Base price: $35.
1 – 8 players.
Play time: 10 – 30 minutes.
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?) (Will update when widely available.)
Logged plays: 4
Full disclosure: A review copy of TOKYO JUTAKU was provided by Jordan Draper Games.
Here we go — this is a nice interlude. I got the game at Gen Con, but it’s an Essen release, so it’s kinda working double-time. This is the first game in the TOKYO SERIES that I’m taking a look at, along with TOKYO METRO (probably a bit too long for me to review any time soon) and TOKYO JIDOHANBAIKI (an amazing collection of games that’s roughly impossible for me to review in my current format, so I might just wing it in a few months when I have space to think about it).
In TOKYO JUTAKU, you play as architects competing to build homes for people as quickly (and effectively) as possible. However, you’ve got to be really fast; you’re competing for building materials with other architects around town. Will you be able to break new ground and build the homes of people’s dreams? Or have you unfortunately set your sites far too high?
So, you’ve got 32 square cards:
They’ve got an easy side (with a grid) and a hard side (without one). Choose which side you’ll use before the game starts; for your first game, I’d recommend the grid, strongly.
You’ve also got 8 Architect Tokens:
Each represents a famous architect in Japan. Give each player one.
You’ll also have a bunch of construction pieces:
Put them in the center, and then place the 32 site cards around them. Keep the sites together, so you’ll be creating 8 blocks of 4. Put them in a square with the pieces serving as the “9th block” (the center).
Have each player put their token on a site card on the outer edge of the square. Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start!
TOKYO JUTAKU is a rapid-fire game of real-time house construction. Your goal is to make as much money as possible by completing sites before your opponents can, as once one player has completed four sites, the game ends.
The game begins once everyone has taken the site card below their Architect Token. One player should say “begin!” and everyone starts building.
Here’s the catch: you can only touch one piece at a time. You may move / rotate that piece however you’d like, but you may never touch more than one piece at a time. If you don’t like the one you grabbed, return it to the supply.
When you place pieces, they must be flush against each other and within the dark border of the site card. A few things aren’t allowed:
- Pieces on the same level must be touching. If they’re not, that’s not okay.
- Pieces must be touching flat surface to flat surface. You can’t connect them by a point or something weird. They need to be flush against each other.
- Pieces cannot overhang. A piece must be fully on top of one or more pieces. If there are gaps on the floor below, your piece cannot go over the gap (even though that is a legitimate thing in architecture). It also cannot hang off the side of another piece.
- Pieces must lay flat. You can’t place them perpendicular to another piece or something; that’s … too much.
Each building has two requirements: the number is the number of floors your building must have, and the Roman numerals dictate how many pieces must be used in the construction of your building.
Once you believe your building is complete, say “stop!”. All players must stop and check your building to make sure you followed the rules. If you did not, play continues until a player has a correct building (you can fix your building if you’re wrong). If you did, you keep the site card and all players return their building pieces to the center. If more than one player said “stop” at the same time, all players who correctly finished their building can keep their card for points; ties are friendly.
Now, once a player has completed their card, they need a new one! If nobody’s completed four yet, they can move their token up to two spaces away, orthogonally (gaps count as 0 spaces, but the board doesn’t wrap around). Once they’ve done that, other players can do the same (in clockwise order). If there’s a tie, the player with the most yen moves first.
Once a player has completed four buildings, the game ends, and the player with the most yen is the winner!
There are a few other games you can play with this set; one uses the JIDOHANBAIKI game to augment JUTAKU with special abilities; another uses the pieces and combines them with METRO for an entirely different game. I have no idea when I’ll review them (if I’ll ever even get to them), but there’s more than just one game in this box! Think a more modular The Lady and the Tiger.
Player Count Differences
The major difference is that there are certain pieces that might be generally good for what you’re doing (especially in the basic game) and at higher player counts there’s a lot more contention for sites / pieces. That’s just sort of a fact of life, unfortunately, with a game like this. Personally, I like this game at most player counts, though I recognize that it’s going to feel like A Lot at 8. I’d just say give it a whirl and see what feels best for your group.
