Tokaido Character Guide (Crossroads and Matsuri)

Make sure to check out my Tokaido Crossroads Guide for Expert Travelers!

The Tier List

32. Nampo (Power 16)
31. Kamui (Power 18)
30. Miyataka (Power 18)
29. Suseri (Power 21)
28. Mari (Power 21)
27. Kita (Power 21)
26. Iyasaka (Power 21)
25. Chihaya (Power 21.5)
24. Hiroshige (Power 23)
23. Kidzuna (Power 23)
22. Rakuren (Power 23)
21. Umegae (Power 23)
20. Daigoro (Power 24.5)
19. Marihito (Power 25)
18. Satsuki (Power 25.5)
17. Sasayakko (Power 26)
16. Gotozaemon (Power 27)
15. Kushinada (Power 27)
14. Yashima (Power 27)
13. Mitsukuni (Power 27)
12. Matsumi (Power 27)
11. Titia (Power 27)
10. Chuubei (Power 27.5)
9. Jirocho (Power 28.5)
8. Zen-emon (Power 32)
7. Yoshiyasu (Power 32)
6. Ayumu (Power 35)
5. Hirotada (Power 35)
4. Kinko (Power 41)
3. Misaki (Power 42)
2. Takeru (Power 42)
1. Musubi (Power 48)

Using this guide

When I first got the idea of rating every character I thought it would be impossible. There is just too much random stuff going on to get that specific. As my Tokaido Guide for Expert Travelers approached completion I realized that it’s possible to get a pretty good pulse on all the random events in the game, and it actually is possible to give characters a power level. Here is how I did it:

Points per coin

Based on the analysis I did in the previous guide, generating 3 points per coin should be pretty common and typical. When calculating a characters power level, the “coin” value is simply 3 points for each starting coin. Earning more than 3 points per coin is one of the ways you can get ahead, but as a floor, this feels right.


Characters who start with 6 or more coins are considered rich. This number was chosen because it means you can set aside 3 coins to pay for any meal at the intermediate inn and still have 3 coins to spend during the adventure all without needing to touch a farmhouse. Other characters need to think very seriously before skipping a farmhouse spot, but rich characters can do so easily. This lets them be more flexible in their strategy of choice. These characters are generally less likely to ever go broke and they are more capable of pouncing on opportunities. Rich characters get +3 points.


Consistent characters benefit from an unblockable special ability. For example, Kita gets to use both options at an encounter spot. This is a good ability, but it depends on her stopping at encounter spots, something other players will actively try to prevent her from doing. Chuubei, on the other hand, gains a free encounter at every intermediate inn. This is guaranteed and cannot be prevented. Consistency is worth +3 points.

Accomplishment boost

Some characters get a jump start on scoring an accomplishment. I have scored this as +2. The accomplishment is worth 3 points, and I am suggesting that a character with an accomplishment boost should win that accomplishment at leas 66% of the time.

Tie breakers

If two or more characters end up with the same ability scores, ties are broken by starting coins. Because it’s possible to score more than 3 points per coin, having more coins offers more opportunities for higher scores. Characters with more coins have a higher point ceiling.

Character Rankings


Tokaido Nampo

32. Nampo the Gourmet

Set: Crossroads
Ability: Scores 1 point for each coin spent on meals
Coins: 2

Power: 16pts

(6 coins + 8 ability + 2 accomplishment boost)

The most Nampo can earn is 12 points if he purchases all 3-cost meals. This high-end reward is pretty optimistic however, I am only giving Nampo credit for buying a 2-cost meal average for 4 meals giving him 8 bonus points.

If you are eating expensive meals, you are probably a favorite for the Gourmet accomplishment which gives him a small boost.

Playing Nampo – Difficulty: Hard

Nampo is a paradox. He has an incentive to buy expensive food, but he only starts with 2 coins. Lots of work is required to purchase all those tasty meals and still find time to donate to the temple and buy a few trinkets.

It’s true Nampo actually wants to buy expensive food but even with his ability getting 3-cost meals isn’t very efficient. Think of it this way, you can spend 3 coins to score 9 points (6 for food + 3 for his ability). This is a reasonable 3pts/coin. But you could have spent 2 coins to score 8 points which is a more impressive 4pts/coin and you still kept a coin!

Just like any other character, spending only 1 coin for a meal is still the best even for Nampo, and is often the best play. However one of the gameplay goals for Nampo will be to utilize the Hospitality amulet to keep your meal cost average as high as possible

Utilizing amulets should be Nampo’s primary goal. The Hospitality amulet will let you gobble up all those expensive meals for free, while still scoring points. The Devotion amulet will let you sneak in a large temple donation while you are munching on a nice expensive dinner.

You cannot use both hospitality and devotion at the same time because Devotion triggers on “coins spent” and using Hospitality means you spend 0 on the meal. So you will use them separately.

If you walk into an inn without a nice coin cushion and without an amulet, consider forgetting about his ability and just getting the cheapest meal. The meager amount of points his ability grants you isn’t worth handicapping yourself by going broke. Slow and steady wins the race with Nampo… Good luck with this guy! He is for advanced users only.

31. Kamui the vagabond

Set: Matsuri
Ability: When stoping at the intermediate inns and at the last inn, Kamui scores 3 points if he doesn’t buy a meal card.
Coins: 3

Power: 18pts

(9 coins + 6 ability + 3 consistent)

I am assuming Kamui skips all of his meals, even the 1-cost meals in order to maximize his free points. This means over the course of the game he will actually lose 12 points from his missed meals (4 meals at a 3 point loss each).

However he gets to keep all the coins he would have spent on those meals. In this case I went with 6 total saved coins. Using our 3 points per coin benchmark, he should be able to convert these 6 coins into 18 points. Which is a net profit of 6 points from using his ability.

You might be asking why I am recommending skipping even 1-cost meals, isn’t 6pts/coin very good value? Sure is, but if you skip the meal you get 3 points, and you can get more than 3 points on the coins you saved which will actually make it worth 7+ points. Making that happen is on you, and that is what makes this character hard.

Playing Kamui – Difficulty: Hard

To fully utilize his ability to you need to extract maximum value. Each coin you save is actually a gamble, you need your coins to do BETTER than the guaranteed points they would have been worth if you spent them on a meal.

Getting the Fasting calligraphy is a no-brainer for Kamui because that means he loses no points for missing all those meals! If you get fasting that means essentially he just started with +5 coins which you can now spend on whatever you need.

Most normal characters have no interest in the Fasting calligraphy so you can usually pick it up as your second. You should feel somewhat comfortable taking Nostalgia or Contemplation first. Keep your eyes on characters that missed a meal however, because that makes them serious threats to your plan.

30. Miyataka the Superstitious Woman

Set: Crossroads
Ability: Can perform both actions at temple stops
Coins: 4

Power: 18pts

(12 coins + 4 ability)

Most characters who stop at a temple are doing so to get an amulet, and so should Miyataka. Her ability lets her also donate coins as a bonus. The donation goal is 3 coins since that is usually enough to get first or second at the temple. She is able to kill two birds with one stone when she makes temple stops but after you take the temple lead, there isn’t much reason to keep throwing money in. This is why her ability isn’t very strong. It’s only worth 4 points because while other characters have to stop at the temple just to donate, she is buying an amulet instead. This amulet is worth 4.

Playing Miyataka – Difficulty: Hard

She starts with only 4 coins and if she manages to hit a temple and utilize her ability she must spend at least 2 coins to do it (purchase amulet and donate at least 1 to the temple). It’s tough for any character to scrounge up 2 coins every time they want to use an ability, but for one who starts with only 4 you need to be extra careful.

Leaning on coin-generating amulets like Fortune, Hospitality and Friendship (with a farmhouse spot) can help her sustain constant temple visits. Her ability is expensive so trying to split attention between hitting the temple and buying souvenirs is very risky so I would recommend giving up on the village with Miya.

29. Suseri the erudite

Set: Matsuri
At the end of the game Suseri scores 1 point for each different type of card in her collection.
Coins: 3

Power: 21pts

(9 coins + 11 ability)

There are 12 different types of cards she can collect over the course of the journey. You might be wondering why I am only giving her 11 points for her ability score. I am doing that because one of her points comes from finishing the game with an unused amulet in her inventory. If you collect that particular point, that means you spent a coin on an amulet and scored exactly 1 point for it. That would be a blunder. You would be better off spending the coin on something else or sing the amulet for value.

Playing Suseri – Difficulty: Hard

Suseri is one of my favorite new characters. She isn’t very powerful but she is fun and thematic, wanting to get the most out of her vacations. I actually had to look up what erudite means:

having or showing great knowledge or learning.

What a classy way to connect flavor and gameplay! Collecting knowledge and learning in Tokaido isn’t as easy as it sounds. For Sesuri to get all her points she has to make 4 panorama stops, 2 encounter stops, 2 bathhouse stops, 2 village stops and hit enough farmhouses to afford all of that! She also probably needs to make it to the temple to put in a donation. That’s a lot of work, and a lot of planning. Making all these stops makes it very hard for her to focus on any one thing.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • As stated above, do not focus on ending the game with an amulet, that is negative value
  • She wants to spend a coin at a bathhouse which isn’t great value either, save this for last and don’t feel bad if you miss it
  • Cherry blossoms have an expiration date and once the 6th one is taken she misses the opportunity to get this point, so make sure to grab at least one
  • Encounter stops are good for her because Anniabito (all three versions) and Shokunin knock two unique items off her list and potentially save you a stop
  • The health amulet will let you double up on stops (hot springs and bathhouse, encounter and calligraphy etc) which can take some of the pressure off making them later

The most important thing to remember is getting unique cards is a bonus and not a goal. You very well might find yourself scoring more points completing the blue panorama or getting some lucky hits at the village.

28. Mari the poet

Set: Matsuri
Ability: When stopping at a temple space, Mari scores 2 points instead of 1 for each coin she donates to the temple. If she decides to buy an amulet, Mari can take it for free.
Coins: 4

Power: 21pts

(12 coins + 9 ability)

All players should work hard to donate 3 coins to the temple, if Mari does this she earns an addition 3 points from her ability. She also buys amulets for free, so I gave her credit for saving 2 coins on amulet purchases over the course of the game for a total ability score of 9.

Playing Mari – Difficulty: Medium

If you use the Devotion amulet to donate 3 coins through a purchase of food or a legendary sword, you get those bonus points from her ability. You should focus on making this combo happen as it is one of Mari’s greatest tools for value.

She takes amulets for free which increases the value of those amulets drastically so try to take advantage of as many temple stops as you can for this purpose.

27. Kita the old woman

Set: Crossroads
Ability: Can perform both actions at encounter stops.
Coins: 4

Power: 21pts

(12 coins + 7 ability + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

Doing both choices at a stop is like getting two stops for the price of one. So if Kita makes two encounter stops, she basically gets two more encounter stops for free! Generally you will be buying a calligraphy card on your first two encounter stops, so Kita is getting meet a friend as a bonus. Meet a friend is worth 3.5 pts on average so she earns 7 points from that. Her double dipping gives her a boost toward Chatterbox.

Playing Kita – Difficulty: Hard

The first calligraphy card worth grabbing is probably Perfection which gives you a point for calligraphy cards and accomplishments. She is already scoring double encounters for Chatterbox so that is logical. After that purchase whatever best matches your game flow.

Starting with only 4 coins, it’s pretty tricky to maximize your value on the multiple calligraphy cards you will inevitably get. Most characters will get 1 calligraphy and lean on free encounter stops after that unless they have plenty of money. Kita doesn’t want to miss out on her value so she is compelled to spend the coins even if she doesn’t really want a calligraphy card.

