Feeling Zen? Fancy a walk through a peaceful Japanese garden? If so, we had better make a path! The One Hundred Torii is a light, strategic tile laying game from Pencil First Games where the journey is more than the destination.
In The One Hundred Torii we are trying to pass through as many gates (Torii) as we can as we wander past monuments and other garden dwellers back to Zen central! Starting at the central square tile, your turn consists of several stages: firstly you can spend tokens (or coins if you have them) to activate a character and use their special ability, then you place a tile from your hand next to an adjacent tile (first turn will be adjacent to the starting square). Once you have started to form a path, you trace the shortest path between matching features that heads back to the central square.
Passing through red Torii gates gives you an additional token of that feature and going through blue Torii gates gives you an additional token of any other feature. Once you have certain amounts of tokens (multiples of 5), you can exchange them for scoring markers which will be counted up at the end of the game. You will also get point rewards for using Characters, and there are common scoring objectives in play and whoever gets there first will receive the highest points. The player with the most points when the path tiles run out is the winner!
This is a beautifully illustrated game with art by Vincent Dutrait and it definitely achieves its objective of being a calm, thinky, tile placement game. Making paths and trying to get through as many Torii as possible sounds like a race but it really isn’t. It’s definitely more about strategy than speed.
The Characters are really interesting. Most assist in placement or manipulating the tile drafting, but it’s the rewards that are most surprising. Initially you get a double bonus – their power and points for seeking their help. But then, if you use them too many times, their value diminishes, so a balance has to be struck. I like the Geisha who lets you lay both of your tiles in one turn (although you only score the second) and the Gardener who lets you place a tile on top of another. Knowing when to cash in tokens for points is another interesting decision – you could go for a smaller achievement but miss out on a bigger one just around the path’s corner. But it could bring you closer to a public goal which will be worth points if you can get it!
I really struggle with spatial games, and I found trying to visualise the shortest path that simultaneously went through the maximum number of gates a challenge. But the challenge was in a good way, and the more tiles I laid down the more familiar I got with the flow of assessing the game space before deciding where to extend a path. And the game space itself is dynamic because each tile changes the potential each path provides. Several times my husband placed a tile and took a path in a direction that didn’t help me. But, because each tile has 4 sections of path on it, I was able to make use of his move in another way. The little icons showing which landmarks are along each diverging path are quite small, but after a few turns, we got use to spotting them.
Randomly drawing tiles gives the game a lot of replayability too as each time you build the garden it is going to be different. Plus the various combinations of Characters you employ in a game is going to help shape your strategy in a unique way each time.
The slight only issue we have with the game was the set up. There are lots and lots of scoring tiles and tokens to lay out before you can get cracking on your paths. They’re beautiful to look at (thanks Vincent!), but getting them all out takes time. And with a game like this, we just want to dive right in! There is a helpful guide included to get everything neatly squirrelled away in the box at end game, but we would love to know a shortcut to getting everything back out! This is just a personal niggle though as I am conscious that many gamers love the process of setting out a game ready to play.
Overall, however, the One Hundred Torii is a lovely tile placement game that we enjoy playing when it’s on our table. The components are gorgeous and it definitely feels like an achievement every time we snag one of those big, beautiful point tokens.