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44 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

My Ever-Lovin’ Wife and I played our first game of Tokaido, and so far, we’re intrigued.

In Tokaido, you and your fellow players are taking a journey between Tokyo and Kyoto. The goal of the game is to have the most interesting and satisfying journey. How do you do that? By meeting interesting people, enjoying the scenery, soaking in hot springs, eating gourmet food, and shopping for souvenirs in local villages. Doing the most of any of these awards you victory points. Basically, it’s competitive vacationing.

Tokaido is a light, Americanized eurogame for 2-5 players, designed by Antoine Bauza (7 Wonders, Ghost Stories). Players move their marker along a linear track, stopping at various action spaces, receiving their benefits, and blocking opponents from stopping on those same spaces. The gameplay is easy to pick-up, as is the strategy of maximizing your own benefits while preventing opponents from getting what they need.

Hardcore gamers may find the mechanics and strategy here a bit simplistic. But the allure of this game has little to do with the game play. Rather, it’s the combination of theme and art work that draws the player in. My Ever-Lovin’ Wife (ELW) played Mitsukuni, the old man, who enjoys a long soak in a hot spring a bit more than the average traveler, and I was Chuubei, the messenger, who can always seem to find someone interesting to chat up at the inn. Each card in the game is beautifully illustrated, and while I wish the cards were a bit bigger, there is no denying their evocative appeal.

My strategy relied on savoring panoramic views and conversations, while ELW opted for eating lavish meals and making lavish donations at the temple. In the end, I came away with the narrowest of victories: 79-78.

The 2-player variation requires you to run a dummy third player, controlled by whomever happens to be the furthest down the road at the time. I’m not typically a fan of this mechanic in other games, and I’m not sold on it here. It adds a certain level of strategy — namely, deciding where I can put the dummy player’s marker to cause the most consternation for my opponent. But it feels a bit capricious in that sometimes I get to hose ELW and sometimes she gets to hose me, without any strategic effort on our part to make that happen. We both agreed that the game is probably better suited for 3 or more.

That being said, Tokaido is a fun escape. The uniqueness of the theme and the beauty of the artwork transport you to a place where you are rewarded for savoring the best things in life. If I could live inside the world that any board game creates, I’m pretty sure this would be it.

Tokaido, on first blush, gets a 7/10.

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