The interactive tutorial for Yo Deshi starts off making you think it’s a simple game – perhaps too simple. In this boardgame billed by developer Proper Games as a ‘long lost game from ancient China’, you and a human or AI-controlled opponent take turns to pick numbered tiles from alternating rows and columns of a square grid. Each white face-up tile has a number which is added to your score, and the player with the highest total at the end wins. Simple indeed.
Then, more gameplay elements are introduced. First, some squares on the grid have two tiles stacked on them, with the value of the second tile being ‘blinded’ by the first. Then, ‘blocking’ tiles are introduced, splitting the rows or columns and limiting the tiles you can choose. After that, black numbered tiles come along which, when chosen, have their value subtracted from your score. Finally, each tile – white or black – has either a sun or a moon symbol on them. Collect three identical symbols in a row and you get a big score bonus, often far outweighing the points you’ve lost by choosing a couple of black tiles to make a set.
And once all these elements are added, Yo Deshi turns from a simple game into an enjoyably tactical one. It becomes all about forcing your opponent into a corner, where their only option is to choose a high-numbered black tile; or to pick one of the wrong suit, dashing their chances of a big score. And with each game only lasting a few minutes, even on large grids, it’s a fun way to pass the time in an original way.
Graphics are generically Asian-themed, as are the music & sound affects – but this isn’t a detraction – the whole title has an appealing presentation that looks good on the iPad’s big screen. You can play against a human opponent or two levels of AI-controlled players – Student Xue and Master Rensue – both of whom have a fun cartoon look to them.
Games are customisable too – you can choose to play without the blind tiles and the suits; and on a variety of different sized boards, some of which have none of the blocking tiles on them. That said, the game is at its strongest with all the options turned on – when it requires a lot more thought as you try to outsmart your opponent. A handicap system is also in place, which allows you to let Yo Deshi newbies start off with a score advantage, making the game suitable for players of all levels.
It’s to Proper Games’ credit that their ‘long lost’ game does have a classic feel about it; and that Yo Deshi has enough depth to provide plenty of that ‘just one more go’ kind of gameplay.
So don’t be put off by what at first appears to be an over simplified game: Yo Deshi is a fresh and challenging title that will feel right at home in the rest of your boardgame collection.Yo Deshi,