As I mentioned in my previous review, dragons are my favorite mythological creatures. I find them to be fascinatingly majestic yet imposing and fierce, even if they are reduced to small harmless colored pawns in a game called Tsuro: The Game of the Path.
In Tsuro you play a dragon flying around the skies on a beautifully designed game board while making sure no one invades your personal dragon space. You must be the last player on the board to win, it’s that simple.
I have to first mention that Tsuro is one of those games where the oftentimes trivial step of taking out and setting up a game should actually be appreciated. The game box features some great Asian inspired artwork which continues even when you read the manual that folds out and feels like a scroll. The game board shows a giant phoenix and there’s a piece of what I assume is wax paper that also has hand drawn artwork but serves no other purpose other than to look pretty.
Even while you’re admiring the artwork, setting up is a matter of folding out the game board, choosing the color of your dragon token and grabbing five tiles from the draw pile. This step is just as quick as the gameplay itself.
You start off by choosing where you’d like to start on the board, indicated by several notches that surround the entire board. Your job is to stay on the board so starting from the corners of the board is certainly a valid option, albeit a potentially risky one.
Once you’ve chosen your starting point your movements are determined by the five tiles you have in your hand. Each of these tiles have paths on them that go in various directions and you can place these however you like as long as they connect to each other. In other words, you’ll be forming a continuous path with twists and turns as you guide your dragon across the crowded skies.
Your opponents will also be placing their own tiles each turn and therefore creating their own paths which will eventually connect with yours somehow. This is where things can change for better or worse.
If a player places their own tile next to where your token is, you must follow the path to its end. This may force you off the board depending on the length of the path and where it ultimately ends or it could actually save you if perhaps the only tiles you have in your hand are ones that will lead you to your doom. It’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck in a position where the next path you place means one less fearsome dragon protecting our skies.
Eventually the game will end as the stock of available tiles to draw from dwindles and the board fills up, forcing one of the two remaining players off the board. And that’s pretty much the gist of the game.
Unlike my previous review for Pandemic and its long play time, Tsuro can be learned in five minutes and the games themselves are roughly ten solid minutes or so in length, especially if you add in more players. The number of tiles is the same as the amount of empty spaces on the board to place them so the board will fill up quickly with more people.
Tsuro requires very little in terms of strategy aside from determining where you want to fly on the board and doing your best not to fly off or crash into someone else, so it’s very accessible to a broad audience. I played it with a couple in their fifties and sixties and they were able to pick it up in moments.
The negligible negatives are those limited amount of tiles which if you play it often enough you may actually memorize and the game can perhaps become predictable but since there are so many ways to connect the tiles together, you’d have to spend a lot of time playing this game over and over to “master” it and Tsuro is not a game you’re looking to master in order to fine tune your ability and technique. This is a game where you mostly leave the fate of your dragon up to circumstance and [gently] make fun of your friends because they placed a tile that lead them in an unexpected direction than what they were anticipating and they flew themselves right off the board and are now just ordinary humans.
You might consider Tsuro a sort of appetizer and a warm up if perhaps you’re planning a game night and want to try something light before moving on to a longer or more elaborate board game or if you simply just want to play something that can potentially appeal to people of nearly any age. It’s fast, it’s a lot of fun and it’s gorgeous to look at. Plus, how many games actually let you play the role of one of the most fearsome and awesome mythical creatures known to man? That alone is worth at least considering Tsuro.