Board in the Stacks: Tokyo Highway

The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway is a spidery network of highways, overpasses, and expressways that was constructed in 1962 to increase the efficiency of traffic flowing through Tokyo. It’s unique and mind-bogglingly complicated design of curves and grades is the inspiration for Tokyo Highway from Itten Games and designed by Naotaka Shimamoto and Yoshiaki Tomioka. This two player game plays in approximately 30 minutes and is appropriate for players 8 and up.    


In Tokyo Highway you will be constructing columns and roads in order to place all of the cars in your supply. First person to place all their cars, wins! Players each start with 30 grey discs (pillars), 3 yellow disks (junctions), 15 roads (thin wooden popsicle sticks), 10 small cars and a set of tweezers to place them.

To set up the game each player places one pillar, one road and one car. The pillars are set within one road’s length of each other and a road is placed resembling an entrance ramp to your highway. Each player then takes turns completing three actions:

  1. Construct a pillar within on road length away from another pillar or junction. Pillars can’t be the same height or 2 more/less than the base point.
  2. Construct a road by placing a popsicle stick between two pillars. The edge of the road should not hang over the pillars. Roads should not pass directly over other pillars, and shouldn’t touch other roads.
  3. Place a car on the road just constructed if it is the first to cross over or under your opponent’s road. If multiple roads are crossed then multiple cars can be placed.

The yellow discs are junctions and provide some additional benefits when placed. The allow any number of grey pillars to be placed despite the placement rules. However, during the following turn the normal rules apply. It also allows for an additional road to be built from the junction.


Tokyo Highway is a three dimensional, abstract, 2 player, dexterity race. The only way to place all your cars to win is to construct pillars and roads that cross over your opponents. This means space and mobility get restricted quickly (Hello, tweezers!). The components are delightfully minimalist as are the rules. This, like many dexterity games, requires an extremely steady hand and there are rules in play for clumsiness which can be a frustrating if you have mobility issues.

My largest complaint is that Tokyo Highway requires players to constantly check to determine the legality of a move. In particular, if a road is touching another road or if a road is crossing over a pillar. This slows down the flow of a game. My opinion is if you want to enjoy Tokyo Highway, just let the highway grow and don’t worry too much about it.

Overall, Tokyo Highway is a delightful dexterity race which, unlike many dexterity games, ends with a feeling of satisfaction as you gaze over the mess you both created. It is also practically begging to be supersized so if anyone wants to take that on, let me know!   


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