Sometimes, it’s funny how things work out. I was going thru the BGG Essen Preview (written by fellow OG contributor, W. Eric Martin) – and I noticed that there was a game called Da Yu. Surely, with a name like that… the game was destined to be good, right? In the comments, an old friend of mine posted (tongue-in-cheekly): “I’m looking forward to Dale Yu’s review of Da Yu.” As it turns out, the manager of manager of Taiwan Boardgame Design started a conversation with me, and before I knew it, a box full of games from Taiwan was on my doorstep.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. My experience with games from Taiwan is very slim, but my trips to the past few SPIEL fairs in Essen has taught me that there are a lot of good games being made out in the world outside of the traditional sources.
[Note: Normally, I prefer to play a game at least three times prior to writing it for the blog. However, given the time pressure coming up to SPIEL ’14, I have written up my thoughts on a number of games based on only one or two plays in order to cover as many new games as possible prior to the show. I fully admit that it is often not possible to see the full breadth of a design in a single play, and thus I shall not give a final rating to any game at this stage with such a few number of plays…]
Da Yu: The Flood Conqueror
- Designer: Kidd Hsu
- Publisher: Twoplus
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30-45 min
- Times played: 2, with a review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design
From the veritable gaming resource known as Wikipedia: Yu the Great (pinyin: Dà Yǔ, c. 2200 – 2100 BC), was a legendary ruler in ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character.
Collaborating with Houji, a semi-mythical agricultural master about whom little is concretely known, Yu successfully devised a system of flood controls that were crucial in establishing the prosperity of the Chinese heartland. Instead of directly damming the rivers’ flow, Yu made a system of irrigation canals which relieved floodwater into fields, as well as spending great effort dredging the riverbeds. The dredging and irrigation were successful, and allowed ancient Chinese culture to flourish along the Yellow River, Wei River, and other waterways of the Chinese heartland. The project earned Yu renown throughout Chinese history, and is referred to in Chinese history as “Great Yu Controls the Waters” (pinyin: Dà Yǔ Zhì Shuǐ).
And on that backstory, the game Da Yu: The Flood Conqueror is born. Players use different tools to help stem the flooding waters. The board is made up of a number of flood cards (one more than the number of players). On each of these flood cards are 10 spaces or varying colors. There are 3 different decks of tool cards in the game: Silver, Red and Green. These tool cards are double sided, and they are oriented in the deck so that you always see the side with a rune on it. At the start of the game, each player places their player marker on one of the flood cards. They are also each dealt one of each type of tool card.
On a player’s turn, a player can use perform three actions from the following list (may repeat actions):
- Play a tool card – you can only play a card if you are able to fully use it at your current location. There are a number of tool symbols on the card. You place a dam marker on matching colored spots as the tools seen on the card. The played card is moved into a player’s scoring area – you will score VPs for all played cards at the end of the game
- Move his player marker – you can move your marker to the next adjacent flood card
- Flip a tool card to its opposite side – you can flip over any one of your flood cards to its opposite side. Each of the three types of cards has a definite pattern to the tool symbols found on the card.
- Discard any number of tool cards – place the discarded cards on the bottom of the respective deck
- Pass – umm, you pass.
Again, you can repeat any of these actions as many times as you desire – of course, staying within the limit of 3 actions per turn.
After your actions are complete, you then replenish your hand to three cards. You are able to take the top card from any pile, and you may look at both sides of the card before you draw the next one. Then you survey the board to see if any flood card is complete (all 10 colored spots are filled in). If so, the active player takes this flood card and places it in his scoring area. These flood cards generally score VPs at the end of the game, but they also sometimes have special abilities/actions which can be used for the rest of the game. A new flood card is placed in the location of the collected one.