Late in the game Kita will often have the opportunity to pick up calligraphy cards other people have passed on like Patience and Fasting. If you see this happening plan ahead. Feel free to skip a meal knowing you will recoup some lost value, or get Vitality or Friendship amulets to maximize Patience.

26. Iyasaka the manual worker

Set: Matsuri
When stopping at a farmhouse Iyasaka receives 1 extra coin if he chooses to receive 3 coins or Iyasaka can choose to re-roll the fortune die if he chooses to gamble.
Coins: 5

Power: 21pts

(15 coins + 6 ability)

If Iyasaka makes 2 stops at farmhouses and takes the guaranteed 4 coins, he ends up with 2 extra coins over the course of the journey. This is worth 6 points. Farmhouses are obviously coveted spots, but if you can land on more than 2 that’s a great bonus.

“What about the gamble!” you might be asking. Here is the thing about gambling, even with this character. If he hits x3, that means he is only collecting a profit of 4 coins. But he is already guaranteed to get 4 coins just by stoping at the farmhouse.

Of the possible gamble outcomes (0, x1, x2, x3, x3, x4) he literally only profits on the x4. That’s only 1/6 chance to do better than just taking 4. Even with his free re-roll, gambling with him is absolutely terrible.

Playing Iyasaka – Difficulty: Easy

You want to jam as many farmhouses as possible. If you happen to pick up lots of early money, consider grabbing the Foresight calligraphy. Otherwise focus on converting your coins into points at the souvenir shops.

25. Chihaya the bather

Set: Matsuri
Ability: When stopping at the intermediate inns, Chihaya receives a hot springs card.
Coins: 3

Power: 21.5pts

(9 coins + 7.5 ability + 3 consistent + 2 accomplishment boost)

Chihaya is a straight-forward character who is guaranteed to get 3 hot springs cards. These cards are worth 2.5 points each for 7.5. Having 3 hot spring cards in the bag makes the Bather accomplishment an easy grab.

Playing Chihaya – Difficulty: Easy

The Perfection calligraphy might be a good first purchase since she is a favorite to win Bather. Try to shoot for Chatterbox as well, since it’s free and she is poor. There isn’t much to playing Chihaya other than spending your 3 starting coins wisely and don’t go broke!

24. Hiroshige the Artist

Set: Base
Ability: Gains his choice of panorama card at each intermediate inn
Coins: 3

Power: 23pts

(9 coins + 7.5 ability + 3 consistent + 3.5 Accomplishment Boost)

Most characters get +2 for accomplishment boost, but Hiroshige is getting +3.5 because he can reasonably get 2 completed panoramas thanks to his ability.

Playing Hiroshige – Difficulty: Medium

Grabbing the Contemplation calligraphy is a great idea with this character. If your gameplan is developing well and you are on your way to a couple completed panoramas you can also consider getting Perfection.

Choosing which panorama card to pick up when you get to each inn isn’t always easy. The trick is you don’t want to finish one too soon because that will make it impossible for you to utilize a potential stop. It might be tempting to lock in that 5th blue panorama on the 3rd inn but maybe you should take the more elusive grey. You might be able to push your luck and get both!

23. Kidzuna the cook

Set: Matsuri
Ability: When stopping at the intermediate inns, Kidsuzna can buy another meal in addition to her usual meal. First reveal the top card from the stack and choose to buy it at the indicated cost. Kidzuna then proceeds to eat with the rest of the group.
Coins: 3

Power: 23pts

(9 coins + 12 ability + 2 accomplishment boost)

It is possible for Kidzuna to eat a full 3 extra meals over normal travelers earning her 18 extra points. The problem is there are only three 1-cost meals for her to get, then she has to pony up 2-3 coins. She only starts with 3 coins so this is easier said than done.

For additional hardship, the random meal she flips might be a duplicate of one she already ate. Eating 3 extra meals really is the dream, but eating just two is pretty good. So I am giving her credit for eating two extra meals for +12 points and giving her an accomplishment boost toward Gourmet.

Playing Kidzuna – Difficulty: Hard

You might be noticing a trend that characters who start with 3 or less coins end up being hard to play. Like Nampo before her, Kidzuna is going to have a very hard time eating extra meals with her limited funds. Making calculated jumps to farmhouses and utilizing the hospitality amulet will be required to get full value from Kidzuna.

Make good use of cherry blossoms early in the game. The hospitality amulet can be used on her first random meal, or her second standard meal so this is a very valuable amulet for her as it will let her secure double meals with ease.

If you have the wiggle room to grab a calligraphy card, she is probably a shoe-in for Gourmet so consider that one first.

22. Rakuren the collector

Set: Matsuri
Ability: When stopping at a shop space Rakuren can randomly draw 4 souvenir cards and 1 legendary object card instead of the usual choices. He can choose to purchase any number of these cards.
Coins: 5

Power: 23pts

(15 coins + 8 ability)

To quantify Rakuren’s ability I am giving him credit for “doubling” his village stops and giving those extra stops a value of 4 pts. This is somewhat random because it depends on what souvenirs and legendary items are pulled, but because of his larger sample size he is pretty likely to complete a set and get some relevant legendary items.

Playing Rakuren – Difficulty: Medium

Rakuren starts with a reasonable amount of coins and great prospects for scoring well at the village. Try to make a village stop as soon as you see the opportunity. Otherwise grab the Nostalgia calligraphy.

If your first legendary item is a sword, I would recommend not buying it, and just spending your coins on standard souvenirs instead. Spending 3 early is too limiting. If either of the other legendary items are pulled, buy those and try to focus on generating more coins to keep buying souvenirs.

Note that Rakuren’s ability is a “may” effect and he can choose to use the village stop normally. This would come in handy if your set of 4 souvenirs is already complete and you are focusing on getting the 2-cost legendary souvenir to extend your set. No need to roll for a random legendary in that situation.

21. Umegae the street entertainer

Set: Base
Ability: Gain 1 point and 1 coin at encounter stops
Coins: 5

Power: 23pts

(15 coins + 8 ability)

The bonus Umagae gets from an encounter is 1 coins (3 points) and another point. I give her credit for making a minimum of two encounter stops for an 8 point ability bonus.

Playing Umegae – Difficulty: Medium

Having an alternative way to earn coins is strong. In the early game Umagae will earn coins at the farmhouse, cherry blossom and the encounter spot. How awesome!

Look for opportunities to purchase the Friendship amulet and use it to double up on encounter spots. This gives you back the coin you spend on the amulet and gives you a free roll for an extra point and an encounter. Or you can get a bunch of calligraphy cards and hope for some major scoring.

20. Daigoro the kid

Set: Crossroads
Ability: At every intermediate it gain a random souvenir
Coins: 3

Power: 24.5pts

(9 coins + 10.5 ability + 3 consistent + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

I put a 2.5 point value on a random souvenir when evaluating it in my guide. But in this case I am giving Daigoro 3.5 per souvenir because he knows he is going to get at least 3, and he can easily plan ahead and convert them into a set (or more).

To break this down further Daigoro has ~42.68% chance of getting 3 souvenirs from 3 categories. He has a ~3.9% chance of getting 3 souvenirs from the same category. Finally he has a ~53.42% of getting any other outcome of one duplicate souvenir and one different souvenir.

42.68% = 9pts
53.42% = 5pts
3.9% = 3pts

Those are the free points Diagoro would earn if he did nothing else at the village. But if you land one a couple of village stops you can work magic.

Playing Daigoro – Difficulty: Easy

Daigoro has it pretty easy. Very little decision making is required, and even if he gets blocked from most of the villages he can still complete a set with only 1 stop.

With Diagoro you might feel compelled to hit the nearest shop and start building up your set. This is a great start, however if you hit an early shop do NOT buy souvenirs to build up your set, instead go for the legendary items. The first souvenir Diagoro should buy is a legendary Emaki or Shodo for 1 coin. These cheap legendary souvenirs are going to offer a guaranteed 3 points and likely many more. The 2-coin legendary items, Ema and Buppatsu, are also great pickups because they will never interfere with the free items Daigoro is getting.

Purchasing standard souvenirs isn’t as efficient because he might end up getting duplicate items when he triggers his ability at the inns. Try to use the last couple of stops to complete your item sets. Especially the very last day when the risk of getting a duplicates has passed. Utilize the Friendship amulet to land on the critical final village.

The obvious calligraphy choice for Daigoro is Nostalgia since he is a lock for getting 3 pts from his ability alone, and you will be buying additional souvenirs throughout the journey. Perfection is a good second since he also has a big leg up on getting the Collector accomplishment. If you purchased the friendship (or vitality) amulet to grab the last village stop the patience calligraphy might also be worthwhile.

19. Marihito the writer

Set: Matsuri
At the end of the game, Marihito can double one of the calligraphy cards in his collection.
Coins: 5

Power: 25pts

(15 coins + 10 ability)

Marihito gets his 15 points for coins, and then I am giving him another +10 for doubling a calligraphy card. The calligraphy cards are a big variable because it could earn some explosive scores. Foresight in particular can be really insane for Marihito.

Playing Marihito – Difficulty: Medium

In order to take advantage of his ability he must grab a (good) calligraphy card. The best ones are Foresight (which ensures every coins you hold is worth 4 points, an amazing value) followed by the usual suspects: Nostalgia, Contemplation.

Once you get your hands on a good calligraphy, you still need to maximize your score on it. Nothing about Marihito’s play is easy. It requires some thought, and doubling the value of certain things messes with your math. On the other hand, he does start with a comfortable 5 coins and has a very high point ceiling.

Worth noting that if you do get Foresight, your second grab should almost certainly be fasting and then start skipping meals.

18. Satsuki the orphan

Set: Base
Ability: At each inn has option to eat random meal for free
Coins: 2

Power: 25.5pts

(6 coins + 18 ability + 3 consistent)

Satsuki gets to eat for free, so this will save at minimum 5 coins (the three cheap meals, and a 2 cost meal). I am giving Setsuki credit for saving 6 coins over the course of her journey eating meals when calculating power level.

Playing Satsuki – Difficulty: Easy

She starts out pretty poor, but after a farmhouse and a few cherry blossoms she can swing with the rich boys as they spend money on feed.

Her ability has an upshot and a downside. The upshot is she might catch some expensive meals and accidentally win the gourmet accomplishment! Keep your eyes on other character’s food spending on the last meal. You might consider skipping her free meal and actually buying one expensive one to lock the accomplishment up.

The downside is that she might pull a meal she has already eaten and be forced to pay for a different one. Which is often no problem but if you are going in broke, you do take a bit of risk.

17. Sasayakko the geisha

Set: Base
Ability: When purchasing two or more souvenirs, she gets the cheapest for free (must be able to afford all purchases)
Coins: 5

Power: 26pts

(15 coins + 9 ability + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

Sasayakko is a favorite to save about 3 coins at village stops over the course of the game. Her ability to buy multiple souvenirs at once means she can accumulate a large number of them even if they aren’t all going toward a set. This gives her a substantial boost toward the Collector accomplishment.

Playing Sasayakko – Difficulty: Medium

The problem is she has to have enough coins to fully buy two items, so you basically need to be walking into villages with 4 coins to truly feel comfortable. Gathering funds is very important with Sasayakko so take your cherry blossoms, eat cheap food and prioritize farmhouses to make sure her wallet is prepared for the villages.

Sassy’s first calligraphy should be Nostalgia for obvious reasons with Perfection second if you get the chance. Use the friendship amulet to land on villages other travelers are trying to block. The Health amulet could be used to create some very efficient stops letting you get some souvenirs and a Shodo/Emaki in the same move.

