Tsuro: Phoenix Rising is on Kickstarter

Tsuro Phoenix Rising Cover Art

Building on a classic for a second time.  Will the Phoenix rise?

So I recently reviewed Tsuro and Tsuro of the Seas from Calliope Games (And WizKids before that).  I enjoy the core gameplay of Tsuro, but Tsuro of the Seas added a little too much to pip the original for me.

Now Calliope is 10 years old and is celebrating with a third version of the classic game – Tsuro: Phoenix Rising.

Like Tsuro of the Seas, Tsuro: Phoenix Rising is being launched on Kickstarter, and there is just over a week if you wish to back a copy for yourself.  I have backed myself, and the funding goal has been absolutely smashed.

But why would I back if I didn’t enjoy more rules over the simple base game?  It all has to do with what rules have been added, and how gameplay has been impacted.

And from everything I can see – Tsuro: Phoenix Rising looks good.  Really good.  This is the kind of update I wish Tsuro of the Seas was.  If you want to have a look without my thoughts, check out the Kickstarter page here.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising
New game, but same core rules. Image from the Kickstarter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781219801/tsuro-phoenix-rising

The Core Tsuro Experience

Tsuro at its core is a tile laying game, where you attempt to connect paths that keep you on the board the longest.  You try to weave a path for yourself while trying to manipulate other players to hit each other or fly off the board.

Tsuro of the Seas added randomness but also potentially messing the board at each turn.  I didn’t go into the issue of messing the tiles too much as you just lay them out further apart to counter this, but it is an issue.

The Phoenix Reborn

Everyone at Calliope seems to have listened to this feedback over the years, and everything about Tsuro: Phoenix Rising has (on paper at least) ticked every one of the complaints.

Adding more game than the abstract ‘be the last player’ – Check.  In Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, you are now playing as the titular Phoenix and are collecting lanterns to turn into stars.  The first player to 7 stars wins – a simple, clear goal.

This is handy when playing with some players that just need a reason to play – just being the last one doesn’t click for a lot of players.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising Collecting Lanterns
Prototype game in play. Image from How to Play Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM1J5yXSGp8

Playing around with the board state in Tsuro of the Seas was frustrating.  In Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, you not only add tiles but rotate and flip existing tiles – and now there are extra components on the board!

This has been addressed but a 3D plastic base for the game.  On the surface, it looks like a useless piece with upside down cups to minimise costs.  In reality, the board locks tiles in place, but the ‘cups’ allow you to press down on a corner and easily grab the now raised tile, without interfering with any other tiles.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising Game Board
Manipulate the board without disturbing other tiles! Image from the project Kickstarter page

And finally, there is the game length and player elimination.  A lot of players and a focused goal can lead to longer play times.  Add an unlucky tile draw or lapse in concentration, and you can be out for the better part of an hour.

But you are now playing as Phoenix – the legendary bird that rises from its ashes upon death.  Now players have a life token, allowing them to rejoin the game once.

This will most likely contribute to longer games than the original Tsuro, but with a more ‘gamey’ objective, I don’t think it will detract from the experience.  If it does, I will probably play without them, or only newer players can use them.

But how does Tsuro: Phoenix Rising play?

I have intentionally skimmed over how to play this new game because Calliope has made a video showing you how the game works themselves!

Check out the video below:

What the Kickstarter offers

As usual with Kickstarter projects, there are a few different tiers and options available to you, starting with the Standard Retail tier of 1 copy of Tsuro: Phoenix Rising for USD$40.

Having both Tsuro and Tsuro of the Seas and enjoying bonuses, I am backing the Kickstarter Exclusive tier at USD$55.  Here, I get some alternate pretty Phoenix tokens, a PVC custom insert, and the ‘Twilight Portal’ expansion up front.

Not a required purchase in any way, but if I can grab the expansions straight away, I prefer to do so – especially with games sometimes not coming to Australia.  The expansion seems far from a must buy though, but the price increase if fairly minimal.

I don’t know if the insert will make that big a difference though.  It’s some tiles and tokens after all – not usually an organisational nightmare.  The alternate tokens are a nice touch, but again not really a must buy.

