This post was last updated on November 24th, 2023
It’s about time we talk about Tokaido, a board game that “captured” me right from the first time I played it.
It might be because spring is coming and I always wanted to go see the cherry tree blossom in Japan, but not only that: Tokaido is a great game and, after a brief talk about it in our article about the best Japan-themed board games, we decided that it totally deserves its own spotlight.
And today happens to be the right day to introduce this gem to you.
Soon after getting our hands on this beautiful piece of artwork (Antoine Bauza is always a guarantee), it became really popular among our friends at board game nights.
Wear your comfy shoes because you’re about to start a beautiful journey.
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In Tokaido, you will travel on the panoramic path that connects Kyoto to Edo (today Tokyo) and your main purpose is to make this experience as rich as possible.
Which part of this journey will you enjoy the most?
Tasting local dishes, collecting souvenirs, relaxing in hot springs, discovering beautiful panoramas or visiting temples?
Well.. this is up to you, but make sure you become the most experienced!
• 1 Game board
• 5 Traveler pieces
• 5 Travel point markers
• 5 Player colour tokens (bags)
• 50 Coins
• 10 Traveller tiles
• 12 Hot Spring cards
• 60 Panorama cards
• 25 Meal cards
• 24 Souvenir cards
• 14 Encounter cards
• 7 Achievement cards
How To Play Tokaido
At the beginning of the game, each player takes 2 random traveller tiles (which have unique abilities), chooses the preferred one and takes the number of coins stated on the card.
The game can begin after all the players randomly place the meeples at the start of the road.
The golden rule in Tokaido is that the farthest traveller from the main road always moves first.
Starting from the last in line, each player moves forward to any empty spaces of his/her choice. Once arrived at the preferred stop, the player receives the corresponding benefit. Sometimes it can happen that the last traveller will still be behind all the others, so in this case, he/she will have another turn straight away.
Along the way, there could be stops that are double.
The first player arriving will occupy the spot closer to the road, while the second player who wants to stop there will occupy the other.
The double stop can only be used if there are 4-5 players.
Arriving at the Inn
After a long day of walking, you can’t wait to reach the Inn and relax properly. This stop is mandatory for all travellers and determines the end of the day.
The first to arrive will place his/her meeple close to the main road and the others will follow.
The order in which players arrive is very important: the first to reach the Inn draws as many Meal cards as the number of players plus 1.
Without showing the cards to the others, he/she purchases a meal and passes the remaining dishes to the second player arrived, and so on.
A traveller cannot taste the same culinary speciality more than once during the whole journey, therefore you can decide not to purchase any meal if you’ve already eaten what the others left for you.
Strategy tip: you can check what Meal the other players have already in their hand and leave them with the only choice to skip the meal (and therefore the points).
Once everybody has fully recovered with a nice meal, the journey can continue.
Following the golden rule of Tokaido, the last traveller who arrived at the Inn will move first.
End of the journey
The journey ends when all travellers arrive at the last Inn in Edo.
All the points can now be counted and the player who ranks first in a particular experience (Village, Encounters, Hot Spring and Meals) will receive an Achievement Card for that category, worth 3 points. If there are any ties, each player scores 3 points.
All players will score additional points based on the ranking of the Temple donations. You receive points only if you have donated!
Listed below you can find all types of cards included in Tokaido.
Choose carefully what you want to get your hands on the most, but don’t forget that it’s always a good choice to experience a bit of everything as this will only add more points.
Japan is known for its beautiful Temples; in Tokaido, if you decide to visit one of them you’ll have to make a donation (from 1 to 3 coins); for each coin you give, you will receive a point.
A bit short on money? Consider stopping at the Farm to receive 3 coins.
Time to relax! If you decide to take a break at the Hot Spring, draw a card from the pile and the points written on that card will be added to your collection.
Why not take pictures of the beautiful panoramas while travelling? With this card, you will create a photo memory of this journey. Each time you stop at a Panorama station, you will take the card you need to complete the picture (all cards have a number and you’ll have to collect them in the right order).
Once a panorama scenario is fully completed, you can no longer stop at the spaces corresponding to that picture.
A journey is most of the time made of the people you meet. If you decide to take the opportunity to get to know the locals, this will only be a benefit for you. Each time you decide to stop and take an Encounter card you will be rewarded with an effect, such as immediately scoring 3 points or taking a panorama card.
A journey is not a journey if I don’t get some souvenirs (at least for me lol). If we are on the same page, then take the opportunity to stop by the Village and get your hands on some beautiful objects.
After drawing 3 cards from the Village pile, you can decide which items you want to take home with you and pay the indicated amount. Keep in mind that each souvenir belongs to one of the 4 different types and, in order to score more points, you need to collect items from each type.
Tokaido is a board game that let you feel amazed and possibly a bit confused after your first game.
Let me explain what I mean: the artwork is stunning, surely one of the best-looking games I have ever seen, and its inner sense of peace reaches you deeply if your mindset is ready to embrace it.
On the other hand, you could also feel a bit confused, stuck between a huge desire to give the game another go or letting the first match’s emotions flow untouched.
The gameplay is simple and straightforward, but at the same time very variable and not so easy.
There are many decisions to make that will increase or decrease your chances to win; if you want to know more about how to build a winning strategy why don’t you read my Tokaido strategy guide?
This can be either a relaxing game, due to the nature of its non-competitive game design, or it can be a cutthroat game if you dive deep enough into its gameplay.
The core idea of the game is letting you decide where you want to go next and which stops aren’t worth your attention, like when you are travelling in the real world… with the only difference that here every bad decision will cost you points, and sometimes the victory.
The components of the game have good quality and are detailed enough to draw your complete attention, even though I think the point markers are way too small for every human being living on Earth.
To sum up, for the reasons written above, I consider Tokaido a great game and one of the best board games for beginners you could ask for.
Even just for the gorgeous artwork, the price is absolutely worth it.
- TRAVEL THE FAMED TOKAIDO ROAD: Welcome to the Tokaido, the legendary East Sea Road connecting Kyoto to Edo, in Japan. In Tokaido, each player is a traveler crossing the “East Sea Road”, one of the most magnificent roads of Japan. Here you will begin an extraordinary journey during which you will discover a thousand marvels.
- ADVENTURE GAME: While traveling, you will meet people, taste fine meals, collect beautiful items, discover great panoramas and visit temples and wild places but at the end of the day, when everyone has arrived at the end of the road you’ll have to be the most initiated traveler – which means that you’ll have to be the one who discovered the most interesting and varied things.
- STRATEGY BOARD GAME: Action spaces are laid out on a linear track with players advancing down this track to take actions. Players must choose whether to advance slowly along the track in order to get more turns or to travel more rapidly to beat other players to their desired action spaces.
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