The One Hundred Torii
- Designer: Scott Caputo
- Publisher: Pencil First Games
- Players: 1-4
- Age: 8+
- Time : 45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
In the spirit of the game, first a mini-review:
Build garden with tiles Create long paths to score points One Hundred Torii
The One Hundred Torii is a game set in a Japanese garden. Players work to build and expand the garden, trying to walk through as many of the iconic red Torii gates as possible. The game starts with the start tile placed on the table. The rest of the tiles are shuffled and a few are discarded (for player count). Each player gets a hand of 2 tiles and the rest are set aside as a draw pile. One large Landmark token and one character token per player is put in the supply. Each player starts with 2 Coins.
The game is played in turns with each player going through the same 4 phases in their turn.
A] Get Help – You may optionally choose to get help from one of the 5 characters in the game, paying a cost (in coins or resources).
- Vendor – place one hand tile on the bottom of the draw pile, draw 2 new tiles
- Samurai – place the red samurai orthogonally adjacent to any tile, no one can place a tile here until the Samurai is moved again
- Poet – place the blue poet on top of any landmark icon in the garden; it is not used for scoring when covered
- Geisha – place both of your tiles this turn, but only score for the second one placed.
- Gardener – place your tile to cover a tile in the garden (though not the start tile nor a tile which has already been covered once nor a tile with the Poet).
B] Expand the Garden – choose one of the tiles from your hand, it must be placed orthogonally adjacent to a previously placed tile. That is really the only rule about placement. Now, you score one of the landmarks found on the newly placed tile. Calculate the shortest path to a matching landmark, taking 1 matching landmark token for the path. If you go through any Red Torii gates, take an additionally matching landmark token for each such gate. If you go through any Blue Torii gates, take a different type of landmark token for each such gate.
C] Claim Achievements – if you have 5 tokens of a landmark type, turn them in to get the large Landmark token on the 5 side. If you turn in an additional 5 of that type later, flip the big token to the 10 side. If you used a character this turn, take their token and place it on the “2” side. If you use that character again later, flip it to the “4” side. There are also other achievement tokens to be gained for different scoring criteria, being the first to use a character thrice and for making enclosures within the garden. Take them if you meet the criteria.
D] Draw Tiles – Draw back up to 5 tiles in your hand.
The game continues until the last tile is drawn, and after that, each player gets one more turn. After that final turn, players tally up their score – which is essentially summing up the numbers on all of the landmark, character and achievement tokens in front of them. Ties broken in favor of the most resources leftover.
My thoughts on the game
I am a sucker for tile-laying games, so I was immediately drawn to this one when I read about it. Having spent a summer as an exchange student in Japan during my youth, I have also been fascinated by Japanese culture and history. So I’ll admit that I was predisposed to this game from the start. After a few plays, I think that I can say that I’d like this one even without those factors.
There are plenty of decisions to consider. The most important is, of course, the placement of the tile. Figuring out the best path is key here, and as most tiles have 1 or 2 landmarks on them, you usually only have 2 or 3 types to consider. The longest path is sometimes obvious, but as the game goes on, it may take a bit of searching to consider all the options.
The option of hiring help is good, and all of the 5 possible actions have their time and place; it all depends on the tiles you have and the state of the board. It is also very important to remember that most help actions score you points; and that should not be ignored. For games that score around 50, getting 2 points to hire help is not insignificant! Of course, this has to be balanced out by using the resources to score points for sets. This balance is nice and tight, and you’ll constantly be re-evaluating your resource supply to figure out when you can afford to hire someone or not. In my first game I was reluctant to use resources as I was trying to save them for the 5VP tile for turning in 5 resources; but when you look at it, even the more expensive actions give you 4VP total for the first 2 uses (taking 6 resources), so that’s a pretty fair trade AND you get whatever benefit from the extra action! The additional 3VP if you get the tile for being the first to 3 hirings also can be a great enticement.
And… after a few plays, I like it, but not as much as I thought (at least for multiplayer). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid game. But there is a lot of downtime/possible AP with multiplayer, especially when you had to consider if you wanted to move the poet or not – as this entailed counting, and then mental postulation of places for the poet, and then recounting to see if your score got better. The tiles are small, and I found the icons to look fairly similar – so I always had to count and recount my path to try to figure out what my score would be. Our 4p games were more friendly, and we ended up all working together to help players see the lengths of different landmarks; but I know that this isn’t always the case in some game groups… :)
Also, I was always concerned about setting up my LHO who would then be able to take advantage of my newly placed tile. One of the other players did not pay as much attention to that, and the player after him continually got great scoring opportunities as a result. As at least one other gamer in my group noted, this sort of game might be best with 2. In that setup, there is no advantageous seat – you and your opponent directly benefit from any mistakes or oversights made by the player who plays before. I tested this theory out, and I much preferred the game with 2 than 4.
The game also offers a Solo version, and I did enjoy this as well, though not as much as the 2p version. In this setup, you play against the board, trying to score more points. You draw 3 tiles each turn, place one to the board and then place the other 2 onto the solo board – essentially in columns matching one of the landmarks seen on the tile. As a column gets 2 tiles in it, it takes the 5VP marker for that landmark; when it gets 4 tiles in that column, it flips over to the 10VP. You compete with the AI for the bonus tokens. Red Torii on discarded tiles lead to Character VP tiles for the AI, and Blue Torii tiles cause you to discard resources. The game lasts for 12 turns.
It is an interesting challenge/puzzle, and it feels (to me) quite different from the regular game – though not in a bad way. It is a nice way to use the components and theme from the multiplayer game and turn them into a nice solo challenge. I have found the solo game to be fairly difficult, and I have only just now learned to beat it on the easiest difficulty level, so there’s definitely more to be explored here.
The components are well done. The artwork is quite thematic, and I liked it very much. One of the gamers in my group did complain a bit about the flavor art found on the tiles as it was distracting. As I mentioned above, I would have liked the icons to be easier to distinguish from each other (but poor lighting and poor eyesight is an endemic issue in our local group). The large icons are nice, and it was easy to keep track of people’s progress by reading the large numbers on the tiles.
Pencil First has become one of my favorite new design houses, as most of their games have been enjoyable and entertaining. I also very much like the small footprint of the games; they definitely have learned how to pack a lot of game into a small package! This one is likely going to be a 2p game for me, but I like it enough to keep it in the game collection for now. It also fits super nice in a stack with the other Pencil First Games!
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan: I definitely liked it more with three players than with four; I haven’t tried it with two. In addition to the issues Dale mentions, uneven use of geishas in our four-player game meant that one player had one fewer turn than everyone else. That of course could happen with any number of players but the more players, the more likely it is. (How big a problem the uneven number of turns is I am not sure – players later in turn order should score more on average early in the game – but it didn’t feel great.)
That being said I like the game in general and would certainly play more – but probably not with four players.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y (2p), John P (2p), Steph (2p, 3p), Dan (3p)
- Neutral. Dale Y (solo, 3p, 4p), John P (4p), Dan (4p)
- Not for me…