Tokaido Crossroads Guide for Expert Travelers

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Tokaido was one of the first board games I purchased when I started my transition from Magic the Gathering to tabletop gaming. 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 and some things are going to be worth more points than others. Determining if grabbing a 3pt panorama card or going to the hot springs is better is relatively straightforward. 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. (This guide assumes you are playing with the crossroads expansion).

Inn

Food considerations are straightforward. Which is exactly why it’s a great place to start. 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 it up to screw over another player
  • pulling a move with the devotion amulet and it requires a 3-coin donation
  • you are 100% sure you will get 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.

If you spend only 1 coin on food you are getting an amazing 6pts/coin return. Spending 2 coins gets you a 3pts/coin return. Going for the luxury food nets you only 2pts/coin and often times, especially early in the trek, it might be worth it to intentionally skip the meal because you can very likely find better opportunities to convert your coins later.

It should go without saying that when selecting your meal you do want to 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.

Village

Souvenirs

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, two of the standard item classes have varying prices, the sushi and the artifact, so you should consider your situation before paying a premium! The fans always cost 1, the sushi 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.

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 (unless of course another player steals them from you).

Emaki and Shodo are the 1-cost items. These items are worth 1 point for each other item you have. Clearly these items can easily be worth more than that, and sometimes double that with some investments. If you are playing a village-heavy game these are going to be great buys.

Ema and Buppatsu,the 2-cost items items, extend the potential of your souvenir set to 5 items, making the 5th 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 pretty 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 really the coin is only earning you +1.5 coins 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.” It still isn’t quite as good as it seems because you are actually spending 2 coins (cost of amulet & bathhouse) to gain ~6.5 pts or 3.25pts/coin but that is good value.

Temple

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.

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

It turns out the temple is excellent value. This value can get extreme in a few fringe situations like if only a single player has any coins in the temple, and there are very few temple stops left. Sometimes putting in a single coin will lock up 2nd place and give you 7 points. Even getting 4 points per coin is very good. This is not a spot you should neglect.

You can also buy amulets here, which are such a big consideration they are going to be addressed in a different section.

Panorama

Panorama stops don’t cost you any coins but can make you coins so it is still money related.

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 stop if you complete the whole thing. This is if you don’t finish first on any of them and earn the bonus accomplishment. If you finish first 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, yet 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.

Farmhouse

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. In a game of calculated moves the last thing you should want 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.

Conclusion

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

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 should be a tough choice. On the other hand, an amulet should yield more than 3 points and you can always catch another temple stop later in the journey when money starts losing value to put in your donation. 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.

Devotion

Devotion is the most powerful amulet in my opinion because it allows you to perform what I call the “sword of devotion slingshot.” You simply use the amulet before visiting one of the villages and buy a sword for 3 coins. This 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 add money (other than a Miko encounter). 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.

A common play in our games is to buy Devotion and hold it all game, then use it only after another player will not be able to access it. If you use it early, another player can pick it up and answer your donation with their own later in the game, so be very selfish with this card!

Friendship

This amulet lets you treat a single stop as a double stop (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.

Health

When using the health amulet a player can use both choices at a 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 make a massive swing purchase at the village if you can afford it. These moves not only have the potential to earn big points but also pull 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.

Keep in mind that the health amulet gets much less valuable later in the game when the cherry trees are gone, and it’s also very awkward if you are short on money. Panorama and farmhouse stops are actually the only ones which the Health amulet can be used without needing to bring a coin to the stop. All the other require at least 1 coin to access a feature. I have often held on to health too long and found myself going into day 4 with only 2 coins in my pocket…

Vitality

This amulet lets you act again from the first position. 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.

Fortune

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 on average. 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 have the foresight calligraphy card and you are trying to maximize your coins. 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.

Hospitality

This amulet allows you to take one of the available meals for free when stopping at an Inn. This amulet 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. Most players use this as a form of insurance to secure a meal if they 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:

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, and may only be offered repeat meals you cannot purchase. 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.

Thinking ahead and knowing if you are going to be early or late into the next inn is an important consideration. The 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.

(No matter which direction you take on the board the final stop before the last Inn is a shop space, and there is also another inn with a shop as the last space, as well as one inn that has a shop as the 2nd to last space. These are spaces where a player can spend a good portion of their coins, as well as leaving them in a position to eat last, or second to last. If you are interested in spending coins at these villages, Hospitality might be a good option.)

As you can see, there are some ways to make Hospitality work for you, either to ensure the poor that they don’t starve on their trip, or ensure the rich they can continue to spend their coin on memorable souvenirs, temple donations, gorgeous calligraphy, or their own private bath house. Many of the other amulets have more flexibility to react to the game as it progresses, 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

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 2-cost meal, you lose 6 points but will gain 4 points for your coins. A net loss of only 2. 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 being third to last.

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 has a higher value the less players you have in the game. In a 2-3 player game you are guaranteed points after all.

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 nothing. 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-breaking calligraphy, the best one in the game, and 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. They only think that because they haven’t realized the true power of coins.

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(possibly the Temple also). If you are a rich character like Yoshiyasu or Hirotoda in a game with multiple Village-centric characters competing for items 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, Setsuki 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 very possible if you get this early and plan yours moves. This excellent 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 which is excellent. 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.

Tokaido Haiku

Quoridor

Eclipse

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.

Winning:

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.