Game Buzz: Yamataï

Today’s preview covers a game that should be coming out in May called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Yamataï is a new game by designers Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien that is going to be published by Days of Wonder.  It’s for 2-4 players and takes between 40 and 80 minutes to complete.  Every builder in the kingdom of Yamataï has been charged by Queen Himiko to build up the kingdom into the jewel of the archipelago.  Your goal is to be the best builder.

The game comes with a board, four player mats, six turn order meeples, 80 wooden boats, 10 fleet tiles, 28 building tiles, 7 mountain tiles, 34 culture tokens, 8 sacred ground tiles, 73 coins, 24 prestige point tokens, and 18 specialist tiles.  To set up, five specialist tiles are revealed, as well as five fleet tiles.  Culture tokens are randomly distributed across the board with mountains placed under the appropriate ones.  Each player gets a meeple in their color (two with two players), ten coins, a player mat, and 6-10 standard buildings (according to the number of players).  Meeples are shuffled and placed randomly above the fleet track to determine turn order.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Following turn order, players will perform the following six steps on their turn:

CHOOSE A FLEET TILE: Take one of the visible fleet tiles, as well as the ship(s) indicated on it.  These are stored on your mat.  Each fleet tile gives you a special power, which can be used at any point on your turn.  However, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

TRADE: Here, you can choose to buy or sell one boat for the price listed on your board.  This is an optional action.

PLACE BOATS ON THE BOARD: In this phase, you can place boats you have collected on the board.  Boats must be connected.  This step is also optional.

COLLECT CULTURE TOKENS OR BUILD: You get one culture token for each boat you placed on the board.  Culture tokens are taken from adjacent islands.  Alternatively, you could choose to build.  For this, take a visible building and place it on an island that is adjacent to boats of the colors indicated on the tile.  This will get you money and prestige.

PLACE REMAINING BOATS ON YOUR MAT: Any boats you did not use are placed on your mat.  You can save one for a future turn, but any others will lose you two points per boat at the end of the game.

RECRUIT A SPECIALIST: You can spend two identical culture tokens to get a specialist, which will give you special abilities and remain with you until the end of the game.

Once all players have taken their turn, any specialists not taken get two coins, and taken specialists are replaced.  You’ll also refill the building display and fleet tiles, as well as adjust turn order based on the fleet tile number you played.

The end of the game is triggered when a player places their last standard building, one boat color is gone, the specialist track can’t be refilled, or the building row can’t be refilled.  You’ll do a final scoring, and the player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user gundabad (prototype art)
image by BGG user gundabad (prototype art)

I’m of a mixed feeling on this one so far.  On the one hand, Bruno Cathala games are pretty solid.  On the other, I’m not getting a super exciting vibe from this one.  It seems to be mostly about arranging boats to get the right buildings.  That’s puzzly, and I like that, but I don’t know how much other people can screw up your plans.  I’m guessing quite a bit.  It’s definitely one I’ll have to try before coming to any sort of judgment (as I suppose all games should be).

Thanks for reading!

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