try to intentionally play a very big or very small card to try to force the next player (or any other player) to take the row before your turn comes again. It's a light-hearted game, and it's fun to see people score tons of flies. Suitable for children. Suitable as a party game, and to play with non-gamers.

Shee Yun (7) looks rather pleased with her cards.

Chen Rui (5) knows where to play her cards.

Jungle Speed is a popular game that I have never tried before. Similar to Halli Galli, it's a speed / reflex game. Players take turns revealing cards from their personal decks, and when two cards with the same pattern (not necessarily colour) appear, the two corresponding players try to be first to grab the totem pole at the centre of the table. If you beat your opponent to it, you give all your revealed cards to him. You win by getting rid of all your cards.

There are some twists. When one particular pattern is revealed, everyone must try to grab the pole. Another pattern introduces a special round where everyone reveals a new card simultaneously, and if there are matching patterns, the corresponding players must again fight for the pole. The patterns used in the game are intentionally similar, so players can easily make mistakes. If you do make a mistake and grab the pole when you are not supposed to, you will be "rewarded" all revealed cards.

Jungle Speed is a party game. Very easy to teach. Suitable for children too. Just don't be too rough when you try to grab the pole, which is easier said than done.

Me, Michelle and Chen Rui and the Jungle Speed totem pole.

Black Sheep was a game that Shee Yun requested for on our previous visit, because the box cover looked interesting to her. I think she just likes animals. I hadn't read the rules before. In fact I hadn't read much about the game at all. I didn't even know it was a Reiner Knizia game. The staff helping us didn't know the game either, so we didn't play it that time. This time I was prepared, having read the rules beforehand.

There are three fields at the centre of the table, and each is randomly seeded with two animals for players to compete for. Every time the animals are won by one of the players, two more will be randomly drawn from the available pool to replace them. This continues until some animal types (there are six) start to run out, and the fields get closed down. At game end, players score based on numbers (1 - 3) written underneath each animal (which you can't see during the game), and also for each full set of animals. Black sheep score negative points, but they are needed to make complete sets, so sometimes they are worthwhile.

Players compete for animals by playing cards onto their sides of the fields. Each side can accomodate up to 3 cards. The cards depict one of the six animal types, and the 3 cards played together with the 2 animals on the field combine to make poker-like hands. 5 of a kind beats 4 of a kind beats full house (3A2B) beats 3A beats 2A2B beats 2A. When the ranks are the same, individual animals are compared - horse beats cow beats pig beats sheep beats chicken beats black sheep. You have no control and limited fore-knowledge in the animals that turn up in the fields. You only have a hand size of three, and on your turn, you must play one or two cards to one field. There is some luck in the card draw and in the random animals that turn up. Often you need to decide which field to fight for and which to concede.

One of the fields at the centre of the table. The yellow barn player currently has a full house (3 pigs and 2 black sheep). The purple barn player must play another black sheep card if he wants to win these two animals, i.e. to make four of a kind. The red barn player has already played all three cards, and they can't beat the yellow barn player, so the cards have been turned face-down.

The player board, or farm, where you keep animals that you've won. The animals are lovely.

My animal cards.

My farm at game end. I only have one complete set. If I had another sheep, I would have two sets.

Black Sheep is suitable for children too, but probably not for those younger than 7, since there is a need to understand, evaluate and plan for poker-like card sets. The strategies and tricky decision-making may be beyond young children. I see Black Sheep as a light strategy game most suitable for older children and casual gamers. It has the cute factor. It is too light for hardcore gamers though.

All in all, a fun family outing to Meeples Cafe.

The children liked the fishballs at Meeples Cafe.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Undermining is a competition to mine various metals and gems to fulfill contracts. Everyone starts with a basic digger (it's a mining vehicle with some fancy name but I'll just call it a digger), which can be used to crush rocks, mine ore, and transport ore. As you collect ore, you can use it to fulfill contracts, which is basically scoring points, or you can use it to upgrade you digger, e.g. to be able to carry more ore, or move faster. What's tricky is earlier contracts are worth more points, so it can be a tough call how to use your initial ore.

There are buried alien artifacts which can be excavated. They give one-time special abilities. To activate them, and also to use any of your ore, you need to transport them to the refinery at the surface. So there is much going back and forth as you need to dig deeper and deeper for ore, especially because your digger has limited storage space. Portals scattered around the game board help a bit. You can do a portal-to-portal move as one action.

The game ends when one of the three stacks of contracts is exhausted. Completed contracts are worth points. So are digger upgrades, leftover ore and unused alien artifacts.

