Author Topic: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")  (Read 3026 times)

Offline danisthirty

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Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« on: June 14, 2017, 04:57:40 PM »
Tsuro ("The Way of the Path") is a very simple (square) tile-placing game played on a six by six grid. Each player (up to eight!) controls a single stone which must follow the path laid out in front of it by placing tiles to extend their path. The object of the game is simple: keep your stone on the board. It might seem almost too easy at first, but as the game develops your available options diminish to the point that you may eventually be forced to place a tile that extends your path to lead to the edge of the board, and thus sends your stone out of the game. The only other way of losing is if your path joins another player's path as this causes your stones to crash into each other. If yours are the last two stones on the board then the game ends in a stalemate, otherwise you're both out and the game continues...
 
There are markings around the outside of the board (12 on each side) which represent starting positions and you can start from any position you choose. It's always a good idea to start with plenty of space around you as you don't want to get too fenced in or crowded by your opposition any earlier than you can avoid. AI opponents I've played always seem to go for very specific places so I've started copying them as it seems like as good a place to start as any:

(all images used below are screenshots from the Tsuro app on my Android phone, rather than photos of the actual boardgame. I chose to do this mainly because the app is a very faithful recreation of the boardgame, but also for ease of setting up useful situations to demonstrate points as they tend to occur naturally during games against AI opponents rather than having to imagine them and then set the board up. Anyway, I'm the blue stone in all cases, even though the colours of the actual stones appear to be a bit messed up)


This 4-player game is just starting to get interesting. I'm heading towards the middle cautiously, with a couple of safe paths behind me if I can loop back onto them. White meanwhile is playing a dangerous game as he has just one path to safety out of that top corner and will be off the board with his 5th tile if he doesn't take it with his 4th. Also, look at where everyone started! I only did it because I like to copy the "Tricky" AI players and I assumed they all knew what they were doing ;)

All players have a hand of three tiles until the stack of available tiles starts to run out. This allows for a certain amount of thought and planning when selecting which tile to place and how to orientate/ rotate it. When tiles are placed, they must be placed such that they extend your stone's path which will send it off in any one of seven directions. Plus of course, if your path extends on to a path on a tile that has previously been placed then your stone continues to follow that path until it reaches the other end (either on or off the board). And this is where the strategy comes in. At all times, your goal should be to place your tiles such that your path extends into open space while limiting the options of your opponents. So you're not just thinking about where you're going, but where you're allowing them to get to at the same time.
 
Every tile has eight points on it; two on each side. Each one of these points is connected to one other point on the same tile meaning that each tile has four paths across it although the arrangement of connections can seem a little overwhelming at times. In the early stages of the game, it probably doesn't matter where you end up as long as you're still on the board at the end of it, but as the game continues and you're forced to connect your path to paths on tiles that have already been placed it can be pretty tricky trying to weigh up each of the tiles in your hand and rotating them to see if they can be used to get you onto a "safe" path (i.e. one which keeps you on the board).


I can use any of my tiles to keep myself on the board here, but if I choose carefully I can deal a fatal blow to my opponent and have this wrapped up in 2 more tiles each.


I used my middle tile in the previous screenshot to ensure that the red stone had no way out of the corner he'd got himself trapped in. All I need to do is stay on the board for this turn, and then sit back and watch Red send himself into oblivion on his next turn as there are no paths left that will keep him on the board.

Most recently I've been playing against either one, three or seven AI opponents via the excellent Android and iOS apps developed by Thunderbox Entertainment (both pretty much identical). It can be pretty chaotic with eight stones on the board at once and it starts getting really messy after just two or three turns each since the board has 36 squares and so will be two thirds full after eight players have had three turns each. As the stones start to bunch up though, it's often possible to place your tile and extend your path in a way that also extends the paths of any other stones at the same time. And if you're clever about it (and have a suitable tile available), you can send other players' stones off the board while keeping yourself on. This is why it's best to stay away from the stones of the other players as much as possible.