All this is just a long way of saying if you aren’t sure, the Standard Tier is still a great buy.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising Retail Tier
Contents of the Retail Box - more than enough game. Image from the project Kickstarter page

If you have not never heard of Tsuro before and want to go all in, then Legacy of Tsuro tier is great value at USD$100.

Not only do you get everything in the Kickstarter Exclusive tier, but the two previous games as well.  And Tsuro of the Seas comes with its own expansion ‘Veterans of the Seas’, so you truly will get all that is on offer for a great price.

Overall though, to me, you will need to know you want the lot before backing – even though it’s a great deal.  Tsuro of the Seas doesn’t come close to replacing Tsuro for me, but Tsuro: Phoenix Rising will probably replace Tsuro of the Seas in my collection.

Tsuro Phoenix Rising Tsuro Legacy
Great price for what's on offer! Image from the project Kickstarter page

But don’t take my word for it – there are plenty of previews and thoughts over on the Kickstarter page – check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Tsuro of the Seas Review

Tsuro of the Seas Cover Art
Tsuro of the Seas Cover Art
Released 2012
Designer Tom McMurchie, Jordan Weisman
Publisher Calliope Games (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4 maybe 5)
Playing Time 30-45 minutes
Category Hand Management
Tile/Path Laying
Player Elimination
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Does making a game more complicated make it better?

Last Friday I reviewed Tsuro, an elegantly simple game of laying paths and being the only player left on the board.

Then in 2012, Ray Wehrs kicked off Calliope Games first Kickstarter campaign with an update to the original – Tsuro of the Seas was introduced to the world!

Building on the same ideas as the original, Tsuro of the Seas has the same strong Asian influence, the same art style and the same path laying tactics.

This time though, instead of being a mythical creature enjoying yourself in the air, the much less abstract theme of being a ship captain trying to get back to port comes into play.

So you would think that avoiding other sailors would be enough, wouldn’t you?  Now you also have to dodge daikaiju (giant monsters) that are roaming the seas and making your journey much more interesting.

Tsuro of the Seas ComponentsZ
On the surface, what can some tiles and a pair of dice add?

Playing Tsuro of the Seas

The first thing a player does on their turn is roll two die and see if the daikaiju are activated.

The number of daikaiju in the game are dependant on the number of players, but in a lot of ways the daikaiju are extra tiles on the board that move.

If the daikaiju are activated, then you need to roll die to see if they rotate/move or if a new daikaiju is placed.  With a lot of daikaijuon the board, this can take quite a while. And there are movement rules just for the daikaiju to remember.

Tsuro of the Seas Initial Setup
The Daikaiju are waiting. White seems to be in trouble already though...

If they travel off the board, then the daikaiju is essentially eliminated (just like a player in normal daikaiju).  They also destroy players Wake Tiles (the tiles placed for Player Movement).

If a daikaiju is in front of a player (i.e. making it impossible for the player to place a Wake Tile), that player (or those players) are eliminated.

Once all of this is done, the player then takes their turn by placing a Wake Tile before them, similar to the original Tsuro.  Once placed, you follow your trail and follow the path to its conclusion.

Just like the original, if you leave the board you are eliminated.  If you sail boats into each other (or cause other players to do so) then those boats are eliminated.

If you sail into a daikaiju, you are eliminated.

Once you are the last boat on the board, that player wins – simple!

Tsuro of the Seas Movement
The core of the game is fully intact, even if the patterns have changed

The Good points of Tsuro of the Seas

There is a lot to like of more of a solid game.  The simple movement mechanics of following a path are always welcome, and the art style is still great to enjoy while not detracting from play.

The components are also very good, with the boats quite nice especially for the time.  Today you would probably have some more finely detailed pieces, but that is just the advantage of new production processes.

The idea of the extra random elements of the daikaiju are also great in theory.  When you have players that are very familiar with possible paths and forward planning, the random element they introduce is a great challenge for players.

Another welcome addition is you can play essentially the original game if you just don’t include the daikaiju tiles – great for introducing new players.

