Game Review – Yokohama

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Japan has just opened itself up to the foreign trade market and Yokohama is the premier hub for all of Japan’s exports. There is a lot of potential money to be made in this market so all the merchants of the city came out in droves to make a name for themselves. Players will take on the role of a merchant in the city trying to fulfill orders and increase their fame among foreign countries. Can you strive in this booming market or will your business get lost in the shuffle as someone else seizes the opportunity?

Designer:  Hisashi Hayashi
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Genre: Set Collection, Board Movement
Players: 2-4
Play Time: 90 Minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 3

Skip ahead to find out:
Game Overview
Game Play
What He Said
What She Said
Our Pros and Cons
The Verdict

Game Overview

IMG_3803In Yokohama, players take on the role of merchants competing to become the most prestigious merchant in the city. They’ll be able to gain fame by trading goods to foreign traders, gaining new technology to make them more efficient, and helping to develop the city of Yokohama into a well-known trading hub. As the President of a company, players will have to navigate the bustling streets of Yokohama to make the best deals to spread the word about how their company is the best in the city. It’s up to you to make the right decisions for the business and become the face of trading in Yokohama. Can you outwit your fellow merchants and make your way to the top before the city fully develops?

Game Play

At the beginning of the game, the city of Yokohama will be completely randomized, which will require players to adjust their strategies depending on where certain locations are placed. With fewer players, the map is a bit smaller, but with a full allotment of four players, the map of Yokohama will devour tables. Once the map is created and players receive their starting resources the race for fame can begin!

Each round of Yokohama will have three phases that each player will complete in full before the next player’s turn:

  1. IMG_3809Additional Action – Players can take an additional special action, fulfill achievement cards or order cards. See the second Additional Action phase for more details on these actions.
  2. Main Action
    1. Placement Step – The first things players will do is dispatch assistants to locations to start preparing things for the President’s final approval. Players have the choice of placing two assistants on one tile or placing three assistants on three different tiles. Payment of one yen per assistant will be required if another player’s President is already on the target tile.
    2. Movement Step –  The President will now venture out into the streets of Yokohama to visit a location in which their assistants have worked. Players will have three options in this phase that they can perform with their President:
      • Place their President – If the President isn’t on the board, they can place him/her on any tile that has one of the player’s assistants.
      • Return their President to their hand – Players can choose to take their President back into their hand and skip steps 3-6.
      • Move their President – Players can move their president any number of adjacent spaces as long as the tile contains one of their assistants.
    3. IMG_3748Area Action Step – It’s time for your President to get his hands dirty and sign off on their assistant’s prep work at a location. Players will calculate their power by counting up the number of meeples/buildings they have on the tile (counting their president). They will then take the corresponding action on the tile.
    4. 5-Power Bonus Step (Optional) – If the calculated power is five or greater the player can choose to take the bonus 5-power bonus, if it is still available. These tokens are on a first come, first serve basis.
    5. Construct a Shophouse and/or Trading House (Optional) – Players can choose to construct a Shophouse or Trading House from their hand if they have at least four power on the space.
    6. Recovery Step – All assistants will be taken off of the tile where the action was just performed.
  3. Additional Action – In this phase, players can do any of the three actions in any order and in any quantity they want:
    • Use a Foreign Agent (One per turn) – Players can use one Foreign Agent token they’ve gained during the game to take an action of a tile that has at least one assistant on it. The tile selected cannot have their President on it. This action is not affected by other player’s President meeples.
    • Fulfill an Achievement Card – Players can fulfill any achievements displayed on the main board if they meet the requirements. They will place a meeple from their hand onto one of the spots of the Achievement Card. Each achievement can only be gained once per player.
    • Fulfill Order Cards – Players can complete order cards by returning the resources back to the supply that is required for the order. Fulfilled order cards and purchased technology cards will have a flag icon on them representing one of the five nations. If players get two cards with a matching flag they can take on of the foreign agents from that nation.

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The game will continue until any of the following five conditions happen:

  1. One or more players have built all four of their Trading Houses
  2. One or more players have built all eight of their Shophouses.
  3. There are no longer any more order cards to re-fill the dock/port
  4. The number of assistants placed on the Church board is equal to or greater than the end game number based on player count ( 2P = 4, 3P = 5, 4P = 6)
  5. The number of assistants placed on the Customs board is equal to or greater than the end game number based on player count ( 2P = 4, 3P = 5, 4P = 6)

Once any of these conditions occur, the end of the game will begin. Players will finish the current round and then complete one last final round. The player with the most fame at the end of the game is the most famous merchant in Yokohama!

