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.
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.
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.
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.
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.