Review: Yamatai – what will you do to make your queen smile?


Who could say „no“ to our beautiful queen Himiko? Maybe a knight in an armor with a stone heart, who does not see well through his helmet. But we ordinary people who are not used to standing in the face of fiery , melt like snow under our sole sight. And so it happened that she asked us for the impossible – to build the whole city on an archipelago and make it the most beautiful place in the whole realm. That is not possible. And we said yes!

China is grateful environment for board games. And it was chosen by designer for his new board game called . It was published under auspices of in , all with illustrations by . And all this news has been included in ’s distribution network for Europe.

This game is present inside a classic square box, but it has an extraordinarily beautiful queen on the lid. Inside, the newly appointed architects expect a big game board to show a huge archipelago in the delta of the river, including thirty-three small islands. Every one of them is surrounded by water, but there are small cruises for boats, that allow them move all around. Above it all, there is place for a specialist offer. Once players put the board into the center of the table, they put the first five large tiles to create a row.


After that, building tiles are shuffled and top five create the offer next to the board. However, the setup of common space does not end, because the bottom of the board needs ship tiles (five revealed, five hidden) and each island is equipped with randomly chosen culture token. Some of the tokens are empty, while others show mountains and get one terrain tile in addition.

Each player chooses one color and gets matching figure, but above all a game board of the same color. As a starting point, he will also receive ten coins and several starting buildings. Other components, such as wooden boats, prestige tokens, coins, and special buildings are placed next to the board.

Opponents in each round have a chance to intervene with the archipelago by doing actions according to given turn order. They have opportunity to perform all five actions sequentially one by one, some of them are mandatory, others not. At the beginning, players always have to select one of the ship tile offer and get real figure of one vessel with the corresponding color (specifying its cargo). After doing so, active player can still use (anytime during the whole turn) a special ability, that is different for each of ten tiles. Right after that, players can sell their ship and turn it into a raw material, or vice versa buy another one for their savings.


It is time to use ships and send them to the treacherous waters of the archipelago (this is an optional action). At the beginning of a game, players must use entry spaces on left side of the board and only later, their ships may float among the islands. However, first boat may only be placed in a space, that is linked by a dotted line with already placed ship of the same color. The second one has to follow route of the first, but its placement is no longer limited by color. Thus, the color chains of ships are gradually emerging across the map.

Each of the vessels is always adjacent to several (two or three) islands. And as a reward for an individual ship placement, player can choose one available culture token from one of these islands and take it to himself.

Instead, if no tokens are available or if the player does not want it, he can choose second option – the construction. He chooses one of the five buildings currently on offer and can build them on an island adjacent to one of his new boats. Each such building has its placement requirements in the form of several ships, which must be anchored to that specific island. And while the player takes the building and puts it in front of him, he sets up his token (or, in the exceptional case, a special building from stock). He will receive an instant reward in the form of several prestige points – not only for building on mountains, but also for expanding his controlled area. There has to be some other islands controlled by this player directly adjacent. Whole group acts as one area for this purpose.


At the end of his turn, the player can set aside one of unused ships to his board for the next round. But if he has not used more, all others are instantly lost. Their figurines do not return to the bank, but instead remain left unusable in player’s possession and at the end of the game will be counted as negative points. But the turn still does not end, because the last chance is ability to hire a specialist from the offer (after paying apropriate tokens of culture).

The conclusion of the whole round begins in the light of the attractiveness of specialists, that no one has bought. Players add two coins on each remaining tile and restock all offers (specialists, buildings, boats). The latter scale is completed with the help of the tiles, that the players have chosen in the current round – they are shuffled and placed with picture down from the right (all remaining ships are moved to the left first, making first five revealed).

Once the offer of specialists or buildings is empty or any player places his last building on the board or stock of the ship is exhausted, its the end of the whole match. Players now collect points of prestige to those, they already have. They will be added not only for cash, but also for built buildings, some hired specialists and some points get lost for unused boats and unbuilt buildings. The player who has the most points altogether becomes the winner.


Yamatai is a game full of boats, buildings and interconnecting it all. That’s how easy it is to characterize whole gameplay. It looks really family friendly, but its cute colorful robe is a little misleading. The players will all have to watch out for their planning and possible chances to get points. All choices make sense, but you can always choose only some of them and its not easy to analyze it all (yes, AP is a real risk).

The overall impression is very similar to Five Tribes, which was last year’s novelty of this publisher and also shares the same author. But our overall impression is even better with Yamatai. Maybe it is also a thanks to more accessible theme.

Its not easy to plan along the way. Board changes with every turn, so players must adjust their tactics for the march only when their turn takes place. They have some idea during their previous turn, but it can all have changes – the biggest thinking is waiting for them now. And there’s really a lot of possibilities to do in the turn and possibilities where to place the boat. So players can expect complicated choices that are not always right few minutes afterwards.


The whole game revolves around boats. These are the centerpiece of your entire universe, and they set a clear tactic. But that does not mean there is no other way to win. Points can be earned in different ways. Of course, you can meet players who will recalculate, analyze and delay turn progress. This is true for many games, and design as such can not be accused of being like this.

Whole game is excellent in two, where time also runs best. In the duel, players have, above all, the best control over all the randomly discovered components, ship building and chains. In a larger number, the paths for one round will move away from the state in which you left them, and it is not easy to follow up on them. Thus, the experience is more different based on the number of players – more chaotic with more participants, but it can hardly be denoted as bad. It’s just different experiences based on the number of people playing, but that’s probably the only thing Yamatai can be really blamed for.


Yamatai also receives substantial plus points for processing. The whole game looks fantastic and simply invites you to play again just for the pleasure of your eyes. The game experience itself and the need to think must not be obliterated as well. Yamatai is a great fun if you do not mind a decent portion of thinking disturbed by tiny droplets of luck.

DesignerBruno Cathala, Marc Paquien
ArtistJérémie Fleury
PublisherDays of Wonder, Rebel Sp. z o.o.
Year Published2017
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(137 voters)
Playing Time80
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
User Suggested Ages12 and up
(22 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(13 voters)
MechanicAction Drafting, Contracts, Increase Value of Unchosen Resources, Modular Board, Network and Route Building
FamilyCountry: China, Country: Japan
Primary NameYamataï

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

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