16. Gotozaemon the Souvenir Seller

Set: Crossroads
Ability: Gain 1 coin at every panorama stop
Coins: 0

Power: 27pts

(24 ability + 3 consistent)

It’s important to know how many pano stops there are in a small vs large game. It’s impossible to visit all of them, but important to know:

  • In a 3 player game there are 18 total pano stops
  • In a 4-5 player game there are 27 total pano stops

An average character is entitled to:

  • 1/3 of the stops in a 3 player game, 6
  • 1/4 of the stops in a 4 player game, 6.75
  • 1/5 of the stop in a 5 player game, 5.4

We can call this a 6 pano average, but because Goto can focus on panos while other players are not, I am giving him credit for 8 stops, which is why he is getting 24 for ability (8 coins worth) and not 18. Keep in mind he gets the coin when he stops at a panorama not when he gets a panorama card. So he gets +2 coins when he takes a cherry blossom, and 0 when he meets Anniabito. It should go without saying that you want to get as many cherry blossoms as possible because those value is insane.

I wrestled with the idea of giving Goto +2 for panorama accomplishment boost, but he doesn’t actually generate panorama card any faster than other characters. But don’t let that stop you from completing them anyway!

Playing Gotozarmon – Difficulty Medium

Goto has one major problem, he starts with 0 coins. His early game is a little rough. The first three stops in the journey are village, temple, and encounter. Goto cannot even visit the temple or village and cannot afford a calligraphy card. So his first two choices are to meet a friend or skip to the next pano to grab cherry blossom. I suggest you skip to the cherry blossom because then it sets you up for a farmhouse on your next move. This combo starts you off with a comfortable 5 coins. Unless another player gets fancy and skips ahead.

The friendship amulet is a good one for Goto because there are so many pano stops. The opportunity to land on one using friendship and then take another turn to immediately land on another pano manifests frequently. This will net you a 1 coin profit over the amulet and two pano cards.

A unique benefit of Goto is how difficult it is to stop him from making money. If another character ever goes completely broke, it’s easy to just block them from the farmhouses and lock them out of the game. This isn’t something Goto needs to worry about since he financially benefits from so many stops.

15. Kushinada the world traveler

Set: Matsuri
Ability: At the beginning of the game all other travelers give 1 coin to Kushinada. During the game, at any time, Kushinada can secretly look at her opponents calligraphy and amulet cards.
Coins: 4

Power: 24-31pts

(18-24 coins +3 ability +3 rich)

Kushinada steals coins from other players. She will steal between 2-4 coins depending on player count. This makes Kushi stronger in higher player counts. In this guide she is slotted in at 27, her value in a 4 player game.

Beyond just increasing her wealth, there is a value to hurting the other players. She reduces the power of her opponents which is hard to evaluate, but I am giving it a value of 3 points since she takes 1 coin which makes it ~3 points harder for them to close the gap on her. Her other minor ability to peek at travelers secret cards is a bit of a waste and I don’t think it’s worth anything.

Playing Kushinada – Difficulty: Easy

She starts with a nice cushion of coins and you should just focus on spending your money wisely. This is a task made slightly easier by her ability to peek at calligraphy and amulet cards. Though I can think of very few uses for this ability… One of them would be to know which player has the Devotion amulet. If no one has it, then you should get it. If a player has it, you can better evaluate how much you should donate to the temple to keep up. Another reason is knowing what calligraphy cards characters have so you can block them from scoring on them.

14. Yashima the noble

Set: Matsuri
Ability: At intermediate inns, Yashima recieves a free random amulet.
Coins: 4

Power: 27pts

(12 coins + 12 ability + 3 consistent)

The average value of an amulet is about 4 points, most of the amulets generate a free stop while Hospitality and Fortune generate a little over 1-2 coins. Yashima picks up 3 free amulets on her journey which is great value, especially if you get the right amulets at the right time. Her three amulets get +12 ability points.

Playing Yashima – Difficulty: Medium

Just because she gets amulets for free shouldn’t keep her from still buying amulets when she gets the opportunity. Denying amulets to your opponents is strong. The information you get from knowing what others could be holding is also useful.

With all these amulets Yashima can do some crazy combos like Friendship+Health at a farmhouse for a big income boost or Devotion+Health at a village for a big score.

Her gameplay is dependent on what amulets get pulled. If you end up with an early Devotion, look for buying a sword early and possibly following through with a souvenir strategy. If you cycle through Fortune and/or Hospitality a lot you can go souvenirs or go the Foresight route. If you end up with Friendship and/or Health a lot looks to completing as many accomplishments as possible by focusing on hot springs and panoramas and getting Perfection.

It isn’t all fun an games for Yashima. She only starts with 4 coins and needs to tread carefully not to go broke in the first couple of days. Making the most out of the amulets is also a challenge. Her power could be much higher if she scores more than 4 points per amulet, that should be your goal.

It’s possible for Yashima to get a Hospitality or Fortune amulet before her meal. So even if she comes in broke, she has a 1/3 chance of lucking out.

13. Mitsukuni the old man

Set: Base
Ability: 1 point for each achievement and hot spring card
Coins: 6

Power: 27pts

(18 coins + 4 Ability + 3 Rich + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

I am giving Mitsukuni credit for 4 bonus points from hot springs and accomplishments (approximately 2 hot springs stops and 2 accomplishments). Generally the Bather accomplishment makes sense for Mitsukuni to go for and he is financially equipped to go for Collector or Gourmet.

Playing Mitsukuni – Difficulty: Easy

Mitsukuni has enough starting money to do anything. You don’t need to “go for” hot springs, just take them as they come. Once you are about halfway done with your journey start trying to see what accomplishments are within reach. Use amulets to complete accomplishments: health to double up on encounters and hot springs cards, friendship to shore up panorama completions if you are close.

The Perfection calligraphy card is a good fit especially if things are going your way with accomplishments. The Foresight calligraphy is also an interesting consideration for Mitsukuni because he can save his money while going for panoramas (another free source of accomplishments), encounters, and bathhouses. Then cross the finish line with a full coin purse ready to collect those juicy points.

Mitsukuni can also afford an early Devotion + Legendary sword combo.

12. Mutsumi the brute

Set: Matsuri
Ability: At the first 4 inns, Mutsumi can leave the inn first, regardless of the order in which he arrived at the inn.
Coins: 7

Power: 27pts

(21 coins + 3 consistent + 3 rich)

Matsumi’s ability is worth no points at face value. However he does happen to be rich, and his special ability is unstoppable so he ends up having a pretty high power level off those traits alone.

Playing Mutsumi – Difficulty: Easy

Leaving first opens up some interesting strategies to Matsumi since he can be 100% sure what spots he can grab out of every inn. One excellent series goes like this:

Day 1: Temple – Devotion Amulet
Day 3: Village – Legendary sword + Devotion


Day 1: Village – Emaki/Shodo
Day 2: Temple – Devotion or Health
Day 3: Village – Sword+Devotion or Health+Souvenirs
Day 4: Temple – Temple

The beauty here is no one can do anything to stop Mutsumi! He gets first dibs on all these spots and can do whatever he wants and he has the coins to take full advantage.

11. Titia the Dutch tourist

Set: Matsuri
Titia buys souvenirs of the art type (statue) and legendary objects for 1 coins less than normal
Coins: 6

Power 27pts

(18 coins + 6 ability + 3 rich)

Like other shop characters, I am giving Titia credit for saving 2 coins on souvenirs over the course of the journey. She also happens to be rich.

Playing Titia – Difficulty: Easy

Titia is a village-centric character who should be earning the majority of her points on souvenirs. She differs from the other shop characters because she gets a discount on legendary souvenirs. Spending 1 less coin on legendary souvenirs is a major advantage. She can purchase swords for only 2 coins which is an outstanding value. Buying both swords would be a very strong strategy with Titia, something to strive for. The downside is you only get a 2-coin donation with devotion.

10. Chuubei the messenger

Set: Base
Ability: Encounter at each intermediate inn
Coins: 4

Power: 27.5pts

(12 coins + 10.5 ability + 3 consistent + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

Encounters are worth about 3.5 each. Chuubei will score 3 of them over the course of the journey for 10.5 bonus points. These three encounters will probably lock him up for the Chatterbox achievement as well.

Playing Chuubei – Difficulty: Easy

Because of his jump on Chatterbox, grabbing the Perfection calligraphy is a good early move. You can rest easy knowing at least one accomplishment is going to fall into your lap and work on another.

There is a good chance Chuubei is going to pull some free panorama cards from his encounters, and he ends up being a favorite to complete some panoramas if that turns out to be the case. Keep your eyes on that so you can pivot and focus on it.

9. Jirocho the Yakuza

Set: Crossroads
Ability: Can gamble 1 coin at each intermediate inn
Coins: 5

Power: 28.5pts

(15 coins + 10.5 ability + 3 consistent)

Basically Jirocho gets to buy and use a fortune amulet at each intermediate inn. I was pretty “meh” on the fortune amulet in my guide, but that is only because you are taking the fortune amulet over other more lucrative amulets. Jirocho gets it for free!

The expected profit off the gamble is +1.16 coins, and he gets to gamble 3 times which gives him a total expected profit of about 3.5 coins. Of course gambling is highly variable. If you live the dream and roll x4 each time you end up +9 coins which is insane! If we separate the high and low rolls Jirocho’s power level could be as low as 12pts and as high as 45pts! Generally speaking this character is going to do pretty well financially and will be able to follow a variety of strategies.

I actually considered giving Jirocho the “rich” bonus. Even though he doesn’t start with 6+ coins, he will essentially get 6+ after his first inn… But because it is a gamble I decided not to.

Playing Jirocho – Difficulty: Easy

In order to take advantage of Jirocho’s gamble at every inn you need to make sure you are walking into the inn with at least 1 coin so make sure you do not go broke! You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to make extra money.

If you decide to keep a tight grip on your purse in the first day to see how your first gamble turns out you might get a nice head start on a good Foresight outcome. Otherwise you can play Jirocho however you want and probably do fine.

8. Zen-emon the merchant

Set: Base
Ability: Can purchase one souvenir for 1 coins at each village
Coins: 6

Power: 32pts

(18 coins + 9 Ability + 3 Rich + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

Zen-emon’s ability saves him coins, in my point evaluation I assume he will save himself 3 coins over the course of the game from purchasing souvenirs. This seems reasonable as you can buy a 3-coin item for 1, or a 2-coin item for 1 on your village stops.

Playing Zen-emon – Difficulty: Medium

Zen-emon is well-suited for a village strategy so you should lean into that when playing him. Pick up the Nostalgia calligraphy as soon as you can because picking up a bunch of souvenirs will be your priority. Don’t be afraid to skip a few spots if it will get you to another shop. Maximize the number of times you can buy 1-cost items, this will make you a shoe-in for the Collector accomplishment and pay out on Nostalgia and Emaki/Shodo legendary items.

7. Yoshiyasu the Functionary

Set: Base
Ability: At an encounter stop, Yoshiyasu may draw 2 encounter cards and choose one.
Coins: 9

Power: 32pts

(9 coins + 2 Ability + 3 Rich)

Yoshi extracts more value from encounter stops than other characters. The average value of an encounter is 3.5pts but for Yoshi I kicked that up to 4.5pts because of his ability to get the higher value encounter of his choice. He also has a higher chance of finding the almighty Kuge in the encounter pool.

Playing Yoshiyasu – Difficulty: Easy

One of the shortcomings of Yoshi’s ability is that he must choose to draw an encounter instead of buying a calligraphy card which is often a better option, certainly early in the game. The good news is no matter what happens wealth is his true special ability.

