Review — Tsuro

Tsuro has always been one of my favorite board games. It’s so simple it requires basically no explanation, but there can still be a lot of skill incorporated into the game. It remains an old favorite of mine partly because I don’t own it, and thus I don’t get to play it often, but recently I bought it on my phone for $1. It is literally the game but on a screen (plus achievements, which I’m never upset about), and the only feature I think the app is missing is the ability to move the camera. The angle it gives you isn’t the best.

But anyway, I’ll talk a bit about what this game is before I really review it. Up to eight players set their pieces (called “Stones”) on the edges of an empty grid (the board). They each draw three tiles from the deck, and these tiles are just lines. There are two endpoints on each side of these squares, and when you place it on the board, the players’ Stones go along the path until it ends, and a new tile is placed on the grid (on their turn or another player’s). The most common win condition is “Last Stone Standing”.

That’s the whole game, but here’s where the strategy comes in. Each tile has four lines and eight endpoints. A placed tile will always affect every Stone whose path it adds to. You can try to avoid the rest of the players by skirting around the edge of the board, or you can actively seek them out and try to get their path to go off the board, or send them crashing into other players.

Since there are dozens of different tiles, and they’re all unique, this game has almost infinite replayability, and by it’s nature, it gets harder and harder to stay alive the longer the game goes on. This means you can mess with people early on, only to be thrown halfway across the board in one turn. It’s simple enough for everyone to enjoy, and skill almost doesn’t matter.

If I have any critiques for this game, it’s that a lot of it is luck based. There will be many circumstances where you will be forced to rely on drawing a specific kind of tile, and when you don’t get it, you just lose. More experienced players will win more often, of course, but this is one of those games that even beginners have an almost equal chance to win, regardless of what happens. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t inherently bad, but it’s not always what you want in a board game.

The other thing is also a double edged sword, and that is it’s simplicity. Many learned and veteran board game aficionados (go redundancy) will prefer games with a more complicated nature. Tsuro is not only easy to set up, but one game can also end in ten minutes, which is far sooner than most tabletops. It’s great for getting beginners into what board games can be like, but it’s not something you can really spend the whole night playing.

 

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