Update: 02/12/2020. The developer has reached out to tell us that the game’s multiplayer has now had a major update which has resolved the matchmaking issues that we allude to.
A visually beautiful digital version of the board game classic Tsuro.
Being a fan of board games in 2020 has been a touch difficult. Meeting up to play has been hard, and so digital board games have become something much more attractive. Whilst the lack of physical pieces and real, present company does lessen the enjoyment somewhat, it’s still wonderful to be able to play the likes of Splendor and Ticket to Ride online. Recently, Thunderbox Entertainment has brought a personal favourite Tsuro to the digital marketplace, and I’ve been playing with it to see how it translates.
Right off the bat, Tsuro looks really nice. You’re presented with a desert-like patch of sand with a copy of the board game on it that you are instructed to open, resulting in the game board unfolding and the pieces being placed onto it. The visuals and general presentation are excellent, and really give off a relaxing style that’s synonymous with the game it’s based on. The way the pieces move around the board and the sand particles that blow by the board look great. Whilst there aren’t many visual options in the menus, I found that my two-year-old laptop ran with absolutely no hiccups even on the highest setting.
If you aren’t familiar with Tsuro, it’s a very simple tile-laying game, in which your piece (dragon) follows the path on the tiles in front of it. You’ll have three tiles at your disposal on your turn and you’ll need to select and rotate a piece before placing it in front of your piece to allow it to continue. Every tile will allow you to progress, but the trick is to make sure you stay on the board longer than your opponents. It can get a little tricky as the board fills up and you need to work out which paths will allow you to survive whilst pushing your opponents off the edge or into each other.
It’s a simple premise, but this digital version comes with a few extra modes to spice things up. Victory can be defined by survival, but also by who has the longest path by the end of the game, or by who has made the most loops in their own path. These are options in the physical version but are quite hard to keep track of. There’s also the solo Fuse mode, that sees you laying tiles to move your piece whilst a fuse chases you along the path. You are scored based on the length of your path multiplied by the number of loops you complete by the time the fuse reaches you. I enjoyed this mode quite a lot, as it’s quick to play and a nice score attack game mode.
With this being a multiplayer board game though, the bulk of the entertainment is in the competition. There’s a solid set of AI here, ranging from easy to difficult, and you can happily have an eight-player game with them. This is pretty enjoyable and plays quickly, plus it’s entertaining to see the computer players make careless errors from time to time on the