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Subject: How often do you really make a meaningful decision in Tokaido? rss

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Brian M
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I played Tokaido twice at BGG.Con, and I'm still not sure what to think of it. I enjoy the light, simple gameplay, but it felt like there were two few decisions, especially for a player that started out going last.

How often would anyone say, in a 4 player game*, you really have a real choice about whether to jump spaces or not, when skipping spaces is really a good idea? Once per section? Once per game?

* Sounds like there are more opportunities to block in 2 player, but I'm really looking at this as a group game.
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Dennis de Vries
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It also depends on what you need: if you know you need money to get that meal and you're almost at the inn, I would take the money or try the encounter for money.

Also denying people certain things, like completing their panorama or denying money...

I didn't play it much yet, so I'm also still trying to find out.
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Marshall P.
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The most meaningful decisions are how many souvenirs to buy and how much to donate to the temple at each stop. I don't think there's too many meaningful decisions on movement as I think you almost universally want to stop at the next available spot.

The expected value of each stop ranges between 2 and 3.5 (actually it's a tighter range than that because the higher value stops require you to pay money which requires a zero point stop at a Farm dragging the average value down, but let's go with it).

Let's say a "stop-every-opportunity" player averages 2.5 points per stop and a "skip-spots-occasionally" player averages 3 points per stop.

If the skip-spots player makes 16 non-inn stops during the game, then the stop-every-time player needs to make 19 stops to tie. Therefore, skipping any more than 3 spots is going to lose you the game unless you can get your average per stop up to 3.2 which is not going to happen.

Worse, the more players skip, the more spots the stop-any-time player gets to take at no cost. Make 14 stops and somehow get a 3.5 average per stop? Great! But the stop-any-time player just made 21 stops and beat you.
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Tommaso Franco
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mdp4828 wrote:
The expected value of each stop ranges between 2 and 3.5

Are you including the final bonuses in these values?
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Marshall P.
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No. But in my experience those were pretty uniformly distributed so they kinda wash out. But even including them shouldn't change the expectation much.

For example, the large panorama. You score 1+2+3+4+5 = 15 / 5 stops = 3 points per stop. If you get the bonus you score 18 / 5 = 3.6 points per stop. But if you skipped any spaces to get that bonus, you likely gave up another bonus to another player.

Looked at another way. If you are down to the final panorama spot and you have 4 panorama tiles you may be tempted to skip two spots for the 8 points. But in skipping those two spots you give them to your opponent for free. If he gets 2.5 points per spot and a bonus because of them... that's 8 points.

If, however, you take the next available spot for 2.5 points and your opponent skips 1 spot to block the panorama from your (let's say he scored the 3 on that move), then you get that extra spot for free (let's say 2.5 points again). The first scenario (where you skip spots) is 8-8. The second scenario is 5-3 in your favor and that's not even considering you might get an extra 3 point bonus for not skipping.

I think the bottom line is the spots are uniform enough that MORE spots are going to beat the marginal gain of FEWER spots, probably almost every time.
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Lucas Hedgren
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One thing I think that gets missed, is that if a player skips a spot or 2, they more than likely are not giving up any ground on the "total number of stops" scoreboard. This is true even if the other players are taking the next spot. Here is an example.

4 player game
Lets look at just the first 12 spaces.
Players A, B, C, D start in that order.

So, the default option is everyone going to the next space:
A1
B2
C3
D4

A5
B6
C7
D8

A9
B10
C11
D12

Now, here, instead, A will jump ahead an extra space, each time he takes a turn, grabbing something he likes better:

A2
B1
C3
D4

B5
A7
C6
D8

B9
C10
A12
D11

See how A has gained the same number of actions? All that has happened is that he has changed the order in which he chooses after his turn, trading a later choice on later turns for a better current choice.

I simply do not see how tons of gamers seem to miss out on this. This game is full of choices. Yeah, sure, jumping ahead by 4 or 5 spaces is very probably not a good idea, but saying that no jumping at all is very likely the best option just seems silly.

In addition, if by skipping ahead, A grabs the spot just before the Inn, they set themselves up to start out early afterward, and start their skipping all over again. This is, of course, at the expense of choice/price of meals. But, that's, like, you know, a choice, and stuff.
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Tommaso Franco
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This game reminds me of Sprint in Track Cycling. There you go as slow as possible because the one in the lead in a sprint at full speed has a big disadvantage; however, it comes to a point when the finish line is close enough to sprint and hope that the rival loses some fraction of a second before reacting.

