Wait, I hear you ask in confusion, did I fall through a hole in space-time? Meople’s Magazine already did a review of Tokaido. It’s true, we did. But don’t worry, the space-time continuum is still intact as far as we know. We’re trying something new today and reviewing a smartphone/tablet app based on a boardgame. Funforge Digital released the digital version of Tokaido recently, and we’re lucky enough to get to review it. Digital Tokaido is available for Android and for iOS. We tried the iOS version, that’s also the one our pictures are from. There doesn’t seem to be any visual or functional difference between the two versions however.
So, I’m not going to explain Tokaido in detail again, if you’ve never heard of the game you might be interested in our original review. Without too many details, Tokaido is a game where the players travel Japan’s East Sea Road. Unusually, to win they don’t compete to arrive first but to have the richest experience along the way. Collect souvenirs, paint panoramas, meet other travelers and have the best meals, that’s how you want to travel the tokaido. Mechanically, your greatest challenge in Tokaido is to move along the strictly linear track in the way that will get you to the locations you need. That’s not as easy as it sounds, because all the places you can stop have space for one or at most two travelers, and the next to move is always the last along the track. Along the way, you will collect cards and sets of cards to score points at the end.
The Tokaido app is a faithful adaptation of the boardgame original. Everything is exactly as you know it from the gaming table, and if you don’t know it yet the tutorial does a good job to get you playing quickly. The first time you play in two players you even get an extra tutorial for the two player special rules. I’m a bad judge because I knew Tokaido before, but I think you won’t have any trouble playing after this introduction.
You have three options to play the game: alone against AI opponents, passing one device around (pass & play) or online. It’s not currently possible to mix human opponents with bots, you play either against flesh and blood opponents or against silicon ones. There also is no option to play on the local network or to choose your online opponents, so when playing online you’ll always be up against Randy Random. However, developer Funforge is working on a way to find the opponents you want in your game. All three options worked well for us, but some other users on the two app stores are complaining about crashes. But it’s a fresh release and Funforge is looking into those issues, so I expect things to work fine and dandy with another update or two. Just keep an eye on the latest release notes and the most recent reviews on the product pages.
I always said that the Tokaido boardgame is one of the most beautiful boardgames I know, and that, too, made the jump to the digital version. The art is not the same, the app has everything in shiny, modern 3D, but the conversion is done well. The minimalist style I love in Tokaido, colorful spots on a pure white background, is still there and works just as well in three dimensions. The panoramas you can paint along the way are no longer cards you spread out into a picture but each is now a picture that you’ll successively add detail to. There is a little animation when your characters move along the road, but the app doesn’t add anything beyond that to distract from the boardgame origins.
If there is one downside to the app compared to the boardgame, then it’s the same that almost all such adaptations have: a lack of overview. You can easily see where your opponents are and what lies ahead on the road. Only looking past the next inn isn’t perfect, you can do it in the 3D view but not in the schematic view at the bottom of the screen. But that’s no big deal. Where the lack of overview is more annoying is in seeing your opponents card collection. You have to select every single opponent to see what they have. That’s not a specific problem of the Tokaido app, however, but a necessity because of the small screen. Even on a high def tablet, you just don’t have the same space you do on the living room table.
The Tokaido app is a great adaptation of the boardgame. If you want to play Tokaido on the bus, at the beach, or while doing 200 on the highway, then this is the way to do it. And of course you’d want that! Just please don’t play at 200 on the highway if you’re the driver…