Full disclosure: A review copy of Tokkome was provided by Big Cat Games.
So here’s another of the 12 games or so that Big Cat Games provided. Generally speaking, these are colloquially referred to as doujin games, and they’re usually pretty small productions, so getting to try any of these is exciting, to say nothing of so many of these. I’m really looking forward to sharing my thoughts on these with you over the next … however long it takes me to go through these. Probably until Gen Con or later, honestly.
In Tokkome, we’re going back in time, a bit, to the Edo period in Japan (1603 – 1868). The Tokkome is a place where we can select horses to become our military steeds, if we can capture them. Naturally, we want to do a good job, so we have to make sure we don’t mess up or take too many horses, so our horse-wrangling must be incredibly precise. Do you have what it takes to successfully hold your horses?
Not a whole lot. Shuffle the cards (there are five of each number between 1 and 7):
Place one in the Arena:
And one next to it. Deal players cards:
- 3 players: 8 cards each.
- 4 players: 6 cards each.
Choose a player to go first and you’re ready to go!
Tokkome is a set-collection game of taming wild horses. As you seek to impress others with your horse-wrangling skills, you must make sure that you efficiently capture collections of horses, otherwise, well, they won’t be impressed.
On your turn, you may do any of the three following actions:
Place a Card
You may add one card to the Pasture or the Arena. The card you play must be one greater than or one less than the current topmost card in that area. It helps if you stagger the cards so that players can see what’s in both. Note that 1 and 7 are endpoints; they don’t wrap around, and you can’t play a 1 on a 7.
Place Three Cards
You may, if you’re lucky, play three cards at once. These three cards must be a complete sequence that’s either increasing or decreasing, and like the Place a Card rules, the first card must be one greater or one less than the topmost card in the area you’re playing in. For instance, playing 6-5-4 on a 7 is legal, but playing 6-7-6 on a 5 is not.
If you cannot or do not want to play any cards, you may take all the cards in the Arena into your hand. When you do, you may put any collections of horses in front of you. A collection is defined as follows:
- Three horse cards of the same value.
This means that 7-7-7 is a collection that you can put in front of you, while 5-6-7 is a set that you can play on a 4 as a Place Three Cards Action. The distinction is important. Once you’ve taken the cards from the Arena, move the cards in the Pasture into the Arena and add the top card of the deck to the Pasture.
End of Round
The round ends when either the deck runs out of cards or any player plays the last card in their hand. Scores are then tallied (tallied is a strong word):
- For each collection, score the number of that collection. 7-7-7 is worth 7 points. Each of your triples are worth the number of that triple. This is important for the next part.
- For every type of card in your hand, lose that many points. If you have 2, 3, and 3 in your hand, you lose 5 (2 + 3) points. You’ll uh, likely go negative in your first game.
See who feels the worst, and keep track! I usually just call one round a game because we play a bunch until the pain stops, but the exact rules suggest 3 rounds at 3 players and 4 rounds at 4 players to determine a winner. Whoever has the “best” overall score (usually pretty close to 0) wins!
If anyone’s over 0, give them a trophy or something.
Player Count Differences
Surprisingly, very few. I think that’s partially because the available player range is so small. That said, it’s harder to try and combo off of your own cards at four players for the simple fact that there are more turns between each of yours, and if you take too many cards at the wrong time you run a greater risk that you won’t be able to recover, which is also dangerous. Four players does spread the pain around, more, though, so, I’d say they both have their merits. No preference on player count for this one; both three and four players is solidly fun.
- Taking cards isn’t bad, depending on when you do it. Naturally, the more cards you take, the more likely you’ll be able to create triples and play them for points. That’s good! However, if you take a bunch of cards too late in the round, you may not be able to form triples with any of them, and you might just end up taking a lot of negative points. As you might guess, that’s bad. Knowing when you should take a lot of cards is key to surviving this game, I’m starting to realize. But if you think your opponent is about to take a lot of cards early, it might be worth taking fewer cards instead of playing them to try and steal their thunder. Your mileage may vary with this idea.
