#35 – Tsuro of the Seas

Tsuro of the Seas 001

Base price: $40.
2-8 players.
Play time: 20-40 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)

So you’re playing Tsuro, yeah? And you’re like “this is great and all, but it’s awfully brown.” “Not that there’s anything wrong with being brown,” you quickly add, “it would just be nice if it had more color. Also I don’t really get the theme.” You have an awful lot of specific problems with what should be a light filler game, but hey, you’re allowed to live your own life.

Everything is about to change. Enter Tsuro of the Seas (OTS, since calling it TOTS sounds stupid), a nautical-themed Tsuro adventure where you take to the ocean as intrepid explorers, trying to prove that your Emperor is master of the sky, land, and water by shouting that belief at the sea until it listens, like an even-more-confused Mako Tsunami, if such a thing were possible. However, unbeknownst to you, something may be lurking in the depths…

Contents

Setup

In most ways, this will be exactly the same as Tsuro‘s setup. First, you’ll have some dice (I will assume you know what dice are, but if not). Next, you’ll also find some sweet boat tokens!

Tsuro of the Seas 004

There are eight (everyone gets one!), one of each of these and black and grey (which are notoriously hard to photograph). You’ll also have a ton of these path tiles (called wake tiles in OTS):

Tsuro of the Seas 005

So shuffle them into a big pile and deal each player three, to start. Each player can then choose what white tick mark they’d like to start on on the edges of the board:

Tsuro of the Seas 003

However, there is one major difference between Of The Seas and Tsuro, and that’s the daikaiju tiles (dark blue back):

Tsuro of the Seas 006

These monsters are hungry for boats, and unfortunately you are boats. This will likely end poorly. Here’s how the whole thing works:

  1. Pick the correct number of daikaiju tiles:
    • 2-4 players: Place 6 daikaiju tiles
    • 5-6 players: Place 5 daikaiju tiles
    • 7-8 players: Place 4 daikaiju tiles
  2. Place the tiles according to the following rules:
    1. Roll the dice.
    2. If there is already a daikaiju at that spot (note the gold and blue numbers on the outside of the board), roll again. Otherwise, place the daikaiju tile at that spot and rotate it to a random orientation.

Once they’re all placed, you’re good. Note that this is where my group usually lets players move their ships to different tick marks if they’re feeling particularly squeamish about their proximity to sea monsters. If your board looks like this, then you’re ready to begin:

Tsuro of the Seas 007

Let’s go through Gameplay.

Gameplay

Again, this is also very similar to Tsuro, so I’ll cover it quickly. The major difference is that before your turn starts, you must roll the dice. If you roll a 6, 7, or 8, congratulations! You get to move the daikaiju this turn. Roll one die. All daikaiju on the board follow that action, this round. If you roll any number except for a 6, you either move the daikaiju in the direction indicated by your roll or you rotate them, if the number in their top-right corner matches your roll. Now, you should handle each daikaiju individually in ascending order (gold-numbered daikaiju move before blue-numbered daikaiju, so gold 1 always goes first), as there can be interaction effects. Namely, when a daikaiju moves, one of a few things can happen:

  1. It moves onto another daikaiju’s tile. That daikaiju gets eaten and is removed from the board. Good for you!
  2. It moves off the edge of the board. Turns out the Earth actually was flat all along, and it fell off. Who could have known?
  3. It moves onto an already-placed wake tile. Remove that wake tile from the board and place it on the bottom of the wake tile stack. If any players’ ships were on that tile (including yours) they lose instantly.
  4. It moves in front of a player, preventing them from playing any tiles. If it moves in front of you, you lose! That’s unfortunate. However, if it moves in front of a player and it is not currently their turn, they stay in the game, as they may be able to move it on or before their turn if someone is lucky enough to trigger the daikaiju movement (or they might get unlucky and promptly eaten).

If you rolled a 6 (which is not on any daikaiju tile), you get to add a new daikaiju, placing it the same way I described in setup. Note that if a daikaiju is placed onto an already-placed wake tile, they remove the wake tile from the board and place it on the bottom of the deck. As you might surmise, if you are unlucky enough to be on that soon-to-be-annihilated wake tile, you lose. We call this “getting ploomped”, which is a technical term for getting squished by a daikaiju. It’s every bit unfortunate as it is hilarious, especially if someone makes a ploomping noise.

There are a few caveats to these movement / placement rules:

  • There should always be at least 3 daikaiju on the board. If you finish a turn and there are fewer, the next player, before starting their turn, should add daikaiju to the board following the same placement rules as before. Again, if anyone gets ploomped, they lose.
  • Sometimes a daikaiju movement / placement may prevent a player from taking their first move. In a rare bout of kindness for this game, the player can move their ship to any other tick mark on the board without penalty. Probably because getting eliminated without getting a turn sucked in playtesting.

Daikaiju movement will happen a fair bit, though it’s less likely that it’ll happen than not (it’ll happen a bit less than 50% of the time, about 44% by my math).

