Welcome to Yukon Salon!  If your face has hair (or you’re a bear) then come right in, we can help.

Yukon Salon is a 2-4 player card game about finding the right beard style or hairdo for you clients.  Only your clients are lumberjacks…and bears. The lumberjacks need help with their beards, while the bears will only be happy with the latest hairstyles.

Let’s take a look.

Gameplay: In Yukon Salon, there are two types of cards: Client cards and Style cards. The Client cards will either have a lumberjack or a bear pictured on them. The Style cards are playable two ways: one for the lumberjacks, one for the bears. Depending on which Style cards you have in your hand and which client you have seated, you will assign a beard or hairstyle to the client.

When doing this, you will match up the two values on the cards so that the icons match up correctly.  You will then attempt to convince the client that the selected beard or hairstyle is the right one for them. You do this by rolling the 2 dice. If the total of the dice roll is equal or higher than the combined value of Client and Style, then the client is happy and you get any bonuses listed on the cards.

Bonuses come in two varieties. One time bonuses are effects that happen immediately after successfully styling the client. Permanent bonuses are effects that remain in place the rest of the game and are much more powerful. It is also important to make sure you are only applying the bonuses that are right side up on your Style card, since each one has 2 bonuses (one when used as a beard, and one when used as a hairstyle).

Each turn you have 2 actions to perform, which can be any combination of seating a client, styling a client, or drawing Style cards. Seating a client involves taking one of the 4 clients from the salon lobby and placing them in front of you (in your salon chair).

You can normally only have 1 Client seated at a time, but some of the permanent bonuses allows for multiple seated clients.  Styling a client involves taking one of your Style cards and placing it on your client – it becomes either a beard or a hairstyle for your client. You then roll the dice to see if your client approves. Drawing Style cards is simply that. Without any permanent bonuses, you draw one card each time. If you want to spend your turn drawing Style cards twice, that’s fine. If you have 2 Clients seated and you want to style both of them this turn, go right ahead. But you only get 2 actions.

Each time a client is seated, another one is immediately drawn from the deck and placed in the lobby. The game continues until all of the clients have been seated. The player who seated the last client completes their turn and then everybody else gets one more turn. Whoever has the most points, combining the total value of successfully styled clients and added bonuses, wins.

So…How is it? Yukon Salon sounds like a ridiculous game, and it is, but there is quite a bit of game here. First off, there are a bunch of different bonuses that dramatically impact how you play the game. Essentially the game works as a really weird engine-builder. You are styling clients to get a bonus that allows you to style better clients with better bonuses, and so on. If you successfully style Dexterity Morgan, you get a bonus that adds +1 to all lumberjack rolls in the future.

So next turn, when you have the choice between a lumberjack or a bear, you choose to seat the lumberjack because it will be that much easier to successfully style them. If you successfully style Gladys, you get an endgame bonus for each bear with a red corsage, so you will be trying for those the rest of the game.

There are also 2 options built in to prevent you from losing simply because of bad dice rolls (and if you are anything like me, this is really important).

1) Discarding Style cards: Say you need to roll a 9 to successfully style your client and you roll a 7.  You can discard 2 Style cards to make up the difference. You have now successfully styled your client. This is not always a option, though, since sometimes you are running low on Styles. If you roll a 3 and you needed a 9, there is almost no way you are going to have enough Style cards to make up the difference. So, the second option is for you.

2) Making Claims: Now you have to talk your clients into trusting that you have selected the best hairstyle or beard for them. This is called Making a Claim. You do this by literally talking to your client’s card. You have to give them reasons why this hairstyle or beard is the one for them – and not just one reason. The number of reasons you must provide is equal to the value listed on the client card, and they can’t have been used by anyone else this game. Once you have done this, you get to re-roll the dice and hopefully obtain the 9 you needed from earlier.

If you fail to get the value you need, or just don’t feel like coming up with 6 reasons that Ham-Bone Jones needs the Pineapple, then you can simple admit your defeat and discard the Style card and try again with a different Style card, either on this turn or next, depending on whether you have any actions left.

If you are consistently failing to get the rolls you need to style Ham-Bone Jones, you can seat another client instead, returning Ham-Bone to the top of the Client deck.

The game plays relatively fast (unless you are constantly having to make claims). The game scales pretty well from 2 to 4 players since you play with less clients when you have less players. Plus, since you will most probably have a number of great bonuses working, and thus fail your dice rolls less often, the end of the game goes much faster than the beginning.

It is also pretty hilarious. The names of the lumberjacks and styles alone are enough to make you chuckle (especially the Pumpkin King, the Kraken and the Ultimate Form).

But then you add in the claims and you are in for a real treat. “This beard style really brings out the color in your eyes.” “This hairstyle really goes well with that corsage.” And the whole time you are sitting there talking to an imaginary bear who wants the best new hairstyle. Ridiculous. And really fun.

Final thoughts?: Listen, I’m not going to lie. From the second I read about this game, I was hooked. I’m really glad it lived up to the initial idea. The cards were well-designed and everything was very easy to read and understand. The artwork is the perfect mix of old-timey looks and stupid humor. The names of the lumberjacks are ridiculous, contrasting perfectly with the bears who have simple names like Agnes and Shirley. There isn’t much about this game that isn’t silly, but the gameplay is really, really solid. Nothing lags too much, and you are constantly amazed at the claims that the other players make. In fact, this was the part that my 4-year-old niece liked the most.  My wife likes singing the jingle she wrote “Yu-Kon Sa-Lon!”. We really enjoyed it a lot.

There are times when you don’t want to play an extremely serious game. Sometimes you want a fun, light filler that is very easy to teach. Yukon Salon is that game.

I only hope that the designers have more bears, lumberjacks, and styles ready for the stretch goals on the Kickstarter – I think they might need them.

Ninja Approved!!!

The game designer sent us a copy of Yukon Salon in exchange for a honest review, which is exactly what we have provided.