6. Ayumu the walker

Set: Matsuri
Meal cards only cost Ayumu 1 coins. In addition, when at a village space the souvenir from the small objects (little fan) group are free.
Coins: 5

Power: 35pts

(15 coins + 14 ability + 3 consistent + 3 accomplishment boost)

Ayumu actually has two different and unrelated abilities. His inn ability triggers at every inn and is similar to Kinko’s ability. He saves 1 or 2 coins on all of his meals to a minimum of 1. Often any character can spend only 1 on a meal, Ayumu can do so even if no 1-cost meals are available. As a matter of fact he can always buy the most expensive meal for only 1 coin to lock up the Gourmet accomplishment.

His second ability to is to grab fan-type souvenirs for free. Alone this isn’t very powerful because you can’t plan on getting fans, and if you do get a bunch of fans they don’t contribute to your combo. On the other hand grabbing free items pads your souvenirs count for the collector accomplishment and Nostalgia calligraphy. He can also get double points by grabbing the Emaki or Shodo legendary items.

I calculated his ability score by giving him 4 coins he saved from meals, which are worth 12 points, and then granting him an additional 2 points for free souvenir pick ups. Ayumu is also getting +3 for accomplishment boost instead of +2 because I feel he is almost certain to get either Collector or Gourmet.

Playing Ayumu – Difficulty: Easy

The primary reason characters are hard to play is that they can easily get low on funds and end up being unable to eat a meal. Characters with abilities that mitigate this problem tend to be easier to play. Ayumu will almost always be able to eat even if he has only a single coin which makes planning his days much easier.

As I said before, Nostalgia calligraphy and Emaki/Shodo legendary items are great buys for Ayumu to score as many points as possible from his free fan-type souvenirs. If manage to pick these up, try to grab a friendship amulet to hit as many villages as you can to get even more fans.

5. Hirotada the priest

Set: Base
Ability: At each temple stop, Hirotoda receives 1 coins donation from the bank.
Coins: 8

Power: 35pts

(24 coins + 8 ability + 3 rich)

I am giving Hirotada credit for scoring 2 free donations to the temple being worth 4 pts each (1 for the donation, and 3 for the temple value). Of course he is also very rich which is where the majority of his power level comes from.

Playing Hirotoda – Difficulty: Easy

Hirotoda’s ability is excellent because he ends up gaining temple value while still being able to buy an amulet to further his strategy. Other characters have to make hard choices deciding if they want to donate to the temple or purchasing an amulet.

Go to the temple as often as you can to get your free donations, block other players and utilize amulets to gain points in other ways. Hirotada is very well suited to maximizing Foresight because he doesn’t actually need to “waste” any coins at the temple. He can instead buy Hospitality and Fortune amulets at every temple to score more Foresight points.

4. Kinko the Ronin

Set: Base
Ability: Meals cost Kinko 1 less coin
Coins: 7

Power: 41pts

(21 coins + 4 Ability + 3 Rich + 3 Consistent + 2 Accomplishment Boost)

On top of being rich, his ability will always grant him another +4 coins bringing his coin value to a massive 11 (although I am not factoring these 4 coins as they are not guaranteed). Kinko is rich and consistent making him one of the most powerful characters in the game. Because he can buy meals 1 level higher for the same price, he is getting an accomplishment boost bonus toward Gourmet.

Difficulty: Easy

Being such a solid character, Kinko can follow a variety of strategies. He can easily play the souvenir strategy, either going for sets, or just buying swords. He can grab Foresight and work on maximizing his income while blocking others from farmhouses. Donating 3 coins at the temple doesn’t hinder him as badly as many others. It is difficult to do poorly with Kinko.

3. Misaki the disciple

Set: Matsuri
Every time a traveler (him or another) stops at a temple space, Misaki takes 1 coins from the bank
Coins: 4

Power: 42pts/33pts

(12 coins + 18/27 ability + 3 consistent)

Misaki has a range of points because the amount of temple stops varies from small game to big game (either 6 stops or 9 stops). In both cases though there are plenty of opportunities for spare change to come his way.

Playing Misaki – Difficulty: Easy

Misaki has a great advantage in his ability to generate constant income. One of the best early game plays is to purchase a legendary sword even though he only starts with 4 coins. Remember, Misaki gains a coin even when he visits the temple himself, so don’t be shy about going there. It is still just as important as ever to block other players from accessing the temple.

Misaki can also be played the way of the money-hoarder, grabbing the Foresight amulet and playing a frugal game while accepting other player’s donations.

2. Takeru the counselor

Set: Matsuri
Ability: Every time a traveler (him or another) stops at an Encounters space, Takeru takes 1 coin from the bank.
Coins: 4

Power: 42pts/36pts

(12 coins + 21/27ability + 3 consistent)

Takeru’s power depends on how big the game is, because the number of encounter stops increases from 7 to 9 from a small to big game. In either case Takeru earns plenty of extra coins. Unlike some other stops encounter stops are never missed (because they are free) so he will always get maximum value from his ability.

Playing Takeru – Difficulty: Easy

Takeru can feel comfortable because, like Misaki before him, he will have a constant stream of coins coming in. When you are playing make sure plan ahead and be aware of how many coins you are going to earn and when. He can go broke in the middle of the day knowing 2 encounter spots are still upcoming which will ensure he has enough money to eat.

1 Musubi the rogue

Set: Matsuri
When stopping at intermediate inns, Masubi can take 1 coins from each of his two neighboring travelers. If masubi is unable to take 2 coins from travelers (traveler has no coins, or Masubi arrived first or last) he takes coins from the bank.
Coins: 6

Power: 48pts

(18 coins + 24 ability + 3 consistent + 3 rich)

Matsubi is a true powerhouse. He already starts rich with 6 coins, but then he is GUARANTEED to “earn” 2 coins at each intermediate in. Essentially he starts with 12 coins which is more than anyone else in the game. The best other players can do is try not to get pick-pocketed by him, but that isn’t even his problem. Even if he doesn’t end up neighboring two players at the inn, he still grabs the extra coin from the bank.

Then there is the consideration of how much damage he is doing to other characters when he is taking coins from them. Players may play worse and make suboptimal moves to avoid being robbed, or they will get robbed and lose that coin (a potential 3 points). This will happen at 3 inns! If he double steals every time that is 18 points he is blocking from his competition.

I am granting Musubi an additional 6 ability points for the damage he is doing to his opponents. Though a more accurate power measurement could be taken by subtracting 6 points from power levels of all of his opponents before the game starts.

Playing Matsubi – Difficulty: Easy

Like many other rich characters Musubi can basically do whatever he wants. Going for souvenirs is the most obvious strategy since he can easily afford to buy both swords, or shoot for maximum souvenirs. Musubi is also very well suited to get the Foresight calligraphy and cross the finish line with 6+ coins.

The added benefit to this character is other players might skip spots and rush into the inn, or take inefficient spots to delay going into the inn to avoid being robbed. They might also be unable to afford a meal if they do get robbed costing them some extra damage and opening up free opportunities for Musubi to catch up.

Final Thoughts

Nothing in this guide is concrete of course and player skill has plenty to do with winning. I feel like these are directionally accurate power levels and a good way to judge characters against each other, but it’s possible to win with anyone. The art of the game is to perform better than the average expectations. That is up to you.

Once again: make sure to check out my Tokaido Crossroads Guide for Expert Travelers if you haven’t already.

Tokaido Crossroads Guide for Expert Travelers


Tokaido was one of the first board games I purchased when I started my transition from Magic the Gathering to tabletop gaming. My collection started humbly with Coup, Love Letter, Sushi Go and Tokaido.

I started by watching every episode of TableTop on youtube and Tokaido was the game that caught my attention the most. It was the perfect mix of light relaxing gameplay, decision making and awesome art direction.

Now, years deeper into the hobby Tokaido remains one of my favorite games especially with the Crossroads expansion. To the untrained player this might seem like an overly simple game with little decision making. But the truth is the more you think about it the deeper it gets.

Understanding how points work is pretty easy: earn as many points as possible by the end of the journey, some things are going to be worth more points than others so you need to make some relatively straight-forward choices:

“Do I continue to work on my panorama and grab the 3-point panorama card or take a random hotspring card worth 2 or 3 points?”

It gets tremendously more difficult when you are choosing between the hot springs or going to the shop, because you need to put a value of coins. The most important consideration in consistently scoring high in Tokaido is how to maximize the points you earn from spending coins.

In order to do that we need to figure out how many points a single coin is worth. We will start by analyzing the min and max return per coin at every stop. Through that analysis we will gain a much better understanding of the strategy in Tokaido


Food considerations are straightforward. Everyone will go to the same number of inns, and have the same opportunities to convert coins into points. There is no better place to begin our evaluation of coin value.

Players want to spend the least on food at every inn unless they have a very good reason not to. By my count, there are exactly three good reasons not to:

  • setting up to screw over another player
  • pulling a move with the devotion amulet and which requires a larger donation
  • you are 100% sure you will win the gourmet accomplishment with this meal

Keep in mind that there are

  • 9 total 1-cost meals. Three each: Dango, Nigirimeshi and Misoshiru.
  • 10 total 2-cost meals. Two each: Yakitori, Soba, Tempura, Tofu and Sushi
  • 6 total 3-cost meals all of which are unique.

Food coin values:

  • 1 coin food = 6pts/coin
  • 2 coin food = 3pts/coin
  • 3 coin food = 2pts/coin

Going for the luxury food nets such a small return that it might be a good idea to intentionally skip that meal, especially if it’s early in the trek, and look for better opportunities later.

It should go without saying that when selecting your meal you should observe what other players have already eaten. Since a player cannot eat the same meal twice, there are often opportunities to keep another player from eating at all, or spending more than they wanted. Don’t miss these opportunities to put the pressure on.



You get points on souvenirs based on how far along you go in completing a full set. Each progressive item is worth more than the last by 2 pts like this: 1, 3, 5 and 7. A full set is worth 16 pts. If we break this progression down per item we get the following distributions of points.

  • 4pts per standard item (set of 4)
  • 3pts per standard item (set of 3)
  • 2pts per standard item (set of 2)
  • 1pts per standard item (set of 1)

Getting a full set of items returns the best value per item, and even more so if you can get a full set in the fewest stops. On top of this, the food and the artifact item classes have varying prices, so you should consider your situation before paying a premium!

The fans always cost 1, the food cost 1 or 2, the shirt always costs 2 and the artifacts cost 2 or 3. To complete a full set you will be spending 6, 7 or 8 coins depending on your draws.

  • 2.66pts/coin for 6
  • 2.28pts/coin for 7
  • 2.00pts/coin for 8

Try to catch the deals early in the journey, only buying the high end items toward the end if you still have spare coins. If you have the choice to buy a fan, or a 1-coin sushi buy the sushi because you are getting a deal this time, you can always get a fan later for the same price.

Some probabilities just for fun. When you pull 3 random souvenir cards there is a 42.68% chance that they will all be from a unique category. A 3.9% chance they will all come from the same category. A little over half the time, 53.42%, you will get two from the same category.

Legendary souvenirs

The sword items are very straightforward: 8 points for 3 coins or a value of 2.66pts/coin. Interestingly, if you end up buying both swords you are getting 16 points for 6 coins which is the best result possible when getting a full set of souvenirs.

The argument can be made that getting swords is actually the best use of you coins at the shop since you’re essentially guarantee yourself a full set in only 2 stops instead of a possible 3 or 4 if you get unlucky. With swords there is no luck.

