Board Game Night - Tsuro of the Seas

Number of players: 2-8 (best: 4)
Playing time: 30 minutes (to Tsuro's 15)
By: Tom McMurchie, Jordan Weisman / Calliope Games
Rank on BoardGameGeek: 1086th (to Tsuro's 729th)

Tsuro is an excessively simple game where you put down tiles with partial paths drawn on them and advance your token along the path to its natural conclusion, trying to remain on the board for the longest. It takes about 15 minutes to play the longest game and is a very good ice breaker to start off your gaming night. Since a couple of my friends HAD Tsuro, I instead invested in Tsuro of the Seas, which adds chaotic dangers to the game, and approximately doubles game time.

Tsuro of the Seas has the same simple basic mechanic. Place a tile from your hand on the board to connect to a path (or this time a current) and advance your token (here a ship) to the end of that path, hopefully not over the edge of the board... or into a daikaiju's maw! That's right, this game adds giant sea monsters to the game, monsters controlled by a dice throw on every player's turn. They might move, twist, get added, or do nothing, depending on what you get and create a lot of  chaos for the players. The dice mechanic is relatively simple, and the daikaiju's movements are easy to derive.
The game is generally more exciting for it. However, they do cause problems. One of these is that it's much easier for a player to be taken out of the game early, for example when a monster drops from the air right on their tile. When the game was no more than 15 minutes, that wasn't a problem. At a possible 30, it might become one. Another problem is that daikaiju destroy tiles when they spawn or move, and those paths must be reconstructed later. That's fine, and actually adds more strategy to the game, but it actually becomes possible to build an infinite loop, which the original game never did. What happens when your ship winds up on such a track? Not sure. But the chance of that happening is still remote.


The original game was a relaxing exercise, looking like a zen garden. The crazier action in Tsuro of the Seas has more story, but don't look at the details too closely. For example, why are the ships forced to follow currents when they are equipped with sails? With the daikaiju, it's not all that zen a game anymore, but the monsters a properly drawn from Japanese culture, and the artwork is quite correct in that sense.
Tsuro done in blue, this version has plastic ships rather than spirit stones, but I have to say I liked the original's pieces better. It's not too dissimilar a quality, but the horizontal design is more awkward on a board where you have to draw paths as the ships' hulls cover too much. The tiles are slick and sturdy. The artwork remains consistent between games, though the daikaiju don't really elevate the look of the game all that much. They're just okay and though they have different numbers on them, are all essentially the same. The expansion (see below) has some ropier artwork.

House Rules and Expansions
Tsuro of the Seas has one expansion called Veterans of the Seas, made up of 9 new tiles that can be drawn. 5 of these are cannons that can used to fight off daikaiju. 2 are tsunamis which create a moving row of hazards that force ships in their wake to roll dice and beat a difficulty number. There's a mystical portal that can send you or a daikaiju to another space. And there's a moving whirlpool that destroys everything, like a super-kaiju. You can add some or all of these "cards" to any given game. I've used them sparingly because they add even more uncertainty and length to a game.

And of course, if you wanted to play traditional Tsuro with this board, you could. Just leave the daikaiju and dice in the box.

In conclusion: Not as good a warm-up game as the original Tsuro, but still a pretty simple short game. It's too easy for players to get kicked off the board early, forcing them to watch other players dance around the monsters for some length of time, which means the more abstract Tsuro is still the superior design. Still, I've found players are a game for this one as the original, and everyone just loves the word "daikaiju".


Michael May said...

That looks great. I'm always looking for shorter games and of course ships and sea monsters are totally my bag. Putting it on my wish list.


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