In this week’s issue of The Robot Plays, I want to share a game that’s been on my shelf for a little while, unopened. Well… I opened it up and played with a small group last weekend, and it was so charming that I had to share my thoughts on it! Tokaido by Funforge is a brilliantly simple game whose mechanics and design contribute to the contemplative and zen experience this game shoots for.
Tokaido’s board is a linear path – there are no winding turns to take or tiles to place; there are no workers to manage or complicated engines to build; there are no dice to roll or resources to harvest. The choice presented to a player on their turn is simple (but extremely important in its simplicity):
How far along the path do you want to move?
The game is literally about being a sightseeing tourist. Players take the role of a traveler, taking the east sea road in Japan, soaking in as many beautiful vistas, meeting as many travelers, eating as many different dishes, and collecting as many souvenirs as they can on their way to Edo.
Because of this beautiful marriage of mechanics and theme, it behooves players to take their time along the path. While moving more quickly along the path will allow a player to beat their opponents to the more desirable spaces, moving slowly across the board will yield a larger collection of cards. What’s more, turn order is solely dependent on who is the furthest behind on the path; so, the player who’s bringing up the rear will always take the next turn – another benefit to moving more slowly.
Each type of space grants the player a different type of card or coins (which can be used to buy other cards). Set collection is the name of the game – with different sets conferring different amounts of victory points.
The cards themselves are stunning – players collect majestic vista scenes, beautiful souvenirs cards, and delightful encounter cards. Everything about the art and design of this game lends itself so well to the zen-ness of the game: clean white backgrounds, bold brushstrokes, pastel colours, the slowly meandering path across the stretching board, and the (surprisingly welcome) lack of direct player competition. On that last point, players are merely competing over the limited spaces along the path – there aren’t really any interactive cards to speak of, but that’s okay; the game is about going on a solitary journey. The absence of competitive mechanics actually make the game stronger.
Tokaido is the kind of game you can play with a group of people on a rainy afternoon over a shared meal and lively conversation, or even stretched over a long, lazy day with people taking their turns by themselves to go off and tend to other things. Because this game is so beautiful, it’s a great piece to have sitting out on a table or counter. I’m considering leaving mine out all the time. 😛
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,