Tsuro: The Game of the Path for All the Family

Tsuro © Calliope Games
Tsuro © Calliope Games

It’s rare to find a truly family-friendly board game, one that everyone from experienced gamers to little kids can get equal entertainment value from. Tsuro is one of those games, easy to explain, quick to play, and easy to adapt for different abilities.

The basic premise of Tsuro is one of the simplest in gaming. Each player is a dragon and by playing tiles from your hand you forge a path around the board. The goal is simple: Stay on the board. The last player to remain on the board having not forced themselves off the edge, or flown into an opponent, wins.

Tsuro Board © Sophie Brown
Tsuro Board © Sophie Brown

Although very simple to explain and play, the game is also deceptively strategic. At first everyone is off in their own parts of the board casually minding their own business. However after only a few turns you find yourself coming upon other players’ tiles and having to think several moves in advance to try to plan out where your tiles will take you in an effort to stay on the board and avoid others.

Although the game doesn’t allow for vindictive play (you must play tiles to move your own dragon, not putting them down in front of others to force them off instead), when players come close together tiles can affect multiple dragons at once allowing for absolute chaos to reign as dragons are sent flying all around.

My husband and I spent several evenings playing the game and I soon learned that my ability to plan ahead and consider where routes will take me is somewhat negligible as I consistently found new and elaborate ways to send my dragon careening off the edge of the board.

When he saw the game (which is technically rated for ages eight and up) my four year old desperately wanted to play with us. The strategic planning aspect of the game was far too advanced for him so I adjusted a few rules in order to create a version that he could play as well.

My Son After Playing Tsuro © Sophie Brown
My Son After Playing Tsuro © Sophie Brown

1. Rather than holding three tile in our hands at once as is standard, I changed to a “next tile from your pile” rule with each player having a stack of tiles in front of them.

This massively reduces the options available on each turn and makes the game easier to follow as you only have to think about the ways that one tile can be played rather than choosing the best option from up to 12 different routes.

2. Because the one tile only rule can result in more incidences of players being forced off the board (some tiles only present one movement option repeated on all four edges), when a player draws a tile which forces him or her off the board or into an opponent, they can swap that tile for the top tile from another player’s stack to give themselves a chance to save themselves for another turn.

My son still needs some help remembering to try out placing his tile in different orientations, and he sometimes thinks it’s funny to play with the intention of trying to crash into you rather than avoiding your dragon, but he absolutely loves playing and asks for “the dragon game” all the time.

It’s one I don’t mind playing too because rather than the often tedious and repetitive games we own that are designed for his age range, Tsuro allows me to actually play something with him that taxes me too.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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