Full disclosure: A review copy of Tonari was provided by IDW Games.
Alright, this is the real last one before Gen Con, I think. I got this a bit ago, but it’s a Gen Con release so I pushed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Pizza Party back a few weeks to try and fit this in beforehand. Hopefully that’s not a particularly huge disappointment for y’all, but, it’ll get reviewed. That said, the pre-Gen Con schedule is still in flux since I imagine there will be plenty of games that want to get reviews in before Gen Con, but we’ll see what ends up happening. Anyways, let’s move on to talking about Tonari.
Tonari is set in the small village of Kuchinoshima days after a massive storm. Unfortunately, that storm sunk everyone’s fishing boats, except for one, and y’all need to eat. A few intrepid fish catchers (that’s y’all) set out to prove themselves the greatest catchers in the land, and they’re going to need all the help they can get from each other if they want to make it back home in one piece. Will you be able to make the best of the opportunaty, or are you in for a reel disappointment?
Not much to tell, here. Set out the board:
Then shuffle up the pieces and lay out one piece on each space, face-up:
It would help if you had a bag, but make the best of it. Once you’ve done that, the player to the right of the start player takes the boat token:
And places it on one of the two island hexes. You’re ready to go after that!
In Tonari, you play as local fishers forced to share one boat (better that than one submarine). While you’re going to help each other, each person is also secretly trying to catch the most fish so that they can carry themselves with pride when they get back to town.
So that’s just the thing, then. On your turn, you may move your boat to any space with a token on it (with some exceptions). Take the token. That’s all.
If you’re two spaces away from the pink fish and there’s an empty space between you, you may move into the pink fish’s space and claim it. The pink and purple tokens cannot be traded.
There are also special tokens you can claim, which do a few different things, like let you trade fish with an opponent, swap tokens on the board, remove tokens, or double the value of one fish type for all players.
Once a player cannot make a valid move, the game immediately ends. Total your scores:
- Pink fish: 5 points
- Purple “fish”: -5 points
- Orange fish: The player with the most gains 8 points. If there’s a tie, nobody gains any points for orange fish.
- Other fish: They score based on how many fish you have of that color, as follows:
- 1: 1 point
- 2: 3 points
- 3: 6 point
- 4: 10 points
- 5: 15 point
- 6+: 21 points
Once every player has their score, also add in the player on your left’s score. Y’all are working together, right? That’s your final score. The player with the highest score wins! In a two-player game, your final score is just however many points you scored; adding in another player’s score would just cause a lot of ties.
Player Count Differences
It’s wild at different player counts, because of the semicooperative aspect. Each player has to worry about their score and the player on their left’s score, so it means people generally try to keep you in a decent spot and just hammer the person after them. The ideal form of this is that you can lock your next player into a pattern that causes them to mess with the player after them. That way, it doesn’t affect your score! The major issue is that this can cause a lot of score-counting and AP, as players get antsy and tend to focus on whether or not they can win currently (as well as who is in the lead / last place). That can slow the game down a fair bit, but I do pretty consistently enjoy it regardless. Definitely recommended at two and three players, and a tenuous recommendation for four as long as your co-players don’t have a problem handling analysis paralysis or anything.
- Going deep is better than going wide. You do not get bonus points for variety. The thing is, your opponents may not particularly want to help you get every red fish or every blue fish, either, so good luck with your ambitions. For some fish (the pink ones), it doesn’t matter. Just get them if you can.
- Create paths for your opponent. Usually switching in tiles they don’t want or removing alternate pathways can do that, which is a lot of fun. I particularly like swapping in garbage tiles so that they won’t go that way. It usually works. Just don’t do this to the player on your left unless you’re in a two-player game; that will hurt you, too!
- At two players, watch for times where you can end the game and win. It’s a bit annoying, but sometimes you can force the boat down a path where it won’t be able to get more fish and then the game ends. You should only do that if you have the most points when the game ends, though.
- You can force your opponent along undesirable pathways if you plan ahead. One pretty good move is to force an opponent (or set up forcing an opponent) to take a -5 by removing the other available route, or forcing them down a single-choice pathway where you get increasingly good fish and they get things they don’t need.
