Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Antoine Bauza


No. of Players:
2 - 5



Over the last years author Antoine Bauza was able to surprise the gaming world with some rather elegant designs, and at least from a graphical point his newest creation Tokaido once again comes with rather stylish, elegant artwork which invites the players to learn more about the game. This time Antoine draws the players back to the time of feudal Japan, and the players are sent on a recreational voyage along the Tokaido, the traditional East Sea Road which connected Kyoto to Edo (modern Tokyo). On their way the players will visit Inns and Temples, collect souvenirs and meet different travellers, and on all these occasions the will collect Journey points, Tokaido's equivalent for victory points.

The journey from Kyoto to Edo is split into four sections, and each of these sections ends with in Inn in which all player characters come together before the journey is continued. Along the roads between the Inns, eight different kinds of locations can be found, and at each of these locations one or two player characters may stop. Movement itself is fairly straightforward, since it is always the player who is furthest back on the road who may next move his character. The character may be moved as far as the next inn, but in order to win the players will try to visit as many locations on the way as possible, since all locations offer beneficial effects and possibly a chance to score Journey points. However, a stop can only be made provided there still is a free space at the desired location, and so the movement strategies chosen by the other players may prevent a player from visiting a specific location, forcing him to go further than he originally intended.

As might be guessed, the choice of which locations should be visited at which time is the key to winning Tokaido, and so the players should familiarize themselves with the specific ability of every location.

  • Most straightforward is the Farm location, since a player who visits a farm receives an income of three coins which he may add to his purse. These coins may be spent for actions at other locations, and so a player should try to visit Farms in order to ensure that these actions remain available after he has spent his starting capital.
  • The Temple offers a possibility to exchange up to three coins on a 1-to-1 rate for Journey points, but in addition to these directly scored points all Temple-donations of a player are recorded, and the player who had made most donations will receive a Journey point bonus when the game is over.
  • In the Village souvenirs can be bought, and a player who visits a village draws three souvenir cards from the deck and may purchase as many of them as he desires for the prices printed on the cards. Four different categories of Souvenir-cards exist, and Journey points are scored on the basis that the basic value of a souvenir (1 Journey point) is increased if it can be placed in a group with souvenirs of other categories. So, a set of four souvenirs from all different categories brings a total of 16 Journey points! And in addition to this, the player with most souvenirs will receive bonus points at the end of the game.
  • Bathing in the Hot Springs which can be found along the Tokaido-road is free, and so a player visiting this location simply draws a card from the Hot Springs deck and adds it to his collection, scoring a number of Journey points as indicated on the card. And, once again, the player who collects most cards of this type will receive bonus points when the game is over.
  • Three areas of outstanding natural beauty also can be visited along the way, and whenever a player visits one of these locations he may take a Panorama-card of the matching type. The Panorama-cards must be taken in a specific order, starting with the lowest value card and ending with the highest value, so that only a player who can visit all panorama-locations of a certain type will complete the panorama and get the highest yield of Journey points. In addition, a bonus card exists for each of the three types of panoramas, and the first player to complete a specific panorama will get this bonus card, increasing his Journey points even further.
  • Finally, it is possible to visit a location where an encounter takes place, and here a card is drawn from the Encounter deck in order to see which kind of personality the player meets. In a way, the encounters function like a "surprise location", since a player can get an additional souvenir from a Travelling Merchant, a Panorama-card from a Guide, money from a Noble or a Temple donation from a Shinto Priest. And, as might be guessed after the description of the other locations, the player who has collected most Encounter cards at the end of the Journey will get some additional Journey Points.

A somewhat more specific role is taken by the Inns, since they offer enough spaces for all players to arrive, and so the journey will be continued only after all players have arrived. The players will leave on a last-in-first-out basis, and so a late arrival will guarantee first choice of a location on the upcoming stage of the journey. However, and early arrival at an Inn is not bad either, because the first player to arrive will draw a number of Meal cards corresponding to the number of players plus one, and he may purchase one of the cards he has drawn. Players arriving later may only purchase one of the cards left over by players who have arrived earlier, and so a late arrival means a quite reduced choice of Meal cards. Each Meal card will count for six Journey point, but since each culinary specialty may only be purchased once a player who arrives late will stand a high chance that he will not be able to purchase a Meal card anymore. And once again bonus victory points will be awarded at the end of the game, but this time for the player who has purchased the most expensive meal cards along his journey.

Scoring here, scoring there, scoring everywhere! Whereas some games treat victory points like a precious commodity, Tokaido takes a different stance so that Journey points can be found in high amounts all along the way. So, it is the main task of the players to move their characters in a way which allows them to score as high as possible, while at the same time denying other players access to a location where they would like to go. As all cards collected by the players remain face-up, it becomes an ever-growing task for the players to keep an eye on the collections of their competitors, since only a good overview of the scoring possibilities of all players ensures a chance to win!

Some additional variety is added by the fact that the players draw random characters at the beginning of the game, and so each player starts the game with a varying starting purse and a small special ability which is available only to his character. So, Satsuki the Orphan will receive a free Meal card at every Inn, Sasayakko the Geisha gets a free souvenir whenever she purchases at least two souvenirs, or Hirotada the Priest gets a free donation coin whenever he visits a Temple. Going for an ability-related location is not mandatory if more lucrative options are at hand, but usually the players should try to use these special abilities to gain some "windfall" Journey points along the way.

As can be seen, Tokaido focuses on a fairly straightforward movement and scoring mechanism, but this does not mean that the game is all too easy. As indicated earlier, the players keep looking at the card collections accumulated by all other players, and especially in the final phase of the game some calculations will be made which moves should be most rewarding. As a side effect, the game is slowing down a bit when drawing towards the end, but due to the overall good playing duration this effect is not too pronounced. However, keeping a keen eye on all factors is a key attribute which should be followed by all players, and so a higher degree of focus and concentration is needed than would be expected by a first look at this game.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany