Yomi comes in two flavors: Complete, and deck based. I have the Complete First Edition and will be basing my review off of this, but you can also purchase this game in two-character decks, which include all you need to play: two matched characters and a set of rules.
The Complete First Edition comes with all ten characters, two playing mats, life counters, and a large-form rulebook. Each of the characters has its own deck of 54 cards (52 standard poker cards, and two Jokers), a character card and a reference card. The decks are based off of poker cards, and have the standard four suits, 2-10 and Jack through Ace. Each deck is slightly different, with some characters leaning more towards combos, throws, special abilities or devastating attacks.
The playing mats are large, mouse-pad style mats with more than enough room for your deck of cards, a discard pile, reference sheet, character sheet and playing area, as well as a life track along the right side of the mat. The mats each depict a different fight scene, and are very well done. The life counters come in two colors: red and blue. These counters are for use with the life track on your playing mat; one of your counters goes on the ten's, the other on the one's, allowing accurate and easy life-tracking.
The rulebook included with the first edition is an 8-page rulebook, but is the same version of the fold out rules in all of the decks with an FAQ section. The actual rules section is the first page, a quick reference section on the second, then 5 pages of FAQ, and the last page explaining the universe and the characters.
All of the artwork on the cards is well done and fitting. The cards will depict your character attacking, blocking or throwing with various levels of detail, but do not detract from the utility of the cards themselves. All of the useful information is situated along the top and bottom of the card. And each character's deck has its own unique back. Very cool.
Gameplay is simple in Yomi. Each player starts their turn by drawing a card into their hand, they then place a card face down and reveal them. Each card belongs to one of three basic types: Attack, Block/Dodge, and Throw. Attack beats Throw, Throw beats Block/Dodge, and Block/Dodge beats Attack. Whoever wins the combat then gets to continue a combo if they can.
Combos are where this game gets interesting. Attack cards show additional information on them that tells the player whether it is a Starter, Ender or Linker. As it sounds, Starters must start the combo (be the card placed face down), Linkers can be used to link combos together, and Enders must end the combo. You can only combo normal attack cards in ascending order, so if you place a 2 attack card, it must be followed by a 3 attack card, then a 4 and so on; unless you use a Linker. A Linker will allow you to jump from a 10 to a 2, a 4 to a 6 or any other combination. Additionally, each character only has a certain number of combo points, listed on the character card. You may not exceed this number, and each card will have a number of dots that indicates how many points it takes to play this card.
Occasionally, cards will have abilities listed on the face of the card that break the rules in some way, but are all explained on the card. Additionally, each character has an ability unique to them. Some characters can do additional damage with attacks if the conditions are right; some have a constant effect that does damage; and some can change form.
After a player is finished with his or her combo, you total up the damage done by all of the cards and adjust the life values. The first player to lose all of their hit points loses.
While Yomi is incredibly easy to learn, it is certainly complex and varied, just like the arcade games it apes. The asymmetric characters provide nearly limitless replays, but you will find yourself gravitating towards one or two particular characters. The characters all provide different paths to victory, and provide each player personality an appropriate character. The quick and exciting playtime creates a "Just one more game..." feeling when you're done, and is addicting to say the least.
It is the perfect filler for those who show up too late to join a game, but it is also perfect for a night of calm gaming. It can even be played tournament style, which I highly recommend. Get ten of your friends together, have each of them choose a character and spend one or two games getting used to your characters play style. Separate into brackets, and the tournament is started.
Yomi is deceptively strategic, but it also requires psychology. You really do need to read your opponent in order to win, with very few matches coming down to luck. Yomi is also incredibly flexible. I've played this game in a serious setting and actually found myself tense and sweating during a match, but I've also played this game socially, waiting for a spot to open.
But Yomi certainly does have its flaws. At $100, the Complete First Edition is pricey. Sirlin Games realized this, and has given the player-on-a-budget two alternatives. You can buy the decks as you go in two-packs for $24.99, or you can buy the complete game as a PDF for $14.99! Let me repeat that, fifteen bucks gets you all ten character's decks! Sure, you have to print them yourself, but you can buy ten poker decks cheap. I have to commend Sirlin games for their efforts here, it really comes through to me as a customer that they care deeply about this game, and want you to as well.
Yomi is a must-have for me. I've been playing this game nearly every week for the last several months and I still learn new strategies each time I play. The cards are beautiful and resilient, and the game truly is easy to learn, hard to master.