App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
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Tokaido is a lovely looking board game that's essentially about being the best tourist. In the game, you travel along the Tōkaidō road in Tokugawa-era Japan, making stops along the way to visit temples, hot springs, shops, and more in hopes of gathering more victory points that everyone you're playing against. Tokaido offers up some beautiful (though light) board game fun, but is only satisfying if you can find someone to play against.
Playing Tokaido is pretty simple, even by board game standards. There are no dice in the game and no set turn order. Instead, players choose the spots on the board they want to move to. Provided the space isn't already occupied by another player, you just can move there and participate in whatever action happens at that space. Turns are determined by the player furthest behind along the road, and the game is divided into four sections with an inn at the end of each section that all players must stop at before resuming their journey along the road.
The point of the game, much like a lot of other board games, is to collect as many victory points as possible by the end of the game. Because Tokaido is about travelers on a road, this involves completing objectives around visiting temples to donate money, buying souvenirs at shops, and even visiting scenic views to paint murals. Completing these objectives generally involves you doing the “most” of something. So, for example, the player that visits the most hot springs will earn bonus victory points at the end of the game for doing so. The same is true for players that donate the most money to temples, buy the most expensive meals, or meet the most other people.
Tokaido's straightforward rules and goals make it really easy to pick up and play, but some of its subtler elements make the game a surprisingly strategic affair. Because other players can essentially block you from moving to certain spaces, you'll likely have to pursue more than one objective to prevent your opponents from catching on and thwarting you. In addition to this, a lot of objectives cost money. You start the game with a few coins, but you'll likely have to get more by visiting farm spaces every so often, which are the only spaces in the game that don't grant victory points at all.
Also, at the beginning of each game, you are given two characters to choose between to play as, each with their own special abilities. Some of these characters make items at the shop more affordable, while others may get additional options may automatically donate extra coins when visiting temples. They are slight differences for the most part, but it's enough for you to alter your play style to try and maximize your strengths.
Tokaido is its most fun when you're playing with other people, which is probably the biggest bummer about the game. Though it does sport online play, the player base is pitifully low. It's actually so low that I've only been able to play one game of Tokaido online with other people, and it appears to be one of the only online games of Tokaido ever played. I say this because after winning that match, my online ranking shot up to #1 and didn't fall until an update installed and seemed to reset my ranking. Since then, I haven't been able to get into a game of Tokaido at all.
There are some other minor gripes I have with Tokaido's UI, but the fact that there's not really anyone to play with greatly overshadows these minor issues. If you have people over, you can play Tokaido in its pass-and-play form, but playing online seems almost impossible.
The bottom line
I like Tokaido's style and gameplay a lot, but it doesn't really amount to much if I can't play it with anyone. While it does have a single-player mode and pass-and-play functionality, playing against the AI isn't particularly satisfying and I don't see a situation where I'll crowd around the iPad with a bunch of friends to play. As a result, Tokaido doesn't seem like a worthy purchase, even though it's competently made.