Stats at a glance
Ages: 8 +
Tokaido is a game where the journey is the destination. Travel across the Eastern Sea Road to Edo; experiencing many fascinating and compelling encounters along the way.
This game is as beautiful in its simplicity as it is zen. There is no other game that takes relaxation as seriously as Tokaido.
Check out our full Tokaido board game review below.
Brief Overview of Tokaido
While many traditional board games might be about getting to the finish line first, Tokaido is all about the journey. We mean that quite literally; the player who has the most fulfilling journey wins.
Players make their way along the famous Eastern Sea Road in Japan. The journey takes our adventurers from Kyoto all the way through to Edo.
Along the way, they will experience encounters with strange and interesting characters, visit temples, shop for souvenirs, bathe in hot springs, and much much more. At the end of the road, the traveler who experiences the most adventures on their journey is crowned the winner.
The slowest player taking the road less traveled will undoubtedly hit more locations, but when it comes time to settle down for the night, he may find lodging and good food difficult to find.
Versions & Expansions
This expansion adds a pretty astonishing 16 new traveler cards to the base Tokaido game. While it doesn’t change the format, Matsuri introduces more depth to the game by adding further experiences.
Tokaido: Crossroads is a confusing extension for a game like Tokaido as it replaces the zen journey with a more tactical style of gameplay. Swords, magic, and even a playable Yakuza character are all part of this far more competitive expansion.
Eriku is a promotional player card given out at the Essen Spiel Fair in 2013 to celebrate the release of Tokaido: Crossroads. This card was created as a cheeky nod to Eric Burgess of the Boardgame Babylon podcast. Eric mistakenly took a meal at the beginning of the game and when corrected declared “Of course we eat before starting the trip, we are Americans ain’t we!” leading to the introduction of Eriku as a playable character.
Tokaido: The New Encounters
Tokaido: The New Encounters is a set of four promotional encounter cards given out at the Essen Spiel Fair in 2012 to anyone who purchased a copy of Tokaido. Fans who were lucky enough to pick these up got: Takuhatsuso the old priest, Itamae the itinerant cook, Kitoushi the veteran guide, and Saru the clean monkey.
Every game needs its pieces, here’s what Tokaido comes with.
- 5 traveler pieces
- 5 travel point markers
- 5 player color tokens (bags)
- 50 coins
- 10 traveler tiles
- 142 cards
- A game board
Before you even remove the plastic from the box, it’s very apparent that Tokaido is an incredibly aesthetically-pleasing game. Everything from the artwork to the design of the pieces just radiates certain tranquility and zen.
Upon opening the box you’re greeted with some beautiful panorama cards, a Funforge product catalog, and the all-important Tokaido rulebook. Beneath this, you’ll find two punch card sheets containing the player cards, some tokens, and the coins markers that players use as currency. I like the attention to detail with regard to the coins; they actually have a hole right through the middle of them.
Next up is the board itself; it seems to be of good quality and like it’s able to stand up to many hours of playtime. It’s about half the width of a standard board game board and 1.5x the length.
Finally, you get down to the last pieces. In this layer, we have all of the game cards and the five-player pieces which come in blue, purple, green, yellow, and grey. The cards are especially nice to look at, with beautiful artwork and a premium print job.
This is also the layer that has space to store all the stuff you’ll punch out of those cards. Funforge has generously thrown in a couple of extra little plastic baggies so that you don’t lose any of those punched cardboard components.
Overall, the appearance of all the pieces is really premium and high quality. It seems as though Tokaido has been made to last and provide years of enjoyment.
How to Play Tokaido
Aim of the game
Tokaido is all about experiences, and those very experiences are not only the soul of the game but also how you achieve victory. The goal is to accumulate the most points by having the most fulfilling journey possible. There’s no reward for being first to the end here.
Cards are divided by type, shuffled, and placed face down next to the board. The other pieces are then placed in their corresponding spaces. Players then choose a traveler and the matching markers and tokens.
Each player chooses two random traveler tiles, then chooses one to continue using from those two. These tiles have a number in the top right corner that signifies how many coins the player will get to start the game with.
All of the travelers begin at the inn in Kyoto.
Being in last place may be a disadvantage in other games, but this traveler gets to move first in Tokaido. In fact, if after your move you’re still in last place you get to move again. The next player to move is always the one in last place and closest to Kyoto. Travelers can move forward to any open space ahead of them, allowing them to receive its effects. There are certain spots (Inns) where all travelers need to stop at and wait for their fellow travelers.
It’s all about weighing risk vs. reward here. Do you skip over a spot and leave it for your opponents to take or try to be first out of the gate in the next leg.
A trip to the village yields souvenirs and surprises. You’ll get the opportunity to shop for everything from art to food and drink here. Souvenirs provide players with points and the more they have the greater their score.
