Before I begin, I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would prefer to watch a video of this review, you can check it out below, and if you would like to get your own copy you can do so here.
Several months ago I, more of less randomly, interviews Scott Caputo at a local convention. He was keen to talk about two of his games he had coming out soon, one was Sorcerer City, which I have already reviewed, and the second was The One Hundred Torri.
I am on record as saying that I am not a huge tile laying game guy, for various reasons, but Scott’s games have something about them that attract me. Among the things that excited me about Torri, was that he, and Pencil First Games had put extreme effort into honoring the culture that the game is based on. Rather than simply appropriate Japanese culture for their game, they engaged a Japanese cultural expert from a University in Tokyo, and used significant rulebook space (at a cost) to make sure the cultural significance of everything included in the game was noted: from the female samurai, to the wells, to the various types of gates.
As with the other two Pencil First Games I have played, the game is relatively simple to play. Each turn players are building on the garden, by laying tiles with various landmarks on them. Then they trace the shortest path from a landmark on the new tile to the closest like landmark, ostensibly as you wander through the garden, you view all the various landmarks, passing through Torii gates. Each landmark passed lets you collect a resource, and each gate you pass through allows you to collect yet more resources.
As you play, you are trying to collect larger quantities of these resources in order to gain permanent points. However, collecting is not all you do, you also are able to use resources to hire various people to alter the board state. This might be the Poet which covers a landmark, allowing you to pass on by it without stopping, or it might be the Samurai which blocks certain areas from having a tile placed on them. In addition to affecting the board, they also give points to players who hire these characters multiple times. The player with the most points wins…shocker I know.
So what do I think?
The artwork is gorgeous, the components lovely, and, as mentioned above the culture is significantly acknowledged. AWESOME all around. When I mention the components I also must note that the rulebook is very clear, and stunning as well.
Next, the game is, well, calming. Especially when played with the solo variant. I find that there is something wonderfully meditative about laying the tiles and imagining wandering from landmark to landmark in this sprawling garden, passing through these gates filled with history.
Finally, the addition of the folks that you can hire to modify the state of the garden are all delightfully varied, and I love that the game rewards you for utilizing them as you play, this forces you to do more than just think about where to next lay a tile.
Here I will note my usual concern with tile laying games. There is always that risk of analysis paralysis that can creep in. While the game does a good job of not giving you unlimited options, there are enough that it is certainly possible to spend a lot of time staring at the board pondering the best possible move. Not a bad thing, just worth noting as we all know those players that will take forever to play just to make sure there is no possible option that is “better”.
I will also add here that the game does something I have never seen, it includes a diagram to tell you how to pack the game, sweet. In fact it works really well, everything fits…but if you move the box vertically everything will be everywhere.
Everything about this game is tasty or delectable!
Bringing it all together
The One Hundred Torii is a simple, clean tile laying game that does its best to honor the culture that it pulls its theme and stunning artwork from. The solo mode is delightfully calming to play, and the full version of the game has just the right level of simplicity and puzzle to it. Play this with the right people, because you may find yourself sitting across from someone who just stares at the board forever trying to find the “best” move. This game is fast to play, and highly portable.
Reading this is keeping me from walking in the garden
* Stunning art, and wonderful components
* Includes an awesome section about Japanese culture
* Simple mechanics, with just the right amount of options to keep the game always interesting
* Awesome solo mode
* Like many tile laying games it runs the risk of analysis paralysis
* I find this game to be quite calming