Friday, March 1, 2013

Now With 20% More Awesome: "Tsuro Of The Seas"

It was back in the Spring of last year when I first watched Wil Wheaton and his peeps play the route-building, Tron-light-cycle-by-way-King Ghidorah tile-flopper Tsuro.  I was instantly smitten by the game's simplicity, originality, aesthetic beauty and deceptively deep levels of strategy.  

Like most rabid game geeks, I have a tendency to rush out right away and buy anything that makes such a big splash.  Unfortunately, every other person who'd witnessed that same episode of Tabletop had the same idea.  For quite awhile there an unclaimed copy of Tsuro became about as scarce as a pair of balls on a Congressman.  

In retrospect, this turned out to be a good thing.  With my mindless drive to acquire unexpectedly derailed, Tsuro fell out of my mind for just the right increment of time.  A few months later I began to hear rumblings that Calliope Games was planning to produce, via Kickstarter, a new version which would allow you to play the classic rules plus a new variation.  This new iteration of the game would come to be known as Tsuro of the Seas.  

After Dean picked up a copy I had a chance to pick his brain about it.  Between his ringing endorsement and my raging naval fetish (Need confirmation?  Just take a look at the cover of my book!) it didn't take very long before another one was in this post for me.  

So what's the big difference between this and vanilla Tsuro?   Here's the inside poop directly from Board Game Geek:

"What's new in Tsuro of the Seas are daikaiju tiles, representing sea monsters and other creatures of the deep.  On the active player's turn, he rolls two six-sided dice; on a sum of 6, 7, or 8, the daikaiju will move, while on any other sum they'll stay in place.  To determine which direction the daikaiju tiles move, the player then rolls one die.  On 1-5, the tile either rotates or moves in a specific direction. On a 6, a new daikaiju tile is added to the board."

"If a daikaiju tile hits a wake tile, a ship, or another daikaiju tile, the object hit is removed from the game.  Another way to be ousted!  The more daikaiju tiles on the game board, the faster players will find themselves trying to breathe water..."

That's pretty good but if a clearer path through the storm ye be needin', then this port o' call got the charts ye' be seekin'.    


Since we were down two participants last Wednesday night I took this as a prime opportunity to give my new acquisition a whirl.  Here's what happened:



I boldly set sail, blazing a path towards the mid-board daikaiju mosh pit.  Chad hooked a quick right and Andrew also decided to skirt the outer perimeter of the board.  

With daikaiju lurking around nearby like five scaly tropical storms I decided to air on the side of caution and cut away.  This sent me careening towards Chad, who was doing his best to navigate the outskirts of the board.  Unnerved that one of the beasties seemed to be intent on killing him, Andrew tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and the encroaching menace.

No matter what he did, Andrew's evasion attempts seemed futile.  Every time Chad rolled the daikaiju's "random" movement he invariably got a blank check to go after Andrew.  Seriously, it was as if the creature was obeying Chad's mental commands.  In the end, Andrew's little red bateau got swallowed up by the resolute fiend.

This left Chad and I to duke it out.  I decided to divert closer towards the edge of the map while Chad found himself perilously close to my original co-ordinates.

The dice rarely granted me command of the daikaiju but Chad's hot streak continued unabated.  As he proceeded to cut blithely across the axis of the board, Chad managed to re-direct the Green Manalishi (With The One-Pronged Crown) towards me.

Mercifully I hauled ass in the opposite direction, leaving the wyrm in my wake.  At the same time, Chad continued on his super-chill three hour tour around the center of the board.

As soon as I started to run out of options, things got real ugly, real quick.  I was forced to double back towards the center of the board, putting me on a collision course with my old nemesis.  Simultaneously, Chad used a devious little spin-o-rama move to distance himself from the impending shit storm.

I managed to avoid the scaly behemoth by cutting hard to port.  As a consolation prize, the dragon annihilated several of the tiles that had just whisked me away to safety.  Unfortunately, I immediately jumped right out of the frying pan and onto the teppanyaki grill.  Like a daikaiju Pied Piper, Chad used his uncanny luck with the dice to set another one of the cursed things in my path.

I finally hit my own lucky streak and this time it was the daikaiju that went out of its way to avoid me.  What can I say, I'm a bear without my coffee.  Unfortunately my momentary relief was cut short as another monster snuck up behind me.

As Chad merrily bobbed around in the horizon, my ship was consumed by the voracious winged abomination.




The pre-game set up for our second match saw a large pack of daikaiju clustered together in the south- west corner of the board.  Duly warned, we all cast off from the opposite side.  Chad and Andrew decided to head straight out and I opted to make a bee-line towards Andrew.

Signaling that he was up for my challenge, Andrew promptly cut ninety degrees portside.  With my tile choices forcing me to pursue this increasingly insane game of chicken, I decided to go for broke and charge at Andrew's exposed flank.  Wringing his hands at the prospect of his opponent's mutual destruction, Chad did his damnedest to get as far away from the two of us as possible.

My gamble failed when Andrew produced the perfect tile to position his ship mid-board and send me packing.  And wouldn't you know it, wasn't this the very last tile that he drew?  This one play saw him driving towards the heart of the board and had me spiraling back around to plummet off the abyss.  Now with only one opponent left, Chad set his ruthless sights on Andrew's junk.  Um, his ship I mean.

With lethal leviathans milling all around them, Andrew and Chad engaged in a deadly dance of death.  Their first face-off involved a near-collision...

...and then they practically switched places.

But ultimately it was Chad who did a better job of dodging the lethal daikaiju.  After narrowly avoiding a collision with Chad, Andrew blissfully tried to speed away in the opposite direction.  Unfortunately there was another monstrous sea-dragon hangin' out just a few leagues away, waiting for some unsuspecting mariner to sail right into its open maw.



I don't know if we were all mentally fatigued that night but damned if we couldn't wrap our heads around the new daikaiju movement rules.  It seems pretty straightforward when I read it now, but the other night we really managed to en-derp-ify things.  In fact, I think we somehow made the rules more complicated whilst, and at the same time, fucking them up beyond recognition.  

Oh well, at least we applied our idiocy evenly.  Having said that, all of us thought that having six active daikaiju on the board during a three player game pretty much reduced the play time down from fifteen minutes to around five.  Andrew's speedy engulpification would seem to bear this out but I don't want to mark this as an official gripe until I've had a chance to play it a few more times.     

So, does Tsuro of the Seas offer more value then its older cousin?  Well, it all depends on what you're looking for.  If you haven't played either version and you wanna save yourself a coupla shekels, then go for the original.  If you've played the original and want a bit more chrome, then, by all means, set sail for that shiny new sequel.

For shallow superficial bastards like myself, it may even come down to visual appeal.  Although I liked the board and marker stones from the first game, I really dig the blue color palette and the plastic ships in this version.  Besides, I'm a mondo Godzilla fan so as soon as I heard the term "kaiju"I was pretty much onboard.  

Bottom line is: I'm happy that I waited for this version.  My rating might climb if the daikaiju variant proves to be strategically worthwhile, but for now I can easily give Tsuro of the Seas four pips out of six with a healthy pitch n' yaw upwards.     

Can't wait to scream: "That's it!  Take the dragon!  Take all of it!" at your friends while miming a badly-dubbed chop-socky voice?  Then chase the link below to buy a copy of Tsuro of the Seas and help support this blog!  

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