Game nights are still somewhat off limits (or at least strongly discouraged) in many areas. As a result, many of those who prefer their entertainment in cardboard form are flocking to online platforms to get their gaming fix.
So far, we’ve discussed some great options that you can find on Board Game Arena and through Jackbox Games. Today, I’m going to touch on a site that may not be as initially approachable, but definitely can provide tons of opportunity for fun.
An Introduction to Yucata
Yucata is an online gaming platform that states that it primarily focuses on “German-style games”. The site has been around for a while, and while I’ve heard about it over the years, I never made an account until just a few months ago.
Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat: this site is ugly. Really ugly. It’s also not nearly as user friendly as Board Game Arena. It took me quite some time to figure out how to navigate the site, so to spare you that pain, watch this video in order to get the basics down.
After a few weeks with it, I feel like I’ve got the hang of it. I would say that Yucata is a site for those who are looking for heavier games than can often be found on BGA. The site uses only a turn-based system, so you won’t have the “real time” experience that you get from BGA unless you have planned ahead with some of your friends. There are also some little quirks here and there that can be frustrating at times.
Once you get over the poor user interface, you’ll find that you have access to some games that are difficult to find elsewhere. Sure, you can find pretty much anything on Tabletop Simulator, but on Yucata, all the rules are set up for you. You just decide what to do, and the site takes care of the rest. I personally struggled to get anything going the first few weeks, but now I’m playing about 25-30 games at once on the site. So yeah, it’s grown on me.
If you’re curious about where to get started, here are five games that I’ve really enjoyed playing on the platform. These aren’t necessarily the best games available, but hey, I like them, and I’m writing this, so leave me alone! Leave a comment below if there’s one I missed!
The Castles of Burgundy
When you’re working to review board games, you sometimes forget about how much you enjoyed your time with games that are a few years old. Then one night, you get them to the table, and fall in love all over again. Usually with a glass of wine, some nice, romantic music… oh wait, sorry.
The Castles of Burgundy is one of those games for me. I’ve had a copy for several years now, but it usually sits up on the shelf collecting dust. But when it finally makes its way down, I go on a playing spree, getting four or five games in before it goes back.
Now that I’ve found a digital version, though, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop! In the past two weeks, I’ve played about eight games of CoB. That might not sound like that much, but keep in mind that these games are turn-based, meaning that I may only make a move every few days.
I think my enjoyment of the digital version of this game comes from the ability to step away for a while and then get right back into it when you return. Given that you only really get two actions each turn, there’s not much to remember if I don’t get to my turn for a day or two.
I also think the interface is pretty good on this one – they’ve managed to find a way to stuff this table hog into a simple system by which you can see certain elements of the game if you put your mouse over them. All in all, if you’re looking for a place to start with Yucata, you could do a lot worse than The Castles of Burgundy.
Finca has been around for over a decade, but I didn’t even know that it existed until a few years ago when some kind people at Atlanta Game Fest invited me to play with them. It was a fun experience, and I’m glad that I get to revisit now in its online form.
Finca is a game that’s all about its rondel. Players use farmer meeples to move around a windmill to acquire crops, because that’s how agriculture works. These crops are then traded in for point tokens of varying values that can be found on the game board. The player that ends the game with the most points wins.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, there are few wrinkles that make this game a little more of a thinker. The placement of other farmers on the rondel impacts how you move and how much of a good you get. There’s also a mechanic that forces you to move around or you can’t make deliveries. A few other little details here and there allow Finca to be so much more than meets the eye.
This is another game that I think works really well in a turn-based system because each move is so simple. You move a farmer, or you deliver goods – there aren’t really other options (besides a few bonus tokens, but hey, don’t argue with me!). It’s a nice, relaxing little game that’s quite enjoyable as you take it just a few turns a day or as you play live with some friends over Zoom.
Hadara! Yes, I love this game. Lots and lots. You can check out my review of the game or watch our live playthrough if you don’t believe me. So I was very excited when this game recently hit beta on Yucata.
I’ve frequently described Hadara as a cross between 7 Wonders and Splendor, but it has some unique elements that enable it to stand on its own. The game just seems really approachable and balanced while still providing plenty of opportunity for strategy. There are several different ways to score points and get to victory, but you’ll need to adjust to the cards that you have available on your turns.
If you haven’t given this game a try, I would recommend that you get a Yucata account just to try this out. It’s quick to learn, it’s quick to play, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
Rajas of the Ganges
Rajas is yet another worker placement game you can find on Yucata, and I would argue it’s one of the best. Bob was a huge fan of this game last year, and when he finally got me to play it, I could see what the excitement was about.
I’m a big fan of its unique scoring system. Players move forward on a fame and a money track, going in opposite directions around the board. When their tokens intersect, the game ends. It’s not something I’ve seen in a lot of other games, and it forces you to think about each turn in a different way.
I can’t lie: I’m really terrible at this game. I haven’t wrapped my head around the best strategies, so I end up losing pretty badly. But I still enjoy myself! I bet you’ll have an even better time if you know what you’re doing.
Cacao is probably the lightest title of those I’ve covered so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s no good. A fun little tile/worker placement game, Cacao is all about making the right choices at the right time. You’ll need to acquire cacao and sell it, travel down a river, and worship at temples, all with the hopes of acquiring gold.
I really enjoy the way in which players use tiles for worker placement – it allows for a nice balance of freedom and structure that makes a good fit for people who are just learning about the genre.
There’s still some strategic opportunities here for players looking for them. One mechanic – the sun token – allows you to place a worker tile on top of a previously played worker tile so that you can “double dip” on a location. Plus, the ways in which the temples score (the player with the most workers gets 6 points, second most gets 3 points) provides the opportunity for some competition along the way.
I definitely prefer to play this game in person, but I like the format provided on Yucata. It’s enough to hold me over until those awesome game nights can resume.