Yokohama: Don’t kill the core loop
I have a friend that buys too many games, so when we meet up we almost always try new games. This means I get to try a lot of different games, and it also means first impressions are very important. If I don’t like the first play, I might not play it ever again. My friend also knows to try and dig into my first impression to make me think about the why. Which is very important if you’re going to judge a game on one play.
The last time we played we tried Yokohama. Watching the rules video I felt very underwhelmed. It looks like yet another worker placement game. The only interesting thing was the movement. My friend responded that the movement is the entire game.
See those 9 bottom boards laid out in slight overlap? Those are the action spaces. Each board is adjacent to any other board it touches, which for the center one is 6, and the bottom right one is 3.
On your turn you place workers (2 on one board, or 3 on any 3 different boards), and then you move your president (different worker) from it’s board, only through and to a board that has one of your workers on it. You only take the action where your president lands. You take an action on the space with a power equal to the number of workers you have there, and then remove all the workers (except your president).
This movement mechanic creates a very interesting puzzle. You sort of have to go through the board in a certain way in order to maximize potential. You might need to drop a worker on a board you don’t really need right now just to create a path.
The core loop is as described above. Solve the movement puzzle while maximizing your pure euro efficiency. I don’t know if this is a fun core loop, because I only got to do it about 3 times.
See, the game allows you to purchase technology cards, which give you certain abilities. One of the cards I purchased very early on is the Telephone. This card reads: When you collect your workers, you may leave 1 behind.
Using the Telephone along with getting a bunch of extra workers, I never had to make this plan again. I fairly quickly had workers on every board I wanted to visit, and a continuous path along all of them. My game was reduced to pure trading cubes and tokens for points, and while that can be fun at times, it wasn’t doing it any better than a myriad of other games.
The Telephone ruined my first play of the game because it robbed me of the puzzle the game poses as it’s core loop.