I am going to start reviewing the various board/card games I play with my boys. JG is almost 7 and Jacob is 5 and a half.
First up Tsuro from Calliope Games.
If you are not familiar with the game, Tsuro is a tile-based board game flavored as though each player is a dragon flying the skies. It is for 2-8 players and each game takes roughly 15 minutes. The game is recommended for ages 8 and up but with a slight modification (see below) I’ve been playing it with my boys for a few weeks and they love it.
John-Gabriel – “I love the twisty paths that you make.”
Jacob – “I like laying the tiles.”
The game board is a cardboard fold out with a 6×6 grid of 2 inch squares on it. There are hash marks that ring the play area so they line up 2 per space with 4 on the corners. These hash marks are the starting positions for the players and any one can be chosen by any player. The players use standing oblong tokens to represent their Dragons. Each player is given a number of tiles that make up their ‘hand’ and the players lay one tile on each of their turns.
The tiles have a back side and playing side. On the playing side are drawn path lines that line up with these hash marks and then the path lines on the other cards and are cleverly designed so that any tile can match up with any other tile. As you lay more tiles you create ever more labyrinthine paths for your Dragon to follow. Your goal is to stay aloft as long as possible. If following the newly expanded path causes you to fly off the board you lose. If you crash into another Dragon you’re both out. Last Dragon flying, wins!
It’s a simple game of light strategy. With the various tiles you can create a vast number of paths based on which you play from your hand. You can only play tiles into the space that expands the path your Dragon is on, but as the game progresses you sometimes have players who end up close enough that a tile legally placed to move your dragon also causes another player’s dragons to move. When this happens it’s often possible to lay a tile that keeps you safe but forces your opponent off the board. Thus you have two main strategies:
- Avoid everyone as long as possible.
- Try to create an opportunity to move your opponent against their wishes.
Each game takes about 15 minutes to play once the board is laid out and the tiles shuffled. According to the rules, each player starts with five tiles and draws a new one after they play one, until they stack runs out and then you play from your hand. If a player is eliminated, their unused cards are put back into play and drawn from based on who was next to draw when the stack ran out. It’s impossible to use every tile and not have a single winner. As I noted above, we play a little different as I only give each player 3 tiles as their hand. I didn’t want to overwhelm my boys with choices – also they find it difficult to hold more than three tiles in their hands (often they just lay them on the table in front of them face up).
I want to note that I am a believer that you shouldn’t LET children win games. I don’t go for the throat against my children, trying to beat them as easily and quickly as possible. I want them to have fun, but if/when they win at a game it’s because they have won. Both of my boys have won Tsuro. They both really enjoy it (they call it The Dragon Game) and it’s been a big hit for our family as we can all play.