Game Reviews

Tsuro - The fast path to family fun

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| Tsuro
Tsuro - The fast path to family fun
| Tsuro

Tsuro is a fittingly abstract name for an abstract game. It's allegedly about dragons, but the only one in sight is on the cover.

And rather that breathing fire and eating people, the dragons in this game are just trying to stay on the board.

All the hand waving does allow the game to be extremely easy to pick up and play. Your stone (dragon) starts at a point on the edge of the board. In your hand you'll have three tiles covered in lines and curves. Lay one, and the piece travels along the line.

That's pretty much it. Fly off the edge of the board again and it's game over. Last stone standing wins.

There be dragons here

It's light, but perhaps not quite as light as you might expect. You always have three tiles to choose from so you can plan three moves ahead.

Unless you end up adjacent to a square where another player is laying a tile, that is. When they do, you'll move along whatever lines on the tile join up with your position.

If that pushes you off the board, you're out as surely as if you'd run out of space yourself.

There's just enough chances to play the bully to keep more aggressive gamers interested. So jockeying for position to do just that is another source of decisions. It's also enormously satisfying when you pull it off.

Ultimately, though, there's a lot of randomness too. That, combined with the simple rules and short play time make it a big winner both as a family title and a mobile one. It's quick, light and entertaining.

There be dragons there

The sweet artwork and smooth presentation help a lot too. You begin each session by swiping the box open and watching the board unfold. It brings a real sense of tactile pleasure to proceedings.

Thankfully the pass and play mode is up to scratch, so it's great fun to play with family and friends.

In contrast, online play is nowhere near as good. At least it's there, which is something. But instead of Gamecenter, Tsuro uses Facebook as a medium to arrange matches.

On the plus side, that does make a doddle of cross-platform play. On the down side it means you can only play against other facebook friends who own the game.

No matches against casual acquaintances on other social media services. Worst of all, no quick-start matches against random strangers.

That, combined with the lightweight nature of the game, is a serious threat to its longevity.

Take your dragons everywhere

There are, at least, three different AI modes to play solo against. One is deliberately dialled down but the other two will run you a good game.

And you can up the challenge level yourself just by increasing the number of players on the board at once. It's a wild ride trying to find space for yourself with seven other dragons in the sky.

You can also try and eke things out by using alternative victory conditions. These are a novel addition to this digital version.

Rather than just trying to survive the longest, you can win by farthest distance travelled, or most times you crossed your own trail.

There are a good lot of achievements to tick off too, if that's your bag.

There's a lot to like about Tsuro, but the game has a few shortcomings too. It's perhaps best enjoyed as an alternative to the physical version.

Sorting out board and tiles is faintly irritating for such a quick game. Here, the silicon does it all for you, and the game is that much better as a result.

Tsuro - The fast path to family fun

A great mobile adaptation of a board game well-suited to the platform, but the multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.