Tokaido: The Not-so-Lonely Road

Let’s (E)do this!

Are you ready to travel the roads of ancient Japan from Edo to Kyoto in hopes of having the best road trip ever? In Tokaido, players travel along the historic Tokaido road, performing activities and resting at inns; All culminating in their arrival in Kyoto where one player is determined the victor. Though arts, hot springs, cuisine and more, players accrue Journey Points in hopes that they have the most at the end. First released by Passport Games in 2012, two expansions and a deluxe version have since been released, offering new things to do, people to meet, and travelers to be.

Are you ready to treat yourself to a most enlightening experience, picking up friends, souvenirs, and great snacks along the way? Go get your Geda, this is Tokaido.

Pre-game (4/5)

To begin the game, lay the board out and separately shuffle the Meal, Souvenir, Encounter, and Hot Spring cards into their respective decks. Then, sort out the Panorama cards by type, and place them in their respective board locations. Next, make sure that the coins are easily accessible by all players (or designate a banker).

Each player then picks a color and draws two Traveler tiles at random, choosing one Traveler to be their character, and discarding the other. To remember whose traveler is whose, each player places their matching color token into the slot of their Traveler. Each Traveler card has special abilities, so players must be wary of what their opponents pick. Each Traveler card also has an associated starting gold value, which the player takes from the bank. Finally, “the most experienced traveler” goes first, with play continuing clockwise.

Now that the game is set up, let’s roll with it.

Gameplay (4.5/5)

At its core, players make their way from Inn to Inn until they reach Tokaido. Once a player has reached an Inn, they must wait for all other players to arrive. The great and interesting aspect of Tokaido is the enriching experience the Traveler is supposed to experience while playing. That being said, players can only move their Traveler further down the path, forgoing any opportunities they pass. If a player is last on the road and they are still last after moving, they may move again immediately!

There are also a limited number of spaces, so performing sequential tasks like Panoramas or Souvenirs get risky the later you put them off. Some spaces have two slots for Travelers to occupy, though these are only utilized in games of 4-5 players. Each space allows for a player to perform a different activity. The spaces include Villages where souveniers can be bought, Hot Springs that provide immediate points, and Farms, where crops can be pillaged gold is received from the bank (thanks feudal system!). For a detailed look at all of Tokaido’s spaces and rules, check them out here.

Once all the players have made it to the final Inn in Edo, achievement cards are awarded, victory points are tallied, and a winner is declared.

Component Quality (4.5/5)

For the most part, Tokaido is a beautifully produced game. The board is sturdy and lavish in color, with each space clearly referencing the action the player needs to take. The Travelers are all very sturdy, as are the coins which are all adorable card stock representations of ancient Japanese Kan’ei coins. The Meal, Souvenir, Encounter, Achievement, and Hot spring cards are all the tiny 2″ x 3″ “mini” cards, but somehow they don’t feel that small. The Meeples are vibrant, although the point markers are worryingly small. Make sure you don’t have enthusiastic pets or children around, as I imagine they’re very easy to mistake for food.

The only component I have a problem with are the Panorama cards. NOT made of the same material as the other cards, each card came chain-printed which meant I had to remove each from the others. This left a small nubbin on either side of the card where I disconnected it. It’s not terrible, but the lack of flush edges leaves something to be desired.

Experience (5/5)

I was fortunate enough to be able to bring Tokaido home with me on a recent visit back to my parents. My sister very much wanted to give Tokaido a try, and I thought it would be something my mother would enjoy. Little did I know, my little brother (9) was the one who loved it the most. In a group of three, each game took less than half an hour and over two days we must have played at least five times. While the board remains static, the various travelers and expansions add tons of replay value to an aesthetically beautiful game.

I am very excited to introduce it to my friends and happily rate Tokaido 4.5/5

Useful Links

Wil Wheaton and friends play Tokaido

Board Game Geek’s page and review.

Walt Mueller’s review from Board Game Quest.

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