Game Review by Steve Riola
Tokaido will take you on a journey through the countryside from Edo to Kyoto, where you’ll experience new encounters, taste delicious culinary specialties, purchase souvenirs for your family and friends and benefit from the virtues of hot springs.
In Tokaido, each player must move their traveler forward towards Edo. You can move your traveler to any open spot on the road, making sure to stop at each Inn to enjoy a meal. After stopping at each space, the traveler will enjoy the benefit of the position he stopped at. Then the traveler who is furthest behind on the road will get to make a move on the road. Occasionally the last traveler will be the person who just moved along the road entitling them to another move on the road.
Set up is as easy as game play. Set the board on the table, it’s a bit longer than most game boards, so make sure you’re playing on a big enough table. Take the achievement cards and place them face up next to the board.
Shuffle the meal cards and place them on the board in the spot indicated.
Shuffle the Souvenir cards and place them on the board in the spot indicated.
Shuffle the Encounter cards and place them on the board in the spot indicated.
Shuffle the Hot Springs cards and place them on the board in the spot indicated.
Sort the Panorama cards by type. Sea, Mountain and Paddy by value placing all of the 1’s together, 2’s together, etc.
Place the coins next to the board as a reserve.
Each player will select a traveler color and their corresponding path marker (Possibly the smallest game piece I’ve ever seen). Place your path marker on the 0 spot of the Journey path (Victory point tracker).
Each player then takes 2 random travelers and will select one of them. Take the amount of coins equal to the number listed on the top left corner of the traveler card.
Place each traveler randomly on the first inn.
Game Play Overview:
The traveler who is last in line at the inn, furthest from the end of the journey will move first. There are 8 possible stops on the road to Kyoto.
The first was the Village, when a player stops at the Village, they’ll draw 3 Souvenir cards from the pile and place them face up in front of them. They can then purchase one of more of these cards by paying the price indicated on the bottom of the card. Any cards he doesn’t purchase he’ll place face down at the bottom of the stack. There are 4 types of souvenir cards. Small objects, Clothing, Art and Food and Drink. You’ll score points based on sets of souvenir cards collected after stopping at the Village.
Your first souvenir in a set, regardless of type is worth one point.
Your second souvenir in a set, as long as it differs from the first souvenir is worth 3 points.
Your third souvenir in a set, again as long as it differs from the first 3 is worth 5 points.
And you complete a souvenir set and have all four, you’ll receive 7 points for the 4th card in the set.
The next spot on your journey will be the Farm. The farm simply lets you take 3 coins from the reserve and add them to your bank. There is no limit to the number of coins that you collect.
There are 3 Panorama locations on the board. Sea, Mountain and Paddy locations, each has a different amount of cards in the panorama you will need to collect to complete. The Sea has 5 cards to complete, the Mountain has 4 and the Paddy has 3. Each card in the panorama will give you the number of points corresponding with the number of card in the panorama. The first card will give you a victory point as soon as it’s collected, the second 2 victory points, etc, etc. All players can complete a panorama but the first to do so will gain an additional 3 victory points.
The Hot Spring is another simple location. When you stop at the Hot Springs, you take a Hot Spring card from the pile and adds it to their collection. They’re worth either 2 or 3 points.
The Temple allows you to donate between either 1 to 3 coins, placing them on the temple location and immediately score the number of points equal to your donation.
The Encounter location allows you to reveal the top card of the encounter pile and applies the effect immediately. There are 5 types of encounters that a player may have.
The Shokunin (Traveling Merchant) – The player is allowed to draw the top souvenir card from the pile and adds it to his collection, scoring 1, 3 5 or 7 points depending on the souvenirs already owned.
The Annaibito (The Guide) – If the player has not yet started the depicted panorama, he takes the value 1 card from the panorama listed and adds it to his area, if he already has the number 1 card, they may then take the next card in the panorama.
The Samurai – The player immediately scores 3 points.
The Kuge (The Noble) – The player immediately takes 3 coins from the reserve and adds them to his/her bank.
The Miko (Shinto Priest) – The player take 1 coin from the bank and places it as an offering in the temple. Scoring 1 point for his/her donation.
The Inn are different from other locations as all players must stop at the Inns. While at the Inn, players can buy meal cards that will cost between 1 and 3 coins. Every traveler is obliged to stop at each inn on the way to Edo. The order in which players arrive at the inn is important, the first traveler will occupy the space nearest the road and so forth. When the first traveler arrives at the Inn, he drwas as many meals cards as there are players +1. He decides which card he would like to purchase and pays the price, then adding it face up to his area. Each card is worth exactly 6 victory points even through they have variable prices. He must then wait at the Inn until all travelers are there and have chosen a meal. A traveler can never eat the same meal twice. You’re probably asking yourself why would one choose to purchase a more expensive meal card if they’re all worth the same amount of victory points? The person at the end of the journey who has spent the most on meals will receive an additional 3 victory points.
Once all travelers have arrived at the Inn and had a chance to taste the local cuisine, the journey continues. This movement will continue until you reach the final Inn destination and the final achievement points will be distributed. The one who had the most enlightening journey will win the game.
Tokaido has been the source of some disagreement on BGG. Is it really a game? Can you really develop a strategy? Or is it just a journey in which every option will provide you with victory points? I’ve played 5 times at this point. 3 of those games were two player and 2 of them were 3 player. I can’t speak to a 4 or 5 player game, but both of the 2 or 3 player games provide some meaningful decisions to be made throughout the game. In a two player variant, the lead traveler on the road also moves a neutral traveler to another location on the board when it is furthest back on the road. Allowing tactical blocking and game play decisions.
Additionally, game play and strategy will change based on which traveler you have chosen for the game. Each of the 10 travelers will provide you will a different bonus, giving you different decisions to make as you travel down the road. Those that complain that there aren’t any strategic decisions to be made may have only played a 4+ player game. Having played both 2 and 3 player games, the strategic decisions you make are absolutely there for you. Do you take a spot on the road just to block it from another player? Do you move the neutral player to block a position you know your opponent needs? Do you jump ahead to block a panorama space if you know your opponent will need it to complete it? In a 2 player game yesterday, I jumped ahead on the road 4 spaces to take the last Sea Panorama space, ensuring that my opponent did not receive the 5 victory points for completing his picture as well as blocking him from the 3 additional bonus points he would have received for completing it first.
Tokaido is not a game full of tension or aggression. It’s a simple, relaxing, quick paced game. Based on my experience, I see this as a 2 or 3 player game, though I will give the 4 player game a shot. I expect it to give the most meaningful options as a 2 or 3 player game though. It’s not a game for people looking for super heavy decisions, it’s not a game for players who always play aggressively, because frankly the most aggressive thing you can do it take another player spot on the road. I enjoy Takaido, and see it being played mostly at home with my wife or at game night when one of our 4 doesn’t show up. The theme works well, it’s a beautiful game. The artwork is outstanding and helps tie in the theme, though there are players who have issues with the iconography being ‘too hard to distinguish’. I personally don’t think that’s an issue as almost immediately out of the box it’s playable and each location is easily recognizable. If I were to have 1 complaint about the game, it’s the victory point markers. Why? Why would you make these so small. They may literally be the small game component that I’ve ever seen. Otherwise, Takaido is a fun, light strategy journey through Japan.