My take is that the game is decided at the inn:
- Spot with the most points
- First to arrive, first to leave.
(truer if you play with the official variant with 1 meal less)

So, you tend to go slowly (almost without jumps) until you see the opportunity window to jump to the inn, maybe blocking others. You could argue that you should define the whole 12-space strategy in order to get to the inn first.

Just my 2 cents.
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Brian M
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Quote:
Looked at another way. If you are down to the final panorama spot and you have 4 panorama tiles you may be tempted to skip two spots for the 8 points. But in skipping those two spots you give them to your opponent for free. If he gets 2.5 points per spot and a bonus because of them... that's 8 points.

Marshal, you've posted some interesting analysis here. I'm not sure it's all correct though. In this example, for instance, you assign 8 points to the active player and 8 points to another player. But it seems very unlikely to me that the same player will take both of those spots you skipped. So in practice, wouldn't you be more likely gaining 8 points while giving 4 points (on average) to two different opponents? That sounds like a good trade!

Most spots will be worth more than 2 if taken optimally. If you got lucky, one farm + one souvenir spot could yield you 4.5 points per stop. But that takes drawing 3 cost '1' souvenirs. But...if you are the character that buys one and gets one free, or buys one for 1, the odds of that go up. And you can have spare money that you weren't likely to spend anyway, so you don't need to counter it with additional stops. And you are setting up for a 7 point souvenir on a later stop!

On the other hand, what if I skip a green panorama spot toward the end when the bonus is already gone, and the players behind me have either completed it already or not started it? At best they are getting 1.5 points, and some of them have nothing to gain by it!

I'm now starting to think there is more to jumping ahead then it first appeared.
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Tommaso Franco
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boomtron wrote:
4 player game
Lets look at just the first 12 spaces.
Players A, B, C, D start in that order.

So, the default option is everyone going to the next space:
A1
B2
C3
D4

A5
B6
C7
D8

A9
B10
C11
D12

Imagine you are D, before the last move, still on #8. Would you take #12 and go to the inn last OR skip it and go first? To me it makes a huge difference, especially at the end of the game.

Then, imagine you are C, before that, still on #7; you can go to #11 and risk being last or second to last at the inn OR or skip 2 but go first. And so on.

I see a lot of tension aroud deciding when to rush for the inn. That is to me a very meaningful choice. In the last inn, with such close scoring, it could well decide the game.

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Brad McKenzie
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In the 5-player game we last played, money was very tight. While everything scores you points, it is the collection of souvenirs, followed by donations at temples and meals at inns that, in my opinion, score the most points.

Knowing how much to give at an inn is critical, but more important is to deny others the chance to get money.

I think there is a bit more strategy to this game than initially appears on the surface, and it will have to hit our table a few more times before we really get a proper feel for how best to play...
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David Short
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What a great conversation! I'd like to thank everyone for their valued input here. It is very appreciated by someone like myself who is on the fence about this game.

I enjoyed my two plays of it at BGG.con, but I too wonder about it's long term enjoyment, which is directly linked to its overall decision tree.

Be assured, I'll be staying tuned to this channel to soak up all the info I can get.
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Marshall P.
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boomtron wrote:


A2
B1
C3
D4

B5
A7
C6
D8

B9
C10
A12
D11


B13
C14
D15
A17

B16
C18
D19
B20
A22


Try writing it like this:

ABCDBACDBCADBCDABCDBA

There are four turns between each of A's moves. That's a substantial disadvantage.
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Marshall P.
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Tommaso 73 wrote:


My take is that the game is decided at the inn:
- Spot with the most points
- First to arrive, first to leave.
(truer if you play with the official variant with 1 meal less)


I don't think that's true is it? First-to-arrive-first-to-leave I mean. We played last-to-arrive-first-to-leave.
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Martin G
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mdp4828 wrote:
Tommaso 73 wrote:


My take is that the game is decided at the inn:
- Spot with the most points
- First to arrive, first to leave.
(truer if you play with the official variant with 1 meal less)


I don't think that's true is it? First-to-arrive-first-to-leave I mean. We played last-to-arrive-first-to-leave.

Correct. Just changing that might make a fairly big difference.
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Tommaso Franco
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This is indeed a great discussion, thanks to all!

qwertymartin wrote:
mdp4828 wrote:
Tommaso 73 wrote:

My take is that the game is decided at the inn:
- Spot with the most points
- First to arrive, first to leave.
(truer if you play with the official variant with 1 meal less)


I don't think that's true is it? First-to-arrive-first-to-leave I mean. We played last-to-arrive-first-to-leave.

