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[This review is crossposted to my personal review blog and BoardGaming.com.]
Yomi is an excellent competitive card game with a great theme, nice artwork, and the feel of a fighting game, but its high barrier of entry and relative steep cost might turn players off to the concept. Try playing at http://fantasystrike.com first.
Yomi is a two-player competitive card game that is meant to simulate a fighting game, such as Street Fighter or Tekken. The goal of the game is, quite simply, to reduce your opponent’s health to 0. The name ‘Yomi’ itself is Japanese for ‘reading’, as in reading the mind of your opponent, which is a skill especially important in high-level competitive play.
The game itself is played with any two decks of 54 cards; each deck represents a character and doubles as a standard deck of playing cards. Each card has two moves, one on the top end and one on the bottom. Thus, the hand that the player draws represents the actions they can take on their turn. There are ten decks in all.
The game’s main mechanic boils down to rock-paper-scissors. On each turn, each player puts down a card; this is the action they’re going to take this turn. Simultaneously, both actions are revealed, and the winner of that round of combat is determined. Without going too deep into the mechanics, attacks beat throws, which beat blocks and dodges, which beat attacks.
“But Akvo,” you may protest, “if this game is nothing but rock-paper-scissors and you can only put down what’s in your hand, where’s the strategic depth?” Well, my dear reader, curb your suspicions and doubts for the moment.
Each character’s deck is different. Some characters excel in stringing attacks together to deal heavy damage. Others are proficient at throwing but have less defense to make up for it. One character even relies on luck to throw the opponent off guard! (That one’s the panda.)
In other words, while rock-paper-scissors is a game where each option has equal merit, psychological choices aside, the attack-block/dodge-throw paradigm means that each option you choose has different strategic merit, with potential long-run repercussions.
The fact that the options you have are restricted to your hand also means that there’s another important aspect to the game–valuation, or being able to know which cards are important. Do you risk using a card to throw when it has a powerful side ability? Conversely, does your opponent’s discard pile indicate that he used most of his strong options? In my opinion, valuation is even more important to the game than reading (but to Sirlin’s credit, ‘Valuation’ would be a terrible name for a game.)
Both these concepts together make for a very fun game. But how are the actual components? The cards are nice and sufficiently glossy. They aren’t laminated like professional poker cards, but they certainly are very high-quality. The art on the cards is well-done as well, and are pretty darn nice to look at. I find that the boxes aren’t quite of the same quality–they’ve already been quite worn from keeping them in my backpack. I can’t comment on the extras the deluxe version contains.
Pricing is set to roughly $10/deck, which are sold in packs of two; the deluxe edition, which contains all 10 characters, a rulebook, and two playing mat with stones to mark life is $100. Since the game is independently published, it might be difficult to find it in a brick-and-mortar store. I’m told that the import price can also be a bit hefty.
Perhaps the most negative thing I can say about this game is that its learning curve is steep. It will take you many, many games to have the game finally ‘click’ for you; otherwise, it will seem a bit like, well, rock-paper-scissors. It might be difficult to convince a friend to play if he’s not willing to invest enough games; it’s downright frustrating if they dismiss it as ‘just rock-paper-scissors’ and refuse to play anymore.
Considering the steep disconnect between starting out and finally understanding the depth of the game, I recommend playing on the Fantasy Strike website, where you can play online for free with a weekly rotation of ‘free-to-play’ characters. This is probably the best way to try and see how it’s like; after all, $100 is a lot of money.
All in all, I find Yomi to be an excellent competitive card game. It mixes a good blend of strategy and luck to keep it exciting, and it fits with the theme and world. The art is pretty, the cards are relatively well-built, and it really does feel like a fighting game. However, its steep learning curve might turn casual gamers off to it.