Emaki and Shodo are the 1-cost items. These items are worth 1 point for each other item you have. If you are playing a village-heavy game strategy these can be worth 5-6 coins, which is obviously insane value. Try to get them early if you are going to lean on shopping to get a large chunk of points. Great for rich characters.

Ema and Buppatsu, the 2-cost items items, extend the potential of your souvenir set to 5 items, making the 5th set category worth 9 points. Note, this item does not need to be the 5th, it will always count as a new set addition no matter when you acquire it. If we incorporate this 5th set item to the value of souvenirs, it makes them worth 5 points per item, the whole set being 25 points. This item always costs 2 so if you plan on getting the entire set you will be spending 8, 9 or 10 coins to score 25 points.

  • 3.12pts/coin for 8
  • 2.77pts/coin for 9
  • 2.50pts/coin for 10

Without counting legendary souvenirs, the best value per coin at the village is 2.66 points. If you include the legendaries and extend your set to 5, you can top out at 3.12 points per coin. The 1-coin legendaries are exceptions in that they can be worth any amount of points, reasonably they top out at 5-6 points unless you are having an outlier game.

Hot Springs

The hot springs looks like a no brainer. Either you take a freebie or you pay 1 coin for 4 points. Seems great, 4pts/coin is a good value! The problem with the bath house is you can already get 2-3 pts for no coins by just drawing a random hot springs card. So actually the coin is only earning you +1.5 points which actually makes it pretty questionable unless you are running out of time to score.

A good time to get bathhouse is if you use the health amulet to visit the hot springs and also the bath house. I call this the “double dip.” With this tactic you are spending 2 coins (the amulet cost, and bathhouse cost) to gain ~6.5 pts or 3.25pts/coin.


I have played over a hundred games of Tokaido, which isn’t a huge sample size, but it’s big enough to say that putting 3 coins into the temple pretty much locks you up for at least 2nd place and often 1st. You get full points on ties, so in order to knock you out of your position someone would need to drop in 4 coins, which requires a crucial second visit (outside of being the character Hirotada or drawing a Miko encounter). You also get a point for each coin you donate.

Points per coin after 3-coin donation:

  • 4.33pts/coin for 1st
  • 3.33pts/coin for 2nd
  • 2.33pts/coin for 3rd

The temple is excellent value in almost all cases. In a few fringe situations one or more players might not be able to access the temple in a game. If that happens you might have a good chance to win 2nd place with only a single coin! Even if you don’t win 2nd place, just a single coin should get you at least 4th for 2points, taking into account the point for the donation itself, even 4th place is 3pts/coin.

The downside of the temple is you really need to be efficient with it by putting in all your donations at once. Putting in 3 coins once is much better than putting in 1 coin over 3 stops. Not every character can easily afford to drop 3 coins in right away. If cannot afford the full 3, getting an amulet with the hope of making a big temple donation later might make the most sense.


Panorama stops are free, free points and sometimes a free coin. But which choice is better?

The value of panoramas are as follows:

  • Green: 1+2+3 = 6pts
  • Grey: 1+2+3+4 = 10pts
  • Blue: 1+2+3+4+5 = 15pts

Those are respectively 2, 2.5 and 3 points per card if you complete the whole thing. If you finish first, and get the accomplishment, you get a slight bonus up to: 3, 3.25 and 3.6 points per stop.

But what if you always took cherry blossoms instead?

  • 3 cherry blossoms = 6pts and 3 coins
  • 4 cherry blossoms = 8pts and 4 coins
  • 5 cherry blossoms = 10pts and 5 coins

This is theorycrafting because it’s very difficult to get more than 3 cherry blossoms, but if you convert those coins to a meager 2pts each then you will outpace even the maximum panorama value. My recommendation on panorama stops is always take a cherry blossom if one is available, with very few exceptions.


The coveted farmhouse is the primary way to get money in Tokaido, but do you take the easy income or risk it all for the big payday? Well the math says you take the sure thing. Taking the gamble has an average payout of 2.33 coins which is less than just taking 3.

I have implemented a house rule: “Whenever your character gambles at a farmhouse, gain 2 points.” It makes gambling a little more enticing and makes thematic sense. Gambling is fun! Flavor win.

In a game of calculated moves the last thing you should be doing is taking lots of chances. On the other hand if you are behind and need to swing for the fences, gambling is one of the few ways to luck yourself back into a game. But 19/20 times you should take the 3.

Bonus: Encounters

Encounters don’t cost any coins, but in the spirit of thoroughness I think it’s worth putting an average point value on these as well. After all, we need to know if it’s worth spending a coin on a calligraphy card instead of taking a standard encounter. First let’s look at the breakdown and then move on to evaluation:

  • Kuge x2: Gain 3 coins
  • Miko x2: Donates 1 to the temple on your behalf
  • Samuari x2: Score 3 points
  • Shokunin x2: Gain a random souvenir
  • Anniabito x6: Gain a panorama card

We have 14 encounter cards, and 6 of them are Anniabito (Actually it’s 2/2/2 for each respective color of panorama) which means you will gain a panorama card a little under half the time. Let’s try to assign each pull a point value.

Kuge = 9pts

This is getting into spoiler territory, but the conclusions of this analysis is that a coin is worth slightly more than 3 points. Kuge gives you 3 coins which you should hopefully be able to convert into at least 9 points by making good decisions.

Miko = 4pts

The donation itself is worth 1 point off the bat, so there is that. The next part is a little dependent on player count since having any coins in the temple at all guarantees you whatever last place is at the temple. So in a 3 player game this 1-coin donation is worth 4 points for third place. In a 4 player game this is worth 2 points. On the flip side, this donation is 1/3 of your way to getting first place much of the time, which makes it worth 3.33 point. The math gets a little fuzzy but 4 points feels fair.

Shokunin = 2.5pts

Gaining a random souvenir is the hardest encounter to evaluate. If you get a full set, each item in the set is worth 4 points. But when you get a random one, even if you are going for a set, you might just flop and get a duplicate worth only 1 point. Or if you are just not going the village route it just might not be that valuable. So I decided to split the difference and call it 2.5.

Anniabito = 2pts

Not counting first-completion bonuses, each card from a completed pano set is worth: 2pts for green, 2.5pts for grey and 3pts for blue. The majority of the time you won’t complete the panorama you get the card for, reducing it’s value a great deal. A pano card is always worth at least 1, often 2, rarely 3, and very rarely more than 3. I think 2 is fair. Note: if you have already completed a panorama and draw the Anniabito that gives you another card for that panorama, you may choose what color he gives you instead.

Samurai = 3pts

Of course Samurai needs no explanation, he is worth 3 points.

If we average all of that out, a random encounter card should be worth 3.5 points with a high amount of variance. Kuge is doing lots of work to pull up this average. You are getting 3 or less points on 10/14 cards with the final 4 acting as jackpots.

Sometimes it’s worth “going for” one specific encounter. For example:

  • You have 0 money and need to find Kuge or be forced to skip a meal
  • There are no more temples left and you need Miko for the donation
  • You need help completing a panorama

If this is the case make sure you look around the table and take note of what encounter still exist. There are only two of each.


Analyzing the possible outcomes of all of the stops gets us to a very important number, that number is how many points is a coin worth. You won’t always have the opportunity to get the best case because of the many times you are at the whim of luck, but here is a good starting point:

Best case

  • Village: 3.12pts/coin
  • Temple: 4.33pts/coin (assuming 3 coin donation)
  • Food: 6pts/coin

Med case

  • Village: 2.66pts/coin
  • Temple: 3.33pts/coin
  • Food: 3pts/coin

Based on these best and medium cases it looks pretty clear that a coin should be earning you over 3 points as a goal. Of course you can settle for less but this will be a good benchmark.

Now that this basic gameplay analysis is out of the way we can get into the thick of things. How to use Amulets and Calligraphy cards.


Amulets are purchased at the temple instead of making a donation. This is a bit tricky since putting in a temple donation is often one of the most important sources of points and giving that up for an Amulet is a tough choice. Amulets can also earn you substantial points so most of the time those choice is predicated on how much money you have and how early in the game it is. You generally want to make your temple donations later in the game to give your opponents less time to plan and react.

If you are lucky enough to end up at the first temple, my advice is to grab the Devotion amulet as it has the biggest possible return of anything else in the game.


The next time you would spend coins on a single purchase, donate those coins to the temple instead

Devotion is the most powerful amulet because if used optimally (to make a surprise 3-coin donation) in gives you the best return on your 1 coin. The most obvious target is one of the legendary swords.

I call this the “Sword of Devotion slingshot.” It gives you a 3 coin donation to the temple, as well as a powerful 8 point item, at a value of 2.75pts/coin, this pretty much locks you in for at least 2nd at the temple, sometimes first for a huge point gain!

  • 5.25pts/coin for 1st
  • 4.50pts/coin for 2nd

The second best target for devotion is food at the very last stop. One of the best elements of this amulet is how surprising it is. The last day only has one double temple and once everyone has passed it no more opportunities exist to donate coins (other than a Miko encounter).

A common play in our games is to buy Devotion on the first stop and hold it all game until the very last day. This way no one but that player will get to benefit from this powerful amulet.

If you hold the devotion amulet you have perfect information about what you need to donate to take first or seconds, and no one can do anything about it.


Treat any single-stop spot as a double spot. In a 2-3 player game, you can use friendship on ANY stop, since they are all considered single stops.

Friendship is a great amulet as it essentially guarantees that you cannot be blocked from getting to the spot you want. It’s especially useful for hitting the farmhouse or the village when other people are trying to keep you from it.

If you use friendship, you count as being further back than the person with whom you are sharing a spot. So you can often use it to get multiple moves at a time, keep your eyes open for opportunities like this:

In this example the blue player can use the friendship amulet and grab a stop at the farmhouse and then immediately get another turn on account of still being in last position.


Use both options at the next stop.

This can be a very powerful amulet for surprise steals of accomplishments. You can grab hot springs + bath house, encounter + calligraphy card or you can go on a shopping spree buying souvenirs and a legendary item. These moves not only have the potential to earn big points but also pull you into the lead of the end-game achievements by giving you 2x the cards.

As I mentioned before, using health on the hot springs (the double dip) is a great way to get value out of the otherwise weak bathhouse stop since you are actually getting it in addition to the normal stop. Using health at the farm as also a decent value for earning coins, great in combination with the Foresight calligraphy or a shop-centric strategy.

Be mindful, the health amulet loses value and flexibility as the game goes on. Once the cherry blossoms are all gone, panorma stops are no longer beneficial. Once all the good calligraphy cards are taken the encounter stop isn’t that lucrative.

Money is consideration with health as only the farmhouse and panorama stops are free. All the other stops are going to cost you at least 1 coin which might interfere with you getting to an inn feeling confident about your dinner options.


If in the lead position, take another turn.

It often seems like this amulet is actually costing you a stop because you are letting other people get so many more moves before you get to act again but I don’t think it does. I think instead this just ensures you get the stops you need.

Vitality can be used well in conjunction with the Patience calligraphy to do a quick double stop at the end of the journey and end up at the final village ready to go into the Inn last. It is also a great way to pick up multiple panorama cards in a row (although friendship can also usually be used for the same effect.)

Careful not to hold on to vitality too long because it’s only effective as long as you can be in the lead position. On the last day people often leap to the last shop and if someone takes that spot and you are holding vitality… You just earned yourself a paper weight.


Roll the fortune die and gain coins for the number shown.

