21st March 2021
Sunday afternoon gaming continues; I'm logged on to Board Game Arena and Zoom, the second game of the day is Tokaido.
I know several people who have visited Japan but to my knowledge none of them had made the 500km trip along the Tokaido route.
If you like the idea of taking a hike to enjoy hot springs or staying at an inn or looking at beautiful scenery, then maybe this is the game for you.
Caveat: We played a digital version of this game, we have also played the physical version previously.
What's in a game?
Art on the board looks quite minimalistic with white as the dominant colour, consequently the Tokaido route draws the eye's attention. However, the symbols used to represent the different destinations along the route are quite small and look samey despite being distinctly coloured from each other. It was something found to occur on both the physical and online version. This is only a minor gripe.
How's it play?
Each player is given a meeple and a randomly determined character tile, the 7 decks are prepared and placed on to their allotted spaces on the game board. The starting order is determined at the first inn, then money is then given to players according to the starting order.
On to play
Game play is very simple to understand, the purpose of Tokaido is to travel to the eastern end of the road, having the most pleasant journey, this is done by stopping at the various locations along the way.
Play continues until all players have reached the last inn.
Souvenir sets are now scored.
Then achievements are scored. There are achievements for completing panoramas first, having the most encounters, donating the most money to temples and so on. One achievement earns victory points for spending the most on meals at inns - which explains the varying costs for meals.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
Tokaido is a fairly straightforward game to play, on the surface the game gives players a simple decision to make - where to stop and what to collect? It's a little more involved though, the question is; how much do you want to visit a certain spot?
As the active player, someone can choose to move their meeple as far as they need to in order to reach a specific spot, however, moving too far means that a player will end up sitting around as other players get multiple turns. Conversely, moving too slowly risks locations being filled with other players. It feels like quite a balancing act.
Generally we found that there's a basic strategy of moving as little as possible in an attempt to maximise the number of turns that are available and just collect what you can.
The games other balancing act is money; knowing when to keep money and knowing when to spend it is important since spending money can earn victory points and it needs to be done as efficiently as possible.
There's minimal player interaction here and generally player's can't interfere with each other. A canny player can try and predict where other players are looking to go (All cards are kept face-up.) and try to get there first but it mostly it hardly seems worth it.
All of this makes Tokaido a gentle, laid back game to play, it sort of fits the theme of talking a walking holiday.
Players used to heavier games may find that they feel like nothing is happening during the game. This may be partially down to playing online.
The online version doesn't feel as good as the physical one. Being able to collect and build panoramas or complete souvenir sets with physical components feels a lot better than when they're collected in the online version. It's a small sense of achievement but a sense of achievement nonetheless.
If you want a light and chilled game to play though, you can do worse than Tokaido.
I play, I paint.