Header AD

The One Hundred Torii Review


Quick Look: The One Hundred Torii

Designer: Eduardo Baraf, Scott Caputo
Artists: Vincent Dutrait
Publisher: Pencil First Games, LLC
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

The One Hundred Torii game by Pencil First Game board game review; Box and components; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

Review:
I don’t know where to begin with this, so I’ll just say what I’m thinking: I want to play The One Hundred Torii again! And again and again and again! Not only is the art striking (it’s so nice!), but the gameplay is satisfying, with both easy-to-learn rules and some deep thought while playing. There’s your tl;dr.

When describing The One Hundred Torii to others, I always compare it as a cross between Tokaido and Carcassonne. Tokaido, because you’re trying to enjoy your journey, and Carcassonne because you’re laying tiles and building routes. There are also characters that players can hire to give them perks or advantages. I’ll explain this further down when we discuss the finer details of things, but the combination of mechanics is like having a tall glass of eggnog—delicious, smooth, and somewhat fattening.

Really though. I was super impressed with The One Hundred Torii from the time it came to my doorstep until now. The first thing that really caught my attention were the punch boards—when I was about to toss them. They came with full art, even on the wider spots that would normally be blank. I almost didn’t throw them out because they looked so good. Almost. It’s that attention to detail that clues me in to a game that has been developed with care and passion.

The One Hundred Torii game by Pencil First Game Punchboards; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020
The Punchboards. I took this picture countless times because I thought my fingers kept getting in the shot...🤦‍♂️
Moving on to the rule book to learn how to play, that same care was also noted. As a rule book editor, I am probably more critical than most with what I see inside those booklets. However, the rule book for The One Hundred Torii was excellent. Easy to navigate, easy to understand, examples where they were needed, and so on and so forth. The solo rules were likewise easy to understand, and located in a spot that made sense. And—get this—not only did the rule book teach me how to play (innovative, I know), it also contained a few good pages on the history aspect of the game. This includes why the landmarks are important, what they mean, and other things. Tell you what, I wish all games that portray some aspect of the world’s history did something like that, even to a lesser extent. I mean, it’s not bad that they don’t, but it is certainly a welcome bonus that this one does. 

Moving past the rule book to actually playing the game was, simply stated, quick and easy. The mechanics of the game are easy to remember, but the amount of brain power needed to maximize each turn increases as the game progresses. It is a wonderful feeling to not struggle through the game while learning it, and being able to adapt as the game progresses. Final scoring only takes a moment, and everything is streamlined.

If you’ve read this far, it’s apparent what my thoughts are of this game. I love it. It’s great, and the solo variant is just as wonderful. But, if you need more convincing (one way or the other), let’s dive into the details, shall we?

Setup:

Setup for a two-player game.
The longest part about setup is separating all the tokens. Fortunately, little baggies are included in the game, so that makes organizing the small landmark tokens much easier. Set aside the various character tokens and organize them by type, as well as the five-point landmark markers, large three-point character cutouts, special scoring bonuses, and the like. Place the starting tile (with the red back with all six landmarks on the front side) in the middle of the table, shuffle the tiles and stack them (removing a certain number from the game, depending on player count), give each player two tiles each and two coins, and you’re ready to go.

Gameplay:


Players alternate turns utilizing character abilities, placing tiles, and collecting monument tokens throughout the garden. The game ends when the last tile has been taken, and then everyone—including the player to take the last tile—gets one more turn. Score is calculated by having monuments tokens of five or ten, by using character abilities one, two, or three times, or by creating enclosures (i.e. the path is an infinite dead end). The player with the highest score wins.

At the beginning of the game, turns can go fairly quickly, as the garden isn’t very big yet. First, the active player has the option to activate a character's ability by paying one or three tokens (coins or landmarks). Once paid, that player collects that character’s cutout and places it in front of them to show they have two points. If that character gets used again, it is flipped to show it is now worth four points. If that character is used a third time—and no other player has used that character’s ability three times yet—that player will take the three-point bonus cutout. Only one player can get the three-point bonus from a character, so it’s first-come, first-served.

Of course, you may opt to not use a character’s ability, and that’s fine. After the character has been used (or not, as the case may be), the player chooses one of the two tiles from their hand and plays it next to an already-played tile. After playing a tile, the player then draws another one from the stack so they still have two tiles in their hand.

The One Hundred Torii game by Pencil First Game Landmarks on Tiles; Photo by Benjamin Kocher
Placing a garden tile next to another one will connect paths and make the garden larger. Each tile has a landmark token on it (sometimes two). The player will get one landmark token as shown on their tile (of their choice if there is more than one landmark symbol) if the symbol on the tile they just played connects to another landmark of the same type somewhere else down the path. The patch chosen to the second landmark symbol is always the shortest distance from the tile that was placed.

There are many torii, or gates, on the tiles, and passing through these torii will grant bonuses. For example, each red torii you pass through gives you another landmark token that matches the one on the tile you placed. Going under a blue torii gives you a different token than the one shown on the tile you placed. The longer your path from landmark to landmark, the more torii you can potentially pass through, and the more tokens you can acquire. That is a big part of the strategy, as going from symbol to symbol only nets you one token.

