The Board Dame Reviews: Yamatai!


“Queen Himiko has tasked every builder in the kingdom with a prestigious mission: build the capital of Yamataï and make it the jewel of the archipelago. Your task: surpass your competitors and build the most prestigious city of them all, using resources from the fleets that travel through the kingdom. Prepare your strategy, recruit specialists, and do whatever is necessary to become the best builder and be rewarded by Queen Himiko for your work. In the end, only one name will be remembered as the greatest builder of Yamataï!”

Yamatai is a 2-4 player Route Building game set in Japan. Designed by Bruno Cathal and Marc Paquien, with artwork by Jérémie Fleury.

Box Game Length:  40-80 minutes. Actual Playtime: 70-90 minutes.

I’m not sure where they got 40 minutes, I’ve never come close to that time.

Setup time: 10 minutes.

Player Count: 2-4 players.

Game Mechanics: Modular Board and Route/Network Building.

Game Weight: 2.9/5 This game is medium weight and would be a good game to “level up” to as a player that primarily plays lightweight games.

It’s easy enough to understand with not a lot of rules, but deep enough to keep more experienced gamers entertained.

Days Of Wonder does this well with the majority of their games.

Thematic Integration: The theme is beautiful, and is moderately integrated. However it would be possible to use a number of different themes that include boats to replace this one. Though possible, the rich history surrounding Yamatai makes for a really interesting and beautiful theme, especially with the inclusion of traditional buildings in the wooden buildings provided.


Objective: Your objective in Yamatai is to expand the trade route, and building standard and prestigious building tiles. The game ends when someone has built all their standard buildings, when the supply runs out of one type of ship, or when you cannot replenish either building stack or specialist stack. The person with the most prestige points wins!

Game Round Summary: Each round players will take turns drafting one of 10 numbered fleet tiles. These tiles will provide coloured ships to expand your shipping route, an ability, as well as determine your turn order for the next round.


After that you may purchase OR sell a single ship. You cannot do both in a single turn.

Then you must place at least one ship, then either grab a token/tokens from islands you expanded your shipping route to , OR build a building, not both.


Then you must store any unused boats on your board, one can be used the next round, the others, if any, are counted negatively at the end of the game. -1 for two boats at the end of the game.

Lastly, you may turn in 2 identical tokens, or three different tokens for one of the specialist available at the top of the board.

Each specialist will provide a different ability, and/or prestige points.


Artwork: Days Of Wonder always blows it out of the park with their artwork, Yamatai is no different. Every part of the game is absolutely stunning. Jérémie killed it! Every little bit of this game is so beautifully designed, the details in the specialist, on the game and player board, even the coins are mind blowingly beautiful, and most of all, respectful of Japanese culture. Ugh I love it!

Components: Top notch! You definitely get amazing value in this game. The wooden components are fantastic, especially the prestigious buildings. Cardboard is thick and the finish is durable.

The only thing to keep in mind is that this game is not colour blind friendly. The boats are Green, Red, Yellow, Brown and Black and they are all the same shape.

The tray insert is great for horizontal storage, as each bit has its own place but you are looking at a HUGE mess if you store vertically. So baggie up those pieces and toss the insert if you’re a vertical storer.


Scales Based on Player Count:

2 Players – In my opinion, this is the best play experience. Each player gets two turns per round, so you can plan and take two turns in a row allowing you to clear islands of their tokens and then build. As you cannot do both in a single turn, you’re now able to clear and then build.

Downtime is short, and there’s less AP as you’re able to plan better. Your decisions also seem more meaningful as you want to be able to connect your buildings adjacently along the trade route as much as possible to trigger abilities and gain income.

3 Players – Not a bad player count, certainly playable, each player has one turn per round and downtime is a little longer as planning is less likely. Abilities are harder to trigger and you’re less likely to get what you want.

4 Players – The worst player count in my opinion, and not one that I overly enjoy. Turns take too long, planning doesn’t happen and your choices are more of the “I’ll take what I can get” variety. The difference between the play experience at 2 players vs 4 players is staggering.

Replayability: Excellent! Modular board, large variety of buildings and specialists. Some of the specialists seem to be no brainer when they come out, but they all can contribute to a different win condition in their own way.

Overall Thoughts: I love this game so much as a two player game. I really wish it had been marketed as that and only that, as I’d likely not pick this game to play at 3-4 players.

If you want something with the same quality and similar experience, but far better at 3-4 players, go for Five Tribes. The game play between the two are very different, so don’t confuse them as wanting one or the other. Both are wonderful to have in your collection for different reasons. I would however not recommend Yamatai unless you were going to be playing it with two players mostly.


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