Terminology in niche hobbies can lead to some interesting uses of words: I'd always understood 'yomi' to be the Japanese underworld, so when Sirlin Games published the card game Yomi in 2011 I assumed it was about the spirit world. Instead, it used a secondary meaning of the word, 'reading', as in reading your opponent. Since then, I have noticed it being used more in the board and especially card gaming hobby until it has reached the point now, when if someone says a game has 'yomi' then I know what they mean. Pocket Paragons has yomi.
In the standard game of Pocket Paragons, designed by Brian McKay, each of the two players fields three Paragons facing off 1v1 against the opponent in a sequential knock-out format. Each character's small selection of cards, low health, and limited healing ensure play is brisk and key moments frequent. Damage cards range from 1 to 4, though can be boosted. Hits can be blocked outright if you read what your opponent is going to play, in a four-way rock-paper-scissors-other riff.
If a Paragon's ten health points outlast their hand they must Rest and, here, the most crucial element kicks in: Resting can get you killed outright, whatever your current health, if your opponent plays the scissors to your paper. With hand sizes starting at just seven cards - a special eighth card is available when powered up - the longer a paragon fights, the greater the probability the Rest card will be played; though, if an opponent goes for the throat and gets it wrong, you are safe next round. Each character's cards are themed to a specific play style and synergise well.
When a Paragon is eliminated, one of their cards passes on to the next tag-team member, meaning a little on-the-fly customisation is possible. With Paragons rarely eliminated simultaneously, the timing of cards fluctuates accordingly, and a fresh one might be able to pick on a tiring opponent... or be executed all too soon. The game can be very quick, though comebacks are as likely as shut-outs, so never give up hope: to even out luck of the draw, playing a 'best of three' format is recommended
Pocket Paragons' publisher Solis Game Studio has delivered clean and clear art and design, though the keywords may slow you down initially as you learn new terms for established mechanics. The staggered combats felt like the game's USP and, should you - or, more likely, your kids - desire more variety there are currently four expansions available, which will no doubt allow for some interesting tag-team dynamics. Just don't expect a twelve-round bout of tactical pugilism: there are distinct moments of Mike Tyson in his pomp to be found here, and he was never really one for reading.
(Review by David Fox)