‘Tokaido’ game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
I’ve played a lot of games that involved subtle espionage, brutal conquest, and betraying my closest friends. So who would have guessed that I would have so much fun playing Tokaido, a game where I go for a lovely stroll?
Tokaido is a family board game for two to five players, designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Funforge Games. In the game, players travel Japan’s Eastern Road by foot collecting souvenirs, taking in vistas, eating local dishes, and trying to have the most interesting and amazing journey possible.
One of the most unique features I found in Tokaido was its movement mechanics. Rather than rolling dice, the player in the position farthest back moves to any place along the road that they wish and then takes the action indicated there. This allows players to move as fast or slow as they desire. Most of the strategy involves jockeying for position in order to complete sets of cards or cards that specifically benefit the character you chose at the beginning of the game.
The similarities between Tokaido and another game designed by Bauza, 7 Wonders, are obvious and delightful. Both games allow players to score points in vastly different ways, letting them choose their own strategy based on their character and own gameplay style. I’ve found that this levels the playing field a bit for experienced and new players.
The one issue I have with Tokaido is its score-tracking. It’s very easy to add up your points at the end of the game and see who won, but Tokaido felt the need to add a European style score track that is both unnecessary and cumbersome, with small pieces that zig-zag instead of traveling in a straight line. Every time I have played the game, all the players forgot to use the scoring track and instead had to add up the points at the end. Without the track, like in 7 Wonders, I think the players would focus more on their game than who is in the lead.
So if you are looking for a beautiful and fun game, I would recommend Tokaido as a main event game or as a nice palate-cleanser between more intense games. Play with the windows open on a hot summer day for the best effect; just don’t keep track of the score.