Tsuro of the Seas from Calliope Games is a stand-alone sequel to the very popular game Tsuro. Tsuro of the Seas is a game for 2-8 players ages 8 and up. It takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to play, largely dependent on how many people are playing. It retails for $40, but as always, you can find it for less with retailers like Amazon. In this game, you are the captain of a ship, navigating turbulent seas inhabited by sea monsters (daikaiju). You move your ship around by placing wake tiles with different paths on them that you must follow. The object of this game is to avoid bothj the daikaiju and the other ships and be the last captain left on the board.
Normally I provide step-by-step instructions that show how to set up a game, but Rodney Smith of Watch It Played graciously allowed me to share his set-up video which makes things clearer. See below for the video:
This game is a mixture of strategy, tile placement, and a fair bit of luck. The luck element in this game (from the dice rolled, which triggers movement of the daikaiju) is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it evens the playing field for ages and those of different levels of strategic thought. What this means is that an eight-year-old would not be outmatched against their parent or older sibling, because one roll of the dice, could wipe out the older player and leave the other played unharmed. On the other hand, it adds a very random element to the game, which can completely wipe out any strategy that you had plotted out early on. This is why many people prefer the original game of Tsuro, but to each their own.
Another downside of the daikaiju is they can come off a little fiddly at times. Before you can place your wake tile and move your ship, you have to roll two dice to see if the daikaiju move. Then, you have to roll a dice to see how they move. Lastly, you have to move them in the proper order, which early on you’re moving six of them (in a two-player game). You can combat this by doing a bit of a variant on the game and using less of the daikaiju at set-up or using the expansion tiles, which I will talk about momentarily.
When the game was originally funded on Kickstarter, there were four different tile types that were exclusive for Kickstarter backers as a thank-you reward for helping the game get funded. To everyone’s delight, these tiles were released to the general public in a mini-expansion called Veterans of the Seas. The tiles include a cannon (five in total, which can destroy daikaiju), a tsunami (2 in total, which move when the daikaiju do not move), a whirlpool (1 in total, which move when the daikaiju do not move), and a mystic portal (1 in total, which can help you survive being knocked out). Since these tiles are optional, you can use as many or as few as you want to. I feel this expansion is a must-have, as the cannons add a way to fight randomness, and the mystic portal allows you a one time way to prevent losing. You could also choose to just play with the tsunamis and whirlpool, removing the daikaiju from the game and create a game with a little bit less of the random element, but enough to balance out the gameplay between advanced and beginner strategists.
So what do I think of this game? For starters, the game components are top-notch and the presentation when opening the box is artfully done. Both the board and tiles are nice and sturdy, and the ships are also intricate works of plastic art. I also like the overall theme of the game, as it feels appropriate and natural, unlike some games where it is all mechanics and the theme feels like it was just pasted on like sticker to dress up the game.
I also like that this game can play anywhere from 2 to 8 players. There are so many games that have a limit of 4, and if you are part of a big family, that ends up leaving a lot of family members as spectators, which is never any fun. As for the gameplay itself, I am of two minds. The strategist and gamer in me doesn’t like the fiddly and random nature of the daikaiju. However, the parent in me appreciates the random nature of the game, because it gives my son a fair shot at winning this game, without me feeling like I have to dumb down the way I play, or make such moves that it is obvious I am trying to keep him from losing. I also don’t like that it feels like you need the expansion to fix the few negatives in the game. Perhaps, in the future, if this game is re-printed, the expansion tiles will just come as part of the base game itself. With all those things in mind, I would say if you are looking for a straight strategy game go for Tsuro. If you are looking for strategy, mixed with a bit of dice luck, go for Tsuro of the Seas.
Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn