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Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Yin Yang

When it comes to economy in game design, Reiner Knizia is one of the undisputed masters. His games frequently feature simple rules matched with careful balance, thus achieving an elegance in design that is usually built on a foundation of mathematical sequences, patterns or numbers. That's also very much the case with Yin Yang, a filler type card game that has appeared previously under a different name (first Drahtseilakt in 1999, and then later Relationship Tightrope in 2004), but has recently had a makeover with a new theme and look, and even some small changes. I'm not a huge fan of Taoist philosophy, but I have to admit that it matches the gameplay nicely here, and the yin yang concept of balance fits the game well enough. The result is a nice filler game with gameplay that reminds me of games like 6 Nimmt in feel, by requiring thoughtful choices from a starting hand of cards, yet without becoming more serious than it deserves. Let's show you more.


End of a three player game

COMPONENTS

Game box

This new edition is part of the Gryphon Games tin box series, which come in a quality metal container. I'm a big fan of these boxes, and think they look great!


Box cover

The back of the box tells us about the game and theme, and is that Chinese I see? Perhaps the publisher is trying to appeal to an international market with the help of a theme that's especially familiar to people in different parts of the world?!


Box back

Component list

So what do you get inside?

• 50 Number cards
• 10 Score cards
• 24 Yin chips and 24 Yang chips
• Instructions


Everything inside the box

Number cards

The main cards players will use are numbered from 1 to 50. These are the cards that will be dealt out to the players and which they will play over the course of a game.


Ten of the Number cards

Score cards

There are 10 Score cards corresponding to the “tricks” of each round. Each card gives a value for black and a value for white. The player who plays the highest number card that trick will take that many black chips, while the player who plays the lowest number card that trick will take that many white chips.


All of the Score cards

Yin & Yang chips

There are 48 black and white yin and yang chips, which represent the “minus” points players will try to avoid collecting. Fortunately it's not all bad, because black chips cancel out white chips.


All the Yin & Yang chips

Rules

The rules are a single sheet of paper, with English on the one side, and what I think is Chinese on the reverse side. At any rate, the rules are very straight forward and easy to learn.


Rulebook cover

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

With the chips in the middle of the table, shuffle the ten Score cards and place them face down, while dealing a hand of 9 Number cards to each player. Let's play!


A starting hand of 9 cards

Flow of Play

The first Score card is turned face up, and a `trick' follows with each player in turn playing a Number card. The player who played the lowest Number card takes the corresponding number of white chips listed on the Score card, while the player who played the highest Number card takes the corresponding number of black chips listed on the Score card – he also leads the next trick when the next Score card is turned face up.

But now here's the interesting thing – white chips and black chips cancel each other out, as part of the yin-yang balance. So if you have five black chips and then need to get three white chips, the three white chips in effect remove three black chips, leaving you with two black chips. So even though chips correspond to minus points, there are simple ways of getting rid of them, and your score at any given moment will often fluctuate up and down as the game progresses – if you can get the balance right!


Distributing tokens at the end of a trick in a three player game

End of Round Scoring

The round ends after nine tricks (the final score card is not used), with players receiving minus points for each chip they have at the end of a round. If one player successfully ends the round with a score of zero, the other players get two extra penalty chips added to their score. Scores are recorded and further rounds are played, until as many rounds have been played equal to the number of players. The player with the lowest score at the end is the winner.


All the cards in the game (sorted)

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Typical Knizia: This game has Knizia's signature written all over it – it's a simple and elegant design that relies on numerical balance, combined with a thin theme and yet providing for interesting decisions in a card game filler.

Mounting tension: What's interesting about this game is that you can afford to lose early tricks – in fact, winning some high chips with high cards can be desirable early on to make your low cards playable later in the game, or vice versa. The zero balance concept is a good one and the mechanic in which black chips and white chips cancel each other out works well.

Setting up a hand: The game is rarely decided until the very last card played, and here's where the skill comes in: you'll need to play your hand carefully, even allowing yourself to take chips from time to time, so that your final cards can win the last couple of tricks and get the balance you need to win the game.

Thematically appropriate: Is the theme a better fit than Relationship Tightrope? I've never played earlier editions, so I can't comment, but I can say that the yin-yang theme fits very nicely and makes a lot of sense, even if it is just as pasted on as your average Knizia.

Attractive package: I really appreciate the Gryphon Games tin box series, and this game is no exception. Everything breathes quality, from the attractive tin box itself, the felt-style box insert, and the high quality linen finish cards.

Suitable filler: The game plays very quickly, because each hand only consists of players playing nine cards each. Yet there's enough interesting decisions during a hand to make it rewarding and fun to play, so everything being said, it's ideal as a filler type card game.

Best with 3 or 4: A big part of the game is to ensure that you deliberately lose some tricks, by keeping high or low cards that will help reduce the balance of whatever chips you may have earned early in a round. This becomes more difficult with a lage number of players at the table, so even though the game can be played with five players, I'm inclined to think it's best played with less players.