Note that, if you want, you can ignore daikaiju altogether. In fact, you can play the base Tsuro game with just the wake tiles, if you’d prefer. If you are going to do that, just play with a 6×6 subboard. In either case, you then place a wake tile on the board such that your piece moves, like so:

As I mentioned previously, apparently the Earth is flat, so you’d prefer not to fall off. Also, as you might guess, running boats into each other is bad news, so you’d probably like to avoid that as well. And naturally you don’t want to run into any daikaiju. So try not to place any tiles that would cause those things to happen (and, actually, by the rules, you can’t unless that’s your only available move). However, you can place a tile such that it moves your piece and, if you have an unlucky opponent, move their piece too:

Now, let’s say your opponent (whom you also moved) happens to fall off the board or run into another ship or gets eaten by a daikaiju. That’s a terrible tragedy, sure, but it would be a worse tragedy still if you gained nothing from it. So not only do they lose, but, as an OTS-specific rule, you get to look at their hand and swap any wake tiles in it for wake tiles in your hand before putting them on the bottom of the deck. Harsh, but fair. They belong to the ocean, now.

Once you’ve played the wake tile, draw a new one and pass the dice to the next player, clockwise.

Generally that’s how you play the game. Unlike Tsuro, there’s no dragon tile, so play continues until only one player remains (since the daikaiju movement ensures that it is highly unlikely that you’d be able to fill the entire board). If there is more than one player remaining and those players are all simultaneously eliminated, those players tie for the win. So at least they have that.

Player Count Differences

As I mentioned for Tiny Epic Galaxies, I’m trying this to see if it’s a good fit for the blog, but I haven’t quite nailed the format, so it’ll likely change a bit between games. I’ll just note it if I have specific feelings on it.

  • Low player counts (2 – 4)
    So the most obvious difference is that you have 6 daikaiju on the board, meaning that your movements are somewhat restricted early on. That being said, the board is still fairly empty (since fewer tiles are added between your turns), so you should be able to mostly avoid them. That being said, though the increased number of daikaiju means that they’ll likely eat each other, they’re probably still more your primary concern than the other players, since there’s always AT LEAST as many daikaiju (3) as other players in small games (where a small game has 4 or fewer total players). You may want to try a house variant we use where players control two ships, just to increase the conflict on the board / make the game move a bit faster.
  • Medium player counts (5-6)
    With this, you actually hit a happy medium between daikaiju count and player count so that you have a pretty chaotic board without being too crazy, in my opinion. There aren’t enough edges of the board (since it’s a square) for everyone to just hide on one and not be bothered (more on that in Strategy), so at least two players will inevitably be forced into a conflict that will likely be exacerbated by a giant sea monster. This is usually hilarious for everyone except for the players involved, so … that’s always nice.
  • High player counts (7-8)
    As you might surmise from the first paragraph, the other players are a much bigger problem for you at this point than the daikaiju. At 7 or 8 players I feel like the board starts to get crowded, so I’d probably recommend 5 or 6, being real. It’s not that it’s not fun at higher player values, it’s just … very chaotic. Even more so with the daikaiju, since they have a higher likelihood of moving when it’s not your turn. (With two players, the odds of a daikaiju movement phase happening at least once when it’s not your turn are 44%. With eight, it’s … 98.27%, if my college probability courses are correct.) You might want to stay further away from the daikaiju, in that case.

Strategy

Most of the same strategies from Tsuro apply, with some new ones. I’ll list out all the relevant ones here, anyways.

  • Always try to 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 / how the daikaiju will move, 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 enter from. This means that he can’t get into your space 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. Seriously. You’re a boat. Act like it. You can also play ocean music if you want. I’d highly recommend either the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker soundtrack.

Those are basic Tsuro strategies, and they’re all well and good, but there are also more specific Tsuro of the Seas strategies that are also important to be successful:

  • There are certain safe zones around the board’s edge, and it often pays to stay there. We only call them safe zones since the daikaiju can’t ploomp you since they don’t spawn there, but the daikaiju can still move through the tiles and eat you. That’s the 24 pieces surrounding the numbered zone in the center of the board. If you’re lucky, you can continually cruise around the circumference if you’d like, trying to avoid kaiju. This requires you to plan ahead, though, as you’re closer to the edge of the board and often in danger of falling off if you are forced to play the wrong piece. It’s unlikely that that would be your only option (unless you’re pinned by a daikaiju), but it’s possible.
  • Try not to end your turn near a daikaiju. As I mentioned, in games with more players the daikaiju are astronomically more likely to move at least once when it’s not your turn, which means that there’s a chance you could get chomped by another player’s lucky roll. Try not to give them the opportunity. Some of my friends would suggest that chasing the daikaiju is a solid strategy,  but I disagree.
  • Dealing with one daikaiju is unpleasant, but dealing with any more is potentially life-threatening. If you’re in a situation where you might have to end your turn near two daikaiju, try to avoid that as much as possible for the same reason as above. Whatever you do, try to increase your odds of survival as much as possible.