He Said

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When I saw Yokohama on Kickstarter, the first thing I noticed was the Deluxe version components with all the wooden bits and metal coins. I’ve always been a fan of high-quality components, especially ones shaped like the resources you’re actually collecting. So on the surface, Yokohama already had me just from the presentation of the components, but after looking closer at the gameplay, I felt even more confident that I had to back this game. This was further reinforced after playing it for the first time. The game just flowed nicely with minimal downtime and it was a close final score even though all of us went for different strategies. I have a feeling that this will be a game that has a permanent home in our collection that we’d be able to play with most of our friends.

IMG_3808Points Around Every Corner
There’s a lot of freedom in the different kinds of strategies you can try out during this game. The achievements that are randomly selected for the game give you some direction, but we’ve also had games where the winner of the game only claimed one achievement.

However, the openness of the strategies and the variety of ways to gain points can be somewhat overwhelming for your first game. The points start to ramp up quickly because players will have buildings that contribute to their power on a tile or strong technology cards that will give them great benefits.

The technology card portion of the game feels very engine builder-ish because many offer permanent benefits that can be used every round. Being able to take actions on tiles that already have a president there or gaining additional points for objectives can be very powerful, especially if you get the technology card early on in the game. There was also the race portion of the game that will have players jockeying against each other to be the first to get five power on a tile or claim the top spot on an achievement. I felt like it brought together multiple mechanics together really well.

So far, I’ve been able to pull off a win using a building-heavy strategy and an objective-heavy strategy, but we also had a game where the player who won ended up taking a more well-rounded approach. I did try to go technology-heavy in one game and it didn’t work out too well, due to the combination of cards that I had purchased. The fact that I was able to be competitive with all three of the strategies I tried was something that I really enjoyed in YokohamaYour ability to pull off certain strategies every game would also be reliant on the tile positioning of the city, which will cause you to tweak your strategy a little bit.

IMG_3802The Seedy Underbelly
To build a great city, you’re going to need some land to build it on and, in this case, it’s going to be on your table which could be problematic for some. In a four player game, we were running pretty short on table space due to the massive size of the board with all of the tiles being used. Our 5′ x 3′ table could barely contain the board, player areas, and locations for resources, and this was with each player sitting at the corners of the table. So if you have a smaller table you may have to get creative on creating more space for the play area. We didn’t have any issues with the two and three player configurations though since those maps were quite a bit smaller.

The one other thing that I had some problems with was some of the wording in the rulebook not being completely clear. The first example had me a little confused was the one showing two president pawns on a tile, even though, on the same page, it says players cannot end on a spot where another player’s President is located on. After getting to the technology card portion of the rulebook, this made a lot more sense, but it did make me question what the actual rule was since it didn’t give any context for it in the image description.

IMG_3805Work Smarter, Not Harder
Yokohama has a unique mechanism of requiring players to plan out their moves by placing assistants around the board for the Presidents to take actions. This mechanism helps to plan out your future turns and creates a rewarding experience. By planning ahead this way, taking two or three turns of maximum power on tiles can swing things your way in a hurry.  This becomes even easier as the game progresses if you invest in building shops and trading houses onto the tiles to contribute to your power level. With the assistant phase coming before the movement phase, you’re never without options even if you didn’t plan too far ahead.

I found a good strategy was to distribute a nice swath of assistants around the board to give yourself plenty of options and then follow up that turn with a double assistant placement on an action tile I wanted. I was then able to chain these all together by placing two workers every turn to take a four or five power action. So you get a chain of solid moves and then you’ll have to repeat the process again once you’re out of assistants on the board. With so many phases of a player’s turn, you would think this would create a bit of downtime, but the turns move along pretty quickly with just the right amount of time for you to plan out your next turn. This is especially true because a game usually takes around 60-90 minutes which feels like just the right amount of time to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Final Thoughts
IMG_3801Yokohama is probably one of the best games we’ve played this year with its quick turns and high replayability. It played well at all player counts and the playtime was perfect. I enjoyed how the dynamics of the game changed based on the number of players. A two player game was a bit more tactical as you can focus on what your opponent is doing to try to block them, while a four player game populates the board quickly and requires more thought on how to maneuver your assistants/president. The three player game worked really well too, falling right in between the feel of a two and four player game.

Some people might be a little hesitant getting the retail version that doesn’t come with all of the blinged out game pieces, but I think the game is still worth it because the gameplay is great. If you do have the opportunity to get yourself a deluxe copy, I would definitely spend a little more just because the components do add to the experience of the game.

