top of page

Race to Edo

Project Overview

Race to Edo is a 2-3 player board game where players use three unique types of pieces to battle it out to become the first to reach Edo, the capital of Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate. 

Fun Fact: Edo is the old name for Tokyo!

Personal Project

Skills: Game Design, Rapid Prototyping and Playtesting, Theming

The Steps I took

1. Analyzed the Original Game and Targeted Areas of Improvement

2. Designed New Features

3. Playtested and Refined Gameplay, and Themed the Game

Original Game

Analyzing the Original Game

The original Up the River

Up the River is a game where players compete to be the first ones to reach the harbor at the top of the board to score points. In Up the River, players take turns rolling a dice to move one of their three boats upstream, attempting to reach the harbor at the top of the board to score points. 

After every player rolls their dice, the bottom tile is moved to the top, and all of the other tiles are moved down one spot, along with the boats on the tiles. Any boats who were on the bottom tile when this happens are removed from the game. 

Players also interact with special tiles such as sandbar tiles that halt all players, and wave tiles which provide extra movement opportunities. 

Thoughts on Up the River

I found that the game to be relatively fun, and quick and easy to play. There was also a modest amount of strategy involved with choosing which boats to move during your turn in order to maximize your score, which my friends and I enjoyed. 

However, I also found numerous points that could be improved to provide a more enjoyable experience to players of our age.

Main Targets for Improvement

Design for More Interactions between Players!

The base game allowed for almost no interactions with other players. In a competitive game like this, providing more ways for players to interact, and hinder each other would be super fun!

Make the Pieces more Unique!

The player's pieces in the original game have no unique traits. By designing pieces to have unique abilities and effects, the strategic depth and fun of the game could be expanded upon!

Allow for More Comebacks!

I noticed that it was very difficult for players to make a comeback, once they were behind in this game. Designing the game to have more mechanics to allow for comebacks would  make the gameplay more dynamic!

My Twist on the Game

New Features
Anchor 1

I reimagined the game as a race between the various great lords of feudal Japan, the Daimyo, to be the first to reach Edo, the capital of Japan, to meet with the Shogun. 

I introduced new unique pieces with different abilities, and more unique tiles with different effects to spice up the gameplay.

I conducted 28 playtests to balance, iterate, and finalize the following features for my game.

I used Google Slides to mock up quick 'virtual paper prototypes' so I could rapidly iterate and test various versions of my game.

Fun Fact: This game is actually based on the practice of Sankin-Kotai from the Edo period of Japan, where lords had to make yearly trips between their fiefs and the capital, and alternate living in their own lands, and in their residences in Edo every year. It's famous how much of a pain this was to the lords, and there are many poems and stories detailing how tiring and expensive these yearly trips were to the Daimyos of Japan.

Unique Pieces and Abilities

I designed the game so each player starts with 3 unique pieces, each with their own unique abilities. When moving their pieces, players would have to carefully consider which pieces they want to keep, and which ones to sacrifice, adding a new layer of strategy and fun to the game.

The Daimyo

The Daimyo is the player's key piece.

The first player to move their Daimyo piece to the goal, the Edo tile, wins the game!

If a player loses their Daimyo piece, they lose the game. 

The Daimyo piece is also able to activate the abilities of the other pieces, the bow and the shinobi.

The Bow

The Bow is the player's main offensive piece.

Players can use the bow's ability to push back enemy pieces, and slow them down.

This piece adds a new way for players to interact with each other, and build upon the competitive nature of this game.

The Shinobi

The Shinobi is the player's 'wild card' piece.

Although the Shinobi has some powerful abilities, an unlucky roll can set you back, or help out an opponent! 

The purpose of this piece was to add more luck-based excitement, and also provide a way for players who are behind to mount an awesome comeback!

It's Body Double ability is designed to help players who got super unlucky with their rolls to have another chance at the game.

New Unique Tiles

I also designed new tiles with new effects, themed to fit the feudal Japan style I was going for. 

The new tiles with effects are:

The Gate: This tiles does not move, and is always one tile before the goal. All players pieces must stop on this tile, and players must roll a one to be able to enter the goal tile. The aim of this piece is to prevent players from winning off of one lucky roll, and give players a chance to prevent a player who is ahead from one-sidedly winning the game.


The Post Station: When a player lands on this tile, they may choose one piece, and move it to the nearest piece of the same color. This tile provides another way for players to advance their pieces, and potentially recover from an unlucky turn.

The TemplePieces on this tile are protected from the abilities of other players' pieces. This tile provides safety for valuable pieces like the Daimyo, but stay there for too long, and you might fall behind in the race to Edo!

In addition to new abilities, each tile is themed to symbolize a month of the year, and each one includes a poem from the famous collection of Japanese poems, the Hyakunin Isshu, which pertains to the month each tile represents.

I hope you enjoyed your journey to Edo!

bottom of page