CGFCG: Tsuro & Tsuro of the Seas
When I talk about playing a ‘casual game’ I like to think of it as something I can set-up and play within an hour, no hassling around with components or waiting forever for someone to decide what to do on their turn. A casual game is something I could literally play on my lunch break at work… If I had other people to play with and no lunch to eat, of course.
Tsuro: The game of the Path and Tsuro of the Seas are two of these casual games.
Both Tsuro games, at their core, are quite the same game. They’re both abstract strategy games with an oriental artistic theme and the main game mechanics involve laying tiles down and moving your marker along the paths on the tiles, avoiding going off the board and joining paths with another player. The difference, therein, lies with the theme and how each theme reflects in the overall gameplay.
While Tsuro: The game of the Path – or just simply known as Tsuro – is a game where every player’s marker represents a mystical dragon flying around the sky, Tsuro of the Seas, however, is about every player controlling a ship on the seas, where not only do you have to avoid other players and going off the board, you also have to avoid sea monsters, “daikaiju”, that randomly move around the board.
The gameplay is simple, each player starts at any path ‘notch’ on the outside of the board, they start with a hand of three path tiles, to place in front of their marker, on their turn, and follow one of the eight path directions that match up with the path the marker is on, and then draws another tile. If another player’s marker path also connects to the newly placed path tile, then that marker will proceed to the end of its new path as well. Markers are removed from the game when they collide with another player’s path, or the path leads them off the board. Game proceeds until one player is left standing.
In Tsuro of the Seas, this remains the same, however, at the start of a players turn they will roll two dice and on a combined count of 6, 7 or 8 – the statistically most probable outcomes for two d6 dice – the Daikaiju will move. On each Daikaiju tile there are numbers 1 to 5, which shows which direction the dragons will follow or rotate. By rolling one die, they will move/rotate in the specified direction. A roll of 6 will mean they will remain stationary. Daikaiju can move over already placed path tiles, discarding them to the bottom of the tile deck. If they move onto a tile which a player has their marker on, or if they block the path of the current active player, that player is eliminated. After the Daikaiju have moved (if they move), the current active player will take their turn as per normal.
If you think the Daikaiju moving around the board makes the game sound too stressful, you can rest easy knowing that Daikaiju can also be removed from the game by moving off the board or moving into another Daikaiju! However, there must always be at least three Daikaiju tiles on the board, once they’ve been reduced to two or fewer, instead of the next player rolling two dice for movement, they roll two dice for Daikaiju placement (and hope for the best one doesn’t spawn right on top of you!)
Now, you may be thinking that Tsuro of the Seas is a far superior game to it’s original predecessor and, in some ways, you’re right. But what is the real difference when you really look at them closely?
First of all, Tsuro uses a 6×6 grid on the board, whereas Tsuro of the Seas uses a larger playing area of 7×7 grid. To make up for this, Tsuro of the Seas has 56 path tiles in the deck, whereas Tsuro only has 35. But don’t get excited too quickly, this may be regarded as a faux pas because instead of creating new alternative path tiles, the 21 extra tiles are all just duplicates of some of the more ‘popular’ tiles.
Also, just from the general nature of the game, you can play Tsuro of the Seas just like normal Tsuro, you just don’t use the Daikaiju tiles.
If you’re playing a two player game of Tsuro, you will find the game feeling prolonged as each player will mostly just keep to their side of the board until they run out of tiles to stay away, or have moved too close to each other, in which it only takes one tile to end the game.
In that way Tsuro of the Seas is perfect for low player counts, the Daikaiju adds extra obstacles to the game, preventing this strategy of prolonging player encounters as long as possible, because sometimes the sea dragons make that scenario all too inevitable.
For higher number player games, the two games have a much different perspective. In Tsuro, it’s much preferred to large group of players as the chaos ensues early on. Player elimination is usually something I don’t like in games, but the short gameplay of Tsuro means that eliminated players don’t have to wait too long for the game to end. Albeit, watching the game unfold, when eliminated early, can still be quite fun – witnessing the last two players struggle to keep themselves on the board can be really entertaining!… But maybe I’m just easily amused.
In Tsuro of the Seas, with the added element of dice rolling, sea monster movement and path tiles being removed from the board, the game play extends quite exponentially compared to original Tsuro – a game could easily extend to an hour of game time, and if you get eliminated early on, this can be a long wait for the game to end!
Both games are simple, there isn’t much rule explaining to do, the game play pretty much explains itself and, aside from some situations in Tsuro of the Seas, the rulebook will often get neglected and never having to be read again… Which is always a plus for a casual game!
Downtime is very minimal in Tsuro, there’s no pieces of text requiring reading and memorising between turns. There is a bit of a delay between players turns in Tsuro of the Seas, particularly when the Daikaiju have to move. There is also a bit of strategy involved in Tsuro, players will often plan out their paths 2-3 tiles ahead of them, assuming nobody blocks them off in the meantime. This strategy can often be problematic in Tsuro of the Seas, as Daikaiju can cut off optimal paths and push players further away from where they want to be on the board, making the game a much more of a luck-reliant game. But, both games are very light strategy games, making mistakes early on won’t necessarily put you behind in the game later on.
So, if you had to choose only one of these games to add to your collection, which one would it be?
In my opinion, Tsuro of the Seas is a much more meatier game than Tsuro, you can also get an expansion Veterans of the Seas, which you can mix and match into the game as you choose, with added obstacles like Tsunamis, and helpful tiles, such as cannons and magic portals, to help eliminate and avoid those pesky Daikaiju, there is an endless amount of fun and nobody can predict the games outcome. But, in all honesty, I’ve probably only used the expansion once or twice in my many games of Tsuro of the Seas, but the options are there if I wish to change up the game a bit!
But, perhaps a game with more ‘meat’ on it isn’t something you want out of a game. If you think having more of a strategy to your game is something you prefer, or if you like quick games, even with lots of players, Tsuro: The game of the Path is probably the one you’d like.
I owned Tsuro before I owned Tsuro of the Seas, and since owning the latter, if I had to choose between either of these games, I’d mostly always pick Tsuro of the Seas, but as I said about player numbers scaling up and down in either of the games, there is always a time and a place for me to bring Tsuro: The game of the Path out on games night!
- Tsuro – The game of the Path
- Players: 2-8
- Average game length: 15-20 minutes
- Published by: Calliope Games
- Game type: Strategy
- Cost: $36~$50
- Tsuro of the Seas
- Players: 2-8
- Average game length: 20-40 minutes
- Published by: Calliope Games
- Game type: Strategy
- Cost: $48~$60
Watch Tsuro: The game of the Path being played on TableTop!
Watch Tsuro of the Seas being played on TableTop!