Tokyo Highway is a 2-player dexterity game which becomes a surprisingly interesting puzzle that you and your opponent introduce to one another each turn. This game from Japanese designer, Sashi & Sashi, has been a somewhat of a cult hit in the boardgaming community since it’s release since its original release in 2016 – primary due to the small production and low availability outside Japan.
This game uses very simple wooden components in the form of columns, roads (popcicle sticks), and tiny cars. Your goal is simple where you just want to “run”, or place, all 10 of your cars on the highway you are carefully constructing. Each turn, you are required to extend your own highway by connecting it to your own previously built segment using a personal stash of wooden columns to raise or lower the road. Your goal is to build on top of or under an opponent’s road as it would be the main way to “run” one of your cars. Be careful though! You will need to replace any pieces you knock over before proceeding, and you would need to pay columns to your opponent for any of their pieces you knock over. There are 3 special columns (called “junctions”) at your disposal as you build that allow for a quick raise or lowering of your road or allowing you to split off into an unsuspecting direction. Resources in this game are limited so trying to build resourcefully may push you to try and thread your road through narrow openings for that perfect highway.
At first glance, this game has barely any theme as the components only come in 4 colors with a majority of grey pieces. However, as you progress in the game, you will inevitably see a precarious position for that road of yours. You will want to throw on a construction hat and stop everything around you as any distraction would cause your opponent’s road (or your masterpiece) to collapse. This game by no means has an interesting story to set up your actions, but it does emulate a feeling of constructing the roads which build up a city skyline.
Similar to theme, this game is lacking in the art department. No fancy oil paints or characters are present. You can compare this game to an abstract piece of art upon completion as it becomes a criss cross of grey with splotches of color here and there. I must mention that however, upon a completed game, you have this urge to just let the game sit on the table for you to enjoy for a few more moments of the beautiful structure you and your opponent have built.
The process in which your turn proceeds is interesting. Being limited to build one segment per turn is simple, and the building rules provides a few guidelines to encourage creative thought. Being able to utilize those yellow columns provide another option to ensure you won’t be in any major dilemma. In every game, the most difficult part is knowing how you can “run” a car.
The fact that this game has no game board and is only limited to the size of your playing surface, the possibilities of your resulting highway are endless. This game by no means is limitless however as you are restricted by your personal stash of materials. You can explore different strategies through multiple gameplays, and for the size of the box, it provides a good amount of gameplay.
Ease of Learning:
The game is language independent and in the box it comes with 3 different languages of rule books and are intuitive. Learning the game is not hard at all and the only thing that causes the most confusion are the rules for running a car. This game is easy to approach with the minimal pieces it won’t scare a casual gamer away. It may even bring attention to those who aren’t familiar with the board gaming hobby as it has such a unique table presence over the course of a game.
Tokyo Highway is definitely one of the more interesting games that have been released in recent history. There has not been many other games released in this small of a package that can provide a similar experience.
Being a game that has to be imported into the North American market also brings the game a certain noterarity since it is still quite difficult to find. This game is definitely something a board game collector would want and one that any gamer should at least check out.
I’m sure that Tokyo Highway will be a conversation starter no matter the situation. Whether you look at the mechanics of the game, table presence, or even the buzz around this game, there is no other.