This amulet, like gambling in general, is a bit of an oddity. Granted you don’t have a “sure thing” choice like you do at the farmhouse, but remember you are still gambling 1 coin. The expected value of this 1 coin bet is to earn 1.16 coins which isn’t a very great return. Of course luck is luck, you can get +2 or +3 coins which can hopefully be converted into plenty of points.

Generally there are two reasons to buy this amulet. One is the foresight calligraphy in which case maximizing coins is the gameplan. The second is you only have 1 coin left and you don’t want to miss your next meal. If you are in the second situation then you must consider this amulet if hospitality is not available.


Take your meal for free and an inn.

This amulet allows you to take one of the available meals for free when stopping at an Inn. It is like buying a 1 coin meal, but having the chance to use it to gain a 2 or 3 cost meal pushing you closer to the Gourmet bonus. The most common use of hospitality is to ensure you get to eat a meal when you are low on funds. It works great for that especially if you only have one coin. But if you have a few coins here are some additional things to consider:

What have you already eaten?

There are only 3 different 1-cost meals in the game, so if you have already eaten most of them, it gets less likely that you will be able to catch the last one. On the other hand if you have not eaten many 1-cost meals, then you might want to spend your coin on a different amulet since chances are decent you will catch a 1-cost meal anyway.

What order is everyone hitting the next inn? T

he more players get to eat before you the less likely you are to get a cheap meal making this amulet more enticing. If you will end up selecting your meal first you can probably get a 1-cost meal, so perhaps your value lies in another amulet or stop.

Village stops frequently appear as the last or second to last stops before inns. If you are playing a village-centric strategy and focusing on hitting these stops you will end up being one of the last to enter the inns. Hospitality shines in this situation.

Hospitality is flexible and useful to both the poor and the rich. The former get insurance that they wont starve at the next inn, the latter get to spend their coins on memorable souvenirs or the luxurious bath houses. But Hospitality requires some thought to ensure that it returns enough value for you to be picking it over the other amulets on offer.


Calligraphy cards are very powerful and you should make it a priority to get one in every game you play. To put it into perspective, if we stick with our 3.5pts per coin it’s very easy to score at least 3 points from every calligraphy card with minimal effort, sometimes accidentally. Scoring 8+ off one of these isn’t at all uncommon. For your convenience I have ranked the calligraphy cards from worst to best (with plenty of exceptions).

6. Fasting

Gain 3pts for each uneaten meal

Fasting is very situational, you would probably never get it unless you need it and there are few situations in which you need it. Obviously if you have already missed a meal, this is a good way to recoup three points for 1 coin, which isn’t terrible value but also not exceptionally good. If you missed two meals then this one is worth 6 points which is excellent. So clearly one of the reasons to get it is if you missed one or more meals.

The other reason is if you also have Foresight calligraphy which grants you points for your remaining coins. In that case if you skip a 2-cost meal, you lose 6 points but will gain 4 points the coins you saved. A net loss of only 2 points. If you get fasting calligraphy you recoup that and gain a point.

Even with foresight and fasting, you should still buy 1-cost meals.

Beyond these two rare circumstances, this calligraphy card should never be purchased over any other.

5. Patience

6 points for being last into the final inn, 4 points for being 2nd to last, 2 points for all other positions.

This one takes a bit of setup. Certainly you can skip ahead to the last stop of the vacation and lock this in, but how many points are you giving up? On the standard trip, the last stop before the inn is a village and the 3 stops before that are all panoramas. Many players will be skipping ahead to complete panoramas and to grab that last village. It will take some thinking and some guessing to determine how many stops you can squeeze in before having to make the leap to secure your patience bonus.

If you are already playing a Village-heavy strategy and the final village stop is useful for you then you can probably afford to make a substantial leap. Having the nostalgia calligraphy and leaping to the last village to pick up another couple of items can be a game-making move.

On the other hand, going in 2nd-to-last and getting 4 points is still a great value for 1 coin so your chances of getting a good return on this calligraphy is pretty good. Most players tend to ignore this one as well so it can be a nice late-game grab. It’s always worth at least 2 points so you can take a gamble on it.

What keeps this calligraphy from being a priority pick is how low of a ceiling it has. You can only gain 6 points in the best possible scenario, and doing so involves you giving up some value to go to a village early. Often you wont have enough money to truly make use of the village and still afford to eat. And then there is the consideration that you will get blocked off and earn only 2pts. I recommend never first-picking this, but sometimes 2nd picking if no other cards look promising.

4. Foresight

Gain 2 pts for each coin at the end of the journey

My group used to think foresight was an absolutely game-warping calligraphy, the best one in the game, an auto-take! It is true that foresight has the highest ceiling for potential gain, I have seen this gain over 30 points to a score! However 2pts/coin is actually not very good value which means the “spam coins and drag them across the finish line” is not as good as spending the coins to earn more than 2pts/coin on each.

People often get blinded by foresight, it’s almost a trap. Your eyes get huge looking at all the opportunities to gain coins and save coins. Players find themselves not visiting villages because they think keeping those coins will serve them better. Now we know better.

Foresight shines when you have so many coins that you cannot reasonable spend them. It is a rare problem but it could happen since the Village is the only true “coin dump” in the game. If you are a rich character like Yoshiyasu or Hirotoda in a game with multiple characters competing for village stops you might find yourself with 8-10 coins and few opportunities to spend them down.

If you are a super rich character like the two listed and you feel like you can afford ignoring village stops, Foresight might be a good early pick… But if you are first picking with a rich character, you should probably be taking Nostalgia every time.

3. Perfection

2 points per accomplishment, 1 points per calligraphy card

This calligraphy is automatically worth at least 1 (one per calligraphy). All you need is to secure one accomplishment to bring this up to 3 points and get a good return. This calligraphy combos well with Nostalgia and Contemplation since most souvenirs and completed panoramas are both accomplishments which you would already be going after.

Some characters are favorites to win some accomplishments, for example Chubei or Kita are favorites to end up with chatterbox, Kinko, Nampo and Kidzuna are favorites to win gourmet etc… If you are playing one of these characters, this might actually be a great pick up early since you can likely squeeze 5+ points out of it. Village/Panorama people will also benefit, but they have other calligraphy cards you should get first.

If you grab this as your 2nd calligraphy, it’s already worth 2 points, making this an excellent 2nd pick up. But generally Contemplation or Nostalgia are going to be easier to score from as first picks.

2. Contemplation

1 point per cherry blossom, 3 points per completed panorama

It is important to note (because I had it wrong for a few games) that you earn the points for completing panorama, not just for completing it first. Completing a panorama leisurely is pretty easy if you focus on it, and with just a single one you earn a solid 3 points. Cherry blossoms are also common and profitable stops, so this calligraphy is a great compliment to nearly any character.

Getting 4 points off this calligraphy with 1 cherry blossom and 1 panorama should be pretty trivial. Getting 8 points is possible if you get this early and plan yours moves. This high range makes this a great first pick for poorer characters.

1. Nostalgia

1 point per souvenir, 2 points per legendary item

If you are already playing a village-oriented strategy this is a no-brainer, as it rewards you for your purchases. If you score a full set of items (which you are already trying to do) you will score 4 points off this which is awesome on its own. Picking up a legendary item takes it up to 6 points. You can see how quickly this ads up.

In games I have played it isn’t at all uncommon to score 8+ off this calligraphy through some encounters and characters abilities. Since souvenirs are already a very lucrative strategy, adding this gravy on top can put you in a massive lead.

I would say this is worth taking even if you aren’t planning on going for a village strategy just to block other characters from getting it. You can easily grab 3-5 points from this with a slight change in focus. Granted you need to actually spend some coins to get this card to pay off.

Good Luck!

I hope you learned something and the next time you play this seemingly simple game you find yourself really paying attention to your moves. This guide is as comprehensive as I can make it before getting into the weeds with specific character strategy. Your character choice will certainly play a huge role in how you evaluate the game state and some characters are played in a way that is contradictory to what is expected.

With this guide now you are empowered to make well thought-out choices no matter what character you find yourself piloting. Happy trails!

Special thanks to my good friend Eric Hart for helping me analyze the game and compile this guide. Additional special thanks to Mark Wilson from boardgamegeek who has done some pretty impressive analysis of his own. Reading his articles has inspired me to see this game with new eyes.

Continued reading: Tokaido Character Guide

Sushi Go 1v1 Variant – Grid Drafting

This is a well tested 1v1 drafting variant for Sushi Go (and Sushi Go Party) which creates meaningful interplay between the two players. I originally learned this method of drafting during my Magic the Gathering days though I am not sure where it originated.

Set Up:

Divide all of the Sushi Go cards into twelve piles of nine. This uses 108 cards, which is exactly every card in the game. Separate these piles into three sets of four. So you should have three groups of cards which all have four sets of nine cards. Each of these groups will be a single round of drafting, for a total of three rounds just like in standard rules.

Take the first pile of nine cards and deal them out into a 3×3 grid. This is the pool from which players will draft cards.

Sushi Go Party does not have exactly 81 cards so dealing out the same number of piles wont work. If you are playing with Party, simply shuffle all of your cards including only 5 of the desserts and make only 3 piles of 9. Then once you are done with that round, add another 5 desserts and deal out another 3 piles of 9. Repeat for the remaining two rounds.

How to Play:

During a players turn, a player will choose to take either a row or column of cards.

The next player gets to take another single row or column of the remaining cards. Sometimes this will mean that the second player will get only two cards instead of three, this is normal.

The remaining cards are discarded and a the next set of cards is dealt out into a 3×3 grid. Players alternate who picks first.


Scoring works the same as in base Sushi Go. Players record points every round and discard all cards from that round except desserts. Desserts are kept to the side and only scored at the end of the third round.

Item Specific Rules

Maki – In a 1v1 game Maki only score 6 points for most, and 0 points for second most.

Pudding – in 1v1 pudding only scores 6 points for most, but does not give negative points to the player with the least. (This 12 point swing is often much too strong for a 1v1 game.)

Wasabi – If wasabi is taken it cannot be combined with a nigiri until a future turn. For example if a player takes a row which includes both wasabi and a nigiri, they cannot be combined, the next nigiri drafted must be combined with the wasabi.

Chopsticks – Once chopsticks have been drafted, after a player has taken cards, that player may replace any remaining card in the pool with chopsticks. For example, Alex takes a row with chopsticks. Dan takes his turn, remaining cards are discarded and a new pool is dealt. Now Dan acts first and takes a row. Alex can now take a row, and replace any remaining card with chopsticks. Or Alex can just take a row and wait for the next deal.

Spoon – Spoon functions exactly like chopsticks.

Edamame – This doesn’t behave differently but I do not recommend it for 1v1 game because each card can be worth at most a single point making it an extremely weak pick almost all of the time. Not fun.

Miso soup – Because players do not simultaneously draw picks, Miso soup doesn’t functions correctly and is simply always worth 3 points with no interplay. I recommend not playing with it, but feel free. It’s basically like playing with more squid nigiri.

Bonus: Link to sleeves

Edit: I originally had the math wrong and stated that the original Sushi Go had 81 cards and instructed players to make nine piles of nine cards. I have corrected this. There are 108 cards and you should make twelve piles of nine cards, using four sets of cards per round.

The Secret is Out: Secrets Sucks


My mouth was watering for Secrets the second I heard about it. This is a joint effort from two well-known board game designers Eric Lang and Bruno Fiadutti. Eric Lang’s Blood Rage is one of my favorite games and I am all in on his new big thing: Rising Sun which looks even better. Bruno I know a little less, but I was immediately beguiled by Incan Gold for it’s fun and simplicity. Now I hear that these two got together to create a cold-war era bluffing social deduction party game with cool artwork? What could possible go wrong!

secrets board game spread out on table

How It’s Played

4-8 players all get a hidden role which is either CIA, KGB or hippie. CIA and KGB players are on teams and add up their scores at the end of the game with the highest scoring team winning. The hippie players (1 or 2 of them depending on number of players) are not a team, they are playing independently and win alone if one of them has the lowest single-player score at the table.

