Play Time: 15-20 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+
Difficulty to Learn: 2/10
Mastery Curve: 2/10
Luck Variance: 6/10
Publisher: Calliope Games
Awards & Honors:
2006 Golden Geek Best Light/ Party Game Nominee
Theme and Overview
In Tsuro, players take turns placing path tiles on the board and sliding their marker stones along the path they have created. A deceptively simple strategy game, each player must endeavor to play path tiles that keep their marker stones on the board while leading their opponent’s marker stones off the edge of the board. Victory is achieved when one player’s marker stone is the left on the board.
The two-player setup of Tsuro is extremely quick; lay out the game board, shuffle the path tiles, deal out three path tiles to each player, choose a marker stone, and place marker stones on any of the available starting locations (beige dashes on the edge of the game board). The oldest player has the honor of going first. Each turn consists of simply placing one path tile adjacent to the location of your marker stone and then moving your marker stone along the corresponding path to the other edge the tile. If your opponent’s stone is also adjacent to the newly placed tile, they will also have to move their marker stone along the path. After a tile is placed, a new card is drawn from the path tile stack, so when playing with two players each player will always have three cards until there are not enough cards left in the path tile stack. Players take turns strategically placing the path tiles until one player’s marker stone is left on the board or all the path tiles have been played. In the former condition the player whose marker stone is left on the board is considered victorious, but in the latter condition all the players with marker stones still on the board are considered winners.
When playing with more than two-players, the dragon tile will come into play. In this case the path tile stack will be depleted much quicker and players will not always be able to draw new path tiles at the end of their turns. The first player unable to draw a new path tile with be given the dragon tile which signifies that they will be the first to draw a newly available path tile when path tiles are discarded by players whose marker stones have left the game board. Given this added complexity, and a reduced number of path tile choices when playing Tsuro with more players, there is a fair bit more luck involved than when playing a two-player game.
Corey: Tsuro is fast and simple. It is easy to explain to new players and quick to get started. If you’re looking for a simple and streamlined multiplayer experience with few game mechanics, this game will be a good fit. If your’e into more involved Euro-style gaming, you’ll likely be uninterested what Tsuro has to offer. Though this game doesn’t appeal to me personally, I can certainly see value in it. Players are given the opportunity to make lots of clever plays throughout the experience that can drastically reroute their opponents’ course of action. Unfortunately, for a majority of the beginning of the game, it doesn’t seem to matter while tiles are played (especially in a two-player game) while there is still lots of room to expand without congestion.
COREY POINTS: 6/10
Nikki: With a quick set up time and simple rules, Tsuro is a great game for introducing new players to a tile placement strategy game. It is fun to try to send your opponent’s marker stone on a path careening off the board and it’s pretty exciting when you finally place that perfect tile to win the game. That said, the strategy involved in pretty basic and there is a degree of luck involved in drawing tile pieces that will actually aid you in keeping your marker stone on the board. It can be really frustrating if you just don’t seem to be drawing useful tiles.
NIKKI POINTS: 6/10
Corey: Tsuro games last roughly 20 minutes each so it’s easy to shuffle up the tiles and fire up another round. Players have some choices to make about where to start their pawn on the side of the board and which type of strategic approach to take. In a new game, you could could try a more aggressive approach or a more defensive one. You could move quickly toward the other player to try and build a track that interacts with theirs in an effort to run them off the board or just try to avoid the all together and aim for the sections of the board with the most available space to expand.
COREY POINTS: 7/10
Nikki: While starting locations and strategies can vary, each match tends to play out fairly similarly with two players. At first it is pretty easy to avoid your opponent due to the large board which has a 6×6 grid for laying path tiles, then after a few turns the available game board space is diminished and eventually the opponents will come into conflict or cross paths, at this point each player’s strategy and luck come into play which will ultimately determine the winner.
I expect it would be more exciting to play with more players because there would have to be more interaction between players earlier in the game due to the limited board space.
NIKKI POINTS: 6/10
Corey: From the Calliope Games website: “The dragon’s playful exterior hides a heartbreaking secret from his past. From the beginning of time, the mischievous Dragon and the beautiful Phoenix were charged with overseeing the winding paths that lead to divine wisdom—even though precious few souls ever reach this utopian destination.”
The tiles are aptly representative of the folklore as your pawn has a dragon etched into it and follows the “dragon’s path” as you play tiles on the board. As you do, you cover up a large image of a phoenix that spans the length of the board. While the dragon and phoenix are symbolic of “balance between man and woman” (or “yin and yang”) in Chinese culture, I have not found any cultural significance to the path in that context and the theme feels a bit poorly conceived to me.
COREY POINTS: 6/10
Nikki: The subtitle of Tsuro, “The game of the Path”, does well to set up the overarching theme of the game of creating a winding path and trying to stay on that path while sending our opponents off the path. The folklore about the dragon and the phoenix are a nice touch for a strategy game, but are not particularly well integrated into the game aside from some descriptive text in the rules and art on the game box and game board.
NIKKI POINTS: 5.5/10
Quality of Components
Corey: The pawns are solid plastic and tiles are a heavy glossy cardboard. My only complaint would be the fact that the four quadrants of the board don’t sit flat which causes some issue as you try to slide your pawns along the tracks between game tiles that are placed on different quadrants.
COREY POINTS: 7.5/10
Nikki: The components of Tsuro are all of a very good quality. I especially enjoy the marker stones which feel very solid as you glide them along the path. I only wish that the board was a play mat instead of the standard fold up game board so that it would lay perfectly flat to allow for the path tiles to sit flush next to one another.
NIKKI POINTS: 7.5/10
Corey: The art on the board and dragon tile look great. The track tiles are rather plain with a textured brown background, however, adding too much detail would be distracting to the eye.
COREY POINTS: 7.5/10
Nikki: Tsuro features some fantastic artwork including a large detailed image of a phoenix on the game board and a dragon on the game box. My only issue with the aesthetics of the game is that I don’t think everything goes well together and the ultimate effect of all the pieces together while playing can be rather distracting to the eye. The orange game board displaying the phoenix along with various Chinese characters and English brush script text is beautiful on its own, but once players start placing the path tiles featuring antiqued beige path lines on various shades of brown it can become very “busy” and difficult to look at with the game board and the path tiles competing for attention.
NIKKI POINTS: 6.5/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).