The diggers are cute. This was still early game, so we had not gone deep yet.

The player board representing your digger. I have done two upgrades, a thruster which lets me move further, and a drill which lets me drill more quickly. There are by default two storage compartments on your digger (lower right part), and mine are full at this moment. The central bit is my battery level.

The Play

I did a four-player game with Allen, Caleb and Silvia. First time for all of us. The game was quick to explain and straight-forward to learn. The available actions are easy to understand. The distribution of ore on the board and the ore combination to fulfill contracts are random, so there's variation from game to game. In our game, many of the early (and high-valued) contracts required green ore, so we were all rushing for that.

I was first to spend my initial ore mined on upgrades. It was helpful to have them. I could dig and move much faster. However it also meant I missed out on the early (i.e. lucrative) contracts. It was a constant race, to mine ore veins before others reached them and also to fulfill contracts.

It is possible to block others. Stopping on a portal space prevents others from using it. Blocking another's path forces him to spend batteries to move through you. You gain one battery by forfeiting an action. You can use two batteries to move through others or to take an extra action, which can be very handy at critical moments.

The game was over surprisingly quickly. I think our game was shorter than the 45 minutes stated on the box. And this was a first game for all of us. I must have done a good job teaching the game. Our scores were very close, with Allen winning at 27pts, and the rest if us scoring 26, 25, and 24.

The Thoughts

Undermining is a family game and a Euro game. It is a light strategy game. The game plays at a brisk pace. It is a constant race, to mine ore, to excavate alien artifacts, to grab upgrades, and to fulfill contracts. Only near end game it may bog down a little with players trying to optimise the final few turns.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Friday, 9 March 2012

boardgaming in photos

Warning: Spoilers related to Risk Legacy in this post.

17 Feb 2012. Once in a while I play Ra on the iPhone. It's a good implementation. Too bad the AI's are a bit weak. I scored 124pts in this particular game. I don't think I have ever scored more than 100 before.

18 Feb 2012. Risk Legacy again with Allen and Han, this time intentionally getting both the mutant faction (bright orange) and the alien faction (white) in play. Both these factions are hidden when you open the game, and only get introduced when certain conditions are met. The third faction we used was the Conclave of the Bear, which was the faction that collaborated with aliens in our previous game, so they also have some additional rules.

As the attacker I rolled three 6's, and still lost! AAAaaarrrgghh!!!

That black-and-white target-like space between South America and Africa is the alien base, and was pasted there by me in our previous game. The alien faction gains a bonus if it controls this space. I made it adjacent to Argentina, which has a very strong city that only Han can start in, in order to make Argentina more vulnerable to attacks. I also made it adjacent to Russia, because all the cities in Europe are Allen's, and I wanted to make Europe vulnerable too.

18 Feb 2012. Nightfall with the first two expansions. Making use of Wight Trash, which has a high attack value of 6, was not a good idea. I ended up painting a big fat target on myself because both Allen and Han perceived me as the biggest threat, and they always prioritised killing off any Wight Trash minions that I played.

20 Feb 2012. Although I like Innovation a lot, I have always been lukewarm towards Glory to Rome. Maybe it's the artwork. Maybe it's the slight similarity and thus inevitable comparison with Race for the Galaxy. However after a few recent plays, I'm starting to enjoy it more and starting to be able to strategise better.

24 Feb 2012. Ninjato played at OTK Cheras. On the left are the envoys of the blue clan whom I have bribed. The upper row are special skills I have learnt from the sensei, and treasures I have stolen / robbed. The lower row are elite guards I have defeated, and my fighting cards (card back).

This was the second play for me, and now that I have played a second time, I feel I should apologise to the designer for saying that the rumour scoring felt artificial and rather loosely integrated after my first game. The rumour scoring is important for players to cash-in treasures, and it can make the 2nd place position during the intermediate scoring rounds lucrative. In our game Allen fell behind in scores, but he switched to focus on rumour cards, including spending just enough effort to gain 2nd place during intermediate scoring rounds. By game end, he had a huge hand of rumour cards, because noone else had been systematically collecting them, and he scored about 45pts to overtake all of us and win the game. Who knew spreading gossip could be so deadly?

24 Feb 2012. My new high-score of 77pts for solo Roll Through the Ages on the iPhone. I don't quite remember how I did it. I was surprised when I saw the final score. It's still quite fun to play a quick game of this once in a while.