The core of the game is fully intact, even if the patterns have changed Ship Tokens
The ships are nice, but I don't have the same urge to paint them as the original tokens

But…

Tsuro of the Seas feels like a game made for the hardcore fans, even though it is a stand-alone expansion or sequel.

This is something that I see a lot in Video Games – take Destiny 2 for example.  Destiny had a core community that kept playing long after the main crowd came and went.  Bungie made Destiny 2 and streamlined a lot of the mechanics and gameplay lowering the barrier of entry, and then the core community screamed.  My thoughts on this can be found here.

The additional bookkeeping and slow down of the gameplay with the introduction of the daikaiju feels very similar – the crowd wanted more, so more was added, but not in a way that made Tsuro of the Seas is friendly towards new gamers.

If you are introducing new players to gaming, who wants to spend more time messing with the board than just having their turn?  Great for veterans, but not so much for new players.

Tsuro of the Seas Daikaiju
The daikaiju are great for veterans, but add a lot of extra mid turn admin

This is where Tsuro of the Seas is let down.  It is a game for fans adding complication to a simple premise, for the sake of adding complication.

As a fan of the original Tsuro, I do appreciate the added ‘game’ of Tsuro of the seas, but the problem is there are so many games that do something similar today and at a much faster pace.

But when I can play 2 games of Tsuro for every game of Tsuro of the Seas, with no administrative downtime, I know where my vote is.

But a new version is coming

But all of this said, the new iteration of Tsuro to celebrate Calliope Games 10th anniversary – Tsuro: Phoenix Rising – seems to have taken the cons of Tsuro of the Seas into account.

More strategy has been added needing to get your Phoenix to specific areas of the board, rather than the overhead of added randomness in Tsuro of the Seas.

For this, I am looking forward to playing Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, but I will talk about that in more detail later in the week!

Tsuro Phoenix Rising
New game, but same core rules. Image from the Kickstarter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781219801/tsuro-phoenix-rising

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tsuro of the Seas

Final Thoughts

Tsuro of the Seas shows what happens if you add too much or not enough to a base concept.

While it is a lot of fun, the slowdown in play due to the daikaiju adds for me unnecessary overhead for the sake of a new mechanic in gameplay.

Tsuro of the Seas is still a good game overall, but I would much rather play the original game.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • Beautiful art and attention to components
  •  Core game still very much present
  •  Can still play essentially the base game if you remove a row and column from the play area

Cons

  •  Addition of the daikaiju slow gameplay
  •  Not the best written rulesbook
  •  Not quite as gateway friendly as the original

Tsuro Review

Tsuro Box Art
Tsuro Box Art
Released 2004
Designer Tom McMurchie
Publisher Calliope Games (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4-6)
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Hand Management
Tile/Path Laying
Player Elimination
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Just like in life, there are multiple paths.  Can you find the right one?

The Game of Life.  Not the Hasbro one, the actual day to day we all navigate through.  No matter who you are or what you believe, we all play the same central game – pick a path, follow it, and hope we all come out of it alright.

Saying it like that does not make for an interesting or uplifting theme, does it?  It may be a reworking is in order.  What if you were a glorious dragon, making your way through the path minding your own business, occasionally conflicting with other dragons?  Doesn’t that sound interesting?

Both paragraphs accurately describe the gameplay of Tsuro: The Game of the Path.  Each player has a token and three tiles, and on their turn, a tile will be placed that will create a path for the token to follow.

With luck, you will continue to journey and be the last dragon happily navigating the board.  But occasionally you will have no choice but to fly into other dragons or off the board, ending your run for the game.

And that is it – that’s almost all there is to tactics and objectives in Tsuro.  Be the last dragon on the board, and you win – job done!

Tsuro Components
I've said it before and I will say it again - you don't need a lot of parts for a good game

Playing Tsuro

Tsuro is incredibly easy to teach and pick up.

To begin, each player starts at a marker on the outside of the board.  This is where your dragon will start the game.  Technically, you can start on the same square but the second marker next to another player, but maybe not while you are learning the game 🙂

The oldest player going first, you then place a tile in an empty square adjacent to their marker.  The idea of the placement is to continue the natural path you have started on.

