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 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