Unusually, all 8 stones are still on the board after 3 tiles each. I can use either of my tiles to keep myself on the board but the yellow player with the stone bordering the same tile as I'm about to place isn't going to get another turn...


It's difficult to anticipate situations like this arising, but when they do it's nice to have the tile available (the one on the right) to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Or rather, 2 stones with 1 tile in this case, by forcing the yellow and orange paths to collide >:D
 
My other tip, which is most relevant to games with lower player counts (perhaps just two or three) is to keep a close eye on how much territory/ space is available to you, and what potential paths your opponent(s) may have into your territory. Alternatively, if your opponent has more territory than you then you need to be looking for paths across into their territory with the objective of trapping them in a tight space with no paths out of it. Another option, if there are plenty of paths available, is to travel across to your opponent's territory in order to place some tiles and fill it up, before looping back onto another path which takes you back into a larger territory where you can remain safe while they run out of space. Ultimately the end goal is the same: starve your opponent of safe spaces in which to expand and restrict their potential paths to safety. The tiles that they have available to them will certainly restrict their options, but being deliberate about how much space you leave them can be a very effective strategy.


It's my turn in this 3-player game but fortunately I've been left enough space to win the game as there are no paths for Orange or White that will keep them on the board after their next tiles. If I rotate the tile on the right by 90 degrees clockwise before placing it, my stone will remain on the board and I won't have to place another tile because mine is guaranteed to be the last stone standing before my next turn :D

In case you haven't guessed, I'm a big fan of this game! But it does suffer from a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, players are eliminated from the game once their stone is out and the game carries on without them until it has been won by someone else. This can be pretty rough on newer players, especially if they go out early on. But fortunately games are quite quick, rarely lasting more than around ten minutes so the wait is never a very long one. The other thing I've noticed is that going first seems to be quite a drawback. I'm not sure if I'm 100% mathematically correct in this assumption, but in larger games it isn't uncommon to reach the point that after four tiles each, everyone (or almost everyone) is still in and play returns to the starting player who has literally no possible way of staying on the board or avoiding joining paths with another stone. The last player however will probably have an easier time if everyone else is being forced to kill off their stones ahead of them purely because of the order of play. Like I say though, this is just an observation and there may be provable tactics to prevent this situation from arising (but I haven't been clever enough to have discovered them yet).
 
Finally, as most people are already well aware, there is another variant of Tsuro called "Tsuro of the Seas" which even has an expansion. I've only played it once and it's essentially the same game but with sea monsters that can move around on the board causing players' stones/ boats to get eaten or fall into the sea. This felt a bit clunky when I played it and I really didn't like how the movement of the monsters disrupted the smooth flow of what is otherwise a beautiful game. And I'm not talking about the artwork on the tiles when I say it's beautiful, as the tiles themselves – and stones - are very simple (but effective). There's just an elegance to this game which I've felt from few other titles, and even though it can be pretty aggressive at times, I feel like this game could be prescribed as some sort of aid to meditation as there's an enormous sense of peacefulness and tranquility about it. Even when I lose. Which is often.

In summary, this is probably a boardgame that most people who are aware of boardgames beyond Monopoly and Risk will already be aware of. It's certainly a classic, but I don't think it's widely regarded as a "gateway" game. But it's light, it's easy to learn and play and it goes a long way towards providing a much-needed sanity break between more stressful games. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm a much calmer person than I otherwise might be at the moment, purely because of the time I've spent playing this game lately. It's therapeutic like that. Give it a try!


It's so rare that I win an 8-player game that I thought this one was worth a screenshot! 8) (I also like how the stones that went out earlier look like they're standing at the side watching Green and I battle it out)

Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=3400.0
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 06:50:51 AM by Decar »
Heroically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 2018

Offline franks

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2017, 05:57:30 PM »
Nice report, Dan!

