Tokaido Game Guide: How to Play Tokaido

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Japan is a beautiful country full of majestic sceneries, both in the cities and in the countryside. Just imagine the cherry blossoms falling from the trees as they fill the road with a pink glow. Or the serene lakes and ponds matched with a calming serenade from a shamisen. Even ancient Japanese paintings depict this so gracefully.

Aside from the places, the food in Japan is also something that you should try out. Only this country can make eating a pufferfish, one of the deadliest fishes in the ocean, popular. You must also experience slurping up the thick udon or soba noodles from its rich, tasty broth.

Having to experience this beautiful country as a tourist is one of the items on my bucket list. Luckily, board game enthusiasts such as ourselves can have that experience. I am talking about Tokaido, a Japanese-themed board game where you play as a traveler traveling from Kyoto to Edo. Read more to learn how to play this game.

What is Tokaido?

Tokaido is a two to five-player board game about the players’ journey from Japan’s former capital, Kyoto, to the current capital, Tokyo, formerly known as Edo. The Tokaido road is one of Japan’s most important routes in the real world. It roughly translates to “eastern sea route” in English. If you have not connected the dots by now, the board game takes inspiration from real life.

To seasoned board game experts, Tokaido would be categorized as a Eurogame due to its various elements, including the absence of player elimination, low random variables, focus on mechanics, and more. In this game, you may meet folks of varying personalities, buy luxurious items from the shops, witness beautiful sceneries along the road, and eat delicious meals at the end of the day.

The players move along a linear pathway, stopping by various places on the board. The player furthest from the destination moves first and can move one tile forward or more if they desire. The goal is to have the most points by achieving certain feats such as visiting the Hot Springs the most, having the most encounters, and more.

Components and Equipment of Tokaido

The game contains a lot of components to play. When you open up the package, you will get:

  • Game board (x1)
  • Coin (x50)
  • Traveler piece (x5)
  • Traveler point marker (x5)
  • Player color token (x5)
  • Traveler tile (x10)
  • Panorama card (x60)
  • Hot Spring card (x12)
  • Souvenir card (x24)
  • Encounter card (x14)
  • Meal card (x25)
  • Achievement card (x7)

Tokaido’s Game Board

The game’s board is broad, but you can fold it three times lengthwise. You can see a long line with dots along the way with particular circled locations connected to them. There are also five large circles with a line of five red squares either below or above them, and one is at the start of the line, while another is at the end.

At the board’s top, squares are numbered from 0 to 100; this section is called the Journey point tracker, where you can track the points of all the players. Below it, you can see four places of the same size as the cards; you will put the various cards you will use during the game. They are the Souvenir, Hot Spring, Encounter, and Meal cards from left to right.

Another section below the journey point tracker is the Temple donation tracker. Here, you can see the number of coins each player donates to the Temple. Lastly, on the bottom-right side of the table is a section where you place the Panorama cards. There are three places, and from left to right, they are the Paddy, Mountain, and Sea Panorama cards.

Tokaido’s Coins

The game has 50 coins resembling that of East Asian coins called cash. They are round and bronze-colored and have a square hole. They are used in Temple donations and buying meals at the Inn and souvenirs at the Shop. You earn them by stopping by the Farm or encountering a Kuge (Noble) or a Miko (Shinto Priest) at Encounter tiles.

Tokaido’s Traveler Piece

Tokaido has five Traveler pieces that each player uses. They are usually wooden and shaped like a human. They are colored accordingly per player.

Tokaido’s Traveler Point Marker

There are five Traveler point markers, one for each player. Like the Traveler piece, they are colored accordingly per player. You use these markers to track each player’s score among the journey point tracker. They are small and circular, small enough to be placed inside the score squares.

Tokaido’s Player ColorToken

Each player has a color token with the corresponding color they are using. You use the color tokens to fit it inside the hole of your Traveler tile, and its purpose is to identify each player by their color quickly. They are circular and can fit snuggly in the hole.

