While many publishers pile on the extras to pad out their games on Kickstarter, occasionally a game comes along to proclaim the maxim that 'less is more'. Walnut Games' Ukiyo proves the point that you don't need a ton of components to produce a good game.
Following in the footsteps of Love Letter (AEG), Ukiyo is a micro game that uses just 16 cards. Game play tho' is nothing like Love Letter because Ukiyo is a puzzle game. Each card has six symbols on it (various different combinations of acorns, flowers, butterflies and origami cranes). The symbols draw on Japanese iconography (hence the Japanese title), with art by Janette Ramos and Imaginaires. In addition to the symbols, each card also has an objective on it: for example, a diagonal line of five butterflies).
In Ukiyo's multiplayer mode, an equal number of cards is dealt to each of the 2-4 players who then take turns to play a card to a central tableau. Players can lay their card horizontally or vertically and can overlap any card previous played. The only stipulation is that they cannot lay a card so that it would have any symbols falling outside a notional 6 x 6 symbol grid. The idea is that players are each trying to achieve the objective on the last card remaining in their hand.
This makes for a quick but mostly satisfying 5-minute game. Because other players lays may accidentally or deliberately upset the objective you're aiming for, canny players will try to engineer the completion of two alternative objective cards and only choose the one to claim on their final turn. In our Board's Eye View plays, we did find it was all too possible for a player to accidentally complete an opponent's objective for them. Card counters wary of this will keep track of the cards played (the objectives are all numbered) so they'll know which objectives remain in opponents' hands.
Tho' Ukiyo makes for a good 2-4 player filler-length puzzle game, it really comes into its own as a solitaire game. A solo game card offers various combinations of objectives, appropriately classified as easy, medium, hard or brutal. You take out the three or four cards with the indicated objectives and you shuffle the other cards to form a draw deck. Your task then is to draw and lay cards one at a time so that you satisfy all of the objectives in your challenge. The easy challenges are really only for children but the tougher objective combos will keep you on your toes. And these aren't all 'once and done' because they'll mostly play out differently with a different deck shuffle.
Ian Walton's Ukiyo is an ideal travel game because it really is pocket size. It's coming to Kickstarter next week. We'll post a link to the campaign when it goes live.
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