Lastly, I would recommend this game to anyone that enjoys worker placement games or someone looking to get into more complex games. It can be intimidating to look at first with how vast the board looks and all the different symbols, but the game does a really good job with its player reference boards to help players keep track of what they can/cannot do. With so many different ways to score points, you’ll feel like you’re accomplishing things on your turns even if you’re not exactly sure what strategy you want to do.

She Said

IMG_3811One of the reasons I love board games is because they can transport you to another time and place. Whether it’s through a great cooperative interaction or through a wonderful story RPG or through a strong themed worker placement game, there’s something magical about board games. As a whole, the game Yokohama checks many of my required boxes to be considered a top game.

Let’s Get Down to Business
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I am a big fan of worker placement games, especially ones that take an interesting twist, bonus points if the game also incorporates a great theme onto this mechanism. In the game Yokohama, players compete as merchants in the Meiji period (late 1800s) trying to gain fame by running the most successful business. This includes building a store, distributing through a sales network, and responding to trade orders.

My absolute favorite type of games are ones that mimic real life and put you in the shoes of someone else, current or historical. By playing as a merchant in this historical time period, Yokohama nails this theme. It’s fun to pretend to be a merchant in the town of Yokohama, Japan while still maintaining the overall structure that comes with a board game. As far as role playing goes, this is about as far into as I will go.

The game mechanisms within Yokohama also contribute greatly to the theme. By placing assistants around the board to basically reserve a spot for your President to take an action on a future turn, you incorporate a great future planning mechanism and a theme-enhancer feature. The assistants do all the work, the President just hires people to do it for him/her.

Ch-ch-changes
The board is modular, which means that the order of each tile is randomized and it’ll look different every time. This just one of the many reasons this game has such great replayability. You never know what obstacles you may face once the board is setup, and it looks super cool to see all the different tiles. The way the tiles are laid out determine how you’ll take actions. You may never use one of the resource spaces because it’s always out of the way of your normal route, which is why placing your assistants in good locations is the key to a winning strategy.

However, the sheer quantity and layout of the board can be really overwhelming. There is a lot of stuff going on and it can be challenging to determine exactly what strategy you want to take. With a game that looks this intense, you’d think it would take a long time to play. We found that it’s actually one of the faster worker placement games we’ve played. This is a big factor for me. I really can’t play games that take too long, and Yokohama lasts the exact right amount of time.

The overall mechanics of the game are simple – set out workers, move your president, take the action of the tile you end up on. But there are so many different strategies and decisions to make, which really enhances the replayability even more.

IMG_3806Worker Placement Stand Out
So many worker placement games feel similar. There’s often one thing that differentiates the games from one another, but Yokohama is different. The gameplay is so interesting with a variety of decisions that makes every play feels so different.

Every player can take different strategies throughout this game because there is a variety of different ways to score points. You could fulfill a large quantity of order cards or collect technology cards or build a ton of buildings. Or you could even do all of the above. There are a ton of options and you don’t feel like any of them put you at a disadvantage from another player. This is a very difficult thing to accomplish for a game.

In many games we play, I tend to take the strategy of completing objectives, or in the case of Yokohama, completing order cards. I took that strategy during a four player game and ended up in second place. Although that whole game I was convinced I was going to get last place. In a two player game, I took the strategy of completing order cards and buildings. This was very successful for me. The one thing about this game is that you can take many different strategies, but I found it more effective to do at least two different methods. This way, you can easily adjust based on what your opponents do.

IMG_3810Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed playing Yokohama, and feel like it’s a great addition to our game collection. It’s a fantastic strategy game with so much replayability and variety that it never feels boring. While this is definitely a benefit, it can also be a con if you are easily overwhelmed by a seemingly infinite amount of options. After playing this game at different player counts, I’d say it does scale well, but I prefer it as a two-player game. It feels more competitive and it’s easier to keep track of what your opponent is doing in case you need to change your strategy.

In addition, the Deluxe Kickstarter version has some great components with great artwork that really add to the experience. Overall, this game far exceeds my expectations and is quickly becoming one of my favorite worker placement games on the market.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
– High replayability with randomized board setup, building rewards, and achievements
– Fun mechanism with assistant placement and president movement
– Great components (Deluxe version, retail are cardboard chits instead of wooden pieces)
– Game length feels just right and doesn’t overstay its welcome
– Turns are quick and long term planning gives you a rewarding feeling

Cons:
– Takes up a lot of table space especially in a four player game
– Some things in the rulebook could be made a little clearer
– Infinite amount of strategies could be overwhelming for new players

The Verdict

He gives this game out of 9 Fishing Boats out of 10.
She gives this game 9.5 Shophouses out of 10.

Board Game Geek Page
Buy it now!

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