Tsuro is a perfect family board game

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Many families with school-age children are enjoying spring break this week. With the kids at home it’s a perfect time to break out a board game. There are, of course, thousands of terrific games you can choose from, and today we’re recommending Tsuro from Calliope Games.

Dragons that look like decorative soap! Curving, unpredictable roads! Sending your friends and family to their doom! Did I mention the soap? Tsuro: The Game of the Path from Calliope Games (about $30; a little cheaper on Amazon) has all the ingredients of a perfect family game. It’s easy to learn, appeals to all ages and  offers great replay-ability. Calliope suggests it’s for 2–8 players, aged 8 years and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. In my experience, it’s more fun with a larger group, as the twists and turns get really crazy, though three players will still have fun.

Game Overview

Tsuro has a fun Asian theme. You must guide a dragon along the unpredictable path of knowledge, which you create step-by-step as you play. Meanwhile, other dragons are forging their own path, and if two should collide, both are destroyed. The path itself can be confusing, and a mislead dragon will fall off completely, never to be seen again. There’s room for strategy and luck in a game of Tsuro, which makes it a good choice for a variety of players. For example, kids and casual gamers will enjoy the simplicity, while it serves as a good transition game for hard core gamers who are between sessions or waiting for something more complex to be set up.

Components

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The theme is set as soon as you open the box. A thin sheet of what looks like rice paper covers the instructions and features the game’s title, a thin “painting” of bamboo and the phrase:

“Build your path through discovery and chance. Quiet your mind. Your journey begins here.”

The rules are printed on a nice trifold document of dark burgundy with silhouetted bamboo and Asian characters. Inside, game play is clearly explained, though the print is really tiny. A smaller, separate pamphlet explains the rules in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, German and French. The board features a bold phoenix with looping feathers, and clearly indicates where the cards are to be placed. There are 35 tile cards and one dragon card. The tile cards feature a bit of the path on one side and art that resembles the rice paper on the back. The dragon card is bright orange, as opposed to the white tile cards, and features “Tsuro” on the back and a snarling dragon on the front. Finally, there are eight dragon tokens which, as I said, resemble decorative soaps. Each is a unique color with a dragon stamped on one side. But honestly, they’ll always remind me of a box labeled “Avon” in my grandmother’s bathroom. My kids and I will always call them “the soaps.” Everything is well made and the soaps are quite scratch resistant. My kids are hard on game pieces, and Tsuro still looks good after many family game nights.

Playing Tsuro: The Game of the Path

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Setup 

To get started, the board is laid out and each player chooses a soap – sorry, “dragon” – and the dragon tile is set aside. Next, everyone is delt three tile cards, face down. The remaining tile cards become the draw pile. Finally, the oldest player goes first. At home, that’s yours truly. Lucky me. 

Turn sequence 

The first player places his dragon on a marker on the outer edge of the board, then the other players do, moving clockwise from the start player. Then everyone starts taking turns. A turn has three parts:

  1. Play a path tile

  2. Move your dragon

  3. Draw a tile

Each tile features two parallel roads, moving from one edge to the other. These line up with indicators that are all around the perimeter of the board. On her turn, a player places a tile, chooses one of the roads and moves her dragon along it until the end of the tile is reached. She then draws a card. Then the next player goes and the steps are repeated. When the game comes back to the start player, she places a tile that lines up with the first tile she put down. Her dragon then moves along the now-extended road. The object is to keep your dragon moving along the road for as long as possible. If its road leads into another dragon or off the board, that player is out. The challenge is to extend your road as long as possible, while trying to direct your dragon away from the others and the edge of the board. Now you see why a larger group makes game play even crazier.

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Now a word about the dragon tile. If you play long enough, the draw pile will get low and each player will have fewer than three cards in his hand. At this point, everyone draws a new tile on each turn. When you reach a point there are no tiles for a player to draw, that player receives the dragon tile. He holds on to the dragon tile until more cards become available to the draw pile (your hand returns to the draw pile once you’ve been eliminated). Then, the person with the dragon tile is the first to draw a new card, regardless of whose turn it is. The dragon tile then moves to the next person.

The Tsuro Experience

This game is just plain fun. I enjoy pushing my luck in trying to extend my road, avoiding the competitors while trying to force themselves either off the board or into each other. There’s lots of “Wait, hold on, ummmm..” while people mentally twist and turn tiles, trying to predict the best path. You’ll have a few laughs along the way, too. Since the tiles are shuffled, you’ll create a different path every time.

Conclusion

A couple of caveats. There is a good amount of luck involved. If you draw three tiles that don’t help, well, that’s just tough. A lot of people dislike games with luck as a core mechanic, so keep that in mind. Also, its simplicity might turn some people off. Your turn consists of placing a tile and moving your token a few inches. Those who typically play something more involved will be left wanting. Finally, there is player elimination. If you go out early, you’re sitting there, watching everyone else have fun. Still, Tsuro is a great choice. Break it out with the kids, your family or group of casual gamers.

Pros

  • Super simple to learn

  • Attractive components support the theme

  • Appealing to many ages

  • High replay-ability

Cons

  • The emphasis on luck will turn some players off

  • Can feel a little too simple to more advanced gamers

Now get to it. The soaps are depending on you.

D&D Club for Girls

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Tabletop gaming is a hobby traditionally monopolized by men and boys. Our D&D Club for Girls provides a supportive, fun environment for girls ages 10 and up who are ready to pick up the dice and make way for adventure.

Roleplaying Games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons are narrative game systems that encourage cooperation, decision-making and creative thinking. RPG players are immersed in a shared story-telling experience as they work together to overcome obstacles. This program will focus on introducing players to the core concepts of Dungeons and Dragons.

During our five-week session, girls will:

  • Create a custom character and a custom character sheet

  • Receive their own mini figure, representing their character

  • Receive a full set of seven RPG dice in a drawstring dice bag

  • Receive a copy of the basic rules of D&D

Experience screen-free fun while practicing teamwork, cooperation, critical thinking skills and playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons!

Where: Cape Cod Coffee, Mashpee Commons (48 Market Street)

When: Saturdays, March 9 - April 6, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Cost: $150 for five weeks ($35 drop-in)

DM'ing Dungeons and Dragons for young kids

DM'ing Dungeons and Dragons for young kids

Running a game of Dungeons and Dragons is tremendously fun. You and your players have agreed to collectively tell a story with their characters in the starring roles. As the dungeon master (or DM), you’ve prepared a fun and engaging adventure to be everyone’s source of entertainment for a few hours. When everything clicks, it’s great. It has a tendency to fall apart when you’re DM’ing for young kids.

Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar. You’re committed to running a game of Dungeons and Dragons for young kids, maybe eight, nine or ten years old. Some of them have never played before, while others have minimal experience with the game.

A few minutes in, their attention starts to wane. Some kids talk at the same time, they all want to act simultaneously and the fun game you planned for has become a chaotic exercise in frustration for you and the kids. Feelings are hurt, patience is gone and your vision of introducing new, young players to the wonderful world of D&D has evaporated.

It’s easy to feel stuck, frustrated and out of control when DM’ing for young, inexperienced players. We’ve felt that for sure, and it’s a genuine bummer to walk away from the table knowing some of your players didn’t have a good time. Fortunately, you can take specific action during your prep time and game play to reach your goal of a fun, rewarding session of Dungeons and Dragons for everyone. Let’s start with preparation.

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