Some of the best games out there are simple and elegant designs. Miyabi is definitely trying to be just that, elegant, both in design and in theme. But has the legendary Michael Kiesling succeeded? Or will it end up as one of those games that will be forgotten in time? Let’s find out.
What is Miyabi like?
In Miyabi you take turns drafting various polyomino tiles and then place them in your very own zen garden. Each turn a new random bunch of tiles are drawn from the lid of the box and put on display. You take turns taking one of these and try to find the perfect spot for the tile you choose on your player board.
Placing the chosen tile is where things get interesting. You have a 6 x 6 player board, and in each row you can only place a specific type of object (like maple trees, pagodas and fish). Each column holds a lantern that you use to indicate that you’ve already placed a tile in that column this round. So each round you can place a maximum of 6 tiles, 1 in each column. Tiles also come in different sizes, and generally the bigger ones are better, since they have more objects on them and will score you more points, but they are also harder to place.
You want to do a lot of different things to score points. First of all, you want to place the tile you’ve chosen on the highest level possible, because the level acts as a multiplier. So placing a tile with 3 pagodas on it on layer 2 will score you 6 points, whereas placing the same tile on level 3 will score you 9 points. However, since the tiles with most icons on them are also the biggest tiles this quickly becomes tricky to do.
At the end of the game you have another way of scoring points. Each of the rows (that are tied to a specific type of object) score for the players with the most (and second most) of that object. So, not only do you want to build up your layers to score higher points as you play (possibly covering up previous placed objects), but you also want to have as many objects in each row to score points at the end of the game. Additionally, you get an extra one time bonus if you are the first to place an object on the 5th layer (there’s a bonus for each object type). It’s a tricky, but lovely balance.
5 mini-expansions included
The base game has a very slim rule-set and is easy to grasp, but the game also includes more stuff. 5 extra mini-expansions are included, that you can mix and match as you choose. Some even include extra material like the jumping frog tiles (I love that one).
HABA is best known for their kids games, but in the last few years they expanded their repertoire and now publish games for families and the more seasoned players. While I would not consider Miyabi a heavy or deeply complex game, it does offer enough to be much more than just a simple, forgettable game. In fact it’s anything but forgettable!
I’ve really enjoyed my plays of the game, both just the base game and trying out the different mini-expansions. I would gladly play it with or without them, and at any player count.
I love that the basic rules are so simple to explain and understand and that it works great at all player counts. I actually like it best at 2, because you can really pay attention to what your opponent needs and snatch away the tiles they’re eyeing!
I really think Miyabi is a fantastic game and I would go as far as to say this one of my all time favourite abstract games, a genre of games I don’t normally enjoy that much.
Fun fact, Miyabi actually means “elegance” in Japanese, and I couldn’t think of a better title for this game.
- Clear concise rulebook
- Very good family/casual game
- Very versatile game (light and accessible with just the base game, but more meaty with the expansions)
- The variety with the included 5 mini expansions
- Very enjoyable and tense gameplay
- As with most abstract games the theme feels a bit pasted on
- Players: 2 – 4
- Playing time: 45 minutes
- Suggested age: 8+
A review copy of Mijabi was supplied by HABA