In addition to player’s roles there is another extra face down role in the middle of the table. All players get to look at their own role, and the role of the player to the right at the 5-7 player count. At 4, players only look at their own role and at 8 the middle role is also revealed.

There is also a deck of cards. This deck is comprised of 8 different characters like the Diplomat, Scientist, Assassin, Double Agent etc. Different cards have different abilities, such as: swapping the roles of two other players, peeking at any role on the table, swapping a player’s role with the role in the center, forcing a player to reveal their role to the table but not themselves and a few others. Each card is also worth points. Suffice to say a cards are either good or bad in varying degrees relative to the team you are on.

Game play consists of a player drawing two character cards off the deck revealing them to everyone, then presenting one of those cards face down to a player of their choice.

For example if you are CIA and you know the player to your right is CIA, you might offer that player a “good” character. On the other hand if you know the player on your right is KGB you might offer them a “bad” character. Of course the player on your right doesn’t know who you are, so they need to decide if they want to accept or reject the card you offer.

If they accept the card it is revealed and played in front of them, they must activate the card’s ability and then keep the card for it’s point value. If they reject the card, then you take it back, reveal it, activate the ability and keep the card for points.

There are a few other minor gameplay mechanics to consider as well. If a player ever has the same two characters in front of them, both of them are flipped upside down and are worth zero points instead of the printed value. Also the player who has the least cards gains the UN token granting them the ability to intercede and steal a proposed card.

The game ends when a single player has 4 or 5 cards in front of them (depending on player count). Once a player gets that last card, all players reveal their roles. First it is determined if the hippie has the least points, if not, both teams add up their total points and the highest scoring team wins.

What Alex Thinks

Though it’s hard for me to call this a bad game, I will say there is no place for this game. It doesn’t do anything better than other popular games that already do the same things.

  • It is a worse quick filler party game than Love Letter
  • It is a worse bluffing game than Coup
  • It is a worse social deduction game than Resistance
  • It takes longer to play than most of them

Being worse than other games isn’t even the worst of it, the worst part is that Secrets isn’t fun. The game offers no satisfaction, it isn’t fun to win, and it’s even less fun to lose. Allow me to illustrate the game’s shortcomings.

To be fair, I played this game only ten times with a mix of 4-7 players. I know that isn’t a huge sample size, but how many times should I be expected to force an inferior game on my friends?

“Why don’t we just play Resistance” they would ask. I had no good answer. After ten plays most players were already yawning at the idea of bringing the game out, so I had to shelf it.

Same Objective

One of the fundamental problems with the game is that both the CIA and KGB team have the same goal: score as many points as possible. During the game you will probably switch teams a few times, but you take your points with you so it actually doesn’t affect your strategy very much to have your team switched.

The hippie role exists to mitigate this a little but there is only 1 (or 2) hippie in the game, and because of all the random role-swapping that will eventually take place, you are never actually going to play for least points because the chances that you end up being the hippie are very slim. Even if you get the hippie, unless it’s near the end game, you should still try to gain as many points as you can for the mid and late game. Because of this, game play is pretty stale and samey.

What Are We Deducing?

Another symptom of the symmetrical player goals is how it waters down the deduction. You don’t need to know the roles of all players, you only need to know the role of a single team mate before you can start playing your gameplay (giving your ally all the good cards, and accepting good cards back). There is bluffing of course… But I am not sure what the point is.

Filler Game?

The game isn’t short. For a game that has about as much strategy as Love Letter, it still finds a way to last five times longer.

We tried to play this during lunch at work and we were lucky to get a single game in. While we regularly play 2 games of Resistance.

Especially in the late game when it’s kingmaker time, decisions can get pretty complex and analysis paralysis can strike. Maybe with enough plays it gets easier and faster but in my plays that it took a surprisingly long time.

No Fun!

The biggest problem with the game is also the most damning. Winning isn’t fun. The end-state of the game generally looks like this: all players are one or two cards from ending the game (totaling between 2-6 points). Both teams have pretty good knowledge of at least a single team mate and most everyone knows who the hippie is.

This means if some players get just one more card, the game is over and the outcome is obvious. At this point whoever is the dealer basically gets to choose who wins. Either by simply giving a high-scoring card to a team mate and ending the game, or by giving a team mate a role-shuffle effect to simply swap a high scoring enemy with a low scoring hippie (not too low!) ending the game. Either way, it’s uneventful and no one get’s the coveted bluffing moment of truth:

“Ugh I am not sure what to do… You could be lying but I trusted you all game… I am just going to take a chance and give you the scientist… NOOOOOO YOU ARE A COMMUNIST!”

More like this:

“Alright, this is a journalist for you, and I think I have less points than the hippie so pretty sure we win right? Ok good game.”

The hippie “wild card” is a complete joke because of the late-game role-shuffle. Even if you foolishly think you are going to be a wise guy and just reject every deal to stay at your pristine 0 points, you are just going to get swapped with a blue or red guy. There is NOTHING you can do about it. It is in the best interest of BOTH teams to swap the 0 point player with a player from the other team because not only does it remove the possibility of a hippie loss, but it also secures a team win. So… have fun being clever with the hippie.

Secrets doesn’t have a place. It takes longer then other light filler games like Love Letter, Coup or Skull. It has worse deduction elements then Resistance or Secret Hitler. It offers no epic plays or amazing throw-your-hands-up moments. But most importantly it isn’t fun.

Board Game Night Report September 8, 2017

Shane, Eric and I played something I am calling “The Kitchen Sink” Merchants & Marauders. I recently purchased the Seas of Glory expansion for this game and I am eager to try it out. It adds something like 12 modular upgrades and variants players can mix and match to add exactly the level of complexity they desire. Of course I want to add the maximum level of complexity so I can have the most premium pirate experience.

I may do a detailed review of this expansion at a later time but you give you a general idea of what this expansions adds:

Contraband cargo adds an interesting new twist for generating income through cargo for both merchant and pirate players by accepting a little risk. Delivering contraband to the port listed on the card pays 10 gold for a single cargo item. This is awesome for pirate ships which have small cargo holds anyway, but is also good for merchants because you can have multiple ports to travel to to still get paid. Every two cumulative contrabands delivered earns a glory point.

Weather (wind spinner) opens and closes opportunities for traveling around the map. If you travel with the wind you get a free movement action, and if you travel against the wind you must pay two movement actions. Sometimes windmight completely mess up your plans, but other times it will offer you a great path forward! It’s random, but feels thematic.

Favors can be used to mitigate luck by letting you re-roll dice or redraw cards at critical moments. This is great when you really need to get a good cargo pull, or to not waste an entire turn missing a scouting roll. You can have up to five favors at a time and you can buy them for two gold each as your final action at any port.

Crew morale forces you to keep your crew happy either through consistent glory gain, or monetary payments. Having a happy crew also offers a very easy way to actually get ship specialists! In the original game getting a specialist feels almost impossible. You need to get a glory card which offers you the opportunity to get one if you go to a specific place and succeed on a roll. You would be lucky to get one in a game. But with a happy crew, you can just get one for free at any port!

Of course there is also the typical more, more, more! More ships, weapons, mods, events, rumors, missions, glory cards! The biggest general change these make to the game is to lengthen it. Which might seem bad, but is actually good. One of the biggest complaints about this game is that it ends just as it’s ramping up. Once all the players get nice ships suddenly it feels like a game ends. Now with the crew morale mechanic your income is essentially “taxed” having to pay your crew a salary. I am only one game deep, but I think these are positive changes.

Anyway, let’s get to the game report. I got off to a good start because I picked up a sweet mission called Letter of the French Marque which turned me into a French privateer. This means whenever I performed a merchant raid on any non-French nation I received a bonus three gold. This made it easy for me to consistently earn 12+ gold from merchants raids and gain glory points which naturally kept my crew in good spirits.

Meanwhile Hart had a captain who let him buy ship mods for only one gold, and he made use of that decking out his sloop into a real gun boat. He also had some decent luck with merchant raids and delivering some contraband cargo.

Shane… Well Shane’s crew hated him so much they mutinied and killed him. So he had an early reset, at which point he got a very strong pirate captain with insane stats, but he chose the merchant ships. Maybe he knew something I didn’t but unfortunately with such a setback he was unable to make anything happen.

At a critical moment I found myself slightly wounded with 40 gold on my ship floating off the shore of Old Providence. Hart spotted me and seized the opportunity to attack me and steal my gold! It wasn’t a very epic battle as I was quickly overcome and crushed by his legendary pirate sloop. Lucky for me I had a the “Ship with a History” glory card which let me new captain start the game with the broken remains of my old ship. Despite the damage, that ship did have some mods and weapon upgrades still on it which gave me a bit of a boost.

I got back on track doing merchant raids and started earning more glory points and stockpiling more money. I decided to get myself a bigger ship. This turned out to be a pretty stupid idea because I think I could have just won the game by stashing my money… I guess I was blinded by revenge as I committed myself to getting a war ship to find Hart and sink his ass. I saw that he wanted to come home and stash gold so I camped his home town waiting for him. Unfortunately he isn’t totally stupid so he didn’t go home on his turn… Passing it back to me. Lucky for me I was only 3 glory points from winning and the wind was in my favor. I could take a free move action toward my home, do a quick merchant raid to earn 12+ gold for a glory point leading me with 20+ gold to stash and I would still have enough actions to get home and stash it. It was an epic final turn but I got it done to steal the game.

Resistance the Mission 1 Metagame Analysis

Game Intro

Skip to next section if you already know how to play.

Resistance is a social deduction game of imperfect information. Although the game can be played with 5-10 players, I am going to focus on the 5-player game in this essay. In a 5-player game there are two spies (red players) and three resistance members (blue players). The red team are aware of each others’ identities, while the blue team members have no information other than their own identity.

The game beings with a randomly assigned captain who must select two players to go on the first mission. All players vote to approve/reject the proposed team. If the majority of players approve, the mission’s player composition is accepted. If the majority of players reject, the captain marker moves clockwise and the mission marker is moved down the track. Until it gets to the 5th missions proposal.

In our game, we don’t even have a vote for the 5th mission, we simply let the captain pick his team and auto-approve it. There is 100% no reason for blue players to reject this mission and it only leaves the door open to game-ruining blunders, so we just skip the voting. We call the captain of this last mission “the hammer.”

If the 5th mission proposal is rejected, the red players win the the entire game. That essentially means the 5th proposed player composition must be approved.

The Optimal Mission 1 Meta

Before we even begin this analysis, I want to mention the caveat that resistance is a social deduction game and much of the game is about reading your opponents. Obviously every playgroup and dynamic is different and it is pretty fruitless to discuss tells, since they are unique. If you have a sick read on someone:

Danny always tweets a photo of his role card when he is a spy!

By all means use that information and disregard any of my advice. Reads and tells are a thing in the game, but I am assuming you are playing with poker-faced pros and you only have logic go on.

After playing over a hundred games of Resistance with many different playgroups (and consulting with many other player groups, as well as discussing this topic at length on BoardGameGeek) I have noticed the same metagame develop multiple times. Here is how the game ends up looking with advanced players:

The first captain selects himself and any other player. All players except the two on the mission vote reject. The captain marker passes, the captain chooses himself and another player. All players except the two on the mission vote reject.

