Our newest addition to the board game collection is Tokaido by Passport Game Studios. I am a member of a board games group on Google+ and keep a eye on what games are posted and discussed to help us decide what games we would like to branch out and try our hand. I had seen several post about Tokaido and how much fun it was to play. The descriptions were that it was a quick game, deceivingly simple yet had a deep strategy to play and win.
My wife and I open up the box and prepped all the pieces for play. The game is a very long and fairly short board in height. My wife and I sat side by side so that we could both read the board, which in hind sight was silly since all the writing was in Japanese and we had to rely on the pictograph icon symbols to decipher what each area on the board represented. The player markers were fairly simple "Meeples" but you randomly selected two of the travelers to choose between as your player. Each character has an ability that allows them to advance better in one facet of the game. You place a colored drawstring bag marker in the round hole of the player card to match up your character with your colored marker on the board.
If you are playing a two player game, much like my wife and I play, the recommended way of playing with a two player game is to have a third marker that is controlled by each player at different points. This third character is there to run interference between the two players and makes sense for a two player game but I am not found of that mechanic. I was also stumped by the initiative rule when I read the rule book. It states that the character in the back of the road is the one that gets to take the next turn and on that turn you can move as far as you like until the next Inn location. I wondered why you wouldn't just race to the end and be done with the game but it became evident that the designers wanted you to take your time and stop as often as possible to score. This is in direct relation to the idea that you are traveling on a road and to enjoy the journey as much as the final destination.
The game represents the road connecting one end of the main island of Japan to Edo or what would become Tokyo. You travel the road and meet strangers, buy souvenirs, eat fine meals, take a nice bath in a hot spring, and enjoy the amazing vistas along your journey.
Our game was about 40 minutes long and seemed to pass very quickly. My wife and I saw that the game was simple to play but there is a lot of strategy to where you stop, to block other player and keep them from scoring certain types of rewards. We both look forward to playing more in the future and figuring out the subtlety of play and how a larger player game will function. The game wasn't available at our local hobby store so we picked up a copy from Amazon for $30.00+shipping and we are happy with our investment. I would recommend the game to others that can gather at least 3+ players.
Pros (Things I like)
- Beautiful game board and materials
- The individual characters are unique and speak to more story beyond they presentation of the game.
- The game movement mechanic and scoring create a take your time and stop everywhere feeling, as intended by the designers to reflect the journey across Japan.
- Cost was low, only $30+ shipping from Amazon
Cons (Things I don't like)
- We had to keep referencing the rules to figure out what special ability our traveler had. This is was a product of our being new players and should improve with more play time.
- The two player game using a third marker to run interference
- I wish I had known about the deluxe edition. The basic edition has "meeples" but the deluxe one has sculpted characters to match the player cards.
- The game played very quickly, hopefully a larger number of player will increase the play time.