I played this recently at work and it's good for a quick filler. In the few games we've played the player elimination doesn't last long considering the short nature of the game. Another good thing is you can quickly have several plays. The games we played were with 3 and we each won one game. I like the cat and mouse aspect of avoiding the path or the area of others or trying to lead them to their doom  >:D

We were playing on a Thrift copy I had found a few weeks back. The physical pieces and packaging are nicely presented and are made of good quality.

 I haven't check out any of the electronic versions but looks like a good way to kill time in a cue!

Cheers,
« Last Edit: June 14, 2017, 06:01:36 PM by franks, Reason: Additional thoughts »
Franks

Wanna play Carc? Can we add just one more expansion?

Offline dirk2112

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2017, 07:08:36 PM »
Great report Dan!   :(y)

I have almost purchased this board game several times, but talked myself out of it.  Your review makes me want the app instead.  Its only $3 so I will most likely download it.

Thanks!

Offline Decar

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 12:16:43 AM »
Great stuff Dan!

One other advantage of Tsuro-of-the-sea is that the board is bigger.  So even if you don't play with the dice rolling dragons and cannons you can have a bit more space to move about in.
 
Having read your review I'm worried about my undisputed World Champion Status, I have a feeling I might have my work cut out holding on to it next time we play  :'(

Offline Squiffything

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 12:39:47 AM »
Great review Dan. I have a copy of the board game and it's one that my wife and girls enjoy playing. Easy to learn and play. The packaging is lovely and was a pleasure to open when it arrived. I must get around to downloading the app.
Oooo, look at all the meeples

Offline Decar

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2017, 03:00:50 AM »
Tsuro of the Sea has some pretty naff ships in the box, compared to the stones in the first game.  I love the layer of rice-paper that sits on top of the box though, it adds a touch of class  :(y)

Offline Hounk

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2017, 04:13:53 AM »
I must say, I have only heard of this game here in the forum, never actually saw it yet. But this looks intriguing, resembling the "light bike" game in the movie "Tron", which had been adapted several times as computer games. I did like this kind of game, and while the board game implementation is pure strategic and tactical, while on PC it is more into dexterity, I'd sure like to try it.

Offline danisthirty

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2017, 04:46:39 AM »
Thanks for your comments and feedback so far everyone. I'm glad to have generated such interest in a game I enjoy so much!

Just to clarify, my intention was to review the physical boardgame but I used screenshots from the Android app for reasons that I explained above (mostly to make my life as easy as possible). I'd definitely recommend purchasing the boardgame to anyone who enjoys the app though, as there's no substitute for playing it in person against real, human opponents. This said, since a lot of you seemed interested specifically in the app I've gone into a little more detail about the pros and cons of this version of the game...

Pros :(y)

- The price is the most obvious one. It was about £2 or something, so it didn't hurt too much that I bought it for two different devices. The boardgame is currently selling for £16.99 on Amazon.co.uk which is still pretty cheap for a boardgame including components of this quality, and which looks good as part of any shelfie.

- Something I like that is unique to the app is the fact that paths that have been followed are coloured (in the colour of the stone that has travelled them). This actually makes it much easier to play as you can quickly trace which paths are leading where, and routes that stones that have since been eliminated followed from start to finish. And as much as anything else, I like bright colours and I like the patterns that the lines make as they cross each other and intertwine. It's pretty ok?! :-*

- Playing in solo mode is quite good fun and not really the sort of thing most people would go to the trouble of doing with a physical copy of the game. What makes it all the more interesting however is that you can measure your progress in terms of path length (distance travelled). This is great as it means you always have something to aim for even when the AI get too boring or predictable; my PB is currently 318cm. You can also measure your success in terms of loops made and tiles placed although it isn't especially difficult to place all 35 tiles in a solo game if you plan ahead well and look where you're going. Keen to hear from anyone who can beat this!

- There are other statistics too which probably won't interest many people as much as they interest me. However, I love the fact that in 116 games (on this device) I've travelled a total distance of 40.42m and have made 85 loops. I can also see that blue is by far my favourite choice of stone colour although I've played a few games as green after the colours got messed up (see below) and I couldn't see which stone I was selecting.