In general, I think while base Tsuro rewards both aggression (pursuing and entering conflict with other players) and avoidance (trying to avoid other players as much as possible), Tsuro of the Seas far more heavily rewards avoidance, as then you just have to manage the daikaiju rather than the daikaiju and other players. I assume that’s why you can now steal wake tiles from players you defeat, as a form of incentivizing the aggression side since the daikaiju heavily buff the avoidance side. That being said, I think it’s too much to try to manage the daikaiju, other players, and the game board, so I usually recommend trying to avoid everyone else for as long as possible.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Pretty funny. It’s hard to get that mad if you randomly die. It does lead to our group chanting the numbers needed to kill another player when a player has to roll, which is usually humorous. Also, if you get ploomped, there’s some light applause from the other players since you managed to randomly lose. Or, at least, there should be.
  • Still easy to teach. If you’re getting this fresh, you might want to view the daikaiju as an expansion and just teach basic Tsuro first.
  • I still love tile-laying games. I just find them really satisfying, and this is obviously no exception.
  • More substance than Tsuro. It feels a lot weightier [for a light game] (and I think that is, in part, because the board is larger, making games longer), and I like that. I found the original Tsuro was a bit too light for me to want to play all the time (which in retrospect means I scored it a bit high, but oh well).
  • Theming makes more sense than Tsuro. It actually seems pretty logical if you’re think of the wake tiles as wake generated by your boat, and that colliding with another ship sinks you both. Tsuro was sort of a vaguely-Eastern theming about “the Path” and etc, but actually just saying, “These are boats. Don’t fall off the Earth.” is usually a pretty straightforward explanation.

Mehs

  • Some of the tiles are duplicates. I’m not sure of the permutations, but it’s a bit disappointing if you have the same problem as my housemate where he had two of the same tile in his three-tile hand, heavily limiting his movement options. It’s also just a bummer since the original Tsuro had only unique tiles and Tsuro of the Seas seems to have a fair number of duplicates (at least five or so, I think).
  • Still a struggle for non-spatial thinkers. You should be thinking a few moves ahead, as I mentioned, which makes it difficult if you don’t generally do the whole spatial thinking thing as well. Visualizing where you can go, where you should go, and where you will go aren’t always easy.
  • The gridlines on the board are difficult to see. It can make it hard to place tiles since the lines are super faint. I wish they were a bit bolder or darker.

Cons

  • Losing first sucks a fair bit, since you’re usually out of the game for a while. While Tsuro only takes 15 minutes, Tsuro of the Seas can take 30+, meaning if you get eliminated early you’re just … chilling, for a while. Hope you brought a mobile game (and if you didn’t, I’d recommend Patchwork Mobile). Often we put the first eliminated player on Daikaiju Duty, where they’re just in charge of moving all of the daikaiju when a player rolls.
  • Rules are pretty difficult to get right the first time. Maybe my group is just a bit dumb (I won’t deny that), but we really messed up the first few times. Our most notable mistake was rolling one die for every daikaiju rather than one die total, meaning that we had the auspicious honor of placing several new daikaiju each turn. We ended up running out, at one point. We also missed the wake tile stealing mechanic. It doesn’t help that the rulebook font is super tiny.
  • Very difficult to justify purchasing if you already own Tsuro. The main issue is that you can play Tsuro with the Tsuro of the Seas game, so it’s unlikely that you will go back to Tsuro very often once you’ve gotten Tsuro of the Seas (and, indeed, it’s bumped Tsuro down on my personal rating scale, since I’m significantly less likely to play it now).
  • Much more random than Tsuro, which can be frustrating to some. Personally, I like it because it means we take the game less seriously, but some players in your group might be somewhat frustrated that they died when it wasn’t their turn via an action they had no control over (especially if they get ploomped by a daikaiju spawning on their tile). While I find it funny, your friends might … not. I would avoid this game for serious strategy nights, but it’s probably a solid fit for light games with friends or family.
  • The analysis paralysis might be even worse than Tsuro. Since now you have to deal with a random element, you will have some players literally agonize over their available moves in order to try and optimize their ending location to be as far from daikaiju and other players as possible. This … this can take a while. I would recommend a sand timer if you find someone’s turn is starting to take consistently longer than two minutes (not counting Daikaiju Time).

Overall: 8 / 10

Tsuro of the Seas 012

Honestly? I like Tsuro of the Seas a lot. I got it as a birthday gift, so I’m somewhat obliged to say that (Hi, Jocelyn!), but I also actually just like it. It’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s not particularly stressful, for me. My major complaint is that it, like BANG!, suffers from early player elimination, though I hear some players have opted to give their ships “hit points” to diminish that negative somewhat. Additionally, Veterans of the Seas (the expansion) adds in a friggin’ cannon, which allows players to blast a potential daikaiju into next week if they’re lucky. I dunno about you, but cannons sound pretty great. In either case, this is a fun little game to play with a group of friends and scales reasonably well with player count while adding a bit more randomness to the game, if that’s your thing. Plus, it’s a tile-laying game, and everyone knows I’m a huge fan of those.

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