Correct. Just changing that might make a fairly big difference.

I was wrong! Thank you for pointing that out. Two conclusions then:
- My reasoning works for the last inn, where no one leaves. Getting there first gives you a good advantage, because it should be easier to deny meals. So I see some rushing at the end.
- Maybe my "wrong rule" could be a "house rule"... Looking at the optional rule "Preparation", leaving first is an advantage worth 3 coins in a 4 player game. Reversing the order at the inn would give a huge plus to the one who gets there first.

This has already come up in a different strategy thread.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/9754569#9754569

Shouldn't this thread also go to the strategy forum?

(edit: problems with the link)
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Tommaso Franco
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mdp4828 wrote:
boomtron wrote:


A2
B1
C3
D4

B5
A7
C6
D8

B9
C10
A12
D11


B13
C14
D15
A17

B16
C18
D19
B20
A22


Try writing it like this:

ABCDBACDBCADBCDABCDBA

There are four turns between each of A's moves. That's a substantial disadvantage.


You are both right, it is a substantial disadvantage but also an extreme case.

IMHO, when it's your turn you can:
a. Move 1 step: no choice but no loss to the others.
b. Move 2 to N steps (N= nr. players): you MIGHT lose a turn, depending on how far the inn is, or if the others are going to skip spot later. Most probably you give an extra spot to one or some player.
c. Move more than N steps: you give an extra spot to everybody, i.e. you lose a turn.

If you do b. more than once (as in the example) you are surely losing turns, however if you do it only once, the cost could be negligible.

Look at it this way: if you read the last sequence, A has the same number of turns as the others or not depending on where you truncate the sequence, especially if A jumps only once and not always.
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Tommaso Franco
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Third post of mine in a row... sorry about that, but I suffer from jet lag on this one...

I'd like to go back to the OP and the subject of the thread:

StormKnight wrote:
How often would anyone say, in a 4 player game*, you really have a real choice about whether to jump spaces or not, when skipping spaces is really a good idea? Once per section? Once per game?

It is probably once per section, however jumping spaces is not the only "meaningful decision" in the game. The other big issue is to manage your money: how much to spend/donate in each category, whether you need to earn extra money or not and so on. Even if you do not choose the spot, you still have choices to make.
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Marshall P.
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StormKnight wrote:

Marshal, you've posted some interesting analysis here. I'm not sure it's all correct though. In this example, for instance, you assign 8 points to the active player and 8 points to another player. But it seems very unlikely to me that the same player will take both of those spots you skipped. So in practice, wouldn't you be more likely gaining 8 points while giving 4 points (on average) to two different opponents? That sounds like a good trade!


Yes, of course to simplify things I wasn't worried about the number of players. My general point is that a game with two features:

1) unequal number of turns
2) relatively uniform expected points per turn

both of which Tokaido posses, will favor the player who gets the most turns. Correct strategy, therefore, is to get the most turns. In Tokaido this strategy is accomplished by not skipping spots -- generally.

Of course one can construct scenarios where it's best to skip a spot. But if we're talking long term playability of the game, where things revert to their average, then I think Tokaido suffers in the number of meaningful/interesting decisions per game department.
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Marshall P.
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Tommaso 73 wrote:


If you do b. more than once (as in the example) you are surely losing turns, however if you do it only once, the cost could be negligible.

Look at it this way: if you read the last sequence, A has the same number of turns as the others or not depending on where you truncate the sequence, especially if A jumps only once and not always.


Yes, of course, if you only jump over one spot all game you haven't lost much. But when to make this jump is probably also an obvious decision.

And the sequence above considers player A, if we were to do the same analysis for player D then he is immediately giving up turns to the other players. It's really disastrous for D to skip spaces. A can do it for awhile because he went first, D can't.
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Travis Bridges
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I think you should try it over the board...play a 4 player game and never skip spots...don't tell the others what you are doing...I bet you don't win or even come close. You will be last to finish panoramas...you will likely run out of money (possibly keeping you from even acting through your strategy)...you will probably get hosed at the last or second to last inn...you probably won't score any of the bonuses. The mathematical analysis you list only works if you are playing solo. Since you are playing tactical humans, something tells me they won't leave with you anything that scores 3.5+ points, and you will instead be settling for much less.
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Brian M
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Quote:
I think you should try it over the board...play a 4 player game and never skip spots...don't tell the others what you are doing...I bet you don't win or even come close.


