Dale Yu: Review of Miyabi


  • Designer: Michael Kiesling
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by HABA USA

In Miyabi, players vie to make the most elegant Japanese garden.  Each player starts with an empty garden board, which has a 6×6 grid on it.  They also get six wooden lanterns in their color to mark off the different columns of their board.  In the center of the table is placed a scoring board which also keeps track of the four to six rounds of the game.

In each round, a number of tiles in each of the four shapes is selected and placed face up on the table.  Each of these pieces has one of the six different garden plants printed on it in a grouping of one to three plants (with the rest of the tile being blank).  On a player’s turn, he will choose one of the available tiles and then place it on his board. There are a number of rules about placing the tile though

·         The depicted plants must be placed in the row designated for that symbol

·         The depicted plants much be placed in a column which does not already have a lantern placed on it; as you place this tile, put a lantern in the space at the top of this column

·         The tile must fit completely in the 6×6 grid

·         Tiles may be laid on top of other tiles but only if the entirety of the new tile rests upon previously placed tiles.

Again, after placing the tile, mark the column with the depicted plant with a lantern, and then you immediately score the tile by taking the number of objects shown on that tile (one to three) multiplied by the level on which it is placed.  If you have been the first player to place a particular type of plant on the fifth level up, take the fifth level bonus tile for that variety.

If you are unable to legally play a tile (or choose not to place a tile), you pass for the rest of the round.  The round continues until all players have either passed or have filled all six of their columns with lanterns. Any tiles that were not chosen are discarded from the game.

The round marker moves forward on the central board, the start player moves one position clockwise and the whole thing is repeated again.  The game lasts 4/5/6 rounds for 4/3/2 players. At the end of the designated final round, the game moves into final scoring. For each of the six rows on the board, the player with the most and second most number of objects in each row scores points as shown on the left of the player board.  If there is a tie for first, all tied players get the higher value and no points are awarded to anyone else. The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker.

Once you are familiar with the base game, you can add any or all of the five expansion cards to the game – these give you extra scoring opportunities based on the player board at the end of the game.  They can be chosen individually or mixed together in any combination.

My thoughts on the game

Miyabi is a game that I thought I would enjoy seeing as it comes from one of my favorite designers (Kiesling) and belonging to a product line which has been good for me (the new Haba family game line).  As it turns out, my instincts were right, and I have definitely enjoyed my plays of Miyabi so far. It is definitely a light to mid weight game, but it doesn’t try to be anything else but that.

The drafting in the game is interesting. Early on, players often jump on the largest tiles first as they help cover the most ground to allow you to build a firm platform to build upwards.  Early on, I like to give myself the ability to build upwards wherever I can. Later in the game, I might be a bit more concerned about getting scoring opportunities. If I can build a certain area up to levels 3, 4 and 5 – each tile that I place in that tile pyramid should score me lots of points.

As the turns progress (and the rounds progress) players will develop different needs.  At some point, the big tiles are simply too big to be able to be easily placed. Unless there is one that exactly fits a space, they often can’t be placed on your board.  Instead, you are looking for the right piece, that has the plant on the right section, to allow you to place it precisely where you want it. In any particular round, the decisions near the end get dicey when you become quite limited in the columns where you are able to place tiles; and depending on the selection on the table, you might pass up a larger tile at first in order to ensure that you get something else that fits your board perfectly.

As I said earlier, in the end stages of the game, you look to score points.  This might be finding a tile that you can place on a fourth or fifth level or it might be filling in a hole on your matrix in order to vie for a row majority at the end of the game.  If you are playing with the expansions, you might work on that alternate scoring criteria as well. This multitude of scoring options makes the game a bit more forgiving than many drafting games.  In the end, players often have a number of different options and it is less likely that they have a single good choice which could be taken from them.

The art is functional, but fairly plain.  This isn’t a bad thing at all – all of the icons are easy to see/read, and there aren’t any confusing areas due to the graphic design – but there’s also nothing overly eye-catching either.  The tiles are nice and sturdy, and they have held up to multiple plays without any visible wear.

Miyabi has turned out to be a good entry level drafting game which we’ve enjoyed this winter.  I have had good success playing this with groups at various gaming cons this winter (though, with the coronavirus pandemic, who knows when the next one will be!).  I’m holding on to this one for now as I think it will eventually make it up to the summer lakehouse as a nice addition to the game collection there.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Nathan Beeler
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Miyabi

  1. I liked Miyabi… but it felt just a little dry. I’d be happy to play again, though.

  2. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Miyabi - Rollandtroll.com

  3. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Miyabi – Herman Watts

  4. Brandon Kempf says:

    I forgot to add any thoughts to this, which kind of goes right along with my thoughts on this. It really seems like a throwaway design from Kiesling. I really wanted to like it, especially because at first glance it looks like it may have some shared characteristics with Sanssoucci, but it doesn’t, and isn’t nearly as interesting.

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