Tokaido is the stunningly beautiful game from game designer Antoine Bauza. Up to 5 players take 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, a competitive game about vacationing with your friends.
The first thing people notice about this game is the stark, colorful packaging. Tokaido uses a lot of very saturated color on a bright white background. The pieces, though small, evoke the Japanese theme and draw the eye. The board is a linear design, with various buildings, temples and hot springs notated by colored dots. There are several inns where the players will 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/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. There are only a few ways of earning more than your initial startup money, so the farms (which pay out three coins) seem to be the hot ticket in the way of bugging your friends.
In the 2-player variant, the neutral “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 or with the in-laws when they’re in town.
There are not a lot of bad plays you can make so each place on the board will probably net you some points, the most difficult choice a player will make is in spending money on souvenirs, which can net big points if found in sets of four unique kinds, or paying money at the temple, which can be worth 10 points at the end of the game.
The biggest downside to the game to 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 don’t shake the box…
Antoine Bauza is quickly becoming one of the most prolific game makers. His games 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.