Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien’s beautiful Yamataï - well I guess the art is Jérémie Fleury’s so it’s his beautiful Yamataï, Bruno and Marc just designed it.
Certainly there are a few little similarities to Five Tribes but I much prefer this game. Plays up to four (3p shown), players will bring resources into an expansion archipelago to develop ‘culture’, tokens they’ll use to employ Specialists (similar to the Djinns of Five Tribes) for special abilities, and also build settlements, Tori (Shrine Gates) and temples.
Visually it’s stunning to look at, and while initially there’s a bit to digest in the rules, it’s pretty straightforward and a round or two should see players getting the hang of things swiftly. My only concern is the random draw of Specialists and available buildings can potentially stall the pace of the game due to the degree of difficulty required to build them in the early game.
I like this kind of development in Eurogames which folks know I’m not keen on - players use resource-boats to ‘move’ into the archipelago, at first ‘clearing’ islands of their culture tokens (developing culture), but by doing so, this provides open spaces and resources for others to build with. The key is, those resource-ships are never depleted, they’re always available to any adjacent island, as long as the active player brings at least one resource-boat to the island.
Players also draft packages of resource-boats from the Queen which determine 1) what kind of resource-boats they’ll receive, 2) how many, 3) potentially a special power like swapping or moving existing boats around the board before playing and 4) turn order rank for next turn. So there are usually always options for manipulating the board before your turn, plus you can always buy or sell a resource-boat with/for cash.
With three of us, we all pursued different scoring paths and performed well, springing off the actions of one another, semi-blocking one another at times without the game amping too much spite or direct conflict, and our scores were close, making each strat viable. This is a fantastic example of a contemporary medium weight design and I really really like it so far after the first play.