The wind caressing your face, greeting you like an old friend as you glide through it. You’ve been soaring the pathways of these skies for millennia, you know them as you know your own home. You are not in them alone, though. Others have come. Others fly your skies. You allow it, peacefully. There is no conflict between you and the others, so long as your paths do not collide. For if they do, if you meet another in your flight, neither can survive.
It’s time to take to the skies, to soar as a dragon. It’s time to play Tsuro.
Tsuro is a tile-laying game for 2 to 8 players, designed by Tom McMurchie and published by Calliope Games. I’ve played a fair amount of games, and yet Tsuro may be the most peaceful board game I’ve ever come across. In it, players take on the roles of dragons in flight. They take turns laying tiles, each with a unique set of paths on them, and following the path they are on. If they encounter an already placed tile, they continue along it’s path as well. If a player is forced to follow a path off of the game board, they are eliminated. If two players follow paths that make them collide, both are eliminated. That last dragon still in flight is the winner.
The game is simple. A turn has you draw a tile and place a tile, then move your dragon stone along the path you’ve laid (and move any other dragon your tile has affected along the path, as well). Every one of the 35 tiles are unique, and can be placed in any orientation, so it benefits players to think a few moves ahead, to make sure you don’t end up cornering yourself. Since you have to lay a tile that connects to the path your dragon is already on, it’s rare that your tiles directly affect another player (though it is possible, if you are close enough to one another); because of this, you don’t really conflict with others. You’re trying to share the board with them, not really force them off of it. That adds to the peaceful, almost meditative, play style.
The game is beautiful. The tiles are well made, the dragon tokens solid and almost smooth in your hand like a worry stone. Even the instructions are artistic, made to look painted onto thin rice paper. The whole thing seems as much an artistic pursuit as a game.
I mentioned the game simplicity, and I do think it cannot be overstated. It’s a very basic game, with little to no player conflict, only the smallest touches of strategy, and relying mainly on luck. Unlike some other games I’ve played (and reviewed), though, I don’t think the simplicity of this one hurts its replayability. Don’t get me wrong, I think you need to be in a very particular mood to enjoy Tsuro to it’s full extent; if you’re looking for an active, strategic game, this one might fall a bit flat. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something calm, something somewhat soothing, then Tsuro could provide hours of peaceful enjoyment.
The skies over the board might not be endless, but your enjoyment of Tsuro may just be.