Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Wakey-wakey, dragons :- Tsuro of the Seas

Game: Tsuro of the Seas

Manufacturer: Calliope Games

Designer: Tom McMurchie & Jordan Weisman


There are many threats for sailors, from errant storms to lack of fresh fruit your life if always at risk. But nothing is as deadly, as monsters, people may scoff at those pictures of krakens on maps, but they are real, all of them! None are quite as deadly as the Daikaiju. They eat ships in one gulp, they eat each other in one gulp! You can't predict what they are going to do, they disturb the winds knocking your ship out of control. So I tell you, whatever you do, pay attention when you see the words 'Here be dragons'

Tsuro of the Seas is a 2-8player tile laying survival game where you sail a boat through water plagued with Daikaiju (which will from here always be referred to as dragons). The objective is to stay on the board as long as possible by laying tiles that set out routes to follow in the form of the wake of your ships. Falling of the board, landing on a dragon, having a dragon fly on top of you or crashing into another boat will all knock you out of the game.

The main game-play is the same as the original Tsuro, you place down a tile out of your hand of three, move yourself and any other affected players along the wakes printed on that tile, continuing along the lines of any other tiles that you come into contact with until you reach an empty tile space. Your objective is to stay on the grid-based board, this starts off easy, but the board slowly fills up with more tiles and a simple move might take you across 4-5 tiles and onto the other side of the board. Of the Seas adds dragons, dragons start on random co-ordinates (though tending towards the center) and then move about during the game eating both ships and movement tiles along their erratic paths. 

At the start of each turn you roll the 2 6-sided dice, on a roll of 6, 7 or 8 the dragons awaken and move about. You then roll the dice for each dragon in order, the dragons are all printed with the numbers 1-5 and follow the action rolled, moving in one of the 4 cardinal directions or spinning on the spot. On a roll of 6 that particular dragon doesn’t move, though others may still do so. If I’m honest I’ve always had the nagging feeling that we’ve played this wrong and instead you move all dragons based on the numbers rolled when you rolled the 6/7/8. The two dice are coloured to match one of the two dragon colours so this would make sense, but from what I’ve read in the rules you do roll every dragon separately, this does feel like it takes longer than necessary.

The number of dragons starting on the board depends on player count and they do add a certain amount of danger to the game board, something that was lacking in the early turns of the base game. Dragons can also be killed in similar ways to players, they can fly into each other (in which case the moving one eats the stationary one) or they can fly off the board, however there will always be 3 on the table, so should the number get too low new ones will be spawned at random coordinates, creating one of the cheapest player deaths you can get.

How a game might look part way through (I confess if you follow the ships wakes then you'll find out this photo is staged... no wait the dragons ate the tiles... yeah...)Eavh player is one of two bad rolls away from becoming dragopn-chow

Tsuro of the seas in many ways has the opposite problem of the original Tsuro. In the original game the start tends to be quite slow, but as the board fills up the game gets more frantic, however in Tsuro of the seas the start of the game can be quite hectic due to dragons randomly picking of some of the 8 players, but when there are only a few players left the dragons can eat up tiles as fast as you place them, meaning that new open areas appear and the game can drag on a lot longer. Dragon deaths can also feel quite cheap, whereas deaths from your own bad planning/other players feels fair. Of course the answer to all this is simply to play without the dragons, fortunately Tsuro of the seas contains enough tiles to be played as the original game, so there is little reason not to get this version.
The production value is very good, everything in the box looks and feels high quality.

Tsuro of the seas is a nice game to get a large number of people playing quickly, though it does suffer at lower player counts, the rules can be explained as simply as roll the dice, play a tile, pick up a tile. However being a knock out game and given that the dragons can slow down the endgame I feel it is actually more lacking for such occasions than the base game. Of course simply ignoring every reference to dragons is a very viable option, alternatively if you have no dragons ever respawn this can reduce their threat over time and so reduce the number of tiles removed by them, also stopping the somewhat unfair ‘dragon flies in you die’ deaths.


1 comment:

  1. Nice review! I have similar feelings towards Tsuro of the Seas. The random death is frustrating (though funny for everyone else!) but my real issue is length. Players can be eliminated much earlier than you tend to see in the original Tsuro, and the game ends up taking longer too! Not a good combination.