- There are also a total of 55 trophies of which I've won 29 so far. These are awarded for pretty much anything and can seem quite random, but the fact that they've been included increases the replayability and consequently value for money (in my opinion) which was already pretty good.

- Overall, the look and feel of the game is very polished and I like that the two apps are consistent between the Android and iOS releases. I feel that the quality aspect is especially important for a game like Tsuro as the high quality look and feel of the pieces in the physical game are one of its biggest draws for me. This is certainly why I chose to buy classic Tsuro rather than Tsuro of the Sea anyway, even though the former can be played with the latter set by simply excluding the sea monster tiles and additional rules.

Cons :(n)

- It would be nice if there was a way of clearing the message telling me who won (if anyone) at the end of a game so that I can view the final board and all the paths. Admittedly this is quite superficial, but it's nice to have a bit of post-game analysis and I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to do this. As it is, the end-game message takes up most of the screen and won't go away until I press the button instructing it to clear the board and setup for another game. The only way I can see the final board unhindered is if I share it to Facebook/ Twitter but I can't/ might not want to do this every time without boring all of my friends/ followers so it isn't really a viable alternative. This should be very easy to implement. O:-)

- If I drop my stone on the wrong starting position there's no way of moving it into the desired position, even if I'm yet to add any opponents. Surely I should just be able to drag it to a new location? As above, I would expect this to be very easily implemented.

- My biggest gripe is that there is only space for one human/ non-AI player per game. You can play with anywhere from 0 to 7 AI players but there must always be 1 and only 1 human player meaning you can't use it for a "pass and play" type game either. I don't quite know why this would be, but compared to the other points above would suggest that this is the more complicated to implement (although certainly not overly so). :@

- Finally, it's only a minor issue but as you may have noticed from some of the screenshots above, the colours of the stone are all messed up. They were fine when I first installed it and for my first dozen or so games, as were the coloured paths that are left on the board. But while the colours of the paths are still correct, the stones themselves all look as though they've been left out in the sun and are subtly different shades of yellow and white making them very difficult to tell apart. This is clearly a bug and is probably related to my specific device as much as anything else (t's fine on my iPad), but it does mar what's otherwise an excellent game.

Offline danisthirty

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2017, 04:50:09 AM »
I must say, I have only heard of this game here in the forum, never actually saw it yet. But this looks intriguing, resembling the "light bike" game in the movie "Tron", which had been adapted several times as computer games. I did like this kind of game, and while the board game implementation is pure strategic and tactical, while on PC it is more into dexterity, I'd sure like to try it.

I've not played a board game based on the Tron light bikes but it sounds quite similar to Tsuro with one big difference (assuming the boardgame follows the game in the film). In Tsuro, tiles that you place have paths across them in multiple directions which means it's actually quite easy and common to cross over the path left by another player. Whereas, I don't imagine this would be allowed in the light bike game. Definitely worth a play in any case! :)

Offline Decar

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2017, 05:07:43 AM »
Two great reviews in one day - that's got to be a merit from me - That gives you the lead again  >:D

Offline Hounk

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2017, 06:18:09 AM »
I've not played a board game based on the Tron light bikes but it sounds quite similar to Tsuro with one big difference (assuming the boardgame follows the game in the film).
I think, you misunderstood me. I don't know a "Tron board game" either. I just pointed out, that this board game resembles the idea of a "light bike" game to a degree.

Offline danisthirty

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2017, 07:20:05 AM »
Two great reviews in one day - that's got to be a merit from me - That gives you the lead again  >:D

I hadn't even realised we were tied. ;)

www.TsuroCentral.com - here we come! 8)

Offline ooh_jim

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Re: Tsuro ("The Way of the Path")
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2017, 10:28:11 AM »
I like that the app has the two extra game modes to help keep it interesting: Longest Route, and Most Loops. In an attempt to translate these styles of play across to the physical version of the game, I posted a route calculator and loop tally onto BGG a while back, for anyone interested:
https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/143827/calculator-longest-route-most-loops-variants


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