SNAP Review – Tokaido Duo
[Anitra] How do you feel about a hiking trip? We’ll see the sights, buy a few souvenirs, maybe even meet some interesting people!
[Andrew] Don’t forget, honey. Especially with hiking, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
[Anitra] Now I’m getting tired just thinking about it. Let’s play a game instead.
This is a SNAP review for Tokaido Duo.
Tokaido Duo is a game for just two players by Antoine Bauza, and it’s based on the game Tokaido. The box says it’s for ages 8 and up, and takes about 20-30 minutes to play.
[Andrew] So Anitra, let’s talk about the art in Tokaido Duo.
The art here looks very familiar – because it’s by the same incredible artist who illustrated Tokaido. The island board has a lot of white space, with beautiful iconography and clear paths. There are a couple of kinds of tokens, all of which match the board iconography nicely. The board is a little more full than your regular Tokaido, but it’s also significantly smaller, so they did a good job still keeping it so simple.
The player boards have subtle patterning behind their depicted characters, and the three dice use icons to make it clear which die belongs to which character.
There’s also these wooden figurines – in three different shapes for each player – and some cardboard coins.
So, what are the mechanics of Tokaido Duo?
This time, we’re on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Each player controls three travelers: An artist, a merchant, and a pilgrim.
The first player rolls all three dice, and then picks one – the artist die, the merchant die, or the pilgrim die – and moves that figure exactly as many spaces as the die shows.
The second player then picks one of the remaining two dice and does that action.
Then the first player takes the remaining die and does that action.
Now the second player rolls the dice and gets first pick. The two players go back and forth, and this is the way the game goes until the end.
So, what do these three different characters do?
The Pilgrim moves clockwise, along the path around the perimeter of the island, with a specific action at each space. Temples and Gardens increase a multiplier on the Pilgrim player board. Coastal towns grant coins. Hot springs grant a token that lets you use a die twice. And the Seashore lets you choose an ongoing bonus effect for one of your three characters.
The Artist moves between inner areas of the island, without ever doubling back during their movement. At their destination, they can either paint, which is revealing paintings on their player board according to how many other characters are around to see them; or they can gift a painting – which actually means removing the next painting from their board if it matches their current location. Every painting removed increases their final score.
The Merchant moves along these trade routes. When they stop in a mountain town, they can acquire new wares – pulling tokens from a bag and adding them to their board. When they stop in a coastal town, they can sell specific type of ware for a specified price. Any time the Merchant has at least ten coins, they must trade in those ten coins for a “gold slab”, which gets placed below their board – and of course, each slab increases how many points the Merchant has.
The end of the game is triggered when: a Pilgrim maxes out one of their multipliers, an Artist removes their last painting, or a Merchant fills all their spots for “gold slabs”.
Finish out the current round of dice, then both players add up their victory points, to find out whose team has made the more successful journey around the island.
[Andrew] So Anitra, what did we expect from Tokaido Duo?
[Anitra] I really enjoyed the original Tokaido. Even though it’s competitive, it’s a pretty calming game. You’re in it for the journey; nearly everywhere you stop along the path, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. I hoped for a similar feel in Tokaido Duo, but I wasn’t sure how that could translate into a two player only game.
[Andrew] We never really pulled Tokaido out when playing a two player game, so I was excited to get my hands on Tokaido Duo. Like you, I enjoy the original game, because I love the movement mechanics, and I’m the kind of person that could really use the reminder to stop and smell the roses once in a while. (Do they have roses in Japan? I don’t know.)
It’s just a beautiful adventure, and I was expecting more of the same in a smaller, two player box.
But, this game was full of some surprises.
[Anitra] My biggest surprise is that we’d each control three characters! That felt very different right from the start. But I love that we could mix and match these player boards as long as we both had exactly one Artist, one Merchant, and one Pilgrim. If you look closely at the boards, you can tell that there is a male and a female version of each of these three types!
[Andrew] Tokaido Duo definitely feels a lot more strategic to me. Maybe it’s because it’s a two player game: you are either “The Winner” or “The Loser”. But the stakes felt higher to me playing this game.
In the original game Tokaido, a lot of the special sauce was enjoying the journey no matter who won the game. Here, it just doesn’t feel that way. I think a big part of that might be that in Tokaido, you can enjoy success and get a lot done without leading the pack – in fact, in some cases you can get more done by pulling up the rear.
In Tokaido Duo, that’s not the case, you’re always going back and forth, no matter what you choose to do. These aren’t really problems, and I still like the game, but if you’re picking this up expecting that Tokaido serene experience, that’s not quite there.
[Anitra] Yes, Tokaido Duo was not as chill of a game as I expected. You really have to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, and you can’t afford to ignore any of your three characters!
We recommend Tokaido Duo when you want a two player game that has tight competition without feeling super cut-throat. You’re not directly competing for the same resources, but you can block the other player from doing the actions they might want.
We’re going to rate Tokaido Duo 4 journeys out of 5.
Find it on Amazon or at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Tokaido Duo from Flat River Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Number of Players: 2
Age Range: 8+
Playtime: 20-30 minutes