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Tsuro Review

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Tsuro Markers

There are a few board games out there that are so simple that it’s actually relaxing to play. Games like Tokaido and Love Letter are geat examples of elegantly designed games that both look great and play great. Maybe I’m a simple guy but when I see a dragon on the front of a box it immediately piques my interest. The fact that it wasn’t your average generic fantasy dragon or breathing fire gave it a more elegant look and I knew I was in for a treat. But is Tsuro more than just a good looking game? Let’s find out.

What is Tsuro

Tsuro is a tile-placement game in which players try to knock each other off the board and be the last one standing.

Remember playing Snake on your old cellphone? It has a similar vibe to that where you are creating a bunch of paths and moving along them, but if you go off the board or hit another player then you lose.

Calliope Games have a wide assortment of light-weight board game that plays very quickly and are easy to learn.

  • Ages: 8+
  • Players: 2-8
  • Play Time: 15 Min
  • Designer: Tom McMurchie
  • Artist: Cathy Brigg, Shane Small, Imelda Vohwinkel, Franz Vohwinkel
  • Publisher: Calliope Games
  • Year Published: 2004

How to Play Tsuro

What’s Inside the Box

Tsuro includes a wide assortment of components including:

  • 1 Game Board: The game board is where you will place your path tiles and marker stone.
  • 35 Path Tiles: You place path tiles on the game board in order to move your marker stone along the path tile.
  • 8 Marker Stones: Each player chooses a marker stone and uses it to move along the path tiles.
  • 1 Dragon Tile: The dragon tile is placed at the bottom of the stack of path tiles and represents who will be the first to draw new tiles when any become available.

The Rules

Setup

Tsuro Setup
Tsuro Setup

Each player gets these components:

  • 1 Marker Stone: Marker stones are used to move along path tiles.
  • 3 Path Tiles: Path tiles are placed on the game board and allow you to move your marker stone.

All remaining path tiles are shuffled and placed on the table with the dragon tile placed on the bottom.

Player’s Turn

On your turn, you do these three actions in order:

  1. Place a Path Tile: Place one of the three path tiles in your hand to the player board. Each path tile placed must connect to another path tile in play. If it is your first turn then you can place the path tile anywhere along the edge of the board.
  2. Move Your Marker: Move your marker along the path tile you placed and continue moving it if the new path tile connected any other paths. If your marker ever moves off the board then you are eliminated. All of your path tiles in your hand are shuffled into the stack. Also if your marker were to ever collide with another player’s marker then you are eliminated from the game this way too.
  3. Draw a Path Tile: Draw a new path tile to replace the one that you placed.

Winning the Game

If you are the last player on the board then you win the game!

Our Thoughts on Tsuro

Art & Components

Tsuro Components
Tsuro Components

The artwork in Tsuro looks amazing. There isn’t anything too extravagant or in your face. It’s not meant to be a sensory overload with a bunch of bright colors. In fact, the color palette for the game takes a more toned-down approach with a lot of darker tones. This works surprisingly well and really gives off a zen feel.

The components in Tsuro also look great. The player markers look and feel great and add to the zen vibe of the game. They could have easily done plastic or wood pieces and that would have been fine, but these stones really add to the overall theme of the game.

All of the tiles are made of thick cardboard and have held up extremely well over dozens of play sessions. While they don’t look like much by themselves, once you start filling the gameboard, which also looks amazing by the way, it starts to look like a giant maze.

Gameplay

Tsuro Gameplay
Tsuro Gameplay

Tsuro may be one of the simplest board games I’ve played but still, want to keep coming back to.

Turns move extremely quickly since you are limited to what your three tiles allow you to do. In terms of strategy, you may be limited by the tiles in your hand, but it’s important to always have an exit strategy in case your opponent tries to connect their path with your to push you closer to the edge of the board. Sometimes when a game limits your actions, it forces you to get creative and really think ahead.

Tsuro has a ton of player interaction. At first, players usually try to stay away from each other since they do not want to risk collision, but after a few turns, this becomes pretty hard to do especially when playing with a large group of people. To me, this is where the fun really begins. Because now you can start connecting your tile path with theirs and you not only have to think where you are going to end up but if you can force them to move off the map. As the game progresses, more and more player markers will be moving around on any one player’s turn.

As for replayability, it really depends on your game group. For us, we usually end the night with a simple lightweight board game to decompress from whatever brain burner we just got done with. So Tsuro is on the list of games that we like to end with. It’s not something that we necessarily go out of our way to play, but when we do we usually play a couple of rounds due to its short playtime. But if you’re new to the board game space then you will definitely get plenty of use out of this game. It’s one of the board games I would recommend starting out with.

Tsuro Tiles
Tsuro Tiles

Tsuro does scale pretty well. It’s a fast-moving game so downtime in between turns remains pretty low. It does change the gameplay slightly though since it becomes a lot more aggressive with more players. There is less room for you to place tiles without connecting paths so you will constantly be moving your marker and usually another player’s as well. The fact that this game plays up to 8 players and is so easy to pick up makes this a no brainer to bust out during larger gatherings.

There is a bit of luck in Tsuro. If you don’t draw the right tile you need before you collide with another player or before you move off the board then that can be a bummer. But to me, that’s an unavoidable factor found in most card and dice games. If you do wind up being eliminated then at least the playtime is super short so you won’t be out for too long.

Theme

Tsuro End Game
Tsuro End Game

Tsuro has a very zen theme. There’s no adventure you go on, just the journey to total zen. Although the gameplay can contradict this and can become quite cutthroat. Everything from the game board to the totally unnecessary, but neat, translucent piece of paper with bamboo brush painting on it really gets you in the mindset of a relaxed gameplay session.

From the game:

Since time began, the Dragon and the Phoenix have guarded over and guided the intertwining paths of life, maintaining the careful balance between the twin forces of choice and destiny. These two powerful beings share the noble task of overseeing the many roads that lead to divine wisdom. Through its masterful blend of strategy and chance, Tsuro represents the classic quest for enlightenment.

Recommended For

I would recommend Tsuro to anyone looking to introduce a new group of people to the board gaming hobby. It plays up to eight people and scales extremely well. The quick gameplay and high player interaction will keep everyone invested and wanting to play again.

Similar Board Games to Tsuro

  • Point Salad: Point salad is a great set collection card game that plays extremely quickly and is one that almost always gets played at some point during our game night.
  • Parks: Parks is an absolutely gorgeous game that has players hiking through national parks.
  • Tokaido: Tokaido has similar gameplay to Parks, but has a Japanese theme instead of a nature theme.
  • Love Letter: This is a super quick social deduction card game that I would recommend anyone to pick up especially considering you can get it for almost nothing.
  • Codenames: Codenames is a word association game and happens to be one of my favorite party games.

Final Thoughts

Tsuro is a perfect game to introduce to nongamers. It’s one of the easiest games out there to learn and has a lot of player interaction so it will keep everyone involved engaged until the end. The simple gameplay and quick playtime makes Tsuro an excellent game to end the game night with.

Our Verdict

EXCELLENT

It’s hard not to like Tsuro. It’s a beautiful game with simple yet engaging gameplay that can be played in the same amount of time it takes to make a frozen pizza.

4.1 /5

Bang For Your Buck: 3.5

Components: 5.0

Fun Factor: 4.5

Gameplay: 4.0

Theme:3.5

Pros

  • Looks great on the table.
  • Gameplay is simple and fun.
  • Quick play time.

Cons

  • The simplicity may affect the replayability.