Players who stop at the temple are obliged to drop some coins in the collection plate. An offering of between one and three coins must be made. The coins are then placed on the section of the temple that corresponds to the color of the player. Once this is all done the traveler receives their blessing and is rewarded with one point per coin donated.
Players who visit the farm will be granted a bounty of three coins. Travelers aren’t limited to how many coins they can collect.
A relaxing soak in the waters of the hot springs will yield a hot spring card worth somewhere between two and three points.
The journey to Edo is long and full of unique encounters. Players simply draw the top card from the encounter pile to reveal the outcome of the encounter. After this, the player is allowed to retain the card.
When a traveler lands on a panorama, they receive a panorama card. If, for example, you landed on a paddy, you’d receive a paddy card. Cards are granted in numerical order by availability, so if someone else has already received number one, you’ll collect number two and so on. Once you’ve landed on a specific panorama and collected your card, you can’t visit one of that type again, and you aren’t allowed to receive further cards of that type.
There are four inns on the Tokaido board and each player must visit them all on their journey to Edo. Here travelers can purchase meals using the coins they’ve collected. The first player to arrive at the inn gets dibs on the meals but must wait for the other players to arrive before they can leave.
End of the road
The game ends when all players arrive in Edo. Achievement cards are now handed out. Additional points are rewarded to generous temple patrons, with the highest giving donors receiving the most points. Victory is determined by tallying up the points and the traveler who has the most is declared the winner. Should the scores be tied, the traveler who holds the most achievement cards wins.
Your First Game of Tokaido
You’ve unpacked the pieces, you’ve set out the board, and now you’re itching to get the journey started. We get it, it’s exciting. Tokaido might be super simple in theory, but there are a few things that tend to trip people up on their first playthrough.
This is a game to be enjoyed slowly, it’s not a sprint. Trying to play too fast and loose takes a fair bit away from the atmosphere and often leads to little mistakes that dilute the enjoyment of the game.
Scorekeeping is really important in Tokaido and it’s so easy to lose track of who has what points. We recommend keeping a notepad on hand for each player to jot down just what they’ve done to save any arguments over scores at the end of the game.
We all have our favorite foods, but in Tokaido, you aren’t supposed to eat the same meal more than once. This is an easy mistake to make, but remember to keep the meal cards unique. They’re worth a ton more points, and who wants to eat the same thing over and over again?
Pros & Cons
- A truly unique and totally magical gameplay experience
- Simple to pick up and even easier to dig into
- Beautifully designed with wonderful artwork
There’s something special about Tokaido and nobody ever forgets their first playthrough of this whimsical journey. There’s just something inherently magical about it and the entire experience.
Picking up the game is so simple that you can drag your non-gamer friends and family in very easily, making it a great gateway game. One of the best things about Tokaido is that once you move past the surface veneer of simplicity the true depth of the game really begins to shine through. It’s a truly engaging and one of a kind board game experience.
You can’t really talk about Tokaido without talking about how beautiful this game is. Everything from the artwork on the front of the box has been crafted with such obvious love and care that it’s hard to put down at times. Tokaido is an absolute delight from the first second you get that box in your hands to the moment the game is over.
- At times it can be overly simple
If you’re looking for a super in-depth game then you make want to look elsewhere. There’s not going to be a heavily drawn-out map tacked to your board with pins connected with string, but you’re going to have a good time. It doesn’t pretend to be heavy, and in fact, goes out of its way to show the beauty in simplicity.
That’s really the only thing I can knock Tokaido for and it tells you that upfront.
Tokaido Review (TL;DR)
Tokaido is a journey you’ll never forget. A whimsical trip through Japan that has players competing to experience life on the road to the fullest. You’ll love visiting inns to sample tasty dishes and buying souvenirs in the villages all for those sweet sweet victory points
Tokaido is a simple gorgeous game, focused on a relaxing journey, but in reality players will be fighting and vying for the best spots to relax. There’s got to be a duality of man joke somewhere in there.
Tokaido is one of those games that you’ll genuinely wish you could play again with fresh new eyes. It’s a magical experience that leaves you feeling tranquil and perhaps even a little melancholy that the journey is over.
Tokaido is a great gateway game. Actions are limited while still giving players plenty of options and strategy. It’s effortless to relax and get lost in the gorgeous artwork from the components, making it an overall very pleasant experience.
That’s not to say Tokaido is a completely friendly game. Underneath the gorgeous minimalist exterior is a rather cutthroat game. Only one person can be in one location at a time, and strategically blocking is part of the game. So have no fear, aggressors and conflict lovers, it’s not all stopping to smell the roses.
Finally, I really like being able to move at my own pace. To the annoyance of Kendra whenever we play, I like to take my time and hit every single location I can. She, on the other hand, rushes ahead and gets the first pick of everything. The early bird gets the worm, but slow and steady also wins the race.
Have you tried Tokaido? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below and let us know!
Looking for other games to play? Check out our video below:
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.