Once you have five tokens of a specific landmark, you trade them in for a larger token of the matching landmark, placing it in front of you with the “5” point face up. That five-point landmark token cannot be exchanged for character abilities, so you’re stuck with those points (which is a good thing to be stuck with). Once you have five more small tokens of that type, exchange them to the bank and flip the “5” point side over to show the “10” point side. You can never go higher than 10 points for a landmark, and you may only have one large point token per landmark. 


There are a couple bonus scoring conditions as well. If you are the first player to collect the “5” point landmark token from all six landmarks, you take the top tile from the corresponding bonus pile, which gives you an additional five points. The next player to reach that goal takes the next one, which gives three points. The other bonus goes to the first two players who collect three “10” point landmark tokens. Again, the first player to do so gets five bonus points, and the second player gets three. 

Once the endgame is triggered, play your final turns then count the points. Highest score wins.

Thoughts on Gameplay

The One Hundred Torii game by Pencil First Game; Gameplay; Review; Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The core mechanics are simple to teach and to remember, which is brilliant. As the game progresses, the mechanics don’t change, but your paths will. Because you want to collect as many landmark tokens as possible in a turn, you’ll want the longest route from point A to point B. You might have to settle for fewer, but paying to use character abilities can overcome some problems. For example, the Poet gets placed on any one landmark symbol in the garden. Until the Poet is used the next time, he stands there, essentially blocking that landmark from view, allowing you to skip by it and prolong your path. Of course, paying tokens to use characters needs to be done with care, since you are trying to collect tokens to score points.

There is some wonderful consideration to each turn, and while it is a simple game to learn, it is in no way a simple game to play. I think one of the biggest strengths of The One Hundred Torii is the growing complexity as the game progresses. It is simple, elegant, and engaging through the end.

Theme and Mechanics:

The One Hundred Torii board game review; photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

The theme of The One Hundred Torii is that of ancient Japan, taking the scenic route through a garden in order to find inspiration from your walk. The theme is very similar to that of Tokaido, but the mechanics couldn’t be more different.

The main mechanics are tile placement with route building. While these form the basis of your turns, set collection and special character powers also come into play. I enjoy the mechanics associated with the theme. I think they work together nicely and do provide a somewhat relaxing experience. The mechanics of the game aren’t difficult to grasp, and therefore don’t take away from the simple nature of the theme. Yet, as mentioned, the mechanics allow for some serious thought to go into your turns, which allows the game to stay fresh play after play.

Artwork and Components:


The artwork is wonderful. Even the punchboards had full art. I almost couldn’t make myself toss the empty punchboards, but I relented in the end. Everything about the art gives a traditional Japanese feel to the game. The marriage of art and theme is a match made in heaven.

The components are good quality cardboard. Tokens and tiles are your regular thickness and I have no issues with them at all.

The Good:

The One Hundred Torii game by Pencil First Game; solo board variant; photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020
Board for the solo variant.
  • Beautiful art
  • Easy to learn
  • Deep decision making
  • Always fresh game after game
  • Solo variant is smooth and maintains the feel of the game without feeling forced
  • Two mini-expansions available
The Other:
After playing The One Hundred Torii many times, I can honestly say I haven’t found anything not to like about it. The things that people may not like about this game would be personal preference, and not a flaw in the game itself.

Final Thoughts:

The One Hundred Torii board game review; photo by Benjamin Kocher

I am in awe with The One Hundred Torii. From looking at it initially, it looked like a good game. But I had no idea how good it actually was! From the easy-to-learn rules to the deeper thought for maximizing output, The One Hundred Torii will undoubtedly be heralded as a classic as it continues to stay relevant year after year. There’s something special about this game, and while I could gush about it all day long, it’s up to you to discover what makes it so special. One Hundred Torii is beautiful, both artistically and mechanically. There’s a lot to like here, and I would recommend it to anyone, from new gamers to seasoned veterans. Come see for yourself.

Players Who Like:
Fans of tile-laying games such as Carcassonne and Isle of Skye will appreciate the fresh take on a classic mechanic. For those looking for a game that’s easy to teach and learn yet provides thoughtful decision making, The One Hundred Torii fits the bill. And, if you’re a fan of the traditional Japanese culture, this one will have you feeling at home in no time.



Check out The One Hundred Torii and Pencil First Games on:

                




Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.


See Benjamin's reviews HERE.
The One Hundred Torii Review The One Hundred Torii Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on May 08, 2020 Rating: 5

2 comments

  1. Nice recap Benjamin, love your enthusiasm for it! Another fun title from Pencil First Games by Eduardo Baraf! He was fun to talk to about his experience with Kickstarters, and we talked about this game a bit on that podcast episode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I was actually quite surprised at how much I like it haha I thought it would be a good game, but I had no idea it would impact me as it did. I think the only other game I've played from Pencil First Games is Sunset Over Water, which I also really like. I daresay I need to look up more Eduardo's titles!

      Delete

Sponsor

bulletKS