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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Until next time,
Tsuro of the Seas
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.
- 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
- Addition of the daikaiju slow gameplay
- Not the best written rulesbook
- Not quite as gateway friendly as the original