I really appreciate board games that do a great job of marrying their mechanics and theme together into one cohesive experience. Some of my favourite games that deliver on this include Formula D and Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game. The former provides players with a cool sensation of racing through dice, while the latter creates a dramatic battle of good versus evil through the now-ubiquitous deck building mechanic. Originally designed as an officially licensed Street Fighter card game, Yomi aims to do something similar by translating the fighting game experience through cards. Does it deliver on that promise?
Like a standard fighting game, Yomi is built around one-on-one combat. The complete first edition comes with 10 different characters, which are represented by 10 different decks. Each deck comes with an assortment of attacks, blocks, dodges, special moves, super moves and jokers. Also, each character has different abilities, strengths and weaknesses; all of which you must account for during your match. If you’re familiar with fighting game character archetypes, it won’t be hard to find a character that fits your play style. Inside the box, you’ll also get two large play mats and four gems that are used to track health. I’m very impressed with the build quality on the cards and mats, as the cards are made with a nice and thick stock, while the play mats are essentially large mouse pads that will stand the test of time.
At a base level, fights play out like Rock Paper Scissors. Each combat phase involves players putting one card face down on the table and revealing them at the same time. It is at this point where the winner of the phase is determined. When attacks or throws are landed, they inflict damage to the recipient. Finally, when someone has no more health left, the person still standing wins.
Using the Rock Paper Scissors mnemonic brings with it a number of benefits. For one, it’s easy for newcomers to grasp the core gameplay loop. Two, once you get it, the actual gameplay flows very quickly. Against a player who has come to grips with the rules, matches can be completed in 5-15 minutes. Most importantly, Yomi‘s core combat rules are the same as those found in a real fighting game, which further adds to its accessibility and enjoyment for fighting game fans.
If this were simply Rock Paper Scissors, battles would boil down to largely-random duels. However, there a myriad of factors at play that will weigh your decisions at every step. For instance, individual character strengths and weaknesses become a huge part of the decision-making process. Setsuki, who is a sprightly ninja, relies heavily on her fast attacks and her ability to string together large combos. However, she doesn’t hit particularly hard with her individual attacks, and she doesn’t take a punch very well. Rook, on the other hand, is basically a tank that can sometimes plow right through his opponent’s offensive flourishes. While this can make him a formidable foe, his opposition can easily exploit his inability to dodge and penchant for grapple moves. With factors like this in play, it’s in your best interest to think about how to get the most out of your character while exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses and tendencies. Beyond character attributes, there are so many other factors to consider that go a long way towards keeping the action exciting and thought-provoking.
There are additional mechanics layered in that really bring out the fighting game feel. When an attack or throw successfully lands, it oftentimes opens the door for you to execute a combo with follow-up cards for big damage. Players on the losing end of the initial exchange don’t have to sit there and take it though, as there are ways to break a combo as it’s happening. If you knock someone down, it opens the door for mix-up attacks, which act like cross-ups in actual fighting games. As you’re working your way through your deck, the fighting game mechanics really come through to make for a game that captures the essence of Street Fighter.
Learning the basics can be done in a matter of minutes for players of all skill levels, though understanding the more advanced rules and mastering the game can be a very deep rabbit hole. However, for fighting game fans like me, the game’s complexities and the way that it rewards you for mastering them play right into why I love the genre. If you really want to get crazy, the latest rulebook even contains variants for 2v2 or 3v3 with a Marvel vs. Capcom inspired assist moves.
Yomi does a masterful job of bringing the fighting game experience to the tabletop. It’s enjoyable for newcomers to play at a base level while offering a ton of depth and replay value for those who want to play it seriously. I love this game and I’m constantly looking for more opportunities to play it. By design, it doesn’t work that well for your average game night, but if you’re looking to stat up your own tabletop fight club, this makes for an ideal battleground.