Feb 182011

About a month or so ago I came across a new card game called Yomi. It’s essentially my dream game: A Street Fighter-like game put into card form.

The game’s almost as awesome as that sounds. Almost.

The game itself is pretty ingenious. It uses a standard poker deck, complete with joker cards, but said cards have a twist. Each card has at least one fighting game styled move printed on it. These moves boil down to four different categories: Attack, Throw, Block, and Dodge. Each turn, each player plays one of these cards face down in front of them, and once each player has done so you flip them over. The four move types play off of each other in a Rock/Paper/Scissor style: Attacks beat Throws, Throws beat Dodges and Blocks, Dodges and Blocks beat Attacks. So if you bust out an Attack and I bust out a Block, I “won” that round.

What happens after this quick RPS comparison is the meat of the game. If an Attack wins, the player who played the attack can follow it up with a combo, not unlike someone in a fighting game landing the first hit and following through. And just like a fighting game, you gotta know what attacks link together in order to bust out the best combo. Since the game uses a poker deck, Attacks can be chained together in numeric order. So, if I hit you with a 2 of Diamonds, I can follow-up with a 3 of any suit, and if I do that I can follow-up with a 4 of any suit. I can keep doing this so long as I A) have cards that link together as such and B) I don’t exceed the combo total of my character. Each attack costs so many “combo points” and each character has a different combo point cap. Faster characters tend to not hit as hard with each hit, but they can chain together more attacks to make bigger combos.  At the same time, some attacks are considered “Linkers.” These are special moves (Kinda like the sort of moves that’d require fireball and dragon punch motions.) that allow you to basically skip the numeric order in the combo and link hits together that can’t normally be linked numerically. So, if I hit you with that 2 of Diamonds, I can follow it up with a Linker attack that’s on, say, my Queen of Hearts, and then finish the combo with a 8 of Spades if I still have enough combo points. Most characters also have “Ender” attacks that end your combo as soon as they’re played, but these attacks tend to be pretty powerful and cost more combo points.

Throwing someone works in the same way most of the time. If someone plays a Throw and the other player used a Dodge or Block, if their particular character allows it they can follow through with a combo after the throw. Some characters, like the Zangief equivalent, has potent throws that can’t be comboed since they do enough damage on their own. It just depends on the particular character’s style.

Blocking and Dodging both beat Attacks, but the end result is different. If you block an attack, you get to put the Block card back into your hand and you get to immediately draw an additional card. So Blocking is a way to build up your hand for future attacks, not unlike how turtling in a fighting game allows you to be patient and wait for the right time to strike. Dodging doesn’t allow you to draw cards, but it allows you to follow through with a single counterattack. Most of the time you can’t combo off of this counterattack (Even if you would have enough combo points to do so.), but it’s a way to play defensive while still dealing damage to your opponent.

Things get a bit more interesting when both players play the same sort of move. If both players play an Attack, or if both players play a Throw, you look at the speed value of the particular attack. It’s kinda like how if both peeps in a fighting game try to attack at the same moment, the dude who attacked with a Weak Punch will have “priority” over a dude that attacks with a Roundhouse Kick. Faster characters tend to have faster speed values on their attacks, so that in the event that both players play a 2 of Clubs as their attack card, the character that’s meant to be faster will get priority. Conversely, the big bruiser types tend to have faster Throws and will usually win out when both characters try to throw. When both players Dodge and/or Block, jack shit happens and anyone watching the game should boo the fighters for turtling too much. At least that’s what I do when I’m watching my friends play and they both bust out a Block card. BOO! BOO! YOU SUCK!

So yeah, the gameplay itself is fairly simplistic. It’s all about outguessing your opponent and trying to figure out if they’re gonna Attack, Throw, or be defensive. Most of the personality and awesomeness comes from the actual characters and their unique powers. Each character gets some sort of power that adds to their overall playstyle. Rook, the Zangief of the game, basically has “super armor” the way Zangief and Juggernaut do in the Vs series. If both players Attack, if Rook was the slower of the two he can essentially finish his combo after the other player finishes their combo. So he stands there and takes the hits and then puts the beatdown on them after the fact. He’s also Throw-heavy, obviously mimicking Zangief’s style. The Guile of the game, Geiger, has a special power that allows him to play a Throw card after the opponent Blocks one of his Sonic Boom equivalent cards. So he gets to play Guile’s “throw a slow Sonic Boom, follow it since he has a fast recovery from the attack, and throw the dude when he tries to block it” strategy. Characters also have special powers printed on some of their cards in addition to their respective Attack/Throw/Dodge/Block moves that tell you when they can be played. Lum, the “gambling panda” that resembles Blanka, let’s you draw an extra card and look at a random card in the opponent’s hand when you play one of his power cards at the beginning of his turn, while Jaina, the fire-wielding Ken type, has a special move that allows her to change her attack after seeing her opponent’s move by sacrificing some of her health.

(And yeah, I’m skimming over some of the rules here. Just trying to get the gist of the game’s feel.)

All in all the game does exactly what it set out to do: make Street Fighter into a card game. And for that the game is fucking awesome. I just have one gripe.

I don’t like the game’s world.

The game takes place in the Fantasy Strike world, an anime fantasy world created by the game’s owner. It feels more like a Naruto/Bleach/One Piece-like world envisioned through the eyes of an American fan than it does the sort of world from Street Fighter and its fellow fighting games. Rook, the aforementioned Zangief dude, is a rock golem. The Gouki-like character, who’s the master of the game’s Ken and Ryu clones, turns into a dragon. It’s more Avatar: The Last Airbender or Fullmetal Alchemist than it is Fatal Fury or Samurai Showdown, and that doesn’t quite jibe with me stylistically. I love the gameplay, but I can’t quite get into the entire experience when the game world doesn’t really appeal to me. That’s the reason why I’m rating the game only a 9 instead of a 10 over at good ol’ Board Game Geek. If only they tried to mimic the sort of modern-day martial arts fest seen in the classic fighting games rather than looking like a booth at an anime convention’s artist alley.

Still. Awesome game. A bit pricey (I paid ~$70 for the entire set at an online retailer.), but that’s for all ten character decks plus two paymats. You can play it online at the game’s website to check it out, but if you’re into this sort of shit like I am and know of game shops I’d try to track down some peeps and play it face to face. My gaming group is loving it.

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