From the Hoard: Tokaido
Read the original article here.
I love to travel! Seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new things, tasting new foods…I love all of it. Now, imagine if there was a game that embodied the joys of traveling so well that it became the next best thing to actually visiting that place. Well if you’re interested in visiting Japan, then here is the game for you. So grab some friends and put on your favorite Zen music playlist, we’re going to play Tokaido!
The game Tokaido (2012) by Funforge takes place in historic Japan, where travelers followed the Tokaido road (which means “eastern sea route”) from Kyoto to Tokyo. Players take on the role of travelers on the Tokaido road competing to have the most culturally enriching experience on their journey. Players can buy souvenirs, taste wonderful food, rest in the hot springs, visit temples, paint paintings, and meet other travelers along the road.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The objective is simple: get from one side of the board to the other while scoring the most points as possible. Instead of rolling dice, players get to choose how far along the board they move, which helps because many stops have a limited capacity for travelers. Additionally, the player furthest behind on the board gets to move first, so what sounds like a simple mechanic becomes extremely tactical when choosing where to move. Players are often stuck with the problem of choosing between two spaces they need.
Each colored space has a different function, though almost all of them involve drawing cards that are worth a certain number of points. At the souvenir shop, players try to get full sets of souvenirs for extra points. At each of the painting locations, players race to complete their paintings first to score extra points at the end of the game. In order to keep players relatively together, there are several inns along the board where all the players need to stop in order to progress. Here they can buy food and wait for the other players to arrive.
Finally, each player gets a special character card with a unique ability at the beginning of the game. This ability often helps players score additional points at certain stops along the board and are helpful in building a strategy.
One of my favorite things about Tokaido is the artwork; it is hands down one of the most beautiful board games I’ve played. The board, character plates, and all of the cards are beautifully designed, decorated with vivid colors that stand out against a simple white background. The minimalistic design adds to the calming feel and immersion of the game.
At the end of the game, awards are given out based on how well each player did, but it’s worth noting that the game doesn’t give away an award for the player with the most money. This is an intentional choice which, as a traveler, I think speaks volumes to how traveling the world should be experienced. Travelers don’t become enriched based on how much money they saved, but on what they were able to experience. It’s a small detail, but I like it.
My one critique is that the strategy of buying souvenirs seems to be the easiest way to win. I’ve played many games of Tokaido with friends as well as online, and I’ve noticed that buying sets of souvenirs is the only method of accumulating points that increases by more than one point. A full set of souvenirs is worth 16 points, while the largest painting is only worth 15 points, and you can get more than one set of souvenirs, which makes it a very easy way to accumulate a lot of points quickly. Some characters also get bonuses for landing on souvenir shop spaces, which can be pretty hard to beat. In a strictly numbers game, souvenirs are the best investment, which can make it difficult to compete with.
As a traveler and tabletop gaming enthusiast, I love Tokaido. Everything about the game evokes a sense of wonder and adventure, from the wide variety of characters to play to the numerous activities you can partake in on the road to the beautiful art of the game. The game gives players a taste of Japanese culture without dumping information on them, and it really does feel like being a tourist in Japan. It is also pretty simple to learn, which makes it one of my parents’ favorite games. My dad has traveled to Japan on numerous occasions, and this game brings back a lot of fond memories for him.
I have to say my favorite part of Tokaido is the tone. I’m a competitive person by nature, but I don’t mind losing in Tokaido. In fact, I sometimes intentionally pick strategies I know won’t help me win because I want to experience the game in a different way. I’m at peace because I enjoy the game’s process. In a way, it’s a lot like traveling: the destination is not as important as the journey.
You can find Tokaido online or at your friendly local game store. I also highly recommend you check out some of Funforge’s other games as well. Now it’s your turn. If you’ve played Tokaido, what are your favorite parts about the game? Are there other games about traveling that you enjoy? Is there another game you would like me to review? Let me know in the comments below! Cheers!
Want more tabletop content? Check out the original article and my blog here.