By: Marguerite Cottrell
Reposted with permission from her awesome blog (which you should totally check out)
Tokaido, the stunningly beautiful game from Antoine Bauza, takes up to 5 players on a meandering vacation through Japan. Along the way, they meet the locals, eat some good meals, and take some pictures. Players with the most prolific vacation win the game. Yup: it’s a competitive game about vacationing with your friends.
The first thing people notice about the game is its stark, colorful packaging. Tokaido uses a lot of very saturated color on a bright white background. The pieces, though small, evoke the game’s Japanese theme and are also eye-catching in their adorable subtlety. The board features a linear design, with various buildings, temples, and hot springs indicated by colored dots. Along the linear journey are several inns where the players are required to meet along the way to share a meal before continuing on their journey.
The game play is slightly asymmetrical: if you are the player furthest from the inn, it’s your turn. This means that if players jump ahead to pick up their most-wanted items or activities, their less hurried opponents have the opportunity to scoop up some free actions on their way to catch up. The game flow is quite relaxed. The only real interaction players use is in taking up actions their opponents may have wanted. As far as the game’s economy goes, there are only a few ways of earning more than the initial startup money, so the farms (which each pay out three coins) seem to be the hot ticket for players who want to bug their friends.
It does include a two-player variant that introduces an imaginary neutral third player. This “third player” makes the usually friendly game much more confrontational. The game really sings at 3 or 4 players. This is a game I would play on a sleepy morning over bagels with the in-laws when they’re in town.
There aren’t a lot of bad possible plays, so each place on the board will probably net players some points. The most difficult choice a player will make is whether to spend money on souvenirs, which can net big points if found in sets of four unique kinds, or to spend money at the temple, which can be worth 10 points at the end of the game.
The biggest downside to the game is an unfortunately large box with very shallow wells for the cards and bits. Shaking the box just a little bit will spill the contents around everywhere. Also the size of the scoring pawns is almost ludicrously small. This can all be remedied by a little ingenuity, or just… not shaking the box…
Antoine Bauza is quickly becoming one of the most prolific game makers. His games, though they usually share great popularity, rarely share mechanics, themes, or even color-schemes. It’s exciting to see his name pop up on an upcoming release list, and Tokaido will prove to be a great seller over time. I’ve given Tokaido 7.5 out of ten, for being pretty and fun and light.