Jul 29, 2019
Another day, another disaster averted by the brave operatives of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Now that we have finished our adventure through the strange streets of Enbashi, it’s time to discuss the game that brought us there. Is Mysteries of the Yokai the right game for you and your tabletop group? Join us once more, as we delve into this unique game, courtesy of Warding Circle.
Yokai is a game that blazes its own trail when it comes to gaming mechanics, using its own original system rather than cribbing off of another established set of rules. This makes it exciting and fresh, but can also lead to frustration for people more used to the classic games.
Take character creation for example. Yokai foregoes having a set list of classes and races to choose from, instead opting for a point-buy system that is used to pick every aspect of your character’s abilities. The players all appreciated the flexibility this offers, but also found themselves suffering from tyranny of choice. There are so many options to pick from that it can feel overwhelming before you get started. Yokai does offer katas, themed packages that can help guide you, but certain aspects, especially signature attacks, were a bit confusing at first glance. Noa mentioned that NPCs used the same point-buy system, which makes for unique threats and allies, but also require a substantial amount of time to implement.
We found the general mechanics to be intriguing and flexible. We enjoyed that skills could be used with different abilities depending on the character’s personality and background. For example, a weightlifter could add Strength to their Athletics skill, while a long-distance runner might use Endurance instead. Flavorfully, this makes a lot of sense, and is an approach that more games should consider in the future.
Conflicts in Yokai are very different from what any of us were used to. The Conflict Tracker (which can be seen here) is an elegant piece of game design, and the fact that combat is ended by forcing the other side to become unwilling to fight rather than outright killing them all is refreshing. However, we underestimated how key signature attacks were to running an engaging battle. If a character doesn’t have a relevant signature move to the situation, then there it can get repetitive. It falls to the GM to make sure that the fights stay fun and inclusive of the PCs, and there can be a learning curve for those used to traditional turn-based fights.
Yokai truly excels when it comes to the world it creates. It’s clear the designers put a great deal of research and love into the setting, combining the action and courtly intrigue of historical Japan seamlessly with the mystery and wonder of Japanese mythology. Charlotte pointed out that a good RPG setting gives the GM with intriguing hooks and plot threads, and Yokai provides those in abundance. Even if you aren’t familiar with the history or mythology that inspired the game, most players should be able to jump right in. If you grew up watching the films of Studio Ghibli, then Yokai is certain to capture your imagination.
Overall, we enjoyed our time playing Mysteries of the Yokai, and would love to play it again one day. The game offers a lot of complexity without devolving into too much crunch. It might be difficult for new players to jump into without the help of an experienced GM, but there’s an amazing world to discover for those who will try it!
Mysteries of the Yokai can be found at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/229544/Mysteries-of-the-Yokai?affiliate_id=781175.