Yosemite: A Gamer’s Thoughts

The Gumbo is pleased to present a new review from a true gamer: Jerod Gamer, our frequent playing partner on our Twitch Tuesday streams! (Yes, his last name really is “Gamer”.) Jerod is an omni gamer who can usually be found on BGA playing hundreds of games at a time. Here’s his review of Yosemite, from WizKids! Games.

My wife and I are big fans of thinky games that make us question which one of us is smarter than the other. Was it a smart play of a tile? Or was it just a lucky flip of a card that contributed to the win?

WizKids! recently sent us Yosemite, a competitive two player set collection game by designer Tim Blank with beautiful art from Beth Sobel. In Yosemite, we got that nice competitive feel but with some bonuses: a relaxing theme of the great outdoors, with good old fashioned cardboard tiles, and some really cool animals.

Every good hike starts out with an overview, so here’s Yosemite in a nutshell. Yosemite is strictly a 2-player game in which players take turns moving their hikers over a grid of animal tiles. As the hikers move from one animal tile to another, they will exchange the ending tile with a random one from off the board, collecting the various animals in an attempt to complete photo objectives from a small market of available cards.

The photos are of the famous areas of Yosemite National Park, which will be familiar to most fans of this gorgeous national treasure. Photos of El Capitan, which my cousin Matthew never tires of reading about, players will need to collect two snake tiles, a bear tile and a fox tile. That means the hiker needs to land on all of those tiles, but collecting them and turning them back in before the opponent does will net you four points. Once nine photos have been complete, the game end is triggered and the points are tallied.

But that’s just the basic scoring. Each of the animal tiles also comes in one of three basic colors which dictate bonus actions. Green tiles are how you score the photo opportunities; blue tiles help you collect fish which you can spend on your turn to move extra spaces and set up a big combo turn; and white tiles move your “tent token” on a tug-of-war track a la 7 Wonders Duel’s military victory track, which has the added bonus of some sweet extra points at the end for the winner but is also the tie breaker. If that wasn’t enough, there are also different landscapes for the photos, and whoever collects more of the same landscapes can give you even more set collection scores if you can snag the corresponding landmarks which come out randomly during the game.

The focus in Yosemite, as any visitor would expect, are on the animals. In Yosemite, there are 5 different animal tiles (bear, fox, snake, mountain lion, and longhorn sheep). These tiles will be set up at the start of the game in a 5×5 grid that players will hike across in order to collect them and use a specific sets of animals to capture the perfect picture according to a market of photo cards to score points.

Right away, the designers threw in an interesting twist. Players move there hiker across the tiles using familiar patterned movement — think Chess — but that is dictated not by any piece you move but instead by which animal tile you are moving off. For instance, leaving the fox tile allows the hiker to move up to three tiles away, while exiting the bear tile moves the hiker exactly two spaces and then allows the player to move an opponent’s hiker.

This add a bit of a challenge to the normal movement of any strategic game: I might really want to add a bear and a fox tile to my hand in my next two turns, to match a photo requirement already in the market, but how can I get both starting from the tile I am already on? And can I get this done before my opponent? I really liked that part of the game — not only mapping out what tiles I needed but also figuring out the puzzle of using the movement of the animal tiles to complete the photos that I wanted.

Speaking of tiles, the cardboard components are thick and feel great in your hand and on the table. Just keep in mind that you ideally want a nice mix up of the tiles during the play. Bust out that “Carcassonne shuffle” to get the tiles nice and separated before and during your play.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

On the surface, this looks like a game of just getting animals and taking photos to score points, but there is a lot more to it. The combination of the set collection, bonus actions, and 7 Wonders Duel tug of war made my wife and I really puzzle over where we will put our focus on each round. We always had t o think out our next two or three turns to try and complete our photos as efficiently as possible. Our plays of Yosemite have demonstrated that this is an easy one to add to our growing collection of two player games for our family game nights. It’s a 20 minute game that is easy to pick up, but is taking us a while to master.

— Jerod

A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher.

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