I first saw Tsuro on the Geek &Sundry website show ‘TableTop‘, hosted by that cult of personality Wil Wheaton. I was simply taken back by the simple design and ease of play, and yet it had strategy in spades with some luck thrown in.
Tsuro is a tile placement game based around dragons flying around the skies, trying to stay on the board the longest until other dragons crash or exit the board. No points, no cards or dice, no areas to dominate or steal. It is just tiles and your dragon token. And despite this seemingly austere equipment list it is a game of bravado, thought, risk, and dare.
Bring it on I say, lets set the sky on fire with our daring aerobatics!
At the time I got interested in Tsuro I could find nobody down here selling it, so I confess I made my own copy of the game.
Aim of the Game
In Tsuro the aim is very, very, simple. Stay airborne on the board without crashing until you are the last dragon flying or all tiles run out and you share the victory.
Its that easy, well, it sounds that easy.
Inside the Box
As I made my own copy I can only tell you what is required to play, which should match the original. You get a board with a printed grid pattern, 36 tiles to fit the board grid, 8 player tokens, and of course some rules. There are 35 standard tiles and a special dragon tile Which is really a reminder tile and insignificant to game play, so much so that later versions of the game have done away with it).
There is nothing more to this game, which is why in part I now query the cost of the game, it seems high for all that there is.
This take seconds, well, a minute or so, you have to choose what colour token you have, decide on an entry point at the boards edge, and collect 3 random tiles from the facedown stack of tiles beside the board. the hard part is choosing a colour, especially when somebody takes your usual colour.
Playing the Game
Having decided the starting player, each player in turn chooses one of the tiles in his hand, and places it adjacent to his token. The token is then moved along the path indicated by the tile. As the game progresses this may be a movement over multiple tiles until the end of the path is reached.
Now as more tiles are placed, you may cause more than just your own token to move, as the placed tile may also be adjacent to other players tokens. This can be used to make your opponents token move to a less advantageous position or knock them out of the game.
Which brings me to the bit about how to lose. Simply put, if the path you move on should end at the edge of the board, you lose. If two tokens should meet then they both lose (as each one started at the edge of the board, so shall anyone that would move past them on the same path).
So why is this all so cool?
I suppose it comes down to choices and strategies, of which there are a number. Each tile can be rotated before placement, thus each tile can give 2-4 choices on how it is placed, and with 3 tiles in hand you get 6-12 choices on tile placement.
Next is strategies, and they probably boil down to two major types; dogfight closely with opponents in the attempt to force them off the board; and avoid everyone else as long as possible hoping they make a mistake or get some tiles that limit movement and force them into a bad position or out of the game. Whew!
Dog-fighting is lots of fun, and also risky, I know, I risk it all to much. It is exciting stuff, trying to box others in, all the time knowing that they might quickly turn the tables on you with their next tile. Or you run out of tiles with options to prevent you hitting the wall.
Playing safe and avoiding others also has risks, not always obvious when you start. Like dog-fighting, you can run out of options with your current tile mix and might find yourself hitting the table edge. Also, to avoid others, you usually end up flying close to the edge, and if somebody decides to get in close to you it can all be over very quickly.
Game time is fairly short, we play four players in 15 minutes, even with a procrastinator in our midst. Combined with the quick setup time and you have a very fast and involved game suitable for young and all.
My own version has the ability to play up to six players, and I think 5 is probably enough as it leaves some flying time for all players. Playing with 8 I feel would be a bit much with the original game.
The game was produced by other manufacturers as a second edition, with a double sided board and double the tiles. The second side is used for games with 5 or more players, so I am unsure if it is larger or whatever. It does differ in that it has no Dragon tile as the tile supply does not run out of tiles.
As you can tell, I like this game, and so does my family. It is a game that we will play again and again, because the simple elegance allows us to enjoy a game of great strategy and luck, some friendly head-to-head play, and all over in under 20 minutes from opening box to packed up. the trouble is, one quick game is seldom enough, you want to try do it again, especially if you lose.
My version is based on the original, and I have thought about how the newer versions with more tiles might impact on game play. Overall I would think not much. Even if you played without the Dragon tile in the original you are going to have a great game, it would take somebody with more than exceptional memory to keep track of tiles played.
If you get the chance to try this game do so, or better yet get a copy of it. As a short filler game it gives a big thrill in a short game. If you like short traditional games like Checkers then this might also be a way to branch out into something new with a similar adversarial standing, only with more player options.
Game type: Abstract tile placement path building
Mechanism / Skill: Tile placement & path following
Number of Players: 2-8 (2-6 is best)
Playing Time: 10-20 minutes
Ease of Play: 5 / 5
Ease of Setup: 5 / 5
Ease of Learning: 5 / 5
Fun Factor: 4 / 5
Replay-ability: 5 / 5
Strategy Rating: 3 / 5