Good variants: The rules also include a couple of variants. One that we particularly like is where players get ten cards at the start of each round. The game still ends after nine tricks, leaving one card unplayed. Since much of the game comes to setting up the last part of a hand and in particular the last card played, this offers a little more control. Another good variant lets you erase a score from a previous round if you score zero in a later round. If you want more skill and enjoy card counting, you could also try playing with cards numbered 1-30 for a 3 player game and 1-40 for a 4 player game.

Previous editions: Not having played Drahtseilakt (1999) or Relationship Tightrope (2004), the two predecessors of Yin Yang, I can't comment about which gameplay I prefer. It's worth knowing, however, that the gameplay of Yin Yang appears to have simplified some of the earlier forms of the game, chiefly by removing the two "eliminator" cards that cancel one side of a scoring card, as well as having different values for black and white on the score cards.


Part of the great looking tin box series

What do others think?

The criticism

There's not a whole lot to dislike, but critics primarily disliked having a pasted on theme, or the light game play. One of the chief reasons for some of the hate that Relationship Tightrope received had to do with the fact that many considered the theme to be sexist and stereotyped, so the Yin Yang theme should be a refreshing and appreciated theme for many.

The praise

Here's what some of the enthusiasts have to say about Yin Yang and its predecessors:

"This is fun filler and accessible enough to introduce to non-gamers." - Stefanie Summerer
"Destined to be a true classic." - Muz Fish
"Good card playing fun. The more you play it, the more delicious it gets." - Richard Glanzer
"Oh, so painfully wonderful. Trick taking at its best." - Chris Fenwick
"Excellent, fun, quick filler - in same category as 6 Nimmt, Lasscaux, No Thanks and the like." - Helen Minall
"One of my favorite filler games. This one have very clever mechanics where you have to manage the losses and winnings of the tricks in order to get a good score." - Gus
"Another fun, innovative and quirky trick-taking game. One of the few (light) trick-taking games that can be scaled well for 3, 4 & 5 players." - Larry Chong
"The best trick-taking game I know, but with two 'winners' on each hand instead of one. Very rich, yet very simple and fast (45 minutes), the game forces players to create strategies (sometimes, very aggressive ones) depending on their starting hands." - Mad Hab
"Fun, quick, interesting. A great filler game." - Eric Summerer
"This is a clever, simple filler game with clever mathematic balancing and a neat core mechanic -- exactly what I expect from a Knizia. I like the gambling and tough decisions, as well as the temptation to wait for the "right" score card to come up so that you can zero out exactly the right number of chips." - Martin Ralya
"A cardgame that is easy to explain, and delivers tough choices to the players, is always a joy." - Jeroen van der Valk
"A solid reimplementation of Tightrope, and without the misogynistic theming of the last version." - Snannon Appelcline
"Easy to explain, decent strategy and great (re)theme." - Sylvain Maher
"Although there is a lot of luck and chaos in the game, strategies and tactics are subtle and unexpected." - Raymond Gallardo




Recommendation

Is Yin Yang for you? If you're looking for a quick and clever card filler that is easy to learn, plays quickly, and has interesting gameplay yet somewhat of a traditional flavour, this is a great choice to introduce to your friends and family.



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Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
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And although I played with the European edition (Fifty Fifty) this pic I took clearly shows another "thematic touch" laugh why the Yin Yang "theme" fits the game just fine (look at the numbers) :

(by the way, what are your notification settings for your own images? I mean, are you notified when someone comments your pics? In some cases it seems you aren't - it just came to my mind I commented one of your YY pics long ago as well.)
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Ender Wiggins
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lacxox wrote:
And although I played with the European edition (Fifty Fifty) this pic I took clearly shows another "thematic touch" laugh why the Yin Yang "theme" fits the game just fine (look at the numbers) :

Thanks for sharing that, Laszlo, I'm appreciate you highlighting the Fifty Fifty edition for the benefit of European gamers.

lacxox wrote:
(by the way, what are your notification settings for your own images? I mean, are you notified when someone comments your pics? In some cases it seems you aren't - it just came to my mind I commented one of your YY pics long ago as well.)

I usually do get notification whenever someone comments on any of my images. I do recall seeing that particular comment, I must just have been rushed at the time and didn't have opportunity to respond. I'm sorry if there's anything I missed, so if ever there is anything specific you are looking for a response on, feel free to point it out via GeekMail.
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Roger
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Nice review.

I have with two players but it does not really work.
If you take some black on the first round you will want white on the second and your opponents will want what you don't.

So I was thinking, is there a way to make it a 2P game?

~J
 
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Scott Nelson
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Idaho Falls
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Roger_Jay wrote:
Nice review.

I have with two players but it does not really work.
If you take some black on the first round you will want white on the second and your opponents will want what you don't.

So I was thinking, is there a way to make it a 2P game?

~J


Can always just flip up a card or two randomly, as a 3rd player, no? Keep track of where this player sits, because the order matters in which their card is played. Some AI is needed to know which card that player would want to play; to get "balanced" on each trick seems plausible.



Or...play two hands each player, combine scores at end. Kinda clnky I would think though.
 
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Amos Dillman
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I had Relationship Tightrope and passed it on because the art and theme were turning people off (including me). Honestly, I'm not even all that interested in this system--but the yin yang components actually make me sort of want this game.
 
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