Designer: Tom McMurchie
Artist: Cathy Brigg, Andrew Hepworth, Shane Small, Imelda Vohwinkel, Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Calliope Games
I really didn’t rate Tsuro very highly when I first played the game many years back. I felt it was both simple and chaotic in a way that really didn’t captured my attention. It also didn’t help that I already owned Indigo, an outstanding semi-coop networking game not unlike Tsuro in some ways. In both games, players play tiles to build a network of paths while moving your own player markers on the newly built pathways. This network building and pathfinding mechanism is really a very old genre with games like Metro from Queen Games, Linie 1 from Goldsieber or Streetcar from Mayfair already out in the market prior to either Indigo or Tsuro. You don’t really see a lot of this mechanism any more in current designs.
Grabbing a copy of Tsuro was really more an impulse purchase and I did that knowing that the game is short and the rules are simple. This fits my current gaming arrangement with family and kids. Whether a game is enjoyable really depends on the context of the game group. In this case, Tsuro is a perfectly acceptable abstract game for the family.
Turns are rapid. You have a hand of three tiles, with each tile depicting a maze of pathways, but always having two exits on each edge of the tile. That means that no matter which way you orient the tile, the pathways will always link up. This is of course critical for your marker to move from one tile to the next as the network expands.
Ultimately, after most of the tiles are placed, one of two things can happen. First, your marker will exit the game board by following a path that ends at the edges of the board. So yes, there is player elimination. Another possible way of victory is if your opponents end up colliding their pieces together on the board for mutual annihilation. This happens when two separate tracks are connected by a tile. In either case, the winner is the last man, woman or child standing.
Because there are only so many spaces on the board, the game forces a conclusion quickly by making sure that most players will get eliminated in the last few rounds when the pathways merge. It is possible to lose earlier by being reckless or not properly sequencing the tiles to prevent an untimely exit at the edge of the board, but I think that is relatively rare. If one pays attention, then the player elimination aspect really doesn’t come into play. It is often quite common to get eliminated at the penultimate round of the game when most of the tiles are placed on the board.
Now, why Tsuro compared to all the other pathfinding/networking games? Easy, it’s the quickest to setup and play among them all. Indigo is an outstanding game, that requires a semi-coop strategy. It is a little bit more finicky to set up and shines with 4 players. I would always choose that if I have the time. Likewise, Metro or Streetcar are much longer and more involved games. Both are decent, but I no longer own either.
Strategy wise, well, I don’t know if there are any, really. Honestly, the game is just a matter of staying in a area where there is enough open space for you to place a tile each turn. If two players crowd around a same area, then it is likely they will fight for the right to play tiles and not exit the board. Sometimes, it is possible that your piece finds an escape route that will move it to the other end of the board. That is satisfying at some level, but I hazard lady luck’s hand is usually at play here and it has less to do with long-term planning on your part. So, the goal is to move your piece around the board to find virgin territories to conquer.
Tsuro is a decent, short abstract game for the family. Take it or leave it, nothing more to it.
Final word: Average