- Designer: Eros Lin & Jerry K Chiang
- Publisher: EmperorS4
- Players: 2
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- KS link – https://lihi1.cc/MOoKK/rv
- Played with review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design (TBD)
Geisha’s Road is a sequel to the highly acclaimed Hanamikoji. This game is another 2p only design, still focused on the world of the Japanese Geisha. In this game, you try to help the five geisha gain status, and if you have enough influence over them, you will also get credit for their success.
If you have played Hanamikoji before, a lot of the game will sound familiar – but there are enough differences to allow this game to stand on its own. That being said, no previous experience is necessary at all – you can definitely enjoy this one even never having played the predecessor…
The five teahouses are placed in a circle, and the corresponding colored Geisha standee is placed on each. There is a row of Geisha cards that are placed between the players (order doesn’t matter), and the scoring marker for each Geisha is placed on top of each card. Then each player chooses one Scoring marker to move to his side of the card (as an initial tiebreaker)
The players each get a set of 4 action tiles and a hand of 6 cards from the Item deck. The remainder of the deck is placed to the side as a Draw pile. Finally, the Light and Dark lantern cards are set up as specified in the rules.
Gameplay, as in Hamamikoji, is deceivingly simple. The game is played in two or three independent rounds – with the winner being the player who wins two rounds first. In each round players play exactly four turns each, using one of their four action tiles in each round.
To take a turn, the active player draws an Item Card from the deck and then chooses any of his available action markers and performs the corresponding action. Cards will be played to the tableau (that is, on their side of the row of scoring cards, underneath the corresponding color).
The four action tiles are:
1] Reveal – simply play an Item card face up into your tableau and move the corresponding Geisha
2] Intrigue – Play an Item card face down near the tableau; it will not be resolved until the end of the round! You must also discard a card from your hand
3] Gift – Pick 3 cards from your hand, your opponent gets to choose one card, put it in his tableau, and then immediately resolve it. You then get to play the remaining two cards.
4] Competition – Pick 2 sets of two cards from your hand. Your opponent chooses a set to add to his tableau and then move the geishas. Then you take the remaining set into your tableau and move the geishas.
At any point, if a geisha ends her movement exactly on her home teahouse, she gets a lantern card (well, for her first two instances where she lands on home). For the first return, take the topmost Light Lantern tile and place it on her Teahouse. For the second return, take the top most Dark Lantern tile and place it on her Teahouse.
The round continues until each player has taken their four actions. Then, starting with the starting player – the hidden card from the Intrigue action is revealed and resolved. If a geisha makes it home, place the appropriate Lantern card on her teahouse.
Each Geisha (color) is resolved; players sum up the cards in their tableau under that color, with the Scoring Marker being worth a half-a-point. Whoever has more points gets all the lantern tiles on the matching Teahouse. The winner also moves the Scoring marker to their side for the next round. If there is a tie, no one wins the Lantern tiles and no one takes the Scoring marker.
The player with the most prestige points on Lantern tiles wins the round. Ties are broken in favor of the player with more Scoring Markers on their side. If this is tied, the current starting player wins. If one player has won two rounds, that player is the winner and the game is over. Otherwise, set up for another round with each player getting a hand of 6 Item cards, resetting the Lantern tiles and geishas, but leaving the Scoring Markers where they lay. Whoever lost the previous round chooses the starting player for the next round.
My thoughts on the game
Well, though this game stands on its own, it is nearly impossible for me to think about this game without comparing it to the original game, Hanamikoji. They share a lot in their overall structure – namely the four action tiles which can only be used once. However, there is a second level of complexity in Geisha’s Road with the circular teahouse track.
For me, I find this additional step to be a plus; not only do you have to get the right cards on your side of the tableau, but you also need to figure out how to gain Lantern points from it as well. There is a bit more card counting that has to happen in this game (at least from my perspective). It’s important to realize that there are 2 chances for a geisha to make it home, at 5 and 10 points. If a card is discarded from a suit, then it will never make it to the 10pt home – and conversely, if all cards are in play, the geisha is guaranteed to make it back home at the end of the round… Figuring out how to get a geisha to exactly 5 (or prevent it from happening), is a big part of the game, and then based on what you have in your hand, you might be able to plan ahead better for the end of the round.
Though there are only 4 actions per player per round, the game is delightfully complex, and there is a fair amount of thought that needs to be put into the gameplay. The decisions of which cards to include in the Gift and Competition actions can be quite difficult. Furthermore, the timing of those actions can be important as well – as you go through the round, you’ll use your allotment of half of the deck exactly. If you do the Competition and Gift actions early on, you’ll not have much choice for your final two actions as your hand size will be markedly decreased. I’ve had a number of times when my last action was simply to play the card I drew from the top of the deck, and having suffered a few bad draws, I’m not too keen on repeating that strategy in the future.
While I do find Geisha’s Road more interesting, a lot of the gamers I have played with prefer the simplicity of Hanamikoji. The original is certainly a sleeker, more elegant design. That being said, we’ve had some great sessions in our 4p gamenight where we set up both games, play a match against our neighbor and then trade seats so that we can play the other one. As I have had a few opportunities to play these games back to back, I can definitely say that I find them different enough that each can stand on its own, and each is worthy of a spot in my small 2p game collection.
Geisha’s Road is coming to Kickstarter at the end of October, and I would heartily recommend that you check it out – this game (and Hanamikoji) are wonderful 2-player games that would make a great addition to any game collection.
The pre-launch page is active now.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it.
- Not for me…