Friday, February 25, 2022

Ukiyo: Clever use of familiar ideas

 Ukiyo is an 18-card tile laying game that brings absolutely nothing new to the table but it packages all its familiar ideas really well. More than that, it has both a solid multi-player and solitaire mode.

It’s actually a 16-card micro game since two of the cards are player aids. The actual cards you play with each have a two by three grid of symbols and a goal. (The four symbols are origami crane, cherry blossom, butterfly and acorn. Ukiyo has an aesthetic and it sticks to it)

The goals are different patterns, ranging from just having the  entire grid full to having a three by three square of acorns. They are numbered and the higher the number, the harder the goal. Which serves as a tie breaker in the multiplayer mode.

In either mode, the placement rules are the same. The symbols have to be within a six by six grid. Beyond that, cards can overlap and cover each other up all you want. 

In multiplayer mode, everyone gets a hand of cards with the size of the hand depending on the number of players. Your last card, instead of being played, is your goal. (If no one fulfills their goal, you then place that card to try and make your goal)

I first came across the mechanic, that your last card serves as your winning condition, in HUE from Pack O Games. I really like it. It helps remove any player order bias and makes games more tense.

For solitaire the play, Ukiyo has twenty sets of three to four goals, broken down into blocks of difficulty.  You take those cards out, shuffle the rest and then play one card at time, trying to end up with a grid that fulfills all of the goals.

Since each shuffle creates a new puzzle, there’s a lot of replay value built in. And the brutal level puzzles are actually brutal.

As I said at the start, Ukiyo doesn’t break any new ground. But implementation counts more than innovation (Is the game actually fun to play?) and Ukiyo does a great job there. It’s easy to understand but still challenging with a solid decision tree and plenty of replay value.

Some micro games feel like bigger games in little packaging. Not Ukiyo. It feels like an 18-card game. But it’s a really good one.

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