Yokohama is best loosely described as building a business, and trading in the far east. Whilst the theme may be wafer thin, Yokohama is a game that relies upon some fairly robust mechanics. As well as a slow burn engine to build, and enough variability to keep the game alive after several plays.
This is a game by Tasty Minstrel Games designed by Hisashi Hayashi.
At its core, Yokohama is a worker placement, network building game. The board is an array of tiles, the shame shape each game, though a random arrangement. Actions are undertaken by a player’s principal worker - their president - which is able to move across the board through tiles which contain the player’s other workers (assistants). Each location on the board provides a different action. Gathering resources, acquire orders (which are filled using the resources collected). Also acquire achievement cards, build trading houses or shops. This improves efficacy of actions, depending on where they are placed.
The Yokohama board is a triangular arrangement of location tiles. Depending on the number of players, the size of the triangle can vary. For four players, a large number of location tiles are duplicated. The majority of the tiles are for collecting resources, with one tile providing one type of resource. The number of resources which can be collected is determined by the number of pieces the player has on that particular location tile. This includes their president, the assistants, and shops and trading houses.
The first step of any turn is to place assistants. Two assistants can be placed on any one location tile, or three on any different location tiles. In this way, players are able to build up the number of their pieces they have on locations, making their presidential actions more powerful. However, it is important to remember two things - assistants are not unlimited, and assistants are removed from a board when they are used as part of a president action.
The second step of the turn is to move the president. Players have a number of options here. They can opt to remove their president from the board (thus not taking any action later in the turn). Alternatively, place their president (if the piece is currently not on the board) or move the president. The president may move through any number of location tiles, provided that each tile they move through has at least one assistant of their colour. There is also a cost implication for moving through a tile which has another player’s president on it, and the movement cannot end on a tile occupied by another president.
The third step is for the president to take the action of the location they ended their turn on. The effect of each action is dictated by the “power” that the President has on that space. Each of the player’s pieces on that space contributes a point of power - so the president, assistants, shops and trading houses can all provide power to the action, up to a maximum of five power. If the action is gathering a resource, the greater the power, the more resources. For other actions, it can mean a better selection of choices are available (more order cards to choose from, for instance).
If an action with a power of 4 or 5 is taken in Yokohama, the player may then choose to build a shop or trading house on the location, if they have one available. Each player may only build one shop in a location, and only one trading house can be built on a location by any player. Building can also provide instant bonuses - victory points, or resources. But most importantly, buildings contribute to player power on that location in future turns.
Finally, any and all assistants that were on the location of the action should be removed, and returned to the player pool of available assistants.
Players have eight shops and four trading houses at the start of the game. However, not all of these are available. Most of these are stored in the player’s warehouse (presumably they are flat-packed) alongside a number of additional assistant. One of the locations (and some of the bonuses) allow players to take shops, assistants or trading houses from their warehouse. Buildings require additional payment. Building all shops or trading houses is one of the triggers for the game end. It pays to keep an eye on other players’ warehouses.
As well as the basic actions in the round, players may also take any number of additional actions, either at the beginning or at the end of their turn. These include fulfilling an achievement, or fulfilling an order. Order and achievement cards all have a small flag icon in the corner. These flags, when paired up, give a player a foreign agent (of the nationality of the flag) . These allow them to (once only) take a location action on a tile where they have assistants, as an additional action. The flag icons also provide a set collection end game scoring bonus.
There are a number of triggers for the game end. These include a player building all or their shops or trading houses or running out of order cards, as well as other triggers. Whenever a trigger is met, the current round is completed, and one more round is played.
As well as scoring throughout the game, a number of factors contribute to end game scoring. This can result in the game feeling a bit point salad-y. This is something that will deter a number of people, so be warned.
Final Thoughts On Yokohama
I must admit, I am a fully subscribed member of the Yokohama fan club. It is one of my favourite games, and has been since I first played it. The loose theme, and the point salad nature of the game may put some people off. Another consideration is the set up time - there is a lot (an awful lot!) of variability in this game, which is a result of various things which vary from game to game.
All of these elements are randomised at the start of the game. Also, there are a lot of player pieces - eight shops, four trading houses doesn’t seem too many, but 20 assistants, most of which need to be arranged on the player warehouses, can make set up feel very fiddly. And like many classic euros, the player interaction can be quite limited.
However, if these are things that you can live with, Yokohama is an excellent game. Plenty of depth of planning, and very high replayability.