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Subject: Tsuro - A Light Review rss

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New South Wales
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When you walk ...through a Storm...hold your head up high!

Image Courtesy of lukeholland

All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what a game may offer them, the options involved and general flow of play.

My modern Light Review format aims to keep the length under 2000 words, which may sound like a lot but is really quite succinct.


Game Type - Abstract Game
Play Time: 10-15 minutes
Number of Players: 2-8
Mechanics - Tile Placement, Route/Network Building, Player Elimination, Hand Management
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 10 minutes)
Components - Very Good ++
Release - 2004

Designer - Tom McMurchie - (Tsuro of the Seas)

Overview and Theme

An oiled up serf hits a bronze gong with a padded mallet...

[Activate Meditation Voice]

Welcome to the temple of spirituality otherwise known as the way of the path. Tsuro, the game of the path, allows one to engage in deep thought, contemplation of one's naval and the placement of tiles in an attempt to discover enlightenment as you seek to maneuver your way through the twisting maze of confusion and in doing so become the only one to stand alone in a forest to hear the sound of one hand clapping.

[Meditation Voice deactivated]

Welcome to Tsuro, which is about as simple as a game can get and as such is the perfect game for casual players and family members that may have absolutely no interest in learning and remembering complex rule-sets.

Tsuro is also one of those unique titles that allows anywhere from 2 to 8 to join the fun and at 15 minutes a game, even the most time poor person can find the time to take to the path.

Apparently the game has some origins in design concepts as far back as the 70s but it shares similarities with designs of more recent times in Metro and Spaghetti Junction. The latest game of this style is Indigo, which like Tsuro, has received much praise.

The theme centers around the eastern concepts of spirituality and introspection, which is all very zen.

Grab those chopsticks, stick them in your hair and join me on the meandering path that is analysis. I promise...it won't hurt a bit.


The Components

Tsuro, like many an abstract design, does not need much for it to be played. What is provided though is quite nice.

d10-1 Board - The board is a mid-sized affair and depicts a Phoenix in full flight. Some boards can vary in the background colouring with some being more orange and others a slightly more reddish hue.

Apart from the Phoenix artwork and some supporting cloud art, the board is rather bland. It consists of squares (36 in a 6x6 grid) and around the outer edge are small white marks which denote starting points for the stones of the players.

Image Courtesy of The Weasel Gun

d10-2 Markers - The Markers or Stones of the players are nicely weighted plastic offerings that feature the image of a dragon on them. Each is a different colour and they have a nice tactile quality.

By themselves they are a good looking piece but I have seen some with the dragon inlay painted and they look amazing.

Image Courtesy of AmberWoywitka

d10-3 Tiles - The tiles are of good quality, not overly thick but not wafer thin either. They are sized to fill each of the squares on the board as you would expect.

The back of the tiles feature some calligraphy, which I imagine says 'Way of the Path'. The game-playing side then features a series of lines or paths that travel in various directions from the outer edges. Each tile has precisely 4 different paths on it. The background colouring of the tiles is rather bland and I guess that is deliberate to help the whitish paths stand out, but on the whole the tile artwork itself is a little 'bleh' and not overly engaging.

Image Courtesy of Trewinter

d10-4 Cover Page - Tsuro also offers an additional quality element in the form of a large square of what I think is rice paper?

It features the Calligraphy image on the back of the tiles and it does raise the quality of the overall production, even if it is really superfluous to requirements.

Image Courtesy of EndersGame

d10-5 Rules - The rules also go that extra mile to be different. They are presented as a fold open or outwards design, as if you were opening a very formal dinner invitation to a palace somewhere. The rules are well written and offer a variant or two as well.

Image Courtesy of EndersGame

Overall Tsuro's production is very good to excellent without 'blowing your mind' in any great way.

Image Courtesy of Naysayer


Tsuro is almost set up as soon as you take the lid off the box.

Image Courtesy of MyParadox

Simply place the board, mix up the tiles and place them in a single stack face-down. Deal 3 tiles to each player and each player takes a marker or stone and selects a starting location (any of the white markers around the board).

