Tokaido

Today I started my journey to Edo. I came across a village, and pleased to be the first to arrive, I purchased souvenirs for my family.

From here I though to visit the temple, but when I arrived, I saw it was already occupied so passed on by. Instead, I took to the waters in the hot spring, refreshing myself, and contemplating my next stop. I needed more souvenirs, but from here the village looked busy, maybe I should do a little painting instead; completing a picture could be good for my mind. Or, should I wander without direction, and see whom I may meet on the path? Tokaido, is it just a beautifully serene trek from Kyoto to Edo?

  • Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Art By: Naiade
  • Publisher: Funforge
  • Year Released: 2012
  • Players: 2 – 5
  • Playing Time: 45 Minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Recommended Retail Price: £39.99

During the Edo period, Tōkaidō road was the most important route connecting Kyoto to Edo. The game sees players travelling this road, aiming to have a better time than their fellow sightseers. They do this by stopping off on their way, enjoying the surroundings, whether it is visiting a village, painting a picture, or contemplating life at the temple.


What’s in the box?

  • 1 Game board
  • 1 Rules of play booklet
  • 5 Traveller meeples
  • 5 Point markers
  • 5 Player colour tokens (bags)
  • 50 coins
  • 10 Traveller tiles
  • 12 Hot Spring cards
  • 60 Panorama cards
  • 25 Meal cards
  • 24 Souvenir cards
  • 14 Encounter cards
  • 7 Achievement cards

Tokaido

The board is reasonably good quality, maybe not as heavy-weight card as some, and can take a little persuasion to lie flat. It’s a long and narrow board with scoring line across the top and clear places to put the decks of cards. The artwork on the board is simple yet highly effective, totally keeping within the theme of the game

The rules of play booklet is a glossy, 8 page, affair with beautiful artwork – it’s simply laid out and easy to understand.

The 5 traveller and point markers are nice bright, coloured, wooden pieces that have a nice feel in your hand.

The coins and traveller tiles are typical punch-out, high-density, cardboard, and the tiles have being exquisitely illustrated with humorous Japanese characters.

All the rest of the cards are of mini Euro size with a glossy finish. Once again the illustrations are simple, yet enhance the look and feel of the game.


How does it play?

  • If your familiar with the game play, feel free to skip along to ‘What do I think?’

The aim of the game is to make your way from Kyoto to Edo. On your Journey you will visit various places, with the aim of collecting the right resources, to prove you have had the best time!

With the board set up – all cards placed in their appropriate location – each player selects a traveller meeple and associated marker and bag. The marker is placed on the scoring line at 0.

Each player is dealt 2 traveller tiles and selects one, putting the bag in the slot to indicate their colour. Each traveller tile has its own amount of starting coins and a special characteristic, for example: Kinko starts with 7 coins and purchases meals for 1 less coin.

The players collect their starting coins, and the meeples are randomly placed in a line at the first inn.

It is always the turn of the player who is last on the road (closest to the start). That player must advance his meeple forward to a vacant location of his choice, up to and including the next inn, and could therefore end up taking turns consecutively. Some locations have 2 available spaces; these are used in a 4 or 5 player game.

Tokaido
Thee meeples move along the road visiting vacant locations.

Once they have landed on a location, the player takes the appropriate action relevant to that location.

The locations are as follows:

  • Village – A player draws 3 souvenir cards, and may purchase as many as they wish for the price indicated on the card. As they are purchased, they are placed into sets depending upon their type. A set must not contain more than 1 item of the same type, and each item placed in a set, scores an increasing amount of points. The player may collect more than 1 set.
  • Farm – The player collects three coins.
  • Panorama – The player takes a card respective to the type of panorama location they have stopped at. If it is their first stop at this type of panorama, then they take the number 1 card, the first part of the landscape picture, and score 1 point. Each time they stop at this type of panorama location, they take the next card in line and score the appropriate points. They do this until they have completed the picture.
  • Hot Spring – The player takes a Hot spring card and scores the amount indicated on the card.
  • Temple – A player stopping here must donate 1 to 3 coins, placing them on their colour in the temple, and scoring points equal to their donation.
  • Encounters – The player takes the top card from the encounter deck and places it in front of them. The encounter effect then takes place dependant up on the card they drew – these include; drawing souvenir cards, scoring points, earning a panorama, collecting coins, or a free donation to the temple.
  • Inns – Each player must stop at the inn and await their fellow travellers. The first to arrive places their meeple nearest the road (they will therefore be the last to leave). They then take a number of meal cards equal to the number of players plus 1, then choose whether or not to purchase one, and place the rest aside ready for the next player to arrive. Meals cost from 1 to 3 coins and all score 6 points. Once everyone has arrived and had the chance to purchase a meal, play continues once again with the player last on the road.

