Buzzworthiness: Tsuro

Today’s review is for a light filler game called

image by BGG user Mr Penguin
image by BGG user Mr Penguin

Tsuro is a 2004 game designed by Tom McMurchie and currently published by Calliope Games.  This 2-8 player game is a tile laying game where you are trying to be the last person standing.  The game comes with a board, 35 path tiles, one Dragon tile, and 8 marker stones.  Each player is dealt three path tiles, and places their marker stone on one of the hashmarks around the 6×6 grid of the board – there are two has marks per square side on the board (48 total).

On your turn, you will play one of your tiles to the square directly in front of your marker.  Each tile shows a number of lines, and you will follow the one directly in front of you to its end.  As the game goes on, this may be several tiles away, or even off the edge of the board (which you don’t want).  Any other players who are able to move must also follow their path to the end.  You end your turn by drawing a new tile.  If there are no new tiles left, you take the Dragon tile – this means that when someone is eliminated, you get the first of their remaining tiles.

Players are eliminated in two ways – either going off the edge of the board, or by crashing into someone else.  In either case, you’re out, and in the case of a crash, the other player is out too.  The last player remaining on the board wins, and if the game ends with all remaining players being eliminated, they share the victory.

image by BGG user Urtur
image by BGG user Urtur

COMPONENTS: This is a lovely game.  The art isn’t spectacular, but it all works together very well to give a very zen feeling.  The tiles themselves just have lines on a marbled background.  The board shows what looks like some kind of giant bird – a Phoenix, I think.  The marker stones themselves are have a nice tactile feel to them, and there’s a good range of colors.  The tiles are a little thin for my liking, but they’re plenty large and fit well in your hand.  The lines are all very well designed so no two tiles are exactly alike, and all line up in the same point on each one.  Overall, the components are nice.

THEME: There’s no theme here.  There’s a kind of a Chinese zen thing going, but the game is really an abstract.

MECHANICS: Tsuro is a route-building tile placement game.  You’re creating a path by placing tiles, and you have three to choose from in your hand.  You can only place directly in front of you, which prevents you from eliminating others without them having an opportunity to react.  Once the tile is placed, you must move your piece along the created path to its current conclusion.  As the game goes on, you’ll have fewer and fewer choices, which leads to a nice arc of the game – you’re clearly building to a conclusion as the board fills up.

This game does have player elimination, which is a mechanism that a lot of people dislike.  When done well, I’m fine with it, and I think it works well here.  The game has length to its advantage – it’s usually over in 10-15 minutes.

Overall, the mechanisms are very smooth.  The only place where it kind of gets clunky is what happens when the draw pile runs out.  If you can’t draw a tile, you get the Dragon tile.  Then, when a player gets eliminated, the player with the Dragon tile draws from their remaining tiles.  All other players in turn order who have been skipped can draw one of those tiles until they run out again, which means the next player now has the Dragon tile.  It’s a little wonky, but it works.

STRATEGY LEVEL: This is primarily a luck-based game – it’s very difficult to strategize what you want to do because the board changes so much between turns.  However, you can try to build little outs for yourself based on what you have in your hand, or try to avoid other players.  Still, you could be gone in an instant before your turn comes up again.

ACCESSIBILITY: This is a super easy gem to learn and play.  I’d put it in the Bait Games category – very light, attractive to look at, and fast.  If new players like it, it might be a way to the introduce them to a true Gateway route-building game like Ticket to Ride or TransAmerica.

REPLAYABILITY: Because of this game’s speed and the variable layout of the board every time, this game has a ton of replayability.  Often, it will get played a few times in a row when it comes out.

SCALABILITY: The game plays from 2-8, but I’d say you need at least 4 for it to be worthwhile.  8 can be kind of chaotic, but it’s a very good quick game when you have a lot of people and not a lot of time.

INTERACTION: The interaction in this game comes from playing tiles to try and knock your opponents out.  Sometimes this is indirect – you place that limits their options next time – and others, it is direct – you play a tile that sends them right off the board.

FOOTPRINT: All you really need space for is the board.  Oh, and for everyone to be sitting around the board.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  It’s not a game I get super excited about, but it is a good one that is fun for a little diversion on game night.  So, on my official Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, this game gets a

Yeah

Thanks for reading!

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