Review: Tsuro of the Seas

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Overview

Tsuro of the Seas is a abstract strategy game for 2 to 8 players, ages 8 and up, designed by Tom McMurchie and Jordan Weisman, and published by Calliope Games. Games are intended to last around 30 minutes.

Setup

In addition to the game board, Tsuro of the Seas has three major components: tiles, ships, and dice. After unfolding and placing the game board, each player selects a ship pawn and places it at the edge of the board on one of the start markers.

With this done, the wake tiles should be shuffled and three of them should be dealt randomly to each player.

Next the daikaiju tiles are shuffled and a number of them are placed on the board (by way of rolling the dice to see where they will start on the board) depending on how many players are in the game. The more players are in the game, the less daikaiju start on the board.

Now the game is ready to begin and play starts with the oldest player.

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Here you can see examples of the wake tiles and the daikaiju tiles. There is a player ship near the middle of the board and the dice can be seen at the bottom.

Gameplay

Gameplay is simple and player turns move around the board fairly quickly once you know what you’re doing. Here’s what a player turn consists of:

  1. The player rolls the dice at the beginning of their turn to determine whether or not a daikaiju moves this turn. If the result of the roll is a 6, 7, or 8, then a daikaiju will be moving.
  2. After rolling the dice and making any necessary movements for the daikaiju, the player can then place a wake tile and move their ship along the wake path that connects to their current path.
  3. The player draws another wake tile, bringing their hand back up to 3, and their turn is now over. Play passes to the next player.

That’s all their is to a player’s turn. The daikaiju act a bit differently when they move though. As shown on the picture above, the daikaiju tiles have little arrows arranged orthogonally as well as a swirly arrow in the top right corner. When a daikaiju must move a die is rolled and the corresponding number lets you know if the daikaiju will be moving forward, backward, left, right, or rotating to change its facing.

If a daikaiju moves into a player’s current wake tile they destroy the wake tile and the player. If the daikaiju moves into an unoccupied wake tile, it destroys the wake tile. Any wake tiles destroyed by daikaiju are recirculated into the wake tile deck.

None of the daikaiju tiles have a “6” listed on their tile. Instead, when a “6” is rolled for a daikaiju movement, the daikaiju doesn’t move and the player instead rolls to place another daikaiju on the board.

There are a few other rules in play that you should be aware of, such as, you can’t place a tile that would intentionally take you out of the game (i.e. – off the board, into an infinite loop, into a daikaiju, onto the same wake path as another player, etc) unless you have no other options available to you.

The game is won when only one player’s ship remains on the board. If the two last players are eliminated at the same time, they tie for the win.

Artwork and Quality of Game Components

On the whole, I love the artwork of Tsuro of the Seas. It has a great color palette, conveys the “woodblock print” style of old Japanese art, and it’s pleasing to look at. That being said, a few of the daikaiju tiles leave something to be desired, but that’s a minor gripe and only my opinion.

The game components are quite well made. The box is reasonably sized for holding the board and the other components, although the divider inside could have been implemented better. The rules are neatly displayed on a folded pamphlet and easy to understand. The tiles themselves feel sturdy and will hold up under regular play. My only complaint is that the game board itself seems a bit flimsy where it is creased, but, again, this might just be me.

Verdict: Yea

Tsuro of the Seas is one of those games where I wish I used a number rating system rather than just “Yea or Nay”. The game itself is very simplistic and, while it is fun, there isn’t a whole lot of variety. Sure, there are rules for playing without daikaiju, but that’s the only included game variation in the rules.

On the topic of the daikaiju, I feel like you are told to place way too many on the board to begin with. In a two to four player game you begin with six of them on the board. It might not seem like much, but once you’ve played, six is a helluva lot of daikaiju to be loose in the ocean here. My number one suggestion for playing this game (if you play this game) would be to take two off of the number of daikaiju placed on the board at the start of the game, regardless of how many players you are playing with.

Now, I’ve given Tsuro of the Seas a “Yea”, but I think it would only solidify that with a few good home rules. So, bear that in mind, try the game out, and see what you think. As for me, I’m going to spend some time working on a SPAIA rule set for it and see what home rules I can come up with to spice the game up a bit.

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