My 2018 New Year's resolution was to get into board games. For February - month two - I looked at two-player games for those romantically inclined (ala valentines) and had a go at Tokiado, a game with a zen like quality.
February started with an attempt to find a portable card game to help initiate friends into the gaming world and find me some players. So I honed my detective skills (read some Poirot) and began searching. Of those I found, Tides of Madness, the sequel to Tides of Time, caught my eye but time and time again I kept seeing Lost Cities appear on lists and it was this that looked the most portable. Just like a regular set of cards.
Lost Cities - Two-Player - 30 minute playtime
Lost Cities is like a simple game of cards, but comes together greater than the sum of its parts with its concept, beautiful design, simple addictiveness and storytelling. The idea is that you're an adventurer who is about to mount profitable exhibitions to the Himalayas, rain forest, Aztec, volcanic lands or/and Atlantis.
With each adventure costing you 20 points before taking them, players must decide on which adventures to embark and bet on each adventure turning a profit, succeeding by accumulation of points after a decided number of rounds.
This is a grand game of simple scale that takes place over 10 minutes or half an hour (if following the rule of three rounds per game). Interaction between players is indirect, yet as you are sharing a draw pile you both influence the other's game. I fully recommend this gorgeous game to all.
- Lost cities comes with game board that whilst functional to use, can be remedied redundant for transportation purposes by using alternative representations for the coloured adventures (further coloured cards/coins) that take up less room.
- I was bowled over by its simplicity after getting my head around the scoring system. I found a site online that calculated the game scores (Lost Cities Calculator) that helped greatly to understanding its math at the beginning.
- The colours green and blue seem rather similar, so good lighting is needed whilst playing and it may not be suitable for those with colour blindness however this did not impact on how quick this game was to pick up and the replay value that it offers.
- There is a further sixth expedition, caverns, that is available online.
Raptor - Two-Player - 30 minute playtime
From Lost Cities to the lost world? (this is not a Jurassic park game but it certainly felt like it could be). Another two-player game, where a team of scientists are attempting to poach a mamma raptor's eggs and you either defend your young or play the scientists attempting to stop the raptors from escaping.
Raptor is fun, plays cinematically and one turn can make all the difference. This game has cards that influence the game board consisting of jungle and dessert arenas and plastic figurines for both Velociraptor and scientist sides. You challenge the other player by playing unseen cards and watch the decisions influence each other to usually amazing outcomes.
A scientist frantically lights fires to keep a mamma raptor at bay, or begins a Jeep pursuit through a burning jungle to snag a baby Velociraptor. The scientists have guns, fire and jeeps, the mamma raptor has fast movements, sneak attacks and scare tactics....she's a clever girl.
Raptor is a fun concept and has a strong theme, it felt perplexing at first and isn't as accessible as say King of New York, but it has got great game lay and much in the way of replay-ability. I really like art work that looks like a mash-up of cinema, comic and b-movie. There is an equal measure of strategy, opportunism and luck, and on the whole, the game feels balanced.
It may be slightly harder to play as the raptor but then that's not even a slight on the game as both sides are so fun to play that playing the slightly harder side is to prove your meat. In many ways, I felt this game was made for me - like a boyhood fantasy from watching Jurassic Park for the first time. Thank you.
- There are nuances within gameplay so it's worth revisiting the manual after a few plays as it's easy to overlook a few rules to start with, but it's worth getting stuck in because board gamers, like life, will find a way.
Tokaido - Two/Five Players - 45 minute playtime
Now for something a little Zen, something a little romantic, a game that exists in its own world, in a passage of slow time. Familiarise yourself with the East Sea Road, in Japan, called Tokaido. You and your companions take a journey along this magnificent road to absorb the culture, see sights, visit temples, meet locals and discover wonderful panoramas.
This game is a holiday of choice that, with your fellow companions (players), you walk and, and that's what you do, you walk and you see things and at the end of each day in the game you meet up for food with your fellow travellers and recount tales of your days adventures. The look of this game is so calming and cute, if it had cheeks I'd pinch it ( but I'm zen now so I won't do that). It's so gorgeous I recommend you put on some Japanese feudal sounds and relax, I did this, it was lovely, and it will add no end of loveliness to this lovingly crafted game.
Before and after this game it awakened me to the possibilities we have each day, possibilities to do things, there are far too many things to do in our lives and coming down to choice, this game acknowledges that the slower your pace in the game (and life?), the more you get to see. You are urged to play by the rules at your own pace, you may rush to a temple during play but you will miss out on a chance encounter with a stranger and it is this zen mastery where the game comes into its own.
Tokaido will not be for everyone, but it's a gorgeous work of art and style - a snowflake. Somehow, whilst this game has point accumulation and an overall winner, its competitiveness feels so secondary to the point of the game it's about companions and the shared experience of the journey.
A final thought on how this game leaves me is that whilst I may not play this game often, there will be times it reminds me of a quieter pace in life that needs less noise and explanation. It reminds me of that John Steinbeck quote: "People don't take (Tokaido) trips, (Tokaido) trips take people."