This, of course, would be a good outcome. Marshall's assertion is that the points from the spaces are so well balanced that never skipping will be just as good.

If I had the game, I could probably convince my girlfriend to play a few games where each had one player and then had a "virtual" player or two that just followed the "always move to the closest space" approach and see how they compared. But that's not very useful since I want to know more about this to know whether or not to bother getting the game.
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Marshall P.
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StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
I think you should try it over the board...play a 4 player game and never skip spots...don't tell the others what you are doing...I bet you don't win or even come close.


This, of course, would be a good outcome. Marshall's assertion is that the points from the spaces are so well balanced that never skipping will be just as good.


I don't have to try it. It was done against me during my second game at BGG.con. The player who skipped exactly 1 spot the entire game ran away with it and killed us. I strategically skipped spots to be the first to complete the large panorama (the most points efficient of the panoramas) to get souvenirs (another efficient points engine if you get a full set), and to utilize my character ability which was tied to encounters. I got creamed.

The winning player didn't miss any meals either. Won the temple, and won her share of 3-point bonuses (though not for the large panorama. I got that one by god).

The second place player did miss a meal, but was still able to beat me by skipping fewer spots.

You definitely won't run out of money by never skipping spots, instead you be the moneyingest player of them all! Farms are often skipped precisely because they give you zero points. Therefore, if you're not a spot skipper you get a crack at farms for free! Then you get more spots to spend that money on!

You'll also get your share of 3 point bonuses by not skipping spots simply because you're going to have more hot baths and possibly encounters and souvenirs.

There's nothing worse than when I skipped a couple of spots to get an encounter (because I got a special bonus from my character) and had to watch the eventual winner stop at a farm then at a temple chucking in 3 coins and easily beating my for the endgame temple points. I didn't have the money to stop at the temple (because I didn't want to stop at farms), I could have stopped at the farm but then I would have lost temple AND the encounter spots and had to either go to the inn, or stop a panorama that I wasn't collecting (because I wasn't stopping at every panorama spot.... unlike some players).

Skipping spots is punished brutally in the game. Of course, not skipping spots sucks too if everyone else isn't skipping spots, because whatever random spot is available next on your turn probably isn't the one you wished you had available. So, that's kind of why the game sucks overall unless you're the player not skipping spots and others are, in which case you're having a fantastic time sweeping up farms, hot springs, panoramas, every damn thing.
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Brian M
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Quote:
It was done against me during my second game at BGG.con. The player who skipped exactly 1 spot the entire game ran away with it and killed us.

Marshall, do you remember if that was the game I was in on Wednesday night? Or was Wednesday night your first play and you had a second game later?
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Marshall P.
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StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
It was done against me during my second game at BGG.con. The player who skipped exactly 1 spot the entire game ran away with it and killed us.

Marshall, do you remember if that was the game I was in on Wednesday night? Or was Wednesday night your first play and you had a second game later?


The game with you guys was my first game of Tokaido. The game in my post above was after that. In that second game I deliberately wanted to follow a "high efficiency" strategy where I maximize the expected points of each stop and avoid stops for fewer than 3 expected points (of course you can't always be quite sure until the end of the game how many points each stop garnered you, but you have some idea of what to expect). In the course of the second game I happened to notice one of the other players seemed to be getting a lot of turns. And I noticed she wasn't skipping spots. And then I noticed her scoring marker seemed to be moving faster and farther than my own.
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mdp4828 wrote:
Of course, not skipping spots sucks too if everyone else isn't skipping spots, because whatever random spot is available next on your turn probably isn't the one you wished you had available.


This is exactly the point of the game! It is important for players to take the spots that other players (especially ones ahead in score) need to be successful! You need to play dastardly...I think people see the art and go 'Ahhh, finally a game with no conflict' and play it as such, then they wonder why the player with more turns wins! Well, of course, the player never had conflict to get what they needed and then could cruise to each spot that was worth at least 2 points...Everything in the game costs money, except for hot springs and encounters. I guarantee you if payout spaces aren't available because people sat on those spaces ahead of you, your possibility of scoring points (and eating a meal, especially when it is the most expensive one since you are likely last to the inn also) is going to dry up pretty quick.

But that's ok...if you guys want to play 1-spot Feng Shui leap frog for an hour, that's fine. I, and the others I play with, prefer to play evildevil.

I can't speak about the 2-3 player game...granted to your point, I can't imagine that would work too well because there is more opportunity and less blocking (or maybe because it becomes more zero sum, it works even better...I don't know).
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