Once the marker is placed, the player then moves their token to the end of the natural path.  At the start of the game this is usually to the edge of the tile that was placed, but later in the game these paths can go quite a ways!

Once this is done, any other markers that may have had paths put before them are now moved.  Then the player takes a tile so that they always have three tiles, and the next player clockwise has their turn, following the same rules.

Tsuro First Move
Your opening move is the safest in the game. That doesn't last long though!

A common way of being eliminated is if you make two markers meet, both of those markers will be eliminated.  At the start of Tsuro it’s pretty easy to see this coming, but as the number of tiles on the board increases, you can get caught out!

If you place a path that guides you off the board, there is a small reprieve.  You may not willingly do this, so there is room to take back the tile for a mistake.  But be careful – if you have no choice but to eliminate yourself in this fashion, then the elimination is final.

Once a player is eliminated, their tiles are shuffled back into the draw pile, and play continues.

Tsuro Check Your Strategy
So the red player thinks that this tile will send yellow off the board. But it will knock them both out!

Once there is only one marker left on the board, that player wins!

There are some other rules in terms of the draw pile being empty and multiple final players being eliminated on the same turn, but this is all you need to know to play Tsuro.

Once you have the basics down, there are even some variant rules like being able to swap some of your tiles with those of a player you eliminated.

Who would play Tsuro?

Honestly, most people that I have introduced to Tsuro have thoroughly enjoyed it and all for different reasons.

Some people enjoy the maximisation factor of laying the ‘perfect’ path early game to reap the benefits later.  Others enjoy moving their marker towards other players and messing with others as soon as possible.

If you start a game and another player puts their token right next to yours – expect shenanigans the entire time.

Tsuro Starting Shenanigans
You won't go out first turn (usually), but this kind of proximity can be an aggressive move.

But that is part of the beauty of Tsuro – the game is so simple it can be the sort of game you want it to be.

Yes, there is strategy involved, but you can ignore it.  There is luck in the cards you pull, but the game is so quick a bad draw doesn’t hurt too much and three cards to play helps as well.

Moving a piece along a line is easy to do, so even adding younger players into a game will work well.  To play Tsuro a lot though, like the main game on a game night, players will usually need a little bit more – but I will get to that in a minute.

The Game Itself

The components are fine for what they are. Essentially it’s a baseboard and thick cardboard tiles, so there isn’t much to rave about.  The markers for the dragons are solid plastic pieces and are nice to move around the board.

One day I will get around to painting mine.  Golden dragons in the imprint with colouring on the outer marker.  One day 🙂

But the art.  Heavily influenced by the Asian dragons, the art in Tsuro is as elegant and understated as the gameplay mechanics, and works so well.

Tsuro Tokens
The tokens are nicely weighted and good to use, like quality poker chips. But I still want to paint them 🙂

A big part of my attraction to Tsuro is its simplicity – but this is also its downfall.  Tsuro is a game that is great for 30-40 minutes at a time, but not all afternoon/evening/whenever.

Luckily, this is where Tsuro of the Seas comes into play, and I will be reviewing that next week.  Same basic gameplay, but with added mechanics making it more ‘gamey’ or a bit heavier for people that are looking for it.

And the sales pitch (well, as close as I get anyway)

On Kickstarter right now is the third game in the Tsuro legacy – Tsuro: Phoenix Rising.

Taking the same base gameplay described here and adding some twists and refinements, more ‘game’ is added while at the same time remaining accessible and fun.

I will be doing a more formal write up on Tsuro: Phoenix Rising soon, but if Tsuro looks interesting to you I would highly recommend checking out Tsuro: Pheonix Rising.  Kickstarter ends Sunday, February 10 at 5 am AEST!