17 Feb 2012. Ticket to Ride on the iPhone. I think it was free when I downloaded it. Again, nice implementation, but weak AI's. The user interface is good. No problem playing it on the small screen of an iPhone.

27 Feb 2012. The Ticket to Ride AI's are so bad that they often cannot complete their tickets. In this particular game, the red AI scored negative! The AI's play style is not confrontational though, i.e. they won't try to intentionally block you (at least not that I noticed). They also won't try to hide their intentions (to avoid hostile blocking). Quite often I see them completing routes from both ends, leaving the incomplete middle bit vulnerable. When I play with Michelle, we don't play in a confrontational way either, so this style is fine with me.

2 Mar 2012. I've played Mage Knight quite a number of times now. This was Allen's second game. We picked a confrontational scenario which had many mage towers and keeps that we must conquer. They were the only source of victory points. Allen (elf on the left) came to one of my keeps with the intention of attacking it, so I (green dragon on the right) attacked him before he could do so. I rarely do player-to-player combat, and had to look up the rules as we played. Eventually I just pushed him away to a far corner of the board, since he didn't have any artifact I could rob.

For this scenario the game board is of a fixed shape, and the tile mix is also predetermined to include every mage tower and keep. Allen was unlucky with his exploration. When he conquered the mage tower and then the keep in the lower left corner, next to the two mountains, he further explored only to find his way blocked by a lake. He had to retrace his steps. So he had to spend much effort on movement, which slowed him down.

4 Mar 2012. I bought Tigris & Euphrates on the iPhone when it was discounted. I own the boardgame version of this Reiner Knizia masterpiece, but have never spent enough time on it to learn the strategies properly. Playing the iPhone version was a great way to learn the game and its basic strategies. I must say I have learnt a lot from the AI's.

I have also grown to appreciate the beauty and depth of this game. It is very confrontational. Often even one single move has many implications to be considered. The board position can change drastically, sometimes due to major wars, and yet also sometimes due to just one cleverly placed disaster tile. I must also say the game is very thematic. Your leaders need to worry about both external conflicts and internal usurpers. There are many tough decisions to make, e.g. do you build a monument for a steady VP stream and risk your nation being attacked after being weakened? In the first few games that I played, sometimes I won without really understanding what I did right. Now I have a slightly better idea, but I still feel there are higher skill levels I have not reached. What a wonderful and tense game!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Cave Evil

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Cave Evil is a squad-level combat game with an unusual theme. Players are necromancers summoning various monsters to form squads and fight for them. The battlefield is a network of tunnels, where three types of resources can be harvested - stone, gore and black fire. Resources are required to summon monsters. Sometimes wild monsters appear and may attack you. You can attack and recruit them too. You defeat your opponents by killing them in battle, or by conquering their home base. As the game progresses, there is a countdown towards the arrival of a super evil being. There are a few types, and they bring different effects to the game, possibly ending the game in yet another different way.

Some units can dig new tunnels, which will alter the game board, and also sometimes resources can be found. Monsters in the game are represented by cards. So are magic spells and equipment. Not all monsters can cast magic spells or use equipment though. Some monsters have unique abilities, printed on their cards.

The cards with red font are the placeholder cards for my squads. Players start with two squads, the necromancer's squad, and one other squad with a follower who can dig tunnels.

Combat is squad vs squad. Every monster has six combat stats arranged around a hex shape, with attacker and defender taking turns to pick a different stat to use. The numbers are added to a die roll (12-sided die, i.e. D12) and higher total wins. You need to win 2 out of 3 rolls to win the combat.

You start with a hand of cards, and every turn you draw a card. So you are somewhat limited by what you draw, and what random monsters appear near you that you can attempt to defeat and recruit. Necromancers, i.e. characters you play have different abilities and can lead to different strategies.

The artwork is a little disturbing and may cause nightmares if shown to children. The numbers along the hex behind each monster are their combat values.

The Play

Han and I did a 2-player game. I was luckier with my card draws and had pretty good monsters. Summoning them was a challenge though, because stronger monsters cost more resources to summon. I had one monster which simple gobbled up one smaller monster before every fight, which was handy.

The gameboard. The initial setup for our game was like this, a central chamber with six tunnels leading outwards to six different caves, and two of those were our bases. The little stand-up markers are our squads.

My necromancer. Handsome? It has big eyes. The game comes with a few for you to pick from, each being unique. Top left foot-bones icon is movement range. Hand-and-dagger is ability to weild tools. On the top right the 3 hooded figures mean this is a small sized monster. A squad may contain 3 small sized monsters, or 1 medium monster and 1 small monster, or 1 big monster by itself. The S-like icon means this monster can cast magical spells.

