Next of Ken, Volume 5: Yomi in Review, and a gaggle of kids' game reviews

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A little less fluff today as this is a review of Yomi and finally my short piece on some recent gaming with the kids.  Enjoy!

I am the maker of rules, Dealing with fools, I can cheat you blind

Alright, now that some copies of Yomi's dexlue edition are making their way back into the channel, I figured it was a good time to (finally!) offer my review.

yomi_boxshot5_largeFor the uninitiated, Yomi is a game that simulates an arcade fighting game such as Street Fighter, but using pre-built decks of cards for each character to do battle with.  The game is founded on a Rock/Paper/Scissors engine that will make sense to anyone who has ever played a fighting game.  Attacks beat Throws...Throws beat Dodges/Blocks...and Blocks/Dodges beat Attacks.  Players take turns simultaneously choosing their current move, the cards are revealed, and the winner's card takes effect, usually in damage.  Each character has their own life total, and once that's reduced to zero, it's KO, or game over, man.

Now, on first blush, that doesn't sound like much of a game, especially at a $100 MSRP.  "You just play glorified Rock/Paper/Scissors?"  Well...yes, and no.


Imagine playing a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors, but where if you win with Rock, you get to win the next two trade-offsautomatically, or if you win with Paper your opponent can't play Scissors next turn, or if you were someone whose Scissors could actually *beat* your opponent's Scissors.  Even then that's a tragic oversimplification, as now turn that around and realize that some of your Rock choices have game-altering actions that may give you an advantage but limit your ability to play Rock for a turn or two.




Because each character has their own finely tuned deck, they all play completely differently.  Some, like Setsuki, are awesome at playing lots of Attacks that have good speed, and should she empty her hand, her character power is that she can draw four more cards next turn.  In fighting game parlance, this is called a "rushdown" character, one who spams attacks at you rapidly and just keeps on coming.  Contrast that to the stoic Rook, who packs tons of surprisingly fast Throws that do massive amounts of damage, and who also has Blocks who can turn an opponent's attacks back against themselves.


This means that playing against each character feels radically different, and more importantly, playing *as* each characterGeiger_37requires a different set of skills.  Valerie can combo Attacks more fluidly and even more easily than Setsuki, but she has a much harder time refilling her hand.   Argagarg loves to turtle and block, allowing his natural Hex ability to do its damage, but against foes who can throw early and often, he'll have to adjust his strategies accordingly.


If you're a Street Fighter fan, it's important to note that several years ago as David Sirlin began to playtest this game, it was originally themed as Street Fighter.  While he's since come up with is own proprietary universe and characters, some of the flavor of the original Street Fighter cast is still in there.  Grave Stormborn is an obvious Ryu clone, and even has a Dragon Punch, Fireball, and Hurricane Kick-style attack.  Geiger began life as Guile, and his Time Spiral attacks are based on different speed Sonic Booms, while his Flash Gear is a high-priority fast attack that apes Guile's Flash Kick.


The deluxe edition of Yomi may be a bit pricey, but it's a gorgeous production.  All 10 character decks are packed in a large, sleek black box, and each deck has its own deck box with the awesome anime-inspired art of one of their super moves on the back.  The art team for Yomi was lead by Long Vo, an artist who has done a lot of work for the Street Fighter series, so the flavor of the artwork is appropriate and more importantly, top notch.  Some of the art on the super moves in particular is just jaw-droppingly good, if you're into that style of art (I am, big time.)


yomi_contents1_web_grande_copyYou also get two roll-out playing mats that feature some of the same high-quality artwork.  One has Grave and Rook locked in a titanic struggle, while the other features some cheesecake with Jaina and Val about to clash as flames spiral all around them.  There are life tracks on each playmat and small beads included for players to mark their life values.  At first the playmats seem unnecessary, but I've found them to be great at keeping a player's area organized, but more importantly allowing you to play on any table you like, using the surface of the mats to protect the cards and keep them cleaner.


The cards themselves are not quite Bicycle playing card quality, but unlike those who have voiced concern over their sturdiness, I've found them to be very durable.  You can riffle shuffle them, you can bend them without them instantly creasing, and they're all in all just good quality stock.  You can sleeve them if you're so inclined, but the only bad part is that once sleeved, they'll no longer fit in their custom deckboxes, and you'll have to remove the insert of the deluxe edition to put them in there properly.  At $100, I can understand someone wanting to protect their investment as it were, but I'm telling you unless you are just reckless with your cards, worries about the quality of the card stock are pretty unfounded.