Examples of flood card actions are:
- Score 1 extra VP for each (red/green/silver) tool card that you have played
- Once on your turn, move your player marker one space without using an action
- Once on your turn, flip one of your tool cards over without costing you an action
- Once on your turn, play a (red/green/blue/yellow) single tool without using an action
Then, you see if the game has ended – at the end of a game round, if the flood deck is empty – then the game is over. At the end of the game, you count up all your points: from tool cards played during the game, from the flood cards themselves, from bonus points from the flood cards. The winner is the player with the most points.
My thoughts on the game – Thus far, I have been very impressed with Da Yu. It is a light strategic game, with enough strategic decisions to keep almost every gamer busy on each turn. The format of the game leads to fairly quick turns, though there will likely be a few turns each game where you really need to sit back and look at your cards to figure out what you can do.
Being familiar with the tool cards is key. Again there are three types of cards, and each follows a specific pattern. You can use this information to predict what cards you might draw OR to try to guess what sorts of tool icons your opponents have.
Red 3A (rune side), A or B (back)
Green A+B (rune side), C+D (back)
Silver A (rune side), 2A + 2B (back)
As you can see, there are differences in the VPs awarded for each side of the tool card, and this is something to definitely keep in mind when you play. However, you also need to be watching the progress of the flood cards. You’d prefer not to set up your opponents for an easy chance to finish a flood card because the bonus actions can prove to be quite valuable.
Hand management is also a interesting aspect of the game. You only get to keep three cards in front of you, and keeping your options open is key. It’s important to remember that you can only play a card if you can use ALL of the tools on that card, which makes it important to have a variety of different numbers and colors available to you. For instance, the silver card (on the rune side) is worth 0VP when you play it, but sometimes you simply need a single tool to finish a flood card.
As I mentioned earlier, this game fits nicely into that niche of games that are complex enough to keep most gamers satisfied while being accessible enough for non-gamers to play as well. If this had been produced by a German/American company, it’s the sort of game that I would possibly tout for a Spiel des Jahres recommendation. While I’ve only played it twice so far, thus far Da Yu is off to a promising start. My preliminary rating is “I love it”, though I would like to play it a few more times to see whether or not it really has legs for multiple plays. I suspect that it will, but I just can’t say so yet with such a limited play experience to this point.
- Designer: Chen Zhifan
- Publisher: Homosapiens lab
- Players: 1
- Ages: 4+
- Time: ~10 minutes
- Times played: 4 (3 with basic version, 1 with advanced version)
Flip 9 is a microgame that delivers a surprisingly complex challenge with only 9 cards (numbered 1 thru 9). It is a solitaire game – to set it up, you shuffle the 9 cards and deal them to the table. Your goal is to get the cards into numerical order with the 1 on the left and the 9 on the right. Each turn, you simply exchange the position of two cards.
Once you have moved the cards, you sum those two cards. If the total is greater than ten, you add the digits together. So, if you move a 2 and a 4, your sum is 6. If you move a 7 and 8, your sum is also 6 (7+8=15, but 1+5=6). The catch is that your next move must involve the card which equals the sum that you just created. That’s pretty much the whole ruleset for the basic game.
The advanced game takes it a step further. I hadn’t mentioned yet that the cards are two-sided (a green side and a tan side). In the advanced game, not only do you have to the the numbers in order, you also have to get them all to the same colored side! In setup, the cards go down both shuffled in terms of number as well as side. When you make a move, you switch places as well as switching their side.
This is an enjoyable enough game, and it has kept me interested while I’ve been waiting for kids at soccer practice this week. It’s small enough that you can play on the dashboard of your car! The basic game is clever, though I wonder if it is solvable. I have won it each time I’ve played it thus far. The advanced game is another animal entirely. I have only tried it once, but it seemed nearly impossible! I will bring the game with me for the flight to Europe, and we’ll have to see if I can prevail at the advanced game.
I know a lot of folks are looking at this at Essen due to the low price, I believe that this is being offered for 3 EUR.
Until your next appointement,
The Gaming Doctor
p.s. a big shoutout to Chris Sjoholm for getting me hooked up with the folks from TBD