You ever think that poker needed more dragons, pandas, and punches to the face? Then Yomi is for you! Yomi means “reading” in Japanese. Like poker, the most important element of Yomi is not luck but your ability to read your opponent’s tells. It is psychological torture in the best of ways. Yomi: Fighting Card Game comes from the Fantasy Strike series of tabletop games. It uses the same cast of characters for all of its games. It is very colorful and if you’re a fan of anime, they are all worth checking out.
To say Yomi is like a combination of poker and Rock-Paper-Scissors would be a gross understatement of the game’s subtle complexities, but really is how the game works. Instead of getting a straight, it’s a combo, and instead of paper, rock or scissors, you have attack, throw, and dodge/block.
That’s the most basic summation of the game, but all of the characters break the mold somehow. Each comes with a special ability at base and unique effects on some of their cards. One character can play cards in any order to perform a combo, while another can use a successful block to search for a Queen if they reveal a card to their opponent, and play it next turn. There’s even a Panda Gambler named Lum Bam-Foo that gets a random effect based on discarding the card at the top of your deck.
Almost all the characters seem quite viable to me. Some have abilities that might be a little better than others, but really it comes down to preference. The only two I had problems with are Rook and Argagarg. They felt awkward to play, with abilities that require you to play far more defensively than what will seem fun to most people.
Art: 9 out of 10
There’s a lot of gorgeous art in this game. The designs of each card convey information very well, so they’re easy to process and are very explanatory. My biggest complaint is that the character cards don’t match the high quality art of the rest of the cards. Some don’t even look quite like the same character featured in the rest of the art. It hurts me not to give it a 10 out of 10 because one of my favorite cards of all-time is Lum Bam-Foo, the gambling panda, throwing a flurry of many, miniature pandas that are all wearing little outfits.
Seriously, this one of the best images in world ever. EVER.
Clarity: 8 out of 10
The combination of Rock-Paper-Scissors and poker makes this game easy to understand. It might be a little harder to get if you don’t know poker, but compared to all the other recent card games out there, this one is by far the easiest to pick up and play with a good understanding even if it takes playing a few games to get the deep intricacies of each character.
While not as varied as a game like Magic: The Gathering, which gets into astronomical numbers in regards to variety, it is easier to just sit down and play. You don’t have to worry about deck customization because there isn’t any. You just pick a character and go. With so many characters to choose from and fight against, I doubt it would get old anytime soon. If you take into consideration the fact that each card includes two ways to play it, it’s more like each deck has over 100 cards to play. If you stick with the same two character decks fighting against one another, the games might blur together after awhile, but some of the best fun is had in refining your approach with those specific characters.
Innovation: 8 out of 10
There’s a well known card game called the Universal Fighting System that includes tons of well-known video game brands like Street Fighter and Soul Calibur. Yomi takes influences from these kinds of video games, but it based on a completely unique world. Combining poker and Rock-Paper-Scissors may not seem very original, but the execution works out perfectly and is incredibly accessible.
Appeal: 5 out of 10
This game probably appeals best to those who enjoy fighting games as either a spectator or a player. Even if you aren’t any good at them, playing Yomi is an accurate emulation that you might end up being a lot better at. If you dislike fighting games, I can’t imagine you’d really want to play Yomi. The colorful characters might pull certain people in, or even fans of anime. But if someone enjoys something like Dragonball Z, they probably enjoy fighting games anyway.
Assembly: 10 out of 10
Like most card games, there isn’t much in the way of parts. Cards are easy to keep track of because the back is unique to each character deck. The Collector’s Edition of Yomi comes with some lovely damage counters and a couple of mats to keep track of health.
Fun: 10 out of 10
Few games let you get into your opponent’s mind like Yomi. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re on a bad streak with your opponent always outguessing you, but you really have to think ahead and look for an opening to get in that one big attack or combo. The psychological aspect of this game is what stands out and helps put it up there with Magic: The Gathering.
Verdict: Buy it New!
I think the best way to experience this is the Collector’s Edition, which will set you back about $100. You get all ten decks, a nice box to hold all of them in, four damage counters, and two beautiful game mats to play the game on. If that seems a bit too steep for you (which is very understandable), you should try to get the character decks for Grave, Jaina, Setsuki, and Valerie. Personally they were my favorites, and Grave and Jaina are generally sold in a pre-packaged pair. You can get two decks for around $25.
If you’re still on the ropes about buying it before trying it, Sirlin Games has a great solution to let you try out a demo. Go here and give the online version a try. It doesn’t quite compare to the fun of playing the real thing, but it can still give you a decent idea if you would like it or not. If you’re willing to put some work into it, there’s a $15 PDF here that features all the decks that you can cut out and piece together.
Yomi is game of psychic robbery. Based on a player’s previous tactics, the current state of who has the edge, and the knowledge of what their character’s special abilities are, you can strongly intuit what your opponent may do next. But they might be thinking about what you might be thinking and go the opposite route. There’s so much weird double and triple-negative thinking, you’ll start to believe Inception is real and your opponent went on a mind-heist to implant the idea of your next move. That or the episode of Friends where everyone finds out about Chandler and Monica. Whichever analogy works best for you.
Source of images: Sirlin Games.
Yomi: Card Fighting Game comes from Sirlin Games. This review is based on a complimentary copy of Yomi: Complete First Edition from Game Salute. Go to www.gamesalute.com/store to purchase Yomi, all Sirlin Games products, and a variety of other tabletop games by independent game designers.