Tokaido’s Traveler Tile

Players can choose from ten Traveler tiles, and each has a unique ability that can be helpful in their journey. There is a hole you put the Player color token in on the top-left corner, and on the top-right corner, there is a coin icon with a number below it. This number indicates how many coins you will have at the start of the game.

At the card’s center is the Traveler, and there are ten of them. I will discuss each of their abilities in a later section. At the bottom of the card is the visual representation of their abilities.

Tokaido’s Panorama Card

There are 60 Panorama cards in total, but they are not the same. Fifteen of them are Paddy panoramas, 20 are Mountain panoramas, and 25 are Sea panoramas. Depending on the panorama, they have numbers from one to three, four, or five. Completing a particular panorama will reveal its full image.

There are five for each number. For example, a Paddy panorama is numbered one to three, and each number has five cards. You place these Panorama cards on the bottom-right of the board accordingly on their places. The Panorama cards are colored in three depending on the panorama. Paddy panoramas are green, Mountain panoramas are grey, and Sea panoramas are blue.

Tokaido’s Hot Spring Card

There are 12 Hot Spring cards, and they all have the same appearance except for the score number at the bottom. Their scores vary from two to three. They are light blue on the back, and a picture of a hot spring is present on the front.

Tokaido’s Souvenir Card

There are 24 Souvenir cards, and the game categorizes them according to four types: small objects, food and drinks, clothing, and art. The back of the card is black, while the front shows an item with its price at the bottom. They can cost from one to three coins.

Its category is also at the bottom beside the price, representing an item. An uchiwa fan represents small objects, four maki sushi rolls represent food and drinks, an open haori jacket represents clothing, and an antique Japanese wooden doll represents art.

Tokaido’s Encounter Card

There are 14 Encounter cards in Tokaido, and they have a pink print on the back. On the front of the card, you can see various people with their names at the top and their bonuses at the bottom. There are five encounters you can have, namely the Shokunin (Travelling Merchant), Annaibito (Guide), Samurai, Kuge (Noble), and Miko (Shinto Priest). I will discuss what each of them offers in a later section.

Tokaido’s Meal Card

There are 25 different Meal cards in Tokaido, and they have a red print on the back. You can also see a bowl of noodles as its representation. On the front, there are varying meals with their name at the top and their price at the bottom. The points you can get from buying one are also shown beside the price. The meals’ cost ranges from one to three coins, but they always give six points.

Tokaido’s Achievement Card

There are seven Achievement cards in Tokaido, and they are separated between three Panorama Achievement cards and the others. The back of the three Panorama Achievement cards has a blue background with a white cat wearing clothes. The three different Panoramas (Paddy, Mountain, and Sea) are on the front with three points marked at the bottom.

The other four Achievement cards have a yellow background on the back and a print of a black Maneki-Neko (a waving cat). On the front, you can see the achievements: Gourmet, Bather, Chatterbox, and Collector. Like the Panorama Achievement cards, three points are marked at the bottom. I will discuss the purpose of all of these Achievement cards later.

How to Play Tokaido

On the surface, Tokaido is a highly complex game with a complex system. However, all it takes is to play it properly, and you will understand how it works without looking back to a guide. I will separate this guide into six distinct sections to achieve this. Firstly, you would need to learn how to set up a game of Tokaido.

Part One: How to Set up Tokaido

How to set up the Tokaido board

To start, you need to have the board ready to be played on. So, the first step would be to:

  • Unfold the game board and place it on a flat surface.

Once the board is ready, you can finally place the remaining components of the game on it. You can do the following in any order you would like. You can even have the other players do it simultaneously to save time.

  • Place all the achievement cards facing up beside the board.
  • Place all the coins beside the board (this will be the coin reserve).
  • Shuffle the Souvenir cards into a face-down pile.
  • Shuffle the Hot Spring cards into a face-down pile.
  • Shuffle the Encounter cards into a face-down pile.
  • Shuffle the Meal cards into a face-down pile.
  • Separate the Panorama cards per panorama (Paddy, Mountain, Sea) and order them from least (at the top) to highest (at the bottom) associated number.

When you finish this, place the face-down card piles into their locations on the board. If you are confused about where you should put them, refer to the “Tokaido’s game board” subsection above. Another easy way to know where to put them is to look at the back of the card and put the pile on the board having the same print.

