Designer: Eloi Pujadas
Artist: Amelia Sales
Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3–8
Playing Time: 30–40 minutes
Main mechanic / Theme: Drafting, Hand Management/Controlled Race while climbing to the shrine
The Middle Path will lead you to a winning state of being.
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
Shikoku by Eloi Puida is a race game where you don’t want to come in first or last. You’re strategizing to be either the second player or the second to the last player to win. I had the opportunity of playing a three-player game of Shikoku at the SaltCon End of Summer 2021 event.
Gameplay and Mechanisms:
Everyone starts on the bottom step leading up to the pagoda with a hand of cards. The cards played from the player’s hands determine who moves, how far, and in what order. For the start there is one set of cards played on the table and the order of play is determined for the first round.
In turn order, players choose one of card from their hand and play it on the Mantra Line. The cards are sequentially numbered and placed in order. After everyone plays a card, two positions (in a game of more than three) don’t move. These are the second from the right and the second from the left. In the three-player game this is the middle card. All other players move the number of steps as indicated on the card they played. Part of the strategy of Shikoku is to get your card in a position of movement or not and how many steps represented. The players playing towards the end of the round can force other players to move or not if they have the right card in their hand for that play.
After all the pilgrims are moved to their correct positions on the steps, the cards in the Mantra Line are adjusted by moving the first card to the last position to determine the next rounds play order. The person now represented as last draws a card while the rest of the players, in the new turn order, draft from the previous set of cards that are now moved out of play. The undrafted card is set to the side so everyone can see what cards are out of play for the rest of the game.
If one or more pilgrims reach the pagoda after everyone moves, the game ends. The players who are second from the top and second from the bottom are the winners.
Shikoku was easy to learn. The biggest problem we had was making sure we moved the cards properly when we first started, we were focusing more on the cards in our hands. We decided to play a second game and the moving of the cards and determining who was supposed to be acting was easy enough to do. Both games were close and finished well under the 30 minutes listed.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout (optional)
The artwork by Amelia Sales provides an Asian font for the Arabic numbers. We confused the one (1) and the seven (7) once. The pastel colors compliment the theme of the spiritual journey Shikoku represents.
We had fun with the strategy of racing and not wanting to be the first or last player. This change of not just trying to move as fast as possible meant you had to watch what other cards were played
The strategy of not coming in first was not just in how you were playing in the current round. You can plan your play to determine the order of play in the next round.
There is plenty of opportunity to socialize while playing. The more people playing means the card order is going to change as cards are added to the Mantra Line. You really can’t finalize your play until it is your turn to lay a card down.
I recommend Shikoku for people who like a lighter strategy game that has a nice twist.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job won't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.