Another hit from this year’s Spiel was…
Tokaido is the latest game from 7 Wonders and Ghost Stories creator Antoine Bauza, this one published by French company Funforge. 2-5 players aged 8 and up can play this 45 minute game about traveling the Tokaido (East Sea Road) in Japan. Your goal in the game is to discover the most interesting and varied things along the route – new people, new foods, souvenirs, exotic places, and so on.
The game comes with a board, 5 traveler pieces, 5 travel point markers, 5 player color tokens, 50 coins, 10 traveler tiles, 12 Hot Spring cards, 60 panorama cards, 25 meal cards, 24 souvenir cards, 14 encounter cards, and 7 achievement cards. Each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding traveler piece (randomly placed at the first inn on the board [Kyoto]), point marker (placed on 0 of the score track), and color token. Each player gets two traveler tiles and chooses one to play with – each traveler has a different special ability and starting cash. Your color token goes in the hole on the tile to remind everyone what color you are.
On your turn, you move your traveler one or more spaces forward on the road to Edo. There’s no set place where you must stop – it’s up to you how fast you want to go. The biggest restriction is that you must land on an open space – that is, one not occupied by another player. Some spaces are double spaces, meaning that two can stay there, but these are only used in the 4-5 player game. The way order works is that the player that is in last place moves each time, possibly getting several turns in a row. The type of space you land on determines what you can do:
- Village – Draw three souvenir cards, and purchase one or more of them. The first unique souvenir in a set is worth one point; the second is worth three; the third is worth five; and the fourth is worth seven. So if you have four different souvenirs, you will have scored 16 points (1+3+5+7). You must have one coin to stop in a Village, but you are not obligated to buy anything.
- Farm – Take three coins.
- Panorama – Each Panorama is in 3, 4, or 5 sections. The first one you take is worth one point, the second of the same type is worth two, and so on. The first to complete each of the three types of panoramas wins a panorama achievement, worth three points.
- Hot Spring – Take a Hot Spring card and add it to your collection for 2 or 3 points.
- Temple – Donate 1-3 coins, scoring one point per coin. If you stop at the Temple, you must donate at least one coin. Coins are placed in the area matching your color.
- Encounters – Draw an encounter card and resolve it. Traveling merchants may give you a free souvenir. Guides add to your panorama collections. Samurai score you three points immediately. Nobles give you three coins. Shinto Priests allow you to take a coin from the bank and offer it immediately in a Temple for one point.
- Inns – All travelers must stop at each Inn. The first player there draws as many meal cards as there are players, looks at them, then purchases one if he wishes (or is able to). Each meal card you buy is worth six points, but you cannot buy two of the same meal card during your trip. Once all travelers have finished either buying a meal or passing, the journey continues with the last player to arrive.
When all travelers have arrived at the last inn, the game is over. The most generous donor to the Temples receives 10 bonus points, while second scores 7, third scores 4, and all others score 2. If you donated nothing, you score nothing. You also score 3 points for each achievement you collect – the traveler with the highest sum of coins on his meal cards wins the Gourmet achievement; the traveler with the most Hot Spring cards gets the Bather achievement; the traveler with the most Encounter cards wins the Chatterbox achievement; and the traveler with the most Souvenir cards wins the Collector achievement. The player with the most points wins.
The most striking thing about this game is that it’s GORGEOUS. The box, the board, and the bits are all very evocative of the Japanese culture. Antoine Bauza has shown a great interest in Eastern culture, with Ghost Stories, Takenoko, Hanabi & Ikebana, and now Tokaido all set in China or Japan. As such, if I had to choose a word to describe this game, it would probably be “zen.” The game seems very relaxed, particularly since you can take things at your own pace. It’s not really a race – the only benefit to getting to the inn first is that you can choose meal cards first. It’s a little different from time track games like Thebes and Red November, which similarly have the last place player on a track going first, but have a lot more pressure to do things quickly. That time pressure is not here.
The game seems very simple and family oriented. I’ll put this out right now – this may be a Spiel des Jahres nominee, or at least a recommendation next year. It might be a little to simplistic for a lot of gamers, but I think this would be an incredible game to play with people who aren’t competitive and really like to enjoy the experience of playing. So, this one’s on my list of games to check out sometime. Thanks for reading.