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November 23, 2014 / Jett

Tokaido Review

Over the course of my life, I’ve developed a fascination with the country of Japan. It started out with my love for video games and anime, but the more I’ve looked into it, the more I think that Japan is one of the most interesting places in the world. Though I don’t have the resources today to hop on a plane and experience it for myself, it is on my list of things to do before I die.

In the meantime, there’s Tokaido by Antoine Bauza and Passport Game Studio. In this board game, players are tasked with hiking through Japan. Along the way, you’ll get to experience the best that Japan has to offer, from stunning vistas, helpful companions, delicious food and more. By the end of your adventure, the player that had the best experience on their trip is declared the winner.

The game is played on a three-part board. Along the middle of the board is a single line with a number of points that run along it. This line represents the path that everyone will hike along, while the points indicate the different places you can stop at. Each location has a limit to the number of visitors it can accommodate, so in most cases, players can’t all be in the same place at the same time.

TokaidoPlayers are assigned a character card at the start of each game. This will give you a unique ability from everyone else. For example, one character can buy an item from the store for only one coin, even if the item costs more than that. Because of these cards, you may want to build your itinerary around visiting certain locations more often.

Stopping at any given location will usually earn you points, though they all earn you points in different ways. For instance, visiting the hot springs will immediately net you two or three points, while vistas will generate even more points through repeat visits. Visiting a companion won’t always grant you wih points, but they may give you something else that will benefit your cause, such as a free item from the store or a donation to the temple in your name.

In order to win, you’re likely going to need a mix of everything Japan has to offer. The challenge is that getting to where you want to go when you want it will prove tricky. Only one or two people can be at the same location in most cases, so the places you need won’t always be accessible when you need them. Furthermore, turn order plays a huge role in determining what you can and cannot visit. In Tokaido, it’s always the turn of the player who is farthest away from the end, which means that player can stop at multiple places until they pass someone else. The problem is that if you hang back, others will likely get in the way of you getting to a specific location that you need to visit. In a two-player game, the decision is a bit less dramatic, as there are less players in the way, so I’d recommend playing it more people when possible.

The best way to venture through Japan is always going to change based on who you are, where you are, where everyone else is and what you’re looking for. Because of this dynamic, this game forces you to choose whether to jump ahead to go to a specific location, or go to a less desirable one in hopes of ultimately visiting more places. This goes a long way towards maintaining its replay value, as there isn’t a clear-cut path to success that can be replicated on multiple plays.

TokaidoWhat I like most about Tokaido is that it does a great job of conveying that sense of adventure that would come with a hike through Japan. By the end of the game, you’ll have a series of cards that capture every detail of your adventure, such as the places you visited, the food you ate and the people you met. Even if you don’t win, it’s cool to see the results of your trip displayed in this manner.

Tokaido successfully turns the concept of hiking through Japan into a fun board game. It’s easy to learn, enjoyable to play repeatedly and does a great job of conveying the sense of adventure that the game intends to evoke. It may be years before I set foot in Japan, and it may actually turn out to be nothing like Tokaido, but if it’s anything like the board game, I’ll probably have a great time when I finally get there.

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