Game Review – Tokaido Digital Edition

Tokaido App

Tokaido
Antoine Bauza (original designer)
Board game
Funforge Digital
iOS / Android

Summary:

In this adaptation of the board game, take on the role of a traveler on Japan’s East Sea Road. Painting, visiting temples, shopping… how you spend your trip is up to you!

Review:

Tokaido is a nice, relaxing board game. In fact, I recommended it as on of my otaku gift ideas.

You can watch some playthroughs online (including one on TableTop), but here’s the gist: the board is one straight line with various places you can stop at (inns, shrines, farm, etc.). You choose one of two random characters, each with their own special ability and starting funds. One character gets to eat for free but only has two yen to start, another gets to donate a free coin to the temples, etc. Then the game flow goes like this: the person in last position moves next. Stop at an unoccupied space, do the action associated with that space, and earn a card, money, and/or victory points (VP). For instance, you can stop at a mountain space to collect a piece of a painting along with some points, donate a coin to the shrine for on victory point, or work at a farm for three yen but no VP. Everyone has to stop at three inns along the way, and when you get to the fourth, the game is over. Bonus points are awarded to the person who did the most shopping, donating, bathing, and eating. The person with the most points wins. The game is on the light side for a strategy game, but the theme and art are beautiful.

Since not a lot of people around me like board games, I was excited to see a digital version of Tokaido released. So when the game went on sale, I had to buy it.

I fired up my new Kindle Fire HD 10, ready to play. (Keep this in mind.)

The game does have a tutorial, but it is somewhat hidden under settings. You can choose to play against the A.I., pass and play, or play online. So far, I’ve only played against the A.I.

While one of the items you can collect are paintings, the original board game is done like a modern version of the ukiyo-e style. Here are the original characters:

Tokaido Characters

In a game that focuses heavily on its artistic quality (and the fact Japan is known for its paper art), I would have guessed the digital version would have gone for a paper and/or card-like style. Maybe even something like Odin Sphere. Well, the app instead has the characters in a 3D style. While it looks nice, Tokaido loses the board game feel to it. The game instead looks like a port of a 3DS game, and combined with the game play, it feels a little like a very short version of Fortune Street or Top Shop.

Visually, my first thought was, “They’re traveling in the snow?!” I mean, I’m sure many people had to travel during the cold months, but I don’t think stopping at hot springs or working at a farm are activities you’d associate with winter. The route ground is all white, and the types of trees that decorate the screen are evergreens, trees many of us would associate with Christmas. But then as you play the game, you see cherry blossom petals drifting by! So it must be spring, so why isn’t the ground green — or at least brown? There is a little bit of grass that blooms when characters advance, but this is still a completely bizarre design choice. I do like how unactivated locations are in white and the activated ones are in color though.

Tokaido Screenshot 1

The game does include some other ways to add to the setting. The stores have “shop” written on them in Japanese, and you can hear some audio clips of “hai”. The audio — which tends to be on the low side even at high volumes — is a mix of soft Japanese classic and what I would call “adventure movie opening”. Being pretty fast-paced, it does get a little tiring to rehear the sound effects of stopping at a space over and over, so I do hope there is an option to turn up the BGM and lower the SFX.

On your turn, you just tap the space to confirm where you want to move and then tap again to confirm. If you go to an inn or any place where you need to make a choice, you need to tap what you want twice. A few times I’ve messed up because I clicked what I want and then the “OK” button, so don’t get ahead of yourself like I did.

At any time, you can press the star button and see everyone’s current level on each type of space. You can see how many victory points each player currently has on the main screen,. You can see what they earned when they stop, but you’ll probably either forget or miss it. This makes the game go very fast — and even faster if you choose the “fast A.I.” setting — but you will probably need to access this menu several times if you don’t want to waste stops.

Speaking of stops, it took several playthroughs before the game seemed to get smarter. Generally, you want to take your time on the Tokaido path, as more stops = more potential VP. However, there are many times when you would want to jump ahead several spaces to either block off a space or ensure you get a bonus. The computer players seemed to always, always choose the next space even when jumping ahead would be more beneficial. As the player furthest away from the inn always goes next, in a normal game, there should be instances when someone goes twice or when a person has to wait awhile. Instead, the turn order feels like a standard clockwise, only reversing at the inns. (The last player who gets to the inn is the first to leave.) It took several games before I saw the computer actually jump ahead several spaces to ensure a bonus.

One big advantage over the board game (well, besides the price): it’s fast. Against three A.I. players, I can breeze through a game in about 10 minutes. An average four player game of Tokaido averages take 30 to 45 minutes. Obviously, human players will take longer to decide, but sometimes I think the loading screen takes longer than the game. (It’s not that long to load, but the game is so much faster than I expected.)

Unfortunately, as of this review, neither of the expansions are available. You also can’t alter the game rules in any way, like choosing your starting character or making the return trip (going back to start). Since there is no way to mix and match anything, I’m already feeling kind of board since I can breeze through games so quickly.

All that being said…

As you may or may not know, Amazon’s tablets do not natively have access to the Google Play store. So when the game crashed, I figured it was a side effect of not playing on a native Android device.

So I installed it on my LG G Pad X. It’s definitely not a top of the line tablet, but it’s been a solid device. Well, this time, the game stuttered. If I wasn’t the one holding the tablet, I swear I would have said the game was being emulated on another type of device (i.e. a computer or a game system). Plus there is a noticeable lag whenever it’s the player’s turn.

Well, fine! Let’s try it on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. This was last year’s flagship phone and a fairly powerful device, so Tokaido surely shouldn’t have any issues.

That’s what I thought until I opened it and found out the sound wasn’t playing.

Headdesk

Now, Samsung devices have something called Game Mode that is supposed to prevent notifications from playing during a game and some other features. I first thought there was a setting preventing the audio, but if there is something, I couldn’t find it. I opened a couple other game apps just to test it, and they all played the audio without any issue. I really think it’s the app and not me.

So that’s 0/3 devices that played Tokaido without any issue. So if you do decide to download the game, TEST IT RIGHT AWAY! If you find it’s not running right, you will want to file for a refund. According to the developer’s comments, they mostly tested the Android version on a Huawei P8 Lite, so I don’t understand why my phone and my tablets couldn’t play it smoothly. I mean, based on reviews, lots of players don’t seem to have a problem, but you should still be alert.

Final Comments:

A nice Japanese-flavored game that can be more fair than matching candies and less annoying than building farms, and you can easily run through a game or two during your break or commute. However, the expansions (or at least house rules) need to be added to give Tokaido more variety. More importantly, the app needs to be stable across more devices.

The game is also currently on Steam Greenlight, slated for a summer release.

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2 Comments

  1. The Otaku Judge

    Shame. There are some good tablet adaptations of other board games. They should have put more effort into coding this journey of the Arctic… um I mean Japan.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I haven’t had a problem with other board game apps. No idea what happened here.

      Reply

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