Sunday, June 17, 2018

Here be Dragons

In ancient times, maps of the known world would often display a fearsome beast with "Here be dragons" on the unexplored areas or places thought to be dangerous. Fair enough. It's not like the early cartographers had access to satellite imagery or even an airplane to overfly these remote places. Ships would depart from their homeport never to be seen again. What happened to them? Weather? Yeah, most likely, but what if it wasn't weather that got them? What if it was something else, like a sea serpent or Kraken or other strange creature?

image from Google search

I can only imagine these ancient mariners setting sail into the unknown, with hopes of reaching a foreign shore with their goods to sell or trade. Let's step onto one of those small merchant ships, shall we, and face the unknown. No, I don't have a time machine. I do have a fun game though, called Tsuro of the Seas from Calliope Games, that will allow us to imagine facing a cruel sea and mythical beasts. I discovered this game after playing it's older sibling Tsuro when Cindy and I traveled to Cleveland to visit family. You can read all about those adventures here. We enjoyed playing Tsuro so much that when I got home, I started to add it to my Amazon wishlist and discovered a different version. Christmas was just around the corner, so my wife bought Tsuro of the Seas for me as a nice Christmas gift. We've had a blast playing it, and I thought it would make a fun and interesting topic.

Tsuro of the Seas game box

Much like the original Tsuro, this version is a tile-laying game in which you play a tile from your hand which represents a path, or in this case, "wake" that your ship will travel upon. The object of the game is to, well, not die, and be the last player on the board. Once a tile is played, the ship (or ships) who's connecting wake matches the played tile will then move along the wake until it either reaches the end of a tile, falls off the board, or is stopped by a daikaiju (dragon) tile. 


All of the daikaiju tiles are shuffled face down and placed in a pile. Depending upon the number of players, a set amount of daikaiju are randomly placed by rolling two dice.  These will set the initial location of the daikaiju and allow the players to pick their starting location.

Daikaiju "cast"

Since we normally play with four players, we start out with six daikaiju placed on the board. These critters can be spread out all over the board or clustered close together, depending on the roll of the dice. There will always be at least three daikaiju on the board, though.

Initial daikaiju placement

Let's draw our first set of three tiles and pick our ship from the fleet. Once we look at our tiles, we'll pick the best starting position for our ship and hope for the best. Do you have a favorite color? You have eight to choose from here.

Tsuro's fleet

An interesting rule of this game is that the oldest player starts first, then play proceeds clockwise around the table. At the start of each player's turn, the first step is to roll the blue and gold dice to determine whether or not the daikaiju activate. On a result of 6, 7 or 8, the daikaiju wake up and move according to the roll of a single die. If a 6 is rolled, instead of any daikaiju moving, another gets added to the board! Yes, let's all say it together: D'oh!

Now that that step is resolved, and seeing where the daikaiju are, the player then places one tile from their hand. You'll have three to pick from, and will draw from the supply to always have three in your hand until the supply is depleted. Some tiles will be exactly what you need, and others will force you to pick the lesser of evils. 

Examples of tile cards

As a general strategy, I prefer to be "anti-social" and avoid going near other ships as much as possible. Sometimes another ship will end up on your tile at the end of that player's turn. If both ships occupy the same side of the tile, both will move with the next tile played. Personally, I'd rather not place my fate in another player's hands, especially if they play a tile that will force my ship off the board. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to avoid sharing a tile with another ship, but that's part of the fun of this game.

First round in progress

Here we have a five-player game. Four players have already placed their first tile, and one player, the orange ship on the right side of the board, has yet to place her tile. We were lucky in the game above, in that four of the five daikaiju were clustered close to the center of the board and weren't blocking any of us. I have the blue ship in the bottom right corner of the board in this particular game. 

Several rounds in...

The red ship was destroyed by one of the daikaiju, and the rest of us are still plying the waters with our goods, avoiding the creatures and each other. Since you have three tile cards in your hand at any one time, you can do a little pre-planning for your next move. Naturally, you'll have to account for any daikaiju that may be close to you, but you can still have an idea where you can go in the next couple of moves. 

As more tiles are played, it becomes easier and easier to die quickly by sailing off the edge of the board. Since the rules state that your ship must continue to follow a continuous wake, placing a tile that connects your current position to others that are placed will eventually force you off the board. Can you play your tiles skillfully enough to avoid the daikaiju, other ships, and the edge of the world? You could be the sole survivor and winner!

The sole survivor!

This lucky captain and crew survived eight daikaiju on the board! Yes, eight! This game can go for an hour or be over in just a few minutes, depending on the dice and luck of the draw. It's easy to learn, and very enjoyable to play. What could be better? How about an expansion for it? Calliope Games released Veterans of the Seas, which adds two more hazards: tsunami and whirlpool tiles. Balancing these hazards are two "tools" to help captain and crew: cannons and a mystic portal to whisk you away from danger. Cool! As soon as I discovered this expansion, it went straight onto my Amazon wishlist.

So what did y'all think? Want to join Cindy and me on our next game night? We might even have that cool expansion to add to the fun. Have you played Tsuro or Tsuro of the Seas? Did you enjoy it? Please let me know all about it in the comments section below.

Many thanks to my younger brother from another mother who suggested this topic. Lookin' forward to another game night with you and Brittany soon.

For my new readers, if this sparked your interest in games, check out some of my other blogs I wrote about games I've enjoyed. Just click on the title of the game to go to that blog.


Flash Point

Dead of Winter

Lord of the Fries

Coming up in the next few blogs, I'll write about some more "living history" museums, games and even an interview or two. 

For your convenience, my last blog can be found here.

Until next time....

carpe cerevisi

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