Review: Tokaido

Posted by James (admin) on October 26th, 2012

In Tokaido, players are travelling along a road visiting villages, seeing great vistas, visiting temples, staying at inns,etc. in order to earn victory points (VPs).  The player with the most VPs at the end of the game wins.

Players move along the road from left to right.  On their turn, they can go to any empty space ahead of them (up to the next inn where they must wait for any other travelers to catch-up).  Spaces at each location are limited (usually one or two spaces) so a player may not be able to visit a location if it is currently full of other travelers.  This is very important because a player can never move backwards along the road.

So, you can rush ahead to ensure you land at a location you want to, but at the cost of never being able to visit any of the skipped locations on your way there.  However, moving slowly means opponents may move into the locations you will want to so they could be full when it is your turn and you have to pass them by. The player who is furthest back is the player who moves next – so it’s not wise to move too far ahead of this last player as it will allow them to land on every location between themselves and the next player. Each location offers a way to score VPs: visiting the baths gives instant VPs; visiting vistas allows you to draw the next part of the vista (and each piece is worth more VP); visiting the temple allows you to donate cash for VPs; villages have items for sale and VPs are earned for sets of these; etc.  As well as instant points, various VPs are earned at the end of the game too for the players that donated the most cash at the temples, bathing most, buying most items, eating the most expensive food, etc.

So, there are many ways in which to accumulate VPs and you need to try to focus on a few to ensure you get the most benefit and the bonus VPs too.  As a result, you will want to visit some locations more than others, and you may also want to visit locations to block opponent too so they don’t gain as many VPs.

As mentioned, players must stop at the inns and wait for the other travelers.  They are given a choice of meals which scores VPs, if they purchase one, and they can not have the same meal twice during the game.  This is made tricky because the choice of meals reduces as players arrive and eat, but also the early arrivals are likely to choose to eat the cheaper dishes.  When the players reach the 4th inn, the game ends.

Overall, Tokaido is a quick moving and simple movement game.  It is a light eurogame, but there’s still plenty of decision-making to be done as players jostle for position and try to work out what locations are most important to them, what locations are important to others, and how likely they think the location they want a bit further down the road may be occupied next tun if they don’t grab it now.  There’s a good feeling of light-hearted interaction as players move to locations that their opponents were eyeing up and this adds some good tension without feeling directly hostile.  If opponents get in your way, you may need to re-assess which locations you’re going to focus on visiting to maximise your potential score.  Tokaido is simple, cute and surprisingly short too.

Games from Funforge always look great (Pony Express, Isla Dorada) but Tokaido really stands out and is beautiful.  It’s very pure and clean, is on-theme, but manages to be stylish and has it’s own take on the Japanese setting.  The bright colours and large white background look great.  It would have been an obvious choice to design the board showing a road with the various locations along it (like an aerial view) and that would have looked great too, but this iconic approach is clever and doesn’t diminish the appearance.   Also, the icons on the spaces and related cards work well and I really like how the vista cards build up a panoramic view as they are laid next to one another.

If players use the characters, each player has a different ability during the game.  I like games where each player has a slightly different perception of the game situation, so these were a nice addition. My only issue (and a minor one) was that I felt the abilities of some of the characters seem to be better than others – my character (who could buy 1 village item for 1 cash) didn’t help much as I either had to miss lots of locations to secure reaching a village, or the villages were full when I reached them – so I wasn’t able to use my power much.  However, some other players’ powers were always useful like one player who could eat a random dish at the inns for free which saved them more money and contributed to the eating bonus too.  (I expect the character I had is better with fewer players when it is easier to access the villages as there’s less competition for the locations, plus it may have been unfortunate timing for me.)  This is a minor point though and I didn’t find any negative issues with this game.

In the end, Tokaido is light, fast and fun but with entertaining decisions.  Great for more casual players but enough in there for gamers too.


[Played with 4 players]

3 Responses to “Review: Tokaido”

  1. Mary (Sodaklady) Says:

    Sounds like a good candidate for Spiel de Jahres next year. Remember, you heard it here first! 😉

  2. James (admin) Says:

    It definitely ticks the boxes of simple, short, friendly for family and lighter gamers.

  3. News Bits: 10/29/2012 | iSlaytheDragon Says:

    […] Metagames reviewed Tzolk’in (the game of gears!) and Tokaido. […]

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