The Tokaido was a road connecting Kyoto to Edo in Japan, spanning over 300 miles. In the game, players make the journey themselves, over the thankfully manageable play-time of about 45 minutes.
The board is placed centrally, showing the road and various places to stop along the way. The players each choose a colour and a character they wish to play, and begin their journey with a little money. The goal is to make it to Edo with the most points; the points representing how culturally enriching your journey has been. So it’s not a race by any means – in fact, rushing forwards is probably the worst thing you can do!
After the opening round it will always be turn of whichever player who is furthest back along the road. They choose how far to move along the road (there is no limit) on this turn, stopping at any unoccupied location ahead of them (exception: some locations have room for two players, but only when playing with 4 or 5) and where you stop will always have a potential benefit: you can collect souvenirs, donate money to the temple, bathe in the hot springs, or simply collect one or more of the three panoramas available. All of these get you points.
More money can be collected at farms, or sometimes picked up from encounters on your journey, which are always positive: nothing in Tokaido is punishing. En route to Edo there are also inns where everyone must stop for the night, and here you have the option of purchasing a meal. As with the locations mentioned above, these score you points.
In short, there’s no combat or fire-fighting at all: the game is for the most part a gentle journey of collection: money, souvenirs, experiences…
However, there are elements of strategy and luck-pushing as well. There are bonuses for completing panoramas during the game, and when everyone reaches Edo there are four end-game bonuses: for most souvenirs, most hot spring cards, most encounters and most money spent on meals. Most rewarding of all are the Temple bonuses for the players who have made the most contributions to the temples on their journey. Combine this with the player-in-last-goes-first mechanic,and you see options to block people from locations they want to go to on the road – but, of course, you have to balance that desire with the places you want to stop at as well.
As mentioned above, each player also plays a character too, and the characters have their own special ability they can employ at certain locations on the road. These can make a real difference when used shrewdly.
It looks gorgeous, there are only a few rules and I think kids younger than 8 can get their head around this… if not the intricacies of the scoring, then at least the basics. It’s a great one for families as it’s easy to learn (you can kind of learn it by playing it, in fact) and while the concept of going on a journey and picking stuff up along the way appeals to the kids, Tokaido also holds enough depth to appeal to parents as well.
Low. As mentioned above there are options for the odd spoiling tactic, but it's a minor part of the game and the frustration of someone going where you wanted to go will most likely be accidental.
Very low. The game is really simple.
Low. Wherever you go you'll be getting stuff (unless you happen into a village or Temple with no money on you) so the choice is more picnic buffet than life or death.
I find the game very replayable despite its simplicity. There are different strategies to try out and the two-player version also has a canny third 'neutral player' who can be used as a bit of a spoiler!