Yamatai board game Review

As soon as I hear publisher Days of Wonder are working on or releasing a new game, my ears prick up. The company don’t release many games a year, but the quality is always top notch, because of this. Enter Yamatai by designers Bruno Cathala (Five Tribes and Shadows Over Camelot) Marc Paquien and artist Jeremie Fleury (Histrio, Oceanos).

Queen Himiko has tasked every builder in the kingdom with a prestigious mission: build the capital of Yamataï and make it the jewel of the archipelago. Your task: surpass your competitors and build the most prestigious city of them all, using resources from the fleets that travel through the kingdom. Prepare your strategy, recruit specialists, and do whatever is necessary to become the best builder and be rewarded by Queen Himiko for your work. In the end, only one name will be remembered as the greatest builder of Yamataï!

Yamatai is a strategy game for 2-4 players, in which players travel the beautiful archipelago with their fleet of ships, recruiting specialists, clearing islands and building on them, all whilst accruing points from the queen.

Gameplay in Yamatai is surprisingly simple, choose an action tile, do what’s on the tile, usually collecting ships and placing them on the board, starting at the entries on the left side of the board. The next ship placed needs to match that color. Claim an island culture token - thus clearing an island - and once clear it can be built on, assuming the correct conditions are met to do so (though not in the same turn, so you need to make sure you aren’t setting things up for another player to build).

That’s not all the rules, because this is a review, not a how to play Yamatia article, but you can see it’s fairly simple to setup and play. Having said that, there is a LOT of strategy to be had in Yamatai. It’s that beautiful partnership of simplicity and some fairly nice / deep strategy. There’s also some really nice touches, like how turn order works, or how the specialists you can purchase affect gameplay.

”Yamatai is all very elegant and straight forward, as you’d expect from a Days of Wonder title”. - Angela

Yamatai Game Quality
It’s Days of Wonder, need I say more? The quality is gorgeous, little wooden boats, gorgeous wooden buildings, good quality board, tokens and of course, gorgeous artwork.

Overall my time with Yamatai has been an interesting one, like the waterways between the gorgeous islands of the board, it's been up and down. My first impression was one of utter love, gameplay ran smoothly, it was a fun experience and I couldn't wait to play again (I even won! Which is a rarity). My second game felt more like 'do this, that does that, they do that, start again, repeat'. I'm really not sure what happened, but the game experience couldn't have been more different and so it's been for the next few games also, hit and miss.

For that reason Yamatai went from a must buy first impression game for me, to a try before you buy. It is absolutely gorgeous, that has not changed and it is a pleasant gameplay experience, but as a reviewer I need to give you balance and I feel try before you buy is fair. I'll attach it to a must try, because it is gorgeous and if you get in a few of those 'hit' games, you'll be in love.

That's Yamatai from Days of Wonder. A must try before you by piece of art.