Once the players have reached the final inn the game ends and achievements are scored. These are awarded for; being the first to complete a type of panorama; spending the most on meals; scored the most at the hot spring; had the most encounters; collected the most souvenirs. All score 3 points. Points are also awarded for temple contributions as indicated on the board.

The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner!


So, what do I think?

Taking a look at the components, the first thing you notice is how beautiful it all looks, especially when the game is set up and ready to play. The artwork really captures the theme; it would all look good hanging on the wall as a talking point.

However, the board could have done with being made from a little heavier-weight cardboard, as mine took a bit of persuasion to lie flat. The cards are also a little on the light-weight side, but as they are hardly handled, it’s not much of a problem. The other thing I really had an issue with though, was the point markers. They are far too small, and kept pinging around as we tried to pick them up or slide them along the point’s track. On the other hand, the meeples are great! They’re lovely colours, which blend nicely with the artwork, and a nice size too.

Tokaido
The point markers are tiny!

The rules booklet is also a big plus. It’s so easy to follow you could give it to a 12 or 13-year-old child, and they’d be away in no time. There are also some lovely illustrations highlighting areas of the game play. At the end of the booklet there are some game variations, and I will cover these a little later.

Tokaido

There is a very nice insert in the box, which keeps everything more or less in place, and the game can be set up in a matter of minutes.

The traveller tile characteristics are varied and offer a slightly different approach to playing the game. if you have Kinko, as mentioned earlier, you have the option of arriving late at the inn, as you know the most a meal will cost is 2 coins. This gives you the chance, combined with the reasonably high starting money, to go on a spending spree. I’m not convinced though, that all the characters are evenly balanced, my experience was that some were too suited to a specific strategy, and could easily be hindered.

Tokaido
The Artwork really captures the theme.

Game play is fast, as there isn’t a great deal of decision making to be done, so down time is at the very minimum. The first few games you play there will likely be a runaway winner (there certainly was when we played!), and it soon becomes apparent that you have to play a balancing game between trying to collect the resources you need to win, and stopping others from getting theirs. It’s a case of deciding whether to shoot forward to a location that may enable you to complete a set, but allows others to visit all the locations you missed, possibly pick up more points; or do you move forward tactically, trying to block others and pick up smaller amounts of points as you go, possibly completing a set here and there for good measure? Once you have this idea firmly rooted, then games will nearly always go down to the wire.

The game itself plays nicely within the 45-minute time on the box, a 3-player game usually coming in within half an hour, and with 4 or 5 players, not much longer.

Variations

There are rules for a 2-player game where you add a neutral traveller, with the leading player moving it. We played this variation once, and haven’t played it again. For us it really didn’t work. Part of what makes this game so enjoyable is the banter, cussing others as they nip into the location you were banking on, or calling someone a stinker for passing the springs yet again! The 2-player version just felt a little deflated, and there isn’t enough depth to develop any tension in the game.

The ‘Journey of Initiation’ is aimed at teaching the game, but I’d miss this out and go straight for the full rules, as there is nothing here that should prove too difficult.

‘Return Trip’ – Exactly the same game just played from Edo to Kyoto, adds a slight variation due to the way the locations are set out, definitely worth having a shot at.

‘Gastronomy’ sees the first arrival at the inn drawing meal cards equal to the number of players rather than 1 more. This is a rule that is certainly worth playing with all the time, it just makes it a little bit more strategic on when to arrive at the inn, but not too much more!

Finally, ‘Preparations’ – Depending on where you are in the starting line up, it gives you a number of coins to compensate the handicap of starting last. We never bothered with this one; the handicap is so slight we never really found it a problem.


Recommended?

This is a great gateway and family game, the pace is fast, there is no hard decision making, and it’s a lot of fun – especially if you immerse yourselves into the theme; everyone getting in to role, putting on funny accents, and cussing others for ‘stealing’ their place at the temple!

This is not however, for everyone. If you’re looking for a game with depth, where you have numerous decisions to make or a strategy to develop, then give this one a miss.

Tokaido – it’s just good, simple, honest fun!


Extras!

Official site – FunForge

Recommended video review – Tabletop with Wil Wheaton

Board Game Geek Page – Tokaido

Please feel free to comment – see below…


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