- Watch for opportunities to grab the pink fish. They are easy to miss since that fish is caught so differently; make sure you’re paying attention if you want to capitalize on the opportunity.
- Be careful which fish’s value you decide to double. If you do this too early in the game, then it’s a scramble to get the valuable fish; if you do it too late, you might not be the person deciding which fish gets its value doubled, which will definitely cost you the game.
- Swapping fish is a very useful ability, when done right. You can use that to switch up the majority on Orange, you can use it to mess with your opponents’ most valuable fish; get flexible. There’s a lot you can do with it. Just don’t end up giving your opponent more points.
- You don’t want to mess with the player after you, but you don’t want to help them too much either. You want to score the most points and to help the player after you score the second most points. If you can do that, you’ll definitely win. It’s sort of a Between Two Cities-style mechanism, but it’s only shared in one direction, so, keep that in mind. You cannot let the person after you (or yourself) score the fewest points. If you do, you will lose.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Interesting concept. Semicooperative games are always a neat thing; I don’t think I’ve played too many of them. I particularly like this one because there’s very little incentive to hurt the player going next; after all, their points are your points, too! It just means you have to be clever.
- Really nice art from Kwanchai Moriya. I particularly like how the board looks like a textured pile of paint; it does an awesome job of making the board feel three-dimensional, even if it’s not, particularly.
- The pieces are also particularly nice. I think they got the same thing they used for Seikatsu going — the tokens are a nice texture, a nice size, and they look great! Solid weight, too. Big fan.
- Very easy to learn. You literally just move and take a piece. There are a few special ones. Not much else going on.
- Usually plays pretty fast. I’ve seen two-player games take five minutes or less. The time on the box is really only if you actually commit yourself to taking every piece on the board. You can get through some games very quickly and I think I’ll be taking this around as my new filler, to be honest.
- The insert isn’t doing much work. It’s a lot of insert for very few components, which is also consistent with Seikatsu. Not my favorite thing, but, you have to make room for the board, so I understand.
- A bag would go a long way towards making setup easier. Currently, you’re asked to throw all the tokens in the box lid and kinda mix them around, which is okay. I assume they opted not to include a bag to keep costs down, though, which I can respect.
- Since you can count points at any time, this game does incentivize players counting scores at all times and only ending the game when they’re in the lead, which can be a bit unsatisfying. Yeah, this is the real problem I have with the game, to be honest. This can slow every turn down when there’s a possibility of ending the game, as players feel like they should be allowed to count points and see if they can win with a deft stroke (which isn’t an entirely unfair argument). The problem is that doing that occasionally might be okay, but doing it every turn after the fifth for the rest of the game is really going to slow the game down. You may be able to solve this by keeping the fish face-down, but that would change the game aggressively.
- Some two-player games can end rather quickly. It can be a bit annoying to do all the setup and then have the game immediately end. But that’s how some two-player games go, sometimes.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think Tonari is really solid! I particularly like how quick it is, even at two — at two, it’s essentially an abstract with some really fast game-ending scenarios, which is kind of interesting. At higher player counts, the emergence of the semicooperative gameplay turns it into something else very interesting, as you try to balance helping others with helping yourself. You still want to get the most, naturally, but helping your co-player get the second-most isn’t a bad situation by any means; you’re just exercising your benevolence. And that’s an interesting concept for a game, the idea of competitive benevolence. It means the game isn’t nearly as aggressive as you’d expect for a quick game like this (though it can get that way at two players). It also means that the negative point tiles are not something you want to mess around with, since that might hurt you (if it hurts the player going after you). All of that alone is quite good, but, it’s also got some pretty great art courtesy of Kwanchai Moriya, and it’s bright, colorful, and engaging. It’s a really solid gateway-weight title, and I hope players will check it out. If you enjoy that sort of thing, like the odd abstract, or just enjoy colorful or semicooperative games, Tonari is definitely worth checking out! I’ve had a lot of fun with it.