Yellow and Yangtze is pure gold in our book.
Android, iOS, Steam
# of Players
Dire Wolf Digital
Yellow and Yangtze is a tile placement, area control, set collection game from designer Reiner Knizia and Grail Games, brought to the digital world by Dire Wolf Digital. In the game, the spiritual and mechanical successor to Tigris and Euphrates , players attempt to assert control over the land using a variety of different types of leaders and tiles. The game ends when the tile pile runs out, and scores of four different types are counted, the player who’s lowest of those score is the highest among all players wins the game. A game takes about 20 minutes.
Yellow and Yangtze borrows its basic concept and mechanics structure from Tigris and Euphrates. There are a lot of great reviews out there which go into great depth on the specific differences between the two games, we would suggest you look up some of those if interested. Instead, we’ll cover the rules on their own here.
Players begin with five leaders of five different colors/types and a handful of tiles. The board consists of a large map of mostly empty hex spaces. There are governor tiles scattered to start a game and players choose from a few simple actions on each turn. Players take two actions, repeating any as they wish, out of the following choices: play/move/remove a leader, play a tile, trade tiles, or play blue or green special abilities. Any section of connected tiles on the map is referred to as a ‘state.’
Leaders earn you points and must be played, and always remain, next to a governor tile. When a regular tile of the color of a leader is played into a state, whoever’s leader is there earns a point. If there are no leaders of that color/type, if a governor leader is in the state, that player earns the point. Should three tiles of the same type form a triangle, a pagoda is built which gives the controlling leader of that type one point at the end of each of their turns. And that’s the whole goal of the game, collect points.
Besides strategic tile placement for point scoring, the other main factor of the game is the conflicts. The game has these in two forms; revolts and wars. Revolts occur when one player plays a leader into a state that already contains a leader of that color. The loser must remove their leader while the winner earns a point and keeps their leader on the board. Wars occur when two separate states are joined together and contain leaders of the same color. Wars are much messier and multiple leaders and soldiers from the losing states may be removed. The winner receives a point for each removed leader.
Both of these conflicts allow players to contribute tiles from their hand to aid in the fight. One of the coolest aspects of the game is that you can start wars between other players. See somebody gaining too much of an advantage but is vulnerable? Start a friendly battle they can’t win, and you can even contribute soldiers to their enemy! This is one of the few ways you can directly mess with opponents, which makes the game significantly more cutthroat than you might expect. You should expect some of that in a game with direct conflict, but it’s these more sneaky ways of foiling your enemies which might surprise.
That was massive oversimplification, but in a nutshell the key points of the game are placing tiles to earn points and fighting to strongarm states and points away from opponents. I’m skipping over a lot, such as green tiles providing you the chance to grab any face up tile after playing and blue tiles only being able to be played on river spaces but you can play as many as you want for one action. There’s more, but you get the point.
Yellow and Yangtze is a very intriguing game for me, mostly because I am truly awful and will lose to any human or AI you put me against. The scoring is genius and maddening, as your score is whichever of the four main colors you have the least of at the end. Oh, yellow is the fifth color and acts as a wild at the end of the game. It’s a very open-ended game which is very impressive for it having such a small core set of rules. Place a leader or tile, being mindful of starting/avoiding conflicts is 90% of the game. It’s fairly simple at a base level but trying to navigate things on the map and make sure you’re getting enough points in each category or trying to decide if you need to trade tiles because you can’t draw a blue to save your life! It all starts to add up quite quickly.
So, is Yellow and Yangtze any good? I enjoy my time with it and it is one that I will keep installed for a while and hope to graduate from “worst player in the world” to “merely bad” over time. I like how simple the basics are to grasp, even if some of the smaller details can take a while to sink in. There is clearly some solid depth to the game. I feel like this one is probably more of an acquired taste than most, but if tile placing based conflict games are up your alley, Yellow and Yangtze certainly offers some interesting twists to take in.
Barrier to Entry
The game features a series of seven tutorials to teach new players. Each tutorial is short on its own and introduces a small piece of the rules. Many of them teach you a piece and then leave you to complete some simple objective on your own afterwards, this really helps in making sure the lesson is sinking in.
The app also features a text rulebook which is indexed making it very easy to jump to a section of you need to look up something specific. Yellow and Yangtze is a complex game that will definitely take some time to fully sink in for new players, but the app does a great job getting you started down the path.
Look and Feel
The app looks great. The game board is presented in a typical video game style angled 3D view with buildings and, especially, pagodas popping off of the screen. The animations throughout are great touches and add to the experience. The menus are clear, the colors are good. It is a great looking app.
Control wise, the game does feature an undo button which is imperative in a game like this where there are so many different places to play a tile, it is easy to pick the wrong one initially. Things are done via drag-and-drop and that works well. The one complaint I have in this area is that if you want to move a leader from one spot on the map to another, you need to zoom out enough so you can perform this in one move without the benefit of scrolling to other sections of the map. A minor quibble, at least until you want to perform this action then it’s quite frustrating.
All of the features are here. Real-time, async, cross-platform, local pass-and-play, AI replacement if players timeout, online leaderboards, working notifications. I’m not sure what else you could want. Games are joined via lobby which includes a chat if you want to mingle in the lobby before starting a game. Async games (dubbed “casual” here) have a three day timeout before an AI replaces the slack player. You can optionally password protect a game you create. To play with friends, you start games with them from the friends menu which is in a different spot in the app, this feels a little clunky but that’s a massive nitpick if there ever was one.
For single player, you can play standalone games or through a campaign. For standalone games, the AI ranges from easy to hard. As previously mentioned, I’m awful at this game so I’m a terrible judge of AI quality on this one, unfortunately. I will say that once I got the hang of the game on a basic level, I began to defeat the easy AI at least half of the time while still losing to higher difficulty AI.
The campaign plays you through a loose story arc over nine different scenarios, usually with some alternate starting setup. It’s a fairly shallow mode, but it is fun to add a slightly different take on the game.
There are no stats or achievements, which might be the only feature missing from the game.
Reading the rules
It’s been a little while since I’ve played Tigris and Euphrates and I never got that into it when I did, so it’s tough for me to provide a true comparison. With that caveat, and it might just be the super polished app speaking, I will say I’m pretty sure I prefer Yellow and Yangtze. This opinion is worth nothing given my experience levels with the two, but I wanted to throw it out there before the end of the review anyway.
The Wrap Up
Yellow and Yangtze is a deep game that always makes you think on a few different levels. You have to be mindful of scoring points, but you can’t leave any category behind. You’ll also need to monitor to see if you are vulnerable to attacks, or if any of your opponents are so you can take advantage. Halting their progress while stealing a few precious points can be the difference between a win and a loss.
The app is stellar throughout. The minor control issue when dragging a leader is the only implementation detail I can call out. It would be nice to see some local stats and achievements, but that’s beyond a nitpick.
Yellow and Yangtze is for you if you have any interest in the game, or just heavier strategy games in general, and want to play it in an incredibly smooth digital package. I can’t find anything substantial to nitpick and although the game isn’t necessarily one that fully draws me in, the app is so strong that I want to keep on playing and improving.