- There are definitely pieces that are designed to fit together. That can be key to making certain structures work, especially on the advanced building card sides.
- The tiny square is your friend. It basically goes on top of everything. A great way to cap off a level and finish your building site. That said, many players often grab it pretty quickly, so it’s probably worth asserting yourself to get it early.
- My general strategy is to use up more pieces at lower levels building a base and then use fewer pieces as I move up. It’s harder to make additional pieces work at higher levels, in my opinion, so I focus on building a wide base and then working off of that to try and complete my buildings.
- Think fast. Your opponents aren’t going to slow down and let you try every piece in every possible combination; you need to move quickly and swap even more quickly.
- Don’t focus on perfection. Perfection is a dangerous game for JUTAKU; if you’re too busy making sure all your pieces fit with your perfect vision of how this should look, you’re never going to finish anything. Instead, focus on placing so that you’re following the rules but still flexible and moving quickly. This is not the game where you want to be left behind, especially not more than once.
- Don’t focus too hard on money, either, … but keep track of what other players have. You don’t want to necessarily take super cheap buildings if they won’t help push you into the lead, but if you take too many tough buildings and can’t complete them, well, then you have 0 money, which is even worse than having not much money. It’s a delicate balance.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The expanded size was a good idea. I backed the original Jutaku. This is much better. Some of those pieces were tiny.
- I really like real-time games. And a real-time game of Japanese architecture? Love it. Wonderful theme.
- The two difficulty levels is a good move. You can even play where the experienced player has to flip it to the other side (without seeing it) as an added challenge, but still only gets the basic side’s points when he scores it. It will be much harder, but satisfying, in some ways, I’d imagine.
- Nicely sized box. It’s a good size. Easy enough to put on shelves, but also a pretty sturdy construction.
- I love that it can be combined with other TOKYO SERIES games. I have no idea how I’m going to review it, but even if those are bad, I like the core game, so that’s usually enough to make SOME progress.
- You’ll need to constantly remind players to return pieces to the center, not to just drop them in front of them when they’re done with one. It’s kind of obnoxious, but a lot of people do it because it’s real-time and people get kind of stressed and forget about some rules every now and then. It happens, I get it. Still a smidge annoying, though.
- Getting the components back into the box is kind of a mess. It’s not like an insert would help; it’s just kind of something you have to deal with as a consequence of being alive.
- Having to return your pieces to the center will seem very mean, at first, but it’s actually a pretty solid catch-up mechanic. It’s not like you forget what pieces you’ve used, so generally players just continue on from where they were, but slightly slower so that the other player has at least a chance of scoring again. If they got to keep their pieces the game would be … pretty boring, I think. I list this as a con because this is a frustration point for a lot of players, so be prepared to talk them through it.
- Coughs loudly, all of the architects are dudes, for some reason. Kazuyo Sejima or Itsuko Hasegawa would have been perfectly reasonable choices, I’d imagine.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, TOKYO JUTAKU is a blast! I mean, I’m already a fan of real-time games and secretly a huge fan of architecture on the side, so a game combining the two was always going to be up my alley. The other thing I’d like to note is that this is a welcome upgrade to the older Jutaku game that some of y’all might have — these pieces are sturdier, the cards and pieces are all bigger, and the game now combines with other games in the TOKYO SERIES, allowing for even wackier combinations. Honestly, I love the whole TOKYO SERIES thing going on right now (I’m really OVERWHELMINGLY HYPED for TOKYO COIN LAUNDRY), and I can’t wait to see where it ends up next. If you like real-time games, are looking to buy a game to frustrate your favorite architect, or you just wanna try something a bit off-the-wall, TOKYO JUTAKU is a pretty neat, fresh take on construction games and I’d definitely recommend checking it out!