- If you think your opponent wants to take cards, play to the Pasture instead. Your opponent can only take from the Arena. If it’s early in the round, deny them extra cards by going to the Pasture. If it’s later, then dump everything in the Arena and hope you stick your opponent with a lot of negative-value cards. Cruel, but effective.
- Remember that there’s only 5 of each card. Once a triple is played, the remaining two cards of that set are useless. Worse than useless, actually; they’re actively harmful. Essentially, once that triple goes down all horses of that value become toxic and you need to get them out of your hand as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it’s likely that someone’s going to take them; just don’t let that someone be you.
- As triples get played, you also have more information. You can start to intuit what cards you’ve seen and where cards might be. Use whatever information you can get.
- Playing a sequence isn’t usually a bad idea. Playing a sequence that ends in 1 or 7 is an amazing idea; it makes it much harder to play off of (since only one number can go on either of those, rather than two), and it increases the value of the cards that your opponent will have to take. This is a killer move towards the end of the round. The only reason you’d want to keep sequence cards is so that you can have extra cards to play, rather than dumping all your cards at once. If you’re worried about having to take cards, it may be worth holding on to a sequence and only dropping one value.
- Going for the high-value triples first isn’t a terrible idea, either. At the very least, it’ll help offset the massive number of negative points you’re decently likely to end up with. Who knows, it might even help you actually win. Just make sure you don’t get too many of the high-value cards (and end up stuck with them at the end of the round).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very nice art. It’s kind of serene, honestly, and I’m not even that into horses. I’d maybe call it muted? I’m not great at describing art.
- Pretty easy to learn. You play one, you play three, or you take and hope you can make a triple. That’s about all there is to it, gameplay wise. Learning to deal with the consequences takes longer.
- Hilariously brutal. It’s almost comical how low some of the scores can get. I think I pulled a -15, once? It was kind of high-key obscene. The nice thing is that this will lead to a lot of laughs and around-the-table conversation; this makes for a pretty solid bar game or on-the-go game, since there’s not a ton to it, component-wise. I appreciate that.
- Very portable. It’s basically a tuckbox, but thankfully is not a tuckbox. Double win! Tuckboxes are the worst.
- Plays quickly. There’s a certain point where every player just resigns themselves to a Terrible Future, and the game moves pretty fast after that. It’s very nice in a “nobody escapes death” kind of way.
- Some players are not going to be properly prepared for how brutal this game is. We’re talking rounds where the winning score is a -6; this game comes for you on a personal level. If you’re not ready to laugh off a terrible score, you may want to play something that’s going to be a bit less punishing. This game is a great way to learn about futility, though!
- As I’ve said before, I have a general antipreference for games that just say play additional rounds and then sum the scores. The Oinks do this a lot and that’s fine, but I generally don’t like it unless there’s something significant between rounds (cards are removed or kept or something) to make the gameplay evolve. Otherwise you can hit a point in round 3 where winning is impossible and that really makes the game seem less interesting for a lot of players (this isn’t specific to Tokkome, though). That said, the fix is easy; just play one round at a time and don’t aggregate scores. That’s what I do for pretty much every game like this, and we’ve never had any issues.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I really like Tokkome! Don’t get me wrong, it hurts me every time I play, but I’m slowly learning to get better at it. That’s exciting, given that the best score I got during my first rounds of play was 1 point. I think that none of us were ready to get as bodied as we did by that game, and I respect that a lot, honestly. It’s the kind of game that takes you a bit by surprise, since it’s a very small, very light game about taming wild horses. You think, “oh, that seems fine; you’re set collecting, but the set is horses”. Yeah but these are the meanest horses straight out of hell. You’re losing points left and right as you watch other people barely scrape a triple here or there. It’s an absolute riot. It has that same sense of “give up and just go with it” that I really liked about HEBOCON, as well, but it presents as a pretty simple set collection game. I think there are a lot of cool ways to build off it, but I’m definitely a fan of the game as-is. It’s a quick, fun little card game, and it will probably end up in my Quiver for upcoming travel (though I might have to get a separate Quiver for all these doujin games, to be honest). If you’re looking to get brutalized by a seemingly simple set-collection game about horses, Tokkome is definitely worth checking out!