Tokyo Highway is a dexterity game that has been on my “must play” list for a while. Not only do I like the minimalist style of the game, but the components take me back to my childhood. It evokes nostalgia of when I used game components to make a city for my Matchbox cars. Tokyo Highway was recently released in America with support for up to 4 player, so let’s take a look at the game.
Everyone starts the game with roads (long wooden popsicle sticks), regular pillars (gray cylinders), two junction pillars (yellow cylinders) and wooden cars in their color. The goal of the game is to be the first one to place all your cars on the increasingly chaotic Tokyo Highway. The first player to place all their cars wins.
Plan and Plan Some More
On your turn you will place some pillars on the table and balance one of the road pieces from one end of your highway to the new pillars you’ve laid. There are a couple placement rules that you have to abide by, but it’s nothing difficult. Pillars always have to go up or go down in height as you lay the new road. This is where Tokyo Highway starts to be a resource management game. You don’t want to run out of pillar tokens before your opponents because that will mean you are out of the game.
As the game goes on, the different highways will begin passing over and under one another. If a player is able to go over or under another players highway, they get to place one of their cars on the road they just built. Each turn is another chance to lay new roads or work toward a bigger goal. If a player crosses under or over 2 roads of an opponent, they get to place 2 cars on the new road.
Tokyo Highway is interesting because it challenges you to score but also keep your opponents from scoring off the roads you’ve placed. Every little inch matters as you place your pillars and highways. Players can angle their pieces in a way that keeps others from crossing over or under their roads.
If you’re an expert builder, try using a junction pillar to make a branching road or increase the height of your highway drastically. Just make sure your road isn’t so steep that your car slides off.
Steady Hands (and Tables)
Like most dexterity games, you need to control the building of your highway without knocking other pieces around or fumbling the components. Tokyo Highway requires concentration and precision. So much so that the game comes with a pair of tweezers to make it easier to place and retrieve those miniature cars.
If you knock over another players road or column pieces, you have to give them that number of components from your supply. This means you will have less to work with and potentially end your game sooner than everyone else. This penalty can be brutal, especially near the end of the game.
Tokyo Highway isn’t a game that can be played anywhere. You need lots of space and a sturdy table to build on. A bump of the table could result in disaster and possibly make the end of the game unplayable if the pieces can’t be set back in place. While the game could definitely support kids and adults, I feel like it’s a better fit for kids 10 and older.
I’ve heard some criticism of the games cost compared to the components that are in the box. To be transparent, I was able to get the game 50% off of its $49 MSRP. After playing the game I was more than happy with the money I spent on the game. I think this is something that people have to take into account when deciding if Tokyo Highway is worth the purchase. At the end of the day, purchasing a game is more than just the components in the box. It’s the months and sometimes years of development that went into that product.
Tokyo Highway is a dexterity game that feels like a puzzle as you play. After each game, I love stepping back to see the artistic piece that has developed over the 30 minutes of gameplay. I’m really glad we’ve added this game to our family game shelf. I can see this being a family favorite and making an appearance at family gatherings around the holidays.