Contributor, Benny Sperling, takes a look at Tasty Minstrel Games’ recent Kickstarter delivery: Yokohama.
Yokohama was one of the first Japanese ports opened to foreign trade in 1859, which is where our story picks up. You are heading one of four companies in the import/export business now that the ports are open. Your goal: get the most prestige for your company. This means collecting assistants, building shops and trade buildings, and crafting orders. Easy enough.
To be fair, most experienced gamers will feel Yokohama is easy to pick up and play. The rule book is decent enough, though a little bit of clarity could be provided on the Foreign Agents. They can be used exactly once and when they are flipped over they are not of any use the rest of the game unless an Achievement card uses them. There is a great player aid on BGG.
Let’s stroll into this game then; as the President, you are tasked with doing something every round. That means sending your assistants out as a group to 1 location or spreading up to 3 of them across up to 3 locations. The locations represent ports, manufacturing, trade, church, bank, and employment. As the President, you are following the path your assistants have laid out for you, or you can bugger off back to your office and come back to any location with at least one assistant on the following round. This is important to gameplay as you cannot be on the same location as another President and you have to pay them to move through the location they are on. Strategic planning of placement of these assistants is key to the game.
The locations, especially in a 4 player game, seem endless, but not so, you are often trying to access locations your opponent’s President is sitting on. Going last is not a benefit in this game. In part this reminded me of Istanbul (AEG). Although instead of dropping assistants off to eventually land on a tile, you are moving the President to a location and taking all of the assistants off to perform an action. The number of assistants (up to 5) will let you do bigger and bigger actions. If you can manage a 4 or 5 power (President + assistant(s) + shop + trading house) will let you play shops or trading houses for further benefit. Other locations like the Church and Research let you add in Import goods or money to increase your power and get more effects for those spaces.
This game is big on the table, there are a lot of bits. There is also a lot going on. Expect those AP-prone friends of yours to get stuck on decisions such as placing the assistants out on the locations. Just about everything can be worth points also, though your end game triggers are most likely going to be Customs (Import goods) and Church. This takes assistants out of the game and puts them in key positions of influence for you (prestige points). This is a point salad to be sure and most moves you make will get you some sort of points eventually. Completing contracts is points and sometimes import goods and crafting technology gets you points. These combined can get you a Foreign Agent if you can match 2 country symbols.
Deep breath, this game has a lot of moving parts. A LOT. So many. It’s really quite magnificent when you start to see the paths and how the parts interact with each other though.
One more big point. Do NOT miss the symbol for the warehouse. Players have a player board (warehouse) with their additional assistants on it plus their shops and trade houses. It is very easy to ignore this symbol. Whatever you do, do not ignore it. This is the only way to get your trade houses (plus payment in coins) and additional shops (plus payment in coins). The way this game flows you may feel like you are rolling along and can grab those shops any time when you do the 4-5 power action. Not so! They have to be in your supply (out of the warehouse) and as a consequence, you could be losing out on those extra abilities or stuff. So where are these symbols you may ask, they are occasionally on cards that you have built shops on or they are in the Church/Customs or they are on the Employment Office. There are very few and you are going to spend a lot of time fighting with opponents for the Employment Office, especially in 4 player. This is a huge issue I have with the game. Really the only issue, other than nitpicking at the rule book.
Whew, did I mention there is a lot happening in this game? It is a really good game, even ebbing toward great. It is very well done, the art and graphics are set up in a way that they are pleasant, but not distracting. There are a lot of variability here. The locations can be set up any way you want or randomly for a different set each time, plus the cards that hold the shops/trade houses on the locations are mostly different and offer further variety. Also the technology and contracts are different and varied. So much variety to an already sprawling game. You would be hard pressed to play the same game twice.
This is all really good stuff. The game can feel long with AP in certain players. It may also feel like you are terribly far behind on the prestige board. But the points can be huge swings, don’t give up little shining star! I encourage everyone who digs euros to play this one, it’s a lot of fun!