See this text? It's a gratuitous waste of GeekGold.
The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
Tokaido revolves around collecting sets of cards to earn progressively larger amounts of victory points. You collect these cards by moving your token to various locations along a path, which nets you a card for your set or coins to acquire cards, and your token also blocks access to that location for other players. It's a straightforward game for two to five players.
Ten Things to Like About Tokaido
1. The art The art direction for this game is stunning. Bravo to everyone involved with the art direction and art production in this game. It captures the feel of a zen-like ancient Japanese setting beautifully.
2. The "zen" feeling of the integrated theme The art and theme integrate with the relative non-confrontational nature of the game to create a very serene and "zen"-like feeling that pervades the game. I've never really noticed this in any other game. I know it's merely a mix of the art choices and the simple mechanics, but it's there and it's something other players have noticed, too.
3. The mix of set collection mechanisms Even though you're merely collecting sets of cards, the exact mechanism of each type of collection is different, making the game feel like it has more variety than it actually does.
4. The subtle viciousness of movement and drafting choices Although the game is relatively non-confrontational, there are two junctures where you can really interfere with the plans of others. For one, you can simply block off their obviously-desired space with your move, making it difficult or impossible for them to complete a set. For another, you can make very vicious card choices during the "draft" portion of the game to deny other players six victory points, which can swing the game.
5. The game length Tokaido feels like it goes on for the right length of time. You're not sitting there wondering when the game will ever end or hoping it moves long faster, but it also doesn't end abruptly. It's just right.
6. The balance None of the sets seem particularly overpowered compared to the other sets. Most of them reward repeated visits to the same type of location, so if one person gets a particular type of set rolling along quite well, it's easy for others to block them. There's no sense of a "must have" location.
7. The variable player powers These add some additional variety to the core game. They don't drastically alter things, but they do push players toward trying different set-collection strategies. It would be very easy to add more promo player powers to the game.
8. The box insert The box insert holds all of the game components in a very sensible way (although there are box size issues - see below). This is one of the better box inserts out there.
9. The speed of turns You essentially have one to two choices to make on each of your turns, thus the individual turns go quickly. Other than a few bottlenecks (see below), the game flows pretty quickly.
10. The ease of teaching This game is very straightforward to teach to anyone. I had success teaching the game to a seven year old, and I would have no objections teaching the game to virtually anyone above that age.
Five Things to Disike About Tokaido
1. Occasional disproportionate downtime If you're the first one to the inn, or if you're way out in front of other players, you will sometimes just sit for ten minutes while everyone else takes at least one move and some players take three or four moves. Sure, you do this by choice, but it's often long enough to completely take you out of the game, as this isn't a game where you can spend a ton of time plotting during other player's turns.
2. Often obvious choices Most of the time (though not always), the appropriate place to move your pawn is obvious on your turn. One choice is clearly the best one, so you take it. The number of choices each turn isn't great, and one usually jumps out from the pack.
3. Unnecessarily large box I've got to assume that they're planning several expansions for this game, because the box is unnecessarily huge. I know, I know, you need a big box to have a big price point on a game, but the cards are quite small and all of the components could fit in a Fantasy Flight Silver Line box. This box is just way too big.
4. Replayability concerns While the variations in set collection mechanics helps, as do the variable player powers, I still don't feel like this one has a ton of replay value for experienced gamers. There's just not that many compelling choices compared to other games of similar length.
5. The token size The player tokens and scoring tokens in this game are very, very small. I have a hard time picking up the pieces. They're smaller than almost any game I can recall - smaller, even, than the micropieces found in Through the Ages.
Who Would Like This Game? Personally, I liked this game, but I didn't love it. Having said that, I am still looking forward to introducing this game to some of my family and friends who I think will really enjoy this game.
People who will like this game include:
People who highly value art in their game - Tokaido is a beautiful game to look at. It's very aesthetically pleasing, and the integration of the art and the theme creates a peaceful "zen" feel that I've never seen in a game before. The art is heavily responsible for that feeling.
People who prefer indirect confrontation - There is player interaction here, but there's not a whole lot of blatant player attacking and domination. This game isn't solitaire, but it's not like Cosmic Encounter or Diplomacy. It's a nice middle, which is a good place for the game group I play with most often.
People intimidated by 7 Wonders - If the complexity of 7 Wonders is too much and your group gets locked down in analysis paralysis by it, try Tokaido instead. The set collection is still there, but it's in a much simpler (and aesthetically pleasing) package.
New gamers - Tokaido has the potential to be a really good gateway game. I would feel okay teaching this game to pre-teens and to elderly relatives. It's not bogged down with rules complexity - the only part that requires any rules lookups after the first round or two are a few card symbols, and those are usually exactly as you guess they'd be.
A Video Review I also posted a video review of this game, which touches on many of the points described above in a reasonably short package. If you want a good glimpse of the art and of the game components, this is worth watching.
Excellent review that summarizes all pros and cons that have been said by others in a sensible overall judgment. I believe this is a great game but not for gamers, who will be hoping it had more meat. On BGG it is doomed not to be loved, but on the shelves...
Trent, I enjoyed watching yout video review and your comparison with 7 Wonders. How would you compare Tokaido with Takenoko, the other desing by Monsieur Bauza?
One difference in Tokaido as compared to Takenoko is that there isn't any hidden information between players. In Tokaido you know when you are blocking another player, at least in the short run. In Takenoko, most of the time you can't be 100% sure your moves are going to help someone complete a goal.
After we played, my serious gamer friends derogitively called Tokaido the "Points Game" since just about every action caused you to advance on the score track
Thanks for the reply. It sounds like you don't agree with your serious gamer friends... what's yout opinion about the game?
Overall, I liked it alright, and I am interested to play it again. If I see it at my FLGS, I will probably pick it up just because it is pretty, and I could get my lighter gamer friends into it.
The thing that struck me about the game was that it was very difficult to figure out a long term strategy. You are inclined to take advantage of your character's special abilities, but there aren't really that many options of where to go without skipping way far ahead which seems foolish.
I'm reluctant to analyze it too thoroughly without a few more plays. There could be some deeper things going on that we did not pick up on.