This process repeats until it gets to the hammer, at which point whoever is captain chooses another player and that mission is automatically approved. The key takeaways are that this process is completely automatic, everyone always rejects each mission they are not on, and you can gain some minor information from who leaders select “randomly.”

However the more developed and automatic this meta gets, the less information there is to gain from who the captain chooses.

This meta tends to evolve on its own after a seed begins to lay roots in observant players’ minds. When they finally ask the question,

“Why would you approve a mission you are not on?”

Analyzing why people act the way they do is the core gameplay in Resistance, and asking people why they are acting a certain way is one of the only ways to gain information. So why do they approve a mission they aren’t on? They will say things like,

“I just had a good feeling”

“I just wanted to see what would happen”

“I wanted to keep the game moving.”

However, after multiple games something else becomes apparent…

The Rational Case

Who has an incentive to approve a mission they are not on? Red players. If a red player is on the proposed mission, the 2nd red player knows that and has a very strong incentive to approve and send this mission. Either so the red friend can fail it, or gain trust. Both good outcomes.

A blue player, on the other hand, has no incentive whatsoever to send a mission they are not on. Blue players have no information on the first mission other than the fact that they are blue. If a blue player ends up on a mission and that mission fails, then they get to be 100% sure the mission’s other participant was red. Until then, up-voting random missions can only hurt you.

Why does it hurt you? Because if good players sometimes approve missions for no good reason (or the above stated reasons) it gives red players an angle to do exactly that.

Imagine a world in which all blue players never approve missions and red players still do. Now each time anyone approves a mission everyone knows they are a red player! Sure, they are going to claim they are blue and they are just “trying to see what happens” but everyone knows it’s a lie because no blue player will ever approve. This is what blue players want, not to give the reds an opportunity to hide.

You might have heard, or even considered, the following counter-argument. Shouldn’t a player mix up his play when they are blue in order to increase their chances when they are red? The answer is no, you should always optimize your play to maximize blue victory. You are a blue player 60% of the time and a red player only 40% of the time. Hurting your chances (and all blue players chances) by playing sub-optimally 60% of the time to give your team an edge the other 40% is not a good idea if you care about your win rate.

Basically I am suggesting that for optimal rational play, the blue players should want the 5th leader to simply declare the mission. Let the hammer decide. Not sure why letting it go to the hammer is better than approving any random team? Well before we get into the numbers, remember if you approve you aren’t JUST sending a random team, you are making yourself look like a spy and damaging your reputation. That should be enough, but if you want numbers…

The Mathematical Case

If you are on a mission, and you are blue, that means the other person on the mission with you is going to be red 50% of the time. Other than you, there are two blue and two red players left, and from that pool of players you are on a mission with one of them. This is as good as it’s going to get for blue players on mission one, a 50% shot to get a clean mission.

On the other hand, if you are sitting out and two other players are going on the mission, there is going to be at least 1 red player on it 5/6 of the time! Think about all the possible combinations of 2 red and 2 blue:

That means if you are not on a mission as a blue player there is an 84% chance the mission is dirty and only a 16% chance that it is clean. You don’t want to approve that! You being on the team increases the likelihood of a clean team from 16% to 50%.

Always reject if you are on the sidelines! You need to be on the mission. (Of course just because a dirty team goes on the mission certainly doesn’t mean this mission will be a fail, but what happens beyond this vote is not in scope here. We are focusing on not sending dirty missions.)

Benefit of the Hammer

The inevitable conclusion of all this rejecting is going to the hammer. The logic here is pretty simple: you know who the hammer is going to be. If the hammer is you, well we know how that shakes out. You have a 50% chance to making a clean team.

If the hammer is not you… 50% of the time the hammer leader will be another blue player, and 50% of those times they will select a blue player (including you) giving this team a 25% chance to be clean. This is actually better than a team that is guaranteed not to have you on it, which is only a 16% chance to be clean. A completely random team is actually good for the blue players. To put it into simpler terms, a new team with the potential to have you on it is better than a team that doesn’t have you on it.

What Does it All Mean

The sad truth is that if everyone understands this, and everyone decides to play optimally, mission one is a pretty trivial and boring experience. Many people have said, “Shouldn’t we just fast forward to the hammer and go from there?” I can’t say that is a bad idea, as you will save yourselves a little time. We still haven’t started doing this yet in our games preferring instead to have a rather stale robotic experience just in case something weird happens.

I have heard the argument made that it is still worth it for good players to “mix it up” because they can fish reads from the red players. The thinking is, since the red players have an incentive to point out this player breaking convention to make the other players mistrust. Once the accusations start flying a talented player might be able to determine which players are spies.

The major problem with this is even if you are insane at reads, and you 100% identify one of the spies, you will likely never be able to convince the others. PARTICULARLY if mission one actually fails. You will certainly look like a red player. (Conversely, if you are a red player on a mission which is approved by an outside blue player… THROW THE FAIL. The blue team will probably never recover.)

Don’t get me wrong. This game is still a blast after the game starts rolling on mission two. Also many expansions break up this meta a little bit because they give players different incentives. For example in the commander/assassin or Avalon variation of the game one of the blue players, the Commander, knows who both the spies are. This blue player can up vote missions they are not on because they may know for sure that a mission is clean (probably not a good idea since this makes you very easy to assassinate but it’s something to think about). The reverser module is also interesting and has the potential to mix things up though I haven’t fully explored it yet. Also consider the plot thickens which adds some variety by giving the leader a variety of changing plot cards to hand out.

Coup Review, How To and Variants


I can’t say enough good things about this game. What I will say is anyone who doesn’t like this game either hasn’t played it enough, or is simply stupid. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but it’s true you are wrong about it.

If you are interested in how to play the game please watch my how to play video. If you are interested in some hard hitting variants, scroll below to read all about them. (I do also go over the variants in the video.)


Coup is a simple and compact deduction game with deviously deep lines of thinking. It really feels remarkable how much decision making goes into every action a player does, and how much information a player gives with each action. The problem is it often takes many game sessions to really get it.

From my experience players go through three phases of appreciation for the game.

  1. Amusement
  2. Apprehension
  3. Breakthrough

The first phase is people getting used to the game, generally fumbling around using the reference card and clumsily attempting to pretend they have duke after 2 players ahead of them take foreign aid which they “forgot” to block. They have a few laughs about how tense getting assassinated is and generally have a good time.

In the next phase people have a firm grasp on all of the roles and possibly even begin understanding which roles are more or less important or powerful at different stages of the game. This is also the phase where people begin thinking they have this game figured out, and the winner is mostly determined by luck. This is often when you will hear cries of frustration that sounds like “must be nice to ALWAYS have contessa…” or “Wow you start with duke every game.”

After an extensively long and intense session players will finally have a breakthrough. This is when the game truly opens up to them and they will realize that the cards in your hand almost do not matter. All that really matters is reading your players, not making blunders and extracting the maximum amount of information from everything available. This is the phase in the game where a player might knowingly let 2 people call foreign aid, and even call foreign aid themselves while holding a duke for a future tricky play.

With strong players who know the game well, you will never experience a more brutal psychological deathmatch.

Player Counts

This game runs best at 3-4 player. I personally feel it drags a little at 5-6 but it is still certainly playable.

The 1v1 variant presented in the manual is pretty poor and I am happy to present a superior and excellent 1v1 variant below. (I didn’t come up with it, I read about it on BoardGameGeek.)


The entire game consists of 15 cards (3 each of 5 characters) and 50 currency chips called ISK. The box also comes with some large reference cards which new players can have in front of them reminding them what all of the actions and counteractions are.


The cards are an awkward size. They are quite a bit bigger than your standard playings card and will require 65mm x 100mm cases to fit. I highly recommend you buy the cases too, because unlike many other games, if a single one of your cards gets noticeably damaged the entire game will be ruined.

As for the currency, they are a thick cardboard little hexagons with futuristic designs on them. When I play the game at home I use poker chips instead, but these tokens do the job.


After my hundreds of games, and input from many players both from my playgroup and from avid posters on Board Game Geek, I have determined that these two variants greatly enhance the game. I highly recommend you try them out.

Call the Coup Variant

After many dozens of games playing standard coup, someone on reddit tossed the “Call-the-Coup” variant my way. It is so simple I can’t believe it isn’t the default way to play.

When you perform a coup, instead of simply spending 7 coins and targetting a opponent, you need to correctly name one of the opponent’s cards. They must answer truthfully if they do not have it, otherwise they reveal the named card face up and lose it. If the player who performed the coup guesses poorly, they simply lose 7 coins and the game continues.

This improves the game in the following ways:

It disincentives honesty

The advantages of being honest are enormous, not only because you are 100% certain your action will succeed, but because if someone challenges you they lose! Because of luck/fate, it’s possible to always have the perfect cards and never have to lie which is overpowering in standard coup. It happens rarely, but it can happen during a key string of plays.

Of course I will admit being honest CAN be harmful, but this variant pushes player to lie to conceal their hand even when playing honest might be the best course of action. Which is good for gameplay.

It reduces textbook play

In the standard game of coup actually deciding who to coup isn’t much of a decision at all. You simply always coup the most powerful player, usually that is a richest player, or the player with the most cards. It’s obvious and non-interactive. With this variant you actually need to think. Sure you still WANT to coup the strongest player, but that player knows who he is and it keeping his hand a secret. Do you blind-guess? Or do you take a sure thing on a weaker player? Additionally, when you are the strongest player you actually have some defenses from getting torn apart by the table. (Keeping your hand concealed.)

It buffs Ambassador

The ambassador is arguably the weakest card. In the base game the ambassador is only used when your hand is poor, or sometimes late game to gain information. But generally, any action which doesn’t actively get you closer to killing another player is weak. With this variant, once a player reaches 7+ coins, players who have played their hands in an obvious ways have a good reason to mix it up as a coup defense. Which, in turn, gives them a great reason to bluff having an ambassador.


It allows you to coup defensively

It is easy to think this variant is a nerf on the coup action, now a coup can wiff. However, there is also subtle buff. You can neutralize a specific character. Take this hopeless situation: You have a single Captain in hand, your opponent (still 2 cards) just used the Assassin to clean up an opponent and you are confident the assassin is legitimate. You have enough money to coup, and your opponent has enough money to assassinate again. With standard rules this situation plays out in a very boring fashion, you coup your opponent, he flips the non-assassin. Then you are assassinated. Sure you can bluff contessa. But with this variant your coup is so much more powerful. You simply name the assassin and it must be discarded. Now it’s an even game and you actually get some gameplay.

My group and I are hundreds of hands deep into this variant and we are all convinced that it is far superior to the standard rules.

Coup Duel (1v1 Coup)

The standard rules, frankly, work like shit in a 1v1 game. It’s just both players playing chicken with duke until someone blind-calls and that is pretty much game. There is no meta game, and there is no deduction. Basically, it’s unplayable.

Thanks so much to Anarchosyn and Zakimos for helping me develop this variants which makes 1v1 play an absolute blast. Both players have 5 total loyalty, but still limited to holding 2 cards at a time. This means once a player loses his first loyalty, he places it face up as normal, but then draw another card. If he loses again, place the next card face up and draw another. Once he loses his third card, and draw back to a 2 card hand, he will not longer draw. His last 2 cards (his 4th and 5th) are the last he gets.

The longer you play / the less starting hands matter / until bluffs are called

It is possible to have both player down to a single card, which means a whopping 8 cards are already revealed face up. This really opens up the game to plenty of deduction and metagame plays. Usually when we play this way we play first to 5 wins, which takes about 45 minutes. By that time we feel like we are taking camping trips inside each other’s minds. It’s a blast.