I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I tend to do a lot of traveling. Between visiting National Parks and local ‘adventuring,’ we have been on roads of all shapes, sizes, and conditions. From the insanely fast Autobahn in Germany to the back-country gravel roads in Alaska, there are few roads we haven’t touched. Yet I’m still holding out to drive through Denmark’s underwater bridge. Although, if it goes underwater, is it really a bridge anymore?
The four-player game Tokyo Highway, published by itten and designed by Naotaka Shimamoto and Yoshiaki Tomioka, features a roadway unlike any you’ve ever seen before. And, quite frankly, it’s one that I definitely wouldn’t want to travel on in real life: winding roads with steep drop-offs are not my forte.
Luckily, Tokyo Highway is just a game!
Tokyo Highway: Road warriors!
The objective of Tokyo Highway is to place all of your bright little cars onto the highway before your opponents. Each turn you will construct an addition to your personal highway in the playing area. If you build the highway above or underneath another player’s highway, you get to place your car on the new road.
When it comes down to brass tacks, that’s the gist of the game. Granted, brass tacks on the road would cause immeasurable flat tires, so let’s try to keep tabs on those, eh?
It doesn’t take long for the winding mass of highways to become a tangled mess. Everybody is vying for prime real estate, hoping to set up an amazing turn of placing two cars simultaneously. At the same time, you’re trying to prevent the other players from doing the exact same thing.
Since you score points by building above and below your opponent’s roads, the mechanics of the game discourage players from just building their highway off in the middle of nowhere. This keeps the game compact and cutthroat.
Players also get special yellow columns called junctions. A junction allows a player to split their highway off in two directions, which further opens up the options for that player’s turn. Junctions can also be built at any height, creating drastic changes to the game-state each time they are played.
There are other placement rules that you’ll want to brush up on before you start playing, but the rulebook is more of a glorified pamphlet. You’ll be able to peruse through the two pages of rules and corner-cases very quickly.
And then? It’s off to the races!
Tokyo Highway: Highway to Fell
As with most dexterity-based games, Tokyo Highway can be nerve-wracking. With all of the roadways balancing precariously atop unstable columns, the threat of an infrastructure collapse is inevitable.
Rules for toppling another player’s pieces are baked directly into the rules, but ofttimes the game-state will get destroyed beyond repair. This threat becomes even more intense when playing with the full four-player complement.
In a way, this game shares a similarity with Jenga, in that knocking over the pieces will usually just end the game on the spot, creating a single loser as opposed to a winner. Players must keep their wits about them to avoid being the one to end the fun.
Small tweezers are included in the box to allow players to gingerly access tight quarters. Personally, I’m worse off using them over my fingers, but it’s definitely nice to have the option.
Every game that I’ve played so far has ended in the aforementioned tragedy. It’s heartbreaking and sad to see an intricate network of highways suddenly be reduced to a pile of wooden components. As long as you’re not the one doing the toppling, however, it can be a huge relief.
Tokyo Highway: Precise Handling Required
You don’t have to be a civil engineer to appreciate the intricacies of constructing highways on your dining room table. And I’m sure that some engineers might cringe at the structural codes that are DEFINITELY not being followed as the game progresses.
Just like other dexterity games, Tokyo Highway blends anticipation, patience, and precision to deliver an experience that is enjoyable for a wide range of ages.
Yes, you will probably get frustrated and your heart might start pounding in your chest as you try to thread the proverbial needle with your tweezers. I would not qualify this game ‘stress-relieving’ by any stretch of the imagination.
However, there is definite fun to be had as you build your winding highway in a restricting environment. And best of all, you don’t even have to deal with traffic jams, lane closures, or detours.
Just road construction.
Disclosure: Asmodee provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Tokyo Highway in exchange for an honest review.