How to set up the Tokaido players

When you finish the board, it is time to set up each player’s Traveler. Simply follow the instructions below in order.

  1. Each player picks a Traveler piece of their choice.
  2. Each player also picks the corresponding Traveler point marker and Player color token as per the color of their Traveler piece.
  3. Each player places their Traveler point marker on square 0 on the Journey point tracker found at the top of the board.
  4. Each player picks two Traveler tiles randomly and chooses only one to play.
  5. When each player has chosen their Traveler tile, they discard their unchosen one out of play.
  6. Each player places their Player color token in the hole of their Traveler tile (you can find this on the top-left corner of the tile).
  7. Each player takes several coins from the coin reserve equal to what is written on their Traveler tile (you can find this on the top-right corner of the tile).
  8. Place the Traveler pieces in random order and the red squares on the line of the first Inn (Kyoto).

And you are now ready to play the game! If you are confused by what each Traveler on the Traveler tile can do, don’t worry. I will cover that in a later section, as explaining it now may complicate the guide, mainly when I have not discussed the game’s mechanics yet.

Part Two: How to Move in Tokaido

Now that we have completed the setup, it is finally time to play the game. Remember that the game’s flow is to travel the road to get to the final Inn in Edo, so moving places is one of the essential aspects. If you have not started the game yet, all the Traveler pieces should be on the red squares on the first Inn’s line. There are three basic rules about moving in Tokaido, namely:

  1. The farthest from the destination moves first.
  2. You must only go forward, never backward.
  3. You can go forwards to how many places you want.

1. The farthest from the destination moves first.

There is no fixed order of play because the farthest player from the road towards the destination moves first.

Example: it is the start of the game, and no one has moved yet. The Traveler pieces closest from the starting inn to the farthest are the following: purple, yellow, grey, and green. In this case, the green player moves first and picks a spot to move to on the road. The next player to proceed would be grey, then yellow, and finally purple.

The first player (green) goes to the fourth space, the second player (grey) goes to the second space, the third player (yellow) goes to the first space, and the fourth player (purple) goes to the fifth place (go to the third rule in this section if you are confused about this).

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 3 (Yellow) Player 2 (Grey)   Player 1 (Green) Player 4 (Purple)  

 

Since the player farthest from the road is the yellow player, they then move first. Let’s say that the yellow player goes to the fifth space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
  Player 2 (Grey)   Player 1 (Green) Player 4 (Purple) Player 3 (Yellow)

 

Now, it’s the grey player’s turn. Let’s say that they move to the third space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
    Player 2 (Grey) Player 1 (Green) Player 4 (Purple) Player 3 (Yellow)

 

Since the grey player is still the farthest player from the destination, it is still their turn. So, a player can have two or more turns in a row, depending on their location.

2. You must only go forward, never backward.

When it is your turn to move, you can only move forward, and you cannot return to a space behind you.

Example: Let’s say that Player 3 (Yellow) was previously in the first space and Player 2 (Grey) is in the second space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 3 (Yellow) Player 2 (Grey)   Player 1 (Green) Player 4 (Purple)  

 

During their turn, Player 3 moves to the fifth space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
  Player 2 (Grey)   Player 1 (Green) Player 4 (Purple) Player 3 (Yellow)

 

Now, it is Player 2’s turn. They can only move forward, so they cannot go to the first space where Player 3 was before. They can only go either the third, sixth or even farther.

3. You can go forwards to how many places you want.

As demonstrated in the examples in the first rule, you can skip as many places as you want.

Example: Let’s say that there are only two players in the game, Player 1 (Green) and Player 2 (Grey). Player 2 is behind Player 1, so they go first.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 2 (Grey) Player 1 (Green)        

 

If Player 2 wants to, he can go to the third space or even more.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 2 (Grey) Player 1 (Green) Player 2 can move here Or here Or here Or here, or farther

 

The only restriction is that every player’s final destination is an inn. They cannot move past an inn during the game except when everyone has arrived there.

