Game Summary:
Experience the culture of ancient Japan by traveling along the famous Tokaido Road that connects the city of Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo). As you travel, will you collect souvenirs from the many shops that line this ancient highway? Will you stop to admire the mountain-filled landscape while you paint the beautiful scenery? Or do you prefer to relax in the natural hot springs, hoping to catch a glimpse of the exotic wildlife? Perhaps you’re more interested in the people you encounter along the way, and may even have the opportunity to meet a mighty Samurai! These and many other enriching experiences lie ahead, but you won’t be able to do them all. Choose carefully how you will use your time and money as you travel along in Tokaido.

Tokaido is a 2-5 player Japanese-themed set collection game with the tiniest hint of worker
placement. The game has a play time of about 45 minutes and is recommended for ages 8 and up.

In Tokaido, players are competing to have the most points at the end of their journey. Players
gain points by collecting sets of various souvenirs, visiting hot springs, completing panoramic paintings, visiting temples and donating to their upkeep, stopping to enjoy delicious meals, and meeting other travelers along the way. Players will have to carefully decide where to stop and how to spend their gold, since money is in short supply and other players may block them from going to where they wish to visit. Tokaido requires a delicate balance between flexibility in strategy and not spreading yourself too thin while also maximizing your character’s special power. Where you go and what you do is up to you, but making the most of your journey is where the challenge lies.

Gameplay Overview:
Players will start the game by choosing one of the two randomly dealt characters they received,
and taking that character’s starting gold. Players will then be randomly assigned a place at the starting inn, and whoever is placed last will begin the game.

On a player’s turn, they may place their meeple on any location space between their current location and the next inn, where they will take a specific action depending on that location type. They may move their meeple as far forward along the path as they like, but they may never move it backwards. Once a player has finished at their location, the next player who is farthest behind along the path will move their meeple. Thus, whoever is last along the path is always the next player to go.

Different locations will allow players to do different things. These locations include:

  • Village (or Shop) – The player draws three souvenir cards, and may buy as many of them
    as they wish. Throughout the game, players will try to make sets containing one of each
    souvenir type. The more items in a set, the more points each item is worth.
  • Farm – The player takes 3 Gold from the supply. Gold is in fairly short supply in this
    game, so this is usually a highly coveted location.
  • Panorama (Green, White, or Blue) – The player takes the next panorama card in their set
    for the appropriate color to complete their beautiful panoramic painting. The first card gives you 1 point, the second card give you 2, the third give 3, etc. The green panorama has three cards, the white has four, and the blue has five.
  • Hot Springs – The player draws a card and will receive either 2 or 3 points (the 3 points are for those who are fortunate enough to see a monkey bathing in a nearby spring as well!)
  • Temple – The player may donate 1, 2 or 3 coins to the temple, receiving one point for each coin donated.
  • Encounters – This is basically a wild card. You will meet a stranger who may give you gold or a free souvenir, donate to the temple on your behalf, allow you to add a card to one of your panoramas, or just give you three points.

Most locations only allow one player to be present there at a time, though different ones may allow for two at various points along the path (in a game with 4 or 5 players).

If a player is unable or unwilling to go to another location, they may go directly to the next inn. The first player at the inn will draw meal cards equal to the number of players plus one (so in a four-player game, that player will draw five cards.) Meal cards are always worth 6 points, but can vary in cost from 1 to 3 gold, and a player may not choose a meal they’ve already had that game. After that player purchases (or not) a meal, they set aside those cards, and the next player will choose a meal from those available cards, and so on until all players have reached the inn and purchased (or not) a meal.

After all players have reached the inn, the last player to get to the inn (and thus the last player who got to choose a meal), will be the first one to continue along the journey in the same way as before. The board is divided into four parts by the different inns, and so players will continue on visiting various locations and trying to gain points through the various actions and set collections. Once all players have reached the final inn and purchased a meal (if able), players will check for end-game bonuses (which usually consist of “Have the most X”), tally up points, and whoever has the most wins.

Components:

What really stands out component wise for this game is its artwork. The game is just visually
stunning to look at, and is probably my favorite artwork of any game I own. It’s very bright and colorful, and is very much a Japanese-inspired, almost chibi style art. It’s very attractive and cute, but without being “cutesy” in a bad way, in my opinion. It’s also just really fun putting together those gorgeous panorama paintings throughout the course of the game and getting to see that picture completed over time.

The rest of the components are fairly standard. Nice cardboard Japanese-style coins, sturdy character boards, and painted wooden meeples. The rulebook is also well laid out and easy to understand and reference if needed. It even contains a little bit of the history of the Tokaido road, which I think is pretty neat. The game also comes with a very functional plastic insert for easy storage of components.

Thoughts:
This is a really neat game. As I mentioned, I really like the artwork, and I personally enjoy the
Japanese theme.

The game is fairly light, fast, and easy to teach. I don’t know that this game is the most strategic, but there are definitely some interesting decisions that need to be made throughout the game. In my introduction, I mentioned that the game has a hint of worker placement, which is how the movement of your meeple feels (If you’re unfamiliar with worker placement, check out my review of Champions of Midgard here ). There’s a lot of tension as players try to decide, “If I wait to take that location up ahead, it may not be available to me later. But if I take it now, I’ll have to skip over this other location that is also good.” It’s really just dealing with an age-old dilemma – all of the options are good, but which is option is best?

The reason I say the game may not be the most strategic is that there are certain things that are generally consistent every game. For instance, a character with more starting gold is generally a better choice than one with less starting gold (though not always; I have seen games where the person who started with the least gold won). Another example is you should always donate to the temple at least once since in a game with 4 or fewer players, everyone who donated will get at least some end game bonus, and in the case of a tie both players receive the full bonus.

But even though there are certain elements to the strategy of this game that can be figured out, the game does a good job of disguising them. It probably took my family and I a good three or four plays before we really started to grasp the strategy, which gave the game a kind of puzzley feel that we enjoyed.

Even after discovering some of those keys, the game is still a lot of fun. It plays well at 3, 4, and 5 players (I haven’t played it at 2, partially because that requires the use of a “dummy” player). For at least a while, this was probably my family’s favorite game to bring out, and we still really enjoy it. I think my wife would say this is one of her favorite games, and it’s been a good game to introduce to friends and family. It’s also worth noting that the game can be played fairly casually or a little bit meaner if you want, but I don’t know how well you’d do playing just to block other players.

If you’re looking for a light game to play with friends and family and you like the idea of Japanese-themed game with some great artwork and set collection, I would totally recommend you check this out.

For the Parents:

Violence: None

Sexual Content: None

Drugs/Alcohol: None

Horror/Occult: None… Unless you count donating to the temple. A simple Japanese structure is all that’s illustrated. There aren’t any other religious icons or symbols in the game.