Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 3 January 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tokyo Highway

Game: Tokyo Highway

Publisher: itten

Designer:  Naotaka Shimamoto, Yoshiaki Tomioka

Year: 2018

Tokyo Highway was originally published in 2016 and was brought to Europe in small quantities by Japanese publisher, itten. Tokyo Highway really put itten on the map as a publisher. Those lucky enough to get copies at Essen, or through importers like Nice Game Shop discovered a really eye-catching 2-player dexterity game.

Just days after I sent my wonderful friend Ellie to live in Japan for a year so that she could get hold of a copy for me, Asmodee announced that they would be giving a wider release to a new 2-4 player edition. I apologised to my friend, tasked her with finding Let's Make a Bus Route, and got very excited to try Tokyo Highway.

Tokyo Highway is a dexterity game for 2-4 players with a very puzzly feel. Each player is given the same number of coloured cars, 'lollipop stick' roads and cylinders to build columns that support roads. On your turn you extend your road by placing a column one taller or one smaller than your previous column and placing a road to join the two columns. If your road is the only road crossing over an opponent's road, you can place a car from your supply. If your road is the only road crossing under an opponent's road, you can do the same. It's possible to place more than one car in a turn and the aim of the game is to be the first to get rid of all your cards.

The yellow columns can be built without any height restrictions and provide a location for a branching junction.

Tokyo Highway is a puzzle first and a dexterity game second. There's a real skill in identifying the ways in which you can most effectively 'score'. It's also very important to plan ahead - if you can find a way to sneak up behind your opponent, then it can definitely feel like you're running ring (roads) around them. The dexterity element is kind of threat in the back of your mind throughout the game. If you knock over something belonging to an opponent, then you have to rebuild, but also sacrifice components from your own supply equal to the number of things you knock over. One of the end game conditions is that you're eliminated and can't win if you run out of pieces, so it's important not to be throwing them all away!

In terms of dexterity, it's worth noting that Tokyo Highway is not for everyone. It's a very fiddly dexterity game, with small components. Larger adult hands may have some challenges and the tweezers provided in the box are definitely needed at times. People with shaky hands (or in my Mum's case, false finger nails!) are likely going to want to avoid this game.

Although the new edition now supports 3 and 4 players, we've still been primarily playing at the original player count of two. The two player game is pretty competitive and for us, this has resulted in some frustration at the table. A single bad move early on can mean that your opponent has the upper hand throughout the game. We've also found that being the first player can feel like a slight disadvantage as your opponent can always follow your moves and chase you. Once you're being chased down it can feel like there's not real way out. There are some clever ways that you can use the yellow junction columns to try and get out of a tight spot, but ultimately, with every road being the same length, it's hard to react quickly.

A four-player game with significant obstacles!

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Tokyo Highway is innovative, but it is different. It's a more zen-like dexterity game than most. It's quite thinky and slow paced, unlike many dexterity games which have the group up around the table cheering and shouting. It's really helped by it's minimal aesthetic and simple colour scheme which results in something that you could easily leave on your table as a piece of sculpture. (Although knocking it all down by flicking cars at it is also pretty tempting at the end of the game!)

Although on some occasions, Tokyo Highway has felt a little frustrating, it has been balanced out by some great games, with some really memorable moments. I don't think it's a game we'll frequently play with just the two of us, but it's a game that I'm really excited to put on our shelf. I think it will become a bit of a statement piece that we bring out when we want to impress visitors with some interesting games from the collection. For the Yellow Meeple, Tokyo Highway is a 7/10.

Tokyo Highway was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £34.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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