How to Move Between Single and Double Spaces in Tokaido

If you look at the board, you may see that some stops have two dots. This occurrence means that two players can fit on the same stop. However, this is only applicable with four or five players playing the game. When a player moves to an unoccupied double space, they must occupy the nearest dot. When there is another player already on the double space, they have no choice but to occupy the second dot.

The second dot is the farthest between the two spaces, so if two players are occupying the two spaces, the player on the second space gets to move first.

Example: Let’s say that there are four players: Player 1 (Green), Player 2 (Grey), Player 3 (Yellow), and Player 4 (Purple). They are at the starting inn, and the first space in front of them is a double space village. Player 1 moves first and goes to the Village; Player 2 goes to the Temple; Player 3 goes to the Sea Panorama. Player 4 is still thinking about where to move.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 1 (Green) Player 2 (Grey)     Player 3 (Yellow)  
  X X X    

 

Player 4 decides to go to the Village, and they can do so since it is a double space. So, they occupy the second space.

 

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 1 (Green) Player 2 (Grey)     Player 3 (Yellow)  
Player 4 (Purple) X X X    

Since they are on the second space, they are still the farthest, and therefore it is still their turn. Player 4 decides to go to the double-space Sea Panorama. Again, since it is first occupied by Player 3, he goes to the second space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
Player 1 (Green) Player 2 (Grey)     Player 3 (Yellow)  
  X X X Player 4 (Purple)  

 

Now, it is Player 1’s turn. They decide to go to the double space Mountain Panorama, and since they are the first player landing there, they occupy the first space.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
  Player 2 (Grey)     Player 3 (Yellow) Player 1 (Green)
  X X X Player 4 (Purple)  

 

Now, it is Player 2’s turn. They decide to also go to the Mountain Panorama.

Village Temple Encounter Paddy Panorama Sea Panorama Mountain Panorama
        Player 3 (Yellow) Player 1 (Green)
  X X X Player 4 (Purple) Player 2 (Grey)

 

This time, the farthest player is Player 4, so it is their turn now.

Part Three: Landing on Spaces in Tokaido

The players can land on eight different types of spaces. When they land in a particular space, they can perform a specific action or get something from it. Below are the explanations of each space and what you can do when you land on them.

Landing on a Village space in Tokaido

When you land on a Village space, you can buy Souvenirs using your coins. You can only land on a Village space if you have at least one cash, but you are not required to buy anything if you do not want to.

You must draw the first three Souvenir cards from the pile on the board and place them in front of you facing up. You can buy one or more of these Souvenirs as long as you can pay for the price indicated on the card. Place all the unpurchased Souvenir cards back under the pile facing down when you finish.

You gain points depending on your set of Souvenirs. A set is composed of souvenirs of the four different types: small objects, art, food & drinks, and clothing. You gain one point if you have only one type in your set. Two types in your set give you three points. Three gives you five, and having all four types gives you seven.

A set must not contain two souvenirs of the same type, and you can have more than one set.

Example one: Throughout the game, you have bought three small objects, two arts, and one piece of clothing. The scoring is as follows:

  • Small object (+1) = 1 point
  • Small object (+1), Art (+3) = 4 points
  • Small object (+1), Art (+3), Clothing (+5) = 9 points

In total, you have 14 points from your Souvenirs.

Example two: Throughout the game, you have bought four food & drinks and two pieces of clothing. The scoring is as follows:

  • Food & Drink (+1) = 1 point
  • Food & Drink (+1) = 1 point
  • Food & Drink (+1), Clothing (+3) = 4 point
  • Food & Drink (+1), Clothing (+3) = 4 points

In total, you have 10 points from your Souvenirs.

Landing on a Farm space in Tokaido

When you land on a Farm space, you collect three coins from the coin reserve, and there is no limit as to how many coins a player can have.

Landing on a Panorama space in Tokaido

When you land on a Panorama space, you get a Panorama card of your space. So, if you land on a Paddy Panorama space, you get a Paddy Panorama card. If this is your first time getting one, you get the card marked with a “1.” Otherwise, you get the card of the next number in ascending order. Upon receiving a Panorama card, you get the number of points equal to its label.