Tsuro Phoenix Rising
New game, but same core rules. Image from the Kickstarter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781219801/tsuro-phoenix-rising

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tsuro

Final Thoughts

Tsuro is a great simple concept that makes for a great filler game.  The only real downsides are you really want 4-5 people to make the game really interesting.   And playing with 8 people is somehow just so slow 🙁

While an older game Tsuro is still fairly easy to get, but newer versions are available that add a bit more for people looking for a heavier experience.  Tsuro is such a classic base to build from though, and as such, I think a great addition to every collection.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Surprisingly satisfying puzzle
  •  Manages to build excitement and tension in a short time format

Cons

  •  Newer versions are both easier to buy and improve on game play
  •  Players can be put off by ‘unlucky’ draws
  •  While techically playable with 2 players, preferable with more players

The Mansky Caper – An Offer You Can’t Defuse

The Mansky Caper Feature

Cooperative or Competitive games tonight?  Why not both?

There are times you are sitting there, happily catching up with some games news, and one comes along that makes you perk up.  And then wonder how you missed it a year ago on Kickstarter?

One such game for me from Origins is The Mansky Caper from Ken Franklin and Calliope Games.  Everything about this game just calls out fun

The premise of the game is simple – your family of criminal associates is trying their best, but they are just getting muscled out of the really big jobs.

Al Mansky on the other hand, the richest mob boss in the country, is living the high life.  So what better way to get on top than to take from those already there?  That will make everyone take your family seriously.  Of course, it also wouldn’t hurt if you were able to take a bit extra for yourself on the side…

Not only is Al Mansky the richest mob boss, he is also the most eccentric.  This works in your favour because he doesn’t trust banks or cops.  All of his wealth is sitting locked in his house!  There is a slight hitch though.  While there are no alarms, his treasure isn’t unprotected.  Each safe is booby-trapped with bundles of TNT, so if you make a mistake – BOOM!

Players explore Al’s house and break into the various safes in order to steal the loot.  But you have to be careful what you pull from a safe!  It could be a Danger-Danger token, where you roll and see if you blow up your loot or not.  Get enough of these tokens, and the room is destroyed no matter what you do.

The Mansky Caper Components
The Mansky Caper in all its glory

You can pull a ‘Gasp!’ token, which are little surprises that can be good or bad for you.  Or you can pull coins, gems, and even keys you can use to open other rooms in the house.

You keep grabbing loot and sharing with the people in the room with you, but to be safe you should stash loot in the getaway car.  But don’t play it too safe, because while you are stashing your loot, everyone else is busy grabbing more.

If you get blown up by Al’s little ‘presents’, you get blown Wile E. Coyote style back to the getaway car.  You can pick yourself up, dust off and dash back in the house, but unfortunately any loot you picked up didn’t make it with you, so you have to start from scratch.

The family is made up of eight associates, each with their own unique abilities.  The twist in the game though is you can’t use your ability to help yourself, meaning you really do have to work together!

During play, if you are in the same room as another player, you can offer your ‘Favour’ token to another player to let them use your ability.  You have to use it at the right time though – you only one favour to give.

You can watch a small video on each of the characters on Calliopes YouTube Channel here.

The Mansky Caper Characters
Your 'Family' in The Mansky Caper. Each cahracter has different powers, but with a twist.

So why help anyone else?  Well, you may be helping another player get more loot than you.  But if you follow them to the getaway car and call in your favour token, you both empty your loot and split it evenly before stashing it safely in the car.

Time this right, and you can get a lot of cash for very little effort!

During the Kickstarter Campaign, there were some ‘deluxe’ add-ons available.  One being wooden safes from The Broken Token, and the other acrylic coins from The Game Crafter!  Now, neither are what I would call a required upgrade, but I am hoping that because they are third-party products they will be available for sale when the game hits retail.  Even though Calliope has a reputation for quality components, I can see these safes especially taking a beating from my big hands, so something sturdier will be great.

The Mansky Caper Wooden Safes from Broken Token
The Broken Token designed wooden safes for the Kickstarter as an add on. Hopefully, they will be released with the game as well!

Hopefully, the Mansky Caper will be available for retail around Gen Con (August).  I for one cannot wait to grab a copy!

To see a full playthrough of the games, Calliope Games has a video on their site as well:

Until next time,

JohnHQLD