Select a start player and the game is ready to go.

The Play

This review makes me feel a little guilty...because really...there is nothing to it.

The aim of the game is to be the last player standing, thus players can be eliminated in a game of Tsuro.

The play of a turn looks a little like this -

d10-1 Place Tile – On a player's turn they must select a tile from those available and place it in front of the current location of their marker stone (the empty square which their stone is facing). They are free to rotate the tile any way they like to manipulate the paths it contains before placing.

d10-2 Move Markers/Stones – By placing a tile in this fashion, the active player will have extended the path that their stone is currently on. The active player then moves their marker stone along the path that it is on so it moves to the end of the path as far as it can.

This is important as it helps all other players to see where you are positioned as they consider future plays. Sometimes a player's stone will only move a short distance but other times the newly placed tile may link up to other tiles and require a marker stone to move quite far.

It is also possible that the placement of a tile extends the path of another player's stone in your turn. If this occurs then those stones must also be moved to the end of their path.

d10-3 Draw Tile – The active player then completes their turn by drawing a new tile to return their hand to 3 tiles.

The play then moves to the next player in clockwise order.

d10-4 Player Elimination - If a player's stone is ever forced to move along a path, such that it hits the edge of the board, they are eliminated. This can happen either in a player's turn if they are forced to play a tile that leads their path to a board edge, or it may happen as the result of another player placing a tile.

A player (indeed multiple players) can be eliminated in one play if the placement of a tile results in two marker stones colliding with one another!

When a player is eliminated, any tiles they were holding are shuffled into the draw pile for future use.

d10-5 The Dragon Tile - It is possible for the game to continue beyond a point when there are no tiles left to draw. The last tile to be drawn will be the Dragon Tile and this is taken instead of a regular tile to note who was last to not draw a tile. If the game gets to a point whereby someone is eliminated and their tiles are returned to the draw pile, the Dragon Tile reminds the players as to who is next to draw a tile from those that have just become available. The Dragon Tile may need to be passed to the next player in order if they too held less than the hand limit of 3.

d10-6 Winning the Game – The last player to remain on the board after a player is eliminated is declared the victor and should quote something from Confucius, just to rub it in!

Personal favourites include:

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Of course substituting the word 'life' for 'game' ups the smart arse factor.

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the desire to reach your full potential...these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal success."

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

"Success depends on previous preparation and without such preparation there is sure to be failure."

The Final Word

Tsuro is one of those games in which I don't seem to conform with the majority. I can understand its appeal - the simplicity, the ability to play with a larger group if desired, the quick time frame and, on occasions, the ability to consider a move carefully and make smart plays that open up your own options whilst closing off those of your opponent. There is also something quite enjoyable about setting your foes on a path to mutual destruction if your tiles allow you to do so.

But for me there just isn't enough game here to keep my interest. My initial reaction, which has stayed pretty consistent with further plays has been, "Hmm...so that's it."

I also tried the game with just two players and whilst it wasn't as bad as I expected, for me the game is at its best with 5-6.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder on this one and for me, my eye doesn't glimpse too much that sparks that fire we all look for in a game. I just wanted more angles and depth to the experience.

For that reason I think that Indigo is definitely worth a look and I am sure that am some point it will cross my...err...path.

Till next we meet may you reach enlightenment and find inner peace in all that you do.

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Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
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Admittedly, I only read the final words on this review, only because I just did a review of this game myself. I couldn't agree with you more. Well thought out explanation of the gameplay and your opinions.
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I read the words "Tsuro" and "Light" in your title, and got excited that you were going to announce some 'Tsuro: Light Cycles' edition.

Man, I'd definitely buy that!
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New South Wales
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When you walk ...through a Storm...hold your head up high!
TaleSpinner wrote:
I read the words "Tsuro" and "Light" in your title, and got excited that you were going to announce some 'Tsuro: Light Cycles' edition.

Man, I'd definitely buy that!

Yeah as I was writing this KK I thought thematically matching Tron to the game principals is a no brainer!
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