I expected big uncertainties, due to the use of a D12, but it turned out that the uncertainties were often small, because when we fought, the combat stats used had big gaps so only rather extreme die rolls would cause unexpected results. In fact some combats were deterministic because the strength differences were 12 or more.

At one point my monsters comfortably outnumbered Han's, and his monsters which were at the entrance to his lair were no match for mine if I wanted to barge in to conquer it and thus win the game. However I was cocky and became sloppy. His necromancer rushed towards mine, used his special ability to control one of my powerful squads, and then used it and all his available squads to swarm my necromancer. He killed me and won the game! Aarrgghh!!

The Thoughts

The most unique thing about Cave Evil is undoubtedly the dark and unnerving artwork. The theme is quite unusual. In comparison, Chaos in the Old World looks like a kumbaya-Euro. Gameplay-wise it actually feels like pretty standard fantasy fare, the squad based combat type. The ability to dig tunnels and collapse them is unique though, allowing the battle arena itself to change. There is a bit of luck in what cards you draw, but it is somewhat balanced by how better cards cost more to put in play anyway. This is an indie game, and components are so-so: paper game board and squad markers.

Box cover. It took me a while to realise there was writing on it. Those weird patterns on the top left are "CAVE EVIL".

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Plays: 2Px4.

The Game

Yomi is a 2-player fighting game where each fighter is represented by a deck of 54 cards, i.e. a standard card deck plus two jokers. The cards have much more information on them than normal playing cards. Every card has two possible uses and you must pick one when you play it. You can use a card to attack, to throw, or to block/dodge. Every turn both players simultaneously pick a card to play (and which half to use). Once the cards are revealed, attack beats throw, throw beats block/dodge, block/dodge beats attack. If both players play the same action, the card with a lower initiative value wins. So this is very much like rock-paper-scissors.

Each character starts with a certain health level. Whenever you successfully attack or throw your opponent, you injure him and deduct his health based on the strength of your card(s) played. You win the game if you reduce your opponent's health to zero.

Some cards let you string attacks. After your card beats your opponent's card, you may be able to play extra cards to deal more damage. This would reduce your hand size though, because at the end of your turn you always only draw one card. One way to increase hand size is by blocking successfully, because doing this lets you draw an extra card.

J, Q, K, A cards are powerful cards. Some of them when played in pairs, triplets or quads can deal a huge amount of damage. So there is incentive to try to fish those cards from your deck and then keep them for such combos. Stringing attacks lets you take powerful cards, so does discarding matching numbered cards. The latter can be risky though because you are significantly reducing your hand size and thus flexibility.

Characters are quite different, with different special abilities, unique attacks, initial health level and also distribution of card types (attacks, throws, blocks/dodges).

This is a Chinese version which Allen's cousin bought for him in China, but Allen doesn't read Chinese, so he gave the game to Han. The icons on the top right (and bottom left) corners of the cards represent how they can be used. Each card can be played in one of two ways, and the chosen icon should point forward when the card is played. The (top right) icons on these cards are Dodge, Block and Attack.

The small board on the left is for tracking health level. The card on the right is a character card, which shows the character's limitation when playing attack combos, the cards distribution of his deck, and also his special ability.

The Play

Having only played four games, I am still far from having a good grasp of the strategies. My initial impression is it is at the core a double-guessing game. There are factors and information affecting how you make the guesses, but ultimately win or lose depends on making the right guesses. You may not need to make more right guesses to win though, if you can make good use of those right guesses to deal a lot of damage.

As I play more I expect to discover and remember more tricks to make powerful combos. As players get familiar with the decks and develop their own play styles and approaches in playing each deck, there will be more and more basis for the double-guessing.

The Thoughts

I am rather lukewarm towards Yomi. Admittedly there is much more to explore, techniques to learn and advantages to exploit, but that feeling of playing rock-paper-scissors makes me feel a little uncomfortable. This is a game that requires repeated plays to truly learn and to appreciate. You need to learn how to utilize your character well, how to put together attack chains, so that you are not relying on making more right guesses than your opponent to win. If you can't get past that point, the game will feel like just glorified rock-paper-scissors, which I don't believe it is. You need to manipulate your hand of cards and stay flexible. You need to plan for both possibilities: If you lose, can you afford to waste that card? If you win, will you be able to follow-up with a chain attack? Will a big chain deplete your hand so much that you are left with almost no options?

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: restocking (at time of this post).