You can complete a Panorama if you have enough of its cards. You need three Paddy Panorama cards to complete it, four for Mountain Panoramas, and five for Sea Panoramas. You cannot stop at a Panorama space if you have completed its panorama.

Example: You have had one Paddy Panorama card and two Mountain Panorama cards throughout the game. This turn, you move to a Mountain Panorama space, so you get the Mountain Panorama card marked with a “3” since it is your third one. You also get three points automatically.

Landing on a Hot Spring space in Tokaido

When you land on a Hot Spring space, you get a Hot Spring card from its pile and add it to your collection. You also get the number of points labeled on the card; it varies from two to three.

Landing on a Temple space in Tokaido

You can only go to the Temple space if you have at least one coin to donate, as it is mandatory to do so. You can donate one, two, or three coins to the Temple. When you do so, you place the number of coins on the Temple donation tracker (refer to “Tokaido’s game board” subsection above) of your corresponding player color. For each coin you donate, you get one point.

Landing on an Encounter space in Tokaido

When you land on an Encounter space, you get an Encounter card from the top of its pile. The Encounter cards have different effects and bonuses, and they are listed below.

  • Shokunin (Travelling Merchant): You get a Souvenir card from the top of its pile and add it to your collection. You also apply the regular scoring of your Souvenirs.
  • Annaibito (Guide): You get a Panorama card indicated on the Encounter card. The same rules of landing on a Panorama space apply to this effect. If you have completed the indicated panorama, you can choose another panorama type.
  • Samurai: You get three points.
  • Kuge (Noble): You collect three coins from the coin reserve.
  • Miko (Shinto Priest): You get one coin from the coin reserve and donate it to the Temple. You also get one point automatically.

Part Four: Landing on Inns in Tokaido

There is always an inn at the end of the road that you can stay in. Everyone must stop at the Inn and rest before starting their journey on the road again. The first player who lands on the Inn goes to the nearest space, and it all goes down to the last player. So, when the next round starts, the last player who landed on the Inn gets to move first since they are the farthest from the line.

If you are the first person to land on the Inn, you must do the following:

  1. Draw several Meal cards from its pile on the board equal to the number of players plus one (for example, if there are four players, you must draw five Meal cards).
  2. Look at these cards without showing them to the other players.
  3. Either skip on a meal or buy one through coins. Their price varies from one to three, marked on the card.
  4. If you buy a meal, add it to your collection facing up.
  5. Place the remaining Meal cards face down next to the board.

The other players must also do the same procedure except for the first step when they arrive. There are three critical rules about buying Meal cards.

  1. You must not buy the same Meal card twice.
  2. You cannot buy more than one Meal card per Inn.
  3. Buying a Meal card is not mandatory.

Part Five: Continuing the Journey in Tokaido

If everyone has gathered in an inn and it is not the final one (Edo), they must continue their journey. Again, the last player who landed on the Inn is the farthest from the line, so they go first this time. The same rules apply until you arrive at the final Inn.

Part Six: Ending the Game in Tokaido

When you have arrived at the last Inn in Edo, the final destination, the Achievement cards are awarded to the players. They can be worth many points, so it is a vital part of the game. There are seven in total, and three of them are Panorama achievement cards, which are given during the journey. The other four are offered only at the end of the game. All of them are worth three points.

Giving the Panorama achievement cards

There are three of them, one for each panorama. They are given immediately during the journey once a player has completed a particular panorama. They are only offered to the first player who achieves it, and each of them is worth three points.

Giving the other achievement cards

The other four achievement cards are given to the players at the end of the game. When a tie happens upon giving out an achievement card, each player involved in the tie receives three points. They are as follows:

  • Gourmet: The player who spent the most coins according to their Meal cards receives the Gourmet achievement card and gets three points.
  • Bather: The player who has the most Hot Spring cards in their collection receives the Bather achievement card and gets three points.
  • Chatterbox: The player who has the most Encounter cards in their collection receives the Chatterbox achievement card and gets three points.
  • Collector: The player who has the most Souvenir cards in their collection receives the Collector achievement card and gets three points.

