TSURO: Leading others down the path
Okay, I am well aware that there are plenty of other review out there, all of them doing Tsuro much more justice than I can. The thing is, all of them hint around a point, yet sum up missing it. This game is often described as a decent to great filler game. I can agree with that point. But it is so much more than that. Well okay it is not a whole lot more than that, but there is one key feature that the previous reviews have not completely pointed out.
Tsuro is an almost perfect Gateway, and/or introduction game. At least that is my opinion which this review is designed to support.
Everything (save one) is designed to attract the eye. The box is beautiful. The board, looks almost woodcut, with a fantastic phoenix on top of it. The pieces, true the stones are plastic. But they still look incredibly cool. The Tiles are of contrasting, colors, and very well designed between the quality of cardboard, and the artistic pathways. The rules looks like a Chinese menu until you open it up, and are written in a very accommodating way. Every little detail is designed to appeal. And I have yet to meet anybody who has not stopped, looked, and then displayed an interest in the game.
The rules are as simple as eating a chocolate chip cookie. They can be explained in about the same amount of time as well. EXCEPT FOR THE DRAGON TILE RULE. Which I will admit is confusing, but fortunately it is explained well at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/86775.
It boils down to play, move, draw, and try not to go off the board. If the draw pile is empty take the dragon tile, and get first dibs when tiles are available. If you cause another players demise, take their tiles, and keep up to three. That’s it, and you are playing. What could be simpler.
III Actually playing
First off it is quick. You only have one place you can put your tile. (the one in front of you) and you only have three tiles to choose from. The limited choice helps to speed the game along. Secondly, there is guaranteed player interaction. Even if you try your best to avoid people the whole game, eventually you will come across a tile another person played. Third, it is fun even if you don’t win. When faced with self destruction, there is almost always a way to make it elaborate and artistic. Thirdly, the game is made for kibitzing. If you are finished off early, you can still point out (even as a first time player) where a person should have played a different tile.
Behind all the gloss and glitter, (which while there isn’t much, it is impressive) Tsuro is a tile laying game. In fact, that’s pretty much all it is. Which is the beauty of it, and this is where it really shines. This in fact is the whole reason behind my theory. People are drawn to Tsuro for the art. They then find it is easy to learn. Next they pick it up quick. And it lays the groundwork for introducing new games. I mean, teach them Tsuro. Then say “I have another game, it’s really similar, except you can earn points, when you go off the board.” And teach them metro. Then from there you have them used to tile laying games. You can go either to Drakon, Carcassone, betrayal at the house on the hill, and as you get more complex in the tile laying, you teach other mechanics, and those mechanics can mover you to other games.
Tsuro provides gaming at it’s simplest form, and yet provides fun. It lays itself as a stepping stone to bring people up not just in tile laying games, but in the board game universe. And it doesn’t matter what type of game you want, you can get there from tile laying. (although with wargames it might be an incredibly long and convoluted road.) The best part is, with Tsuro as an introduction, almost everybody is guaranteed to have a good time, and it’s that first impression which will keep them coming back. They may not (and probably won’t) enjoy every game you lay before them. But they will remember their first in a positive way, and that first impression will stick with them and allow them to keep trying to find the other gems that exist in the board game universe.