I have a soft spot for fighting games. The first video game I ever played was Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior for the SNES. I played it with my dad on Christmas morning, the console and the game were my big Christmas gift that year. My cousins and I would spend hours on it for years and eventually I got good.
I always wanted a game that captured the cat and mouse tactics of fighting games, the careful balance you have to strike between offensive and defensive tactics. Yomi has captured that sense better than I thought any card game ever could. Funny enough, it was developed by one of the people behind Street Fighter.
This game has a similar premise to many fighting games. There is a tournament hosted by a villain, or what seems to be a villain, and people come from different walks of life in an attempt to win glory, riches, or whatever their backstory compels them to seek. Although this game has a plot line, like many fighting video games, the story is put in the backburner. The action is all that really matters.
Yomi is at its heart a fighting and does a spectacular job of adapting a lot of the intricacies of fighting video games to card format. More importantly, the name of the game suggests the key principle of the game. Yomi refers to the ability to predict your opponent’s next move, to read the subconscious patterns that players fall into when playing fighting games. This game rewards those who have this skill, and the cards reflect this in the different characters and their special abilities.
If you’ve ever played rock-paper-scissors, then you’ll understand how the three (technically four) card types stack up in relation to one another (attack-block-throw/dodge instead). It did take me a few read throughs of the rulebook to understand some of the more complex aspects of the game. Take for example interrupts, a concept taken from video games, some moves let you break out of an opponent’s combo and start your own. In this game, it’s represented by playing a Joker (or bluffing your opponent into believing you’re playing a Joker). This mechanic may be easy to explain, but pulling it off legally during a game is a little harder.
There’s a lot of things for a player to consider during the game: hand size, move speed, attack form, combo length, deck searching, etc. Although the gameplay is easy to understand, mastering the game will take time. Again, a fighting game is an appropriate comparison. You can play the game just smashing the buttons, but higher caliber competition will require time and practice. In other words, the game is easy to play but will require time to enjoy.
Arts and Pieces
Fighting games usually have super stylized art. Men have an impossible number of muscles and women are clad in impractical clothing. Some characters break this trend in all franchises, but for most part this is the rule. This game is no different.
I am not a huge fan of the art in this game. Most times it invokes clichés of the fighting game genre, take the young ninja girl for instance. As much as her colorful hair makes her stand out, she is wearing clothes that would hamper an actual ninja. This is seen in other fighting games as well; Taki in the Soul series wears skin tight clothing, and the Dead or Alive franchise has more than a few examples of this trope. I wish Yomi would be more imaginative with their character design.
I like that each deck could function as a regular deck of cards. The board is standard tabletop game cardboard and the health counters are cheap plastic. The cards are made of durable stock, which should be the case considering the game will constantly ask you to shuffle the deck.
A game can take as little as five minutes or up to twenty in my experience. It really depends on the players, how comfortable they are with the rules, and how skilled a player is at deducing their opponent’s next move. You can easily play a best out of three match in an hour, again mimicking the best of three format in fighting video games. It can provide a decent amount of fun for fans of fighting games, perhaps less so for casual players.
Yomi’s biggest flaw is how expensive it can be. The Round 1 and Round 2 box sets come with four decks each, each deck representing a different character, and would cost anywhere between $20 to $40 dollars online a box. The game still has an additional 12 characters you can use and each separate deck costs about $10. A fighting game’s appeal comes from its diverse roster of characters and this game does not make it easy to find new characters. The game should allow you to fiddle around with characters until you find one that matches your play style. It’s the first step in any other fighting game, and in many ways, it is the most enjoyable since it is the purest form of discovery in this genre.
The game is way too expensive to play in paper format. You can buy the game in the Itunes app store or on Steam for ten dollars and it comes with ten characters. Buying the last ten characters is just an additional ten dollars. It’s sad that a fighting game that can be played as a tabletop is more accessible, and frankly more fun, as a video game.