In Journey of the Emperor players are attempting to create the best experience for the emperor during the Qingming Festival. The Emperor wishes to leave the castle and see different things on his walk along the river. The organizer that can provide him with the most desirable experience will be the winner.
Each round players will select a card representing a part of the festival and place it in a path in front of them. The full layout of cards, from castle on the left to coast on the right with the festival in between is considered a journey. Players will organize multiple journeys during a game. The goal is to figure out the best sequence to play your cards in order to score the most points and be declared the best festival organizer.
A game can take between 6 to 16 turns depending on the number of players and points are awarded for each journey depending on the Castle and Coast cards played. Each scoring card seeks out varying combinations of Dragons, Pandas, Tigers and Chows. In addition each player has hidden goals involving lanterns, animals and castle combinations.