#15 – Tsuro: The Game of the Path

Tsuro Cover

Base price: $30
2 – 8 players
15-20 minutes
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)

Busy weekend, but I think I can squeeze in an update. Speaking of squeezing something in, Tsuro: The Game of the Path is a shortish filler game that’s pretty easy to squeeze in between games. Very similar to the game Entanglement, if you’ve ever played that. If not, well, let me explain.

Contents

Setup

You’ll notice three things in this box. A board, some tiles, and some tokens. Set aside the tile that looks like this:

Tsuro - Dragon Tile

Shuffle the remainder. Next, set out the board and have each player put their token of choice on one of the outside notches, such that your board looks something like this:

Tsuro Board

Note each square has two notches (save the corners, which have four) and you should only choose one per token. Now let’s talk gameplay.

Gameplay

This isn’t too difficult. So, put the Dragon Tile on the bottom of the tile stack, and deal each player three tiles. These tiles comprise their hand, and look something like this:

Tsuro Tiles

On your turn, you play a tile in front of your piece, follow the path you’ve created for yourself (even if it curves back through multiple tiles) and then draw a new tile from the stack. Note that there are some caveats to this:

  • You must place a tile that moves your piece. This means that you can’t just play anywhere on the board randomly. You have to move your piece. Additionally, you can move other players’ pieces if the tile you lay creates a path for them as well. This is important, because:
  • If your path leads off the board or into another piece, you are eliminated. Importantly, if your path leads into another piece, you are both eliminated. However:
  • You cannot eliminate yourself unless that is your only option. Effectively you cannot force yourself out of the game unless you have no moves left. While this is a bummer if you want to quit, this really isn’t a long enough game that you should be provoked into a ragequit or an existential crisis.
  • If all players are eliminated, the game ends. If you’re the last player in the game, you win! If all remaining players are eliminated simultaneously, they all win!

At some point if you’re playing with any more than two players, you will likely run out of tiles in the tile stack. This is where the Dragon tile comes in. If you attempt to draw a tile and there are no more path tiles left in the stack, take the Dragon tile. When / If another player is eliminated, she shuffles and puts her spent tiles back on the tile stack. If a player has the Dragon tile and fewer than three tiles, he IMMEDIATELY draws a tile and then passes the Dragon tile to the player on his left. If a player has the Dragon tile and three tiles, he puts the Dragon tile on the bottom of the tile stack.

It is possible (but highly unlikely) that you will run out of tiles if you successfully make it through the entire stack without being eliminated. If that’s the case, put the Dragon tile in the empty remaining spot and all players still in the game win! That’s a pretty excellent result, so solid work.

And that’s about it, gameplay-wise.

Variant – Low Player Count

If you are feeling a bit crazy and have fewer than 4 players, you can also use a variant that we’ve been playing with occasionally. In this, every player controls two pieces but only has three tiles in their hand. Also, the turns alternate, so if I have Black and Blue and my friend has Red and Orange, the turn order is Black -> Red -> Blue -> Orange. This adds in some interesting challenges but is overall pretty fun. The important caveat is that your pieces can eliminate each other, but not themselves. So Black CAN run Blue off the board, if the overall strategy demands it. It’s pretty fun, so I’d recommend giving it a shot.

Strategy

This game can be seen by players as fairly random due to the tile-laying nature of it, especially since you have three tiles in your hand so you can’t really predict what other people will play. Even then, there are still some good ideas for how to play.

  • Always think (at least) three of your moves ahead. You have three tiles in your hand, so you should really never send yourself down a corridor that will lead you off the edge of the stage. While it’s hard to predict what another player will do, you should not leave your fate up to them because it’s usually to their advantage to eliminate you. But not always…
  • It’s not always to your advantage to eliminate someone. Actually, often, it can be strategically beneficial to specifically keep someone alive. If you force two people into a space that can only support six tiles instead of one person, they’ll burn through that runway in three rounds instead of six. That means they’ll eventually have to eliminate each other! It’s occasionally useful to do that, and if it works it can sometimes win you the game.
  • Place tiles that are helpful for you but unhelpful for anyone else who might use that space. Sometimes if your opponent is about to enter a space adjacent to you, you can place a tile with a u-turn on the side he’d try to exit from. This means that he can’t get out and may have to eliminate himself.
  • Don’t forget to make wooshing and swooshing noises as you move your piece. While it may not be sound strategy, it’s a lot more fun.

Outside of that, there are two schools of thought, summarized as avoidance and aggression, in my opinion. Avoidance is the strategy where you try to never cross paths with another player, and aggression is all about getting in other players’ business. Each can be useful (avoidance means that you are usually in control of whether or not you get eliminated, and aggression means you’re usually eliminating other people, getting you closer to the goal) and less useful (avoidance is honestly kind of boring, and aggression has a strictly higher chance of getting you eliminated by someone else) depending on the board, so try to be a bit flexible between the two if possible.

Pros, Mehs, Cons

Pros

  • Short. This game should not take more than 30 minutes to play through.
  • Pretty art. The game has a nice-but-forgettable theme, but the art was really well-done to match it. The style is really intricate, the board looks amazing, and the pieces have a reasonable look to them.
  • Good components. The pieces are solid, the tiles are good, and the board is thick. The box is also pretty nice and solid, so points all around to the manufacturing.
  • Simple to explain. Most of the time I just tell people “figure it out as you go, you have to move your piece when you play, and you can’t kill yourself” and let them experiment for a bit. The game’s quick enough that even if they lose they can try again.

Mehs

  • The tiles aren’t perfect. Sometimes they don’t QUITE match up perfectly and the coloring is slightly off between some tiles, which is a bit annoying but not terrible.
  • Struggle for people who aren’t very spatial thinkers. It can be frustrating because it’s all about placing paths strategically, so if you don’t have a knack for visualizing space it can be a bit tough.

Cons

  • Tsuro is a textbook case for Analysis Paralysis. You will inevitably get someone who looks at every rotation of every tile they have and how those paths trace and interact with potential paths in the future and takes 5+ minutes to take one turn, just due to the very spatial nature of this game.
  • Not a lot of substance. It’s light, which is nice, but it might be too light? There’s not really a lot of things to do or variety to have, though I hear that’s somewhat fixed by the follow-up Tsuro of the Seas.

Overall: 6 / 10

Tsuro Game

Honestly, though? Pretty fun game, great filler, totally worth having in the collection. I like it enough that I will never really turn it down unless I already have another game that I want to play, and I think it’s a very good way to pass the time. It’s got a nice aesthetic, a fun gameplay style, and has just enough strategy to keep me interested, so all around, a good game.

That being said, the major reason it’s a 6 rather than a higher score (a 6 meaning, “Fair. Some fun or challenge at least, will play occasionally if in the right mood.”) is primarily because I think that Tsuro of the Seas mostly reimplements this game in a way that will likely guarantee that it won’t get to the table unless I need to play both simultaneously. This is an odd distinction, I suppose, because it’s not Tsuro’s fault that Tsuro of the Seas is a fairly solid reimplementation. It just sort of is the way it is.

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