We recently reviewed EmperorS4's Hanamikoji on Board's Eye View. Geisha's Road is also known as Hanamikoji: Geisha's Road so its connection with Hanamikoji is clear and up front. The two games even come in similar, matching boxes. But is Geisha's Road just more of the same?
Thematically, both games share the setting of the geisha district of Kyoto and both are two-player games. Geisha's Road is played with five geishas rather than the seven in Hanamikoji. Rather than trying to win geishas' favour, in this game your aim is notionally to advance the geishas from maiko (apprentices) to okaasan (establishment owners). You are still taking alternating actions from the four available to you each round. The Gift 3-card and the Competition 4-card actions are the same as those in Hanamikoji but in this game the 1- and 2-card actions differ. In Geisha's Road, a Reveal action has you play a single card face up to the applicable geisha, and the Intrigue action has you playing one card face down (as per the Secret action in Hanamikoji) while discarding another card face down.
You are still involved in an area control tussle for the geishas but the cards (one each of values 1, 2, 3 and 4 in each of five geisha suits/colours) count as their numerical value, which some players will find more naturally intuitive, and they have the added effect of moving the relevant geisha standee around a rondel of tea rooms. You move the number of places indicated by the number on the card and when the geisha makes a complete circuit to land exactly on their original teahouse, the teahouse is awarded a lantern card, which adds to the matching geisha's area control score.
Rather than carrying over scores, rounds are won or lost, so that the overall winner is the player who wins two out of three rounds.
Geisha's Road also incorporates a Guest Expansion where moves around the teahouses of just 1 or 2 allow the player to collect guest tokens. These add a set collection element to the game - generating points for sets of matching or for sets of all different colours.
Designed by Jerry Chiang and Eros Lin, Geisha's Road adds a further dimension to Hanamikoji and an additional degree of complexity. It's still a very accessible game but consideration of how to use cards for movement introduces a bit more maths and more opportunity for sabotage. You might, for example, offer an opponent a card that's attractive to them because it will give them area control but at the cost of moving the geisha beyond their tearoom so that it denies them a lantern score...
From our plays at Board's Eye View, Geisha's Road certainly doesn't replace Hanamikoji but it's an excellent standalone companion to the original game. The game is currently on Kickstarter. It's already comfortably funded and there are just a couple of days yet to run on the KS campaign. Click here now to check it out.