It’s no secret that I LOVE Japan. All things Japanese, from sushi to anime to continually trying to learn the language. So when I tripped across Tokaido, a board game simulating a walk along an ancient road in Japan, I leapt on it.
The first thing that caught my eye was the fantastic board art – here’s a sample of the artwork: As you can see this is a beautiful game and one with a very original concept – there’s no dice and you actually win by moving as slowly as possible…
What you say? A game sans dice and you move SLOW? What the…
Let’s start with the official blurb from Passport Game Studios:
In Tokaido, each player is a traveler crossing the “East sea road”, one of the most magnificent roads of Japan. While traveling, you will meet people, taste fine meals, collect beautiful items, discover great panoramas, and visit temples and wild places but at the end of the day, when everyone has arrived at the end of the road you’ll have to be the most initiated traveler – which means that you’ll have to be the one who discovered the most interesting and varied things.
Through a unique zen mood, Tokaido is a strategic game while being extraordinarily peaceful and easy to learn.
Translation: Fun but not uber-competitive! The figure in last place gets to move until he/she isn’t in last place any more… get it? So you can move one space, maybe two along the road picking up encounter cards, buying knickknacks and earning cash and still be able to move as long as you’re in last place. There are sets of souvenirs to collect, temples to visit and donate to and inns that will sell you great food… if you can afford it!
The hubby and I have played it a number of times and I’ve yet to win – but each game I’ve had a great time discovering what my character can do (each character has different bonuses for the trip) and collecting panorama cards and trying to get as many points as I can while making my way down the board.
For two players it’s a bit of a different gameplay – the board suggests you alternate moving a third figure who does nothing than take up space. We found this a bit bothersome because we’d intentionally move it to block each other. An alternative way is to roll a 1d6 and move the blank Meeple that number of spaces, giving a total random aspect to the game.
I love this game for everything about it. The art, the simple moves… the complexity of deciding what to collect and what to spend, what to go for since you only have a limited number of time and moves.
There is an expansion that we have but haven’t added in yet, bringing in new characters and a gambling option but we’re pretty darned happy with the initial set and don’t think you need to buy the expansion up front if you don’t want to.
All in all… a great game! If you’re looking for a nice family game for an evening with low competitiveness and high strategy, Tokaido might be for you. Check out the gameplay videos but I think it’s a great addition to our shelves and will be to yours!