My verdict?  I like this game.  A lot.  It's one of the best I've had the privilege of playing so far this year.  There's a real reward for repeat play, something that I think has become a lost art in the "gotta try the next thing" mentality of our hobby sometimes.  You'll need probably a half-dozen plays before you really begin to figure out what's going on, and learning how to play each character can present its own set of challenges.

There's a real psychology in this game too, something that I enjoy.  Once you get locked into a "read" on your opponent and predict their next three moves, there's a real visceral rush and thrill.  Likewise, as an opponent locks into a read on you, you'll be sweating profusely trying anything and everything to shake that read.  There's a real back and forth like any good fighting game, and you'll see your share of dramatic endings--such as waiting for your opponent to get too aggressive to finish off your last bit of health but you catch them flat-footed with a massively damaging super move.  That makes me laugh and smile every time it happens, even when I'm on the receiving end.


Yeah, I know the full set is expensive.  But there are plenty of other options, including two-pack decks for $25, and a Print-and-play option for $15.  Even so, if you've ever played a CCG, you know that $100 for 10 fully playable tourney-level decks is a good value for the money, and there is a *lot* of gameplay inside that box.

Here's a great video that Sirlin made showing the contents of Yomi Deluxe.  You can judge for yourself as to the quality of the contents.



That makes Sirlin Games 3 for 3 with me.  Flash Duel is quick but deceptively strategic fun, Puzzle Strike is still one of the best deckbuilding games around period, and Yomi is its own blend of fighting game bliss.  This one's a perfect score from me.  I like it so much, in fact, that it is threatening to crowd out Puzzle Strike as my favorite Sirlin game.  That's really, really saying something.


My only complaint now is that since I'm rather attached to these characters, I'm ready for the actual fighting game, dammit!  Bring it on already!



You hear me, I put a spell on you



Gaming with kids can be a terribly difficult bag for a hobbyist gamer.  I think I saw someone on BGG sum it up succinctly at why we're terrible at picking out "good" games for our kids, or ones that they enjoy--because we hone in on games that we as parents and gamers can tolerate instead of those that are ones they'd actually like to play.


To that end, I've tried hard to make sure that I'm not making that mistake.  While I love gaming, I'm not trying to force it on my kids...I have no agenda, none of this "get them to play the RIGHT games" mentality that's far, far too pervasive in our hobby.  That's not to say I don't try and be selective--I hate Candyland as much as the next guy--but I strive to really gauge how much my children are enjoying something, and try to keep an eye on games that are fun for everyone and are more than just "Daddy likes this, and I *think* you can play it."

I've been wrong before, of course, and I'll likely be wrong again.  Take Reiner Knizia's Fish Eat Fish, for example.  I found thisfisheatfish on clearance at Barnes and Noble and knew my kids would like the little plastic fish pieces.  Fish Eat Fish is about using a hand of cards and your growing stacks of fish to eat the other players, adding them to your stack as you go.  Everyone has a hand of cards with varying numbers ranging to 5, as well as two octopi cards and a shark card.  The combat is one that Reiner has used before, in that you have your pile of fish having a value (3 stacked fish = 3 points of strength) and you and the attacked player simultaneously play one of your cards and add that to your total.  The rub is that an octopus card will negate the battle, and the shark will instantly win the fight (though it can't beat the octopus.)  Once you use a card, it's gone, much like Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation but without the card generation.


Anyway, it's a pretty fun game.  I'm a fan of the whole bluff/double-guessing simultaneous card play.  The pieces are cut little fish guys, and there's even a completely superfluous resin painted starfish that is merely used to show where the current battle is taking place.


The problem is that although it looks like a kids' game, it really, really isn't.  I mean, at least in the sense where a parent is actually engaged and "trying" to play without mindlessly throwing the game, although I recognize that as a valid way to play.  The problem is that kids haven't really learned the double-guess.  They will therefore always go with the obvious play, even if they know that by recognizing the obvious play, their opponent will negate what they've done.  This means that the Shark will make an appearance early and often, followed by the Octopi, then down through the numbered cards.

Does that invalidate it as a game for kids, though?  That's a tough call.  Again, I recognize that you can "take it easy" on your kids when you play--you shouldn't insultingly through the game by making dumb moves in an obvious fashion, but you don't have to go full bore on them.  What are you going to do, leap from your chair and brag how you SCHOOLED these kids?  Of course not.  At least, I hope not.

It makes me wonder, then, if the best kids' games should either be memory or dexterity based, if they're to be ones that you as a parent can feel as though you can play your best, but the children can still hang in there.  Also, you can more slyly mask "bad" memory or missed moves in a dexterity game, should the need arise to equalize the game so your kids are having fun.


tier_auf_tier_das_duell-boxAs for dexterity games, we've recently played Tier Auf Tier: Das Duell, which is a German version of the popular Animal Upon Animal series.  In this game, you have two dice and four oddly shaped animals.  One player rolls the dice.  The larger die shows what animal must be on bottom of the tower, the smaller one shows what animal must be on top.  You must build them in a tower fashion, so each animal can only touch the one on top or bottom of it.  Complicating all of this is the fact that the animals are all irregularly shaped; the Octopus in particular can be troublesome, especially if he has to be the top tower piece.


The first player to complete their stack as rolled wins a point; first to three wins the game.  Seriously, the whole thing takes maybe five minutes for a duel.  Like potato chips, you won't stop at just one duel, and the kids are frequently going to be chanting, "more! more!"


Our kids have gone simply *nuts* over this game.  You get to roll dice, you get to stack TierAufTierGameplayanimals, and they laugh when daddy's pile crashes and cheer when they get their own pile complete.  Also, since they are so focused on what they're doing, they're not going to notice if you 'accidentally' topple your stack to get a laugh out of them, or if you're moving juuuust a hair slower than you normally would.


Another recent purchase in the dexterity vein was Bisikle.  Bisikle is a "flicky" race game like Pitchcar, only imagine a weighted ball instead of a disc and sturdy plastic racecar track instead of Pitchcar's cardboard.  You set up the track, using hills, a small tunnel, and a jump ramp.  Then, each player takes turns flicking the ball around the track and marking their progress with the included plastic bicyclists.  First one to complete the circuit wins.  Pretty simple.


There are a few things that are really cool about Bisikle.  First is the weighted ball I mentioned.  There are some sort of smaller, metal balls inside the Z-ball, and this gives it an odd spin and unexpected inertia.  Because of this, it can do things like curve on its path, and even stop on a hill--this will be very cool the first time you see it do this.


The other thing is the price.  I've always wanted a Pitchcar set, but those seem to start at $50 or more.  I found Bisikle on for $30, and you can buy more track for it very cheaply should the need arise.


Bisikle is also funny because we are all really terrible at it.  Mastering the proper flicks is tough, and without a liberal use of the included guard rails, you will be sailing off curves and overshooting straightaways like crazy.  Use too many guardrails though and you start to feel like you're bowling on bumper-bowling night, which isn't cool.


If you're in the market for a good dexterity game for your kids, I definitely recommend either Tier auf Tier: Das Duell or Bisikle.


SoleMioLast on this week's tour of game recommendations for kids would be either Mamma Mia! or Sole Mio!  These are card/memory games where each player is putting ingredients and recipes on the stack, trying to use their memories to know when they have enough on the pile to finish an order.


Mamma Mia!/Sole Mio! is one of those games that can be tough to explain, but becomes immediately obvious how to play once you've gone through one scoring round.  During a gameplay round, everyone is adding cards to the pile.  Then, once it's time to score, you flip that pile over and turn cards over one at a time, putting similar ingredients into their respective piles.  When a recipe is revealed, if there are enough face-up ingredients revealed to complete it, the pizza is scored.  There are other wrinkles such as playing stuff from hand to complete them as well as in Sole Mio being able to ask for "help", but that's the gist of the gameplay.  Two or three rounds depending on which of the two games you're playing, and at the end the player who has completed the most recipes wins.


The best part of this game in terms of its appeal to kids is going to be familiar to readers of this site--and that's the theme.  For most of us, the theme is everything...and what child doesn't like pizza?!?  The kids love watching the recipes come together, laugh when they steal the pepperoni that you needed for your upcoming order, and the best part is that their sometimes random play can be beneficial to them as cards come together in ways you don't expect.


These are all cheap games to come by, for the most part.  Sole Mio! and Mamma Mia! are sub-$10 card games.  Fish Eat Fish I found on clearance but even then is less than $20--though I do think it's one for older kids who won't be turned off by the cutesy fish theme.  Tier Auf Tier: Das Duell I got someone to throw on a trade for a song, even though it's imported it's cheap and I've seen it at some of the U.S.-based online retailers.  Bisikle was the costliest at $30, but it's a big, heavy package with plenty of track configurations out of the box and is far cheaper than a lot of popular alternatives such as Pitchcar or Tumblin' Dice.

And that'll do it for this week.  Thanks for reading!   See ya in seven.

Ken is a member of the Fortress: Ameritrash staff. Click here for more board game articles by Ken.

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