If you want to play a nice, simple, game of Monopoly, Uno, or even King of Tokyo, you may wish to bypass this review. All of those are great games, and deserve to be played, but Yashima is a different breed of game. It is by no means an intrinsically difficult game, but it will take a bit of time to learn, and certainly gets more fun when you can play it more.
Let’s start out with the rulebook, all 18 full sized pages of it. This can be daunting, and the first group that I looked at playing with it voted it down as a result. But when I managed to get the right group together, it was worth the effort and there are a number of pages that are simply back story and flavour. The mechanics of play are actually very simple. You have an individual deck of cards (more on that later) which is used for everything. The health you have remaining, the karma you can spend to take actions, and most the actions themselves, all stem from your battle deck. You have a miniature representing you on the map. Lastly you have the tile based map you play on. You play until you are the last person standing, without having been killed and restored to life. Simple.
Where things get tricky is in the details. There are a lot of important concepts and keywords that you need to know, or a least know to look up. The rulebook gives a great explanation of these concepts, as well as a glossary and index to help reference back to them during play.
The second tricky thing is probably not something the average player is going to learn by just cracking the box. Remember those individual battle decks I mentioned? Well to get that deck each player first picks a Master. This is the character you will control during the game, each with it’s own unique abilities and strategies. Once you have your Master, you will select a Kami. Kami are the spirits of nature, again with their own individual abilities and strategies. Once you have selected both Master and Kami you take those separate battle decks and shuffle them together. But wait, it gets better! You don’t JUST end up with two smashed up decks of cards, many Kami cards have an ability called Adapt. They quiet literally take on different powers and abilities, based on the Master they are paired with. This is a really interesting concept and adds another layer of strategy to the game, while also giving more strategic consistency to playing any given Master.
Once you get into the game, and past needing to double check verbiage, it was a lot of fun. The base set allows for 2-4 players to compete with both individual and team battle rules. By adding in the three expansions, or an additional base set, you can play with up to eight players.
If I had to find a “flaw” in the game it would be some of the components. The art is amazing and beautiful, but doesn’t always mesh flawlessly. The terrain tiles often have elements such as roads or rivers that traverse a tile, but don’t actually connect to anything. The cards feel a touch light, which could impact the lifespan of the game. The miniatures were very well sculpted, but have the common issue of smaller weapons getting bent. Really none of those things impact game play at all, and are more about me being a picky game snob.
Over all, this is a game I would enjoy playing more than I will be able to, given the size and/or temperament of some of the groups I play with. I would be very interested in picking up the expansions down the line to solve the first part of that problem, however.
You can learn about Greenbrier Games online at: http://www.greenbriergames.com
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