Giving points based on Temple donations

At the end of the game, points are given based on the players’ amount to the Temple. In the event of a tie, each player involved in the tie receives the same number of points. For example, if two players tie for most donations to the Temple, they each get ten points. The additional points are as follows:

  • The player with the most donations gets ten points.
  • The second most generous player gets seven points.
  • The third gets four points.
  • Others who have donated earn two points.

Players who have not donated a single coin to the Temple do not get any additional points.

Identifying the winner

Now that all the bonus points have been given out, it is time to identify the winner. The player with the most significant number of points is declared the winner. When a tie happens, the player involved in the tie with the most achievement cards wins.

Traveler Tiles in Tokaido

Now that you understand the game’s mechanics, it is time to explain how each of the Traveler’s abilities works. If you are still relatively new to the game and you feel like these abilities are complicated, you can instead opt to have seven coins each and disregard these abilities. Otherwise, they are as follows.

  • Hiroshige the Artist: When he arrives at the inns after each journey (except for the final Inn), he chooses and takes one Panorama card he scores immediately.
  • Chuubei the Messenger: When he arrives at the inns after each journey (except for the final Inn), he picks one Encounter card from its pile on the board and applies the card’s effect.
  • Kinko the Ronin: Every Meal card they buy costs one coin less than their price; thus, Meal cards worth one coin are free.
  • Yoshiyasu the Functionary: When landing on an Encounter space, he picks two Encounter cards from its pile on the board. He can choose between the two cards and return the unchosen one to the bottom of the stack without letting the other players know its effect.
  • Satsuki the Orphan: When she arrives at an inn, she can get a random available Meal card for free. She can also decline the offer and buy another Meal card like the other players.
  • Mitsukuni the Old Man: Every Hot Spring card and achievement card in their collection is worth one additional point.
  • Sasayakko the Geisha: When landing on a Village space and buying at least two Souvenir cards, she can get the cheapest one among her purchases for free.
  • Hirotada the Priest: When landing on a Temple space, he takes one coin from the coin reserve and adds it on top of his regular donation (one, two, or three coins). For example, if he donates three coins, he donates four in total.
  • Umegae the Street Entertainer: When landing on an Encounter space, she gets an additional one point, and one coin before the drawn card’s effects are applied.
  • Zen-emon the Merchant: Zen-emon can buy one Souvenir for only one coin instead of its price when landing on a Village space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: In Tokaido, who goes first?

Answer: The farthest player from the road goes first, and there is no fixed order of turns. In the Inn and on double spaces, the player farthest from its icon is considered the farthest from the road and must go first before the other players occupy the space.

Question: In Tokaido, how many players can play?

Answer: You can have two to three players playing Tokaido. However, if there are only two players, the rules are a bit different. A third traveler is added into the game, and when it is their turn, the player in the lead moves it.

Question: How do I win in Tokaido?

Answer: You need to rely on your Traveler’s abilities and utilize them to their fullest potential. For example, if you have Zen-emon the Merchant, you should make sure to go to the Village spaces to use his ability. Another good thing to remember is to have another goal aside from your Traveler’s specialty. If the Village spaces are occupied, you can instead aim for Hot Spring cards for the Bather achievement card.

Conclusion: Is Tokaido a Good Game?

Tokaido is a fun game to play with friends, especially for those who do not like games where players get eliminated in the middle of the excitement. It is pretty chill and laid-back, reflective of the Japanese imagery depicted in the game. Another thing that I love most about this game is the art. It is exceptionally well-done and portrays Japanese art effortlessly.

I love how simple moving along the road can be, especially when there are only three basic rules to follow. What I quite don’t like about Tokaido is how static the board is. You cannot change the order of the spaces; thus, I am afraid that the longer I play this game, the more predictable it can get. Still, the varying Travelers and their abilities can change the game’s pace and make it unpredictable.

There are also game variations that you can try to shake things up. Overall, I find Tokaido to be enjoyable. It can be an easy pick for those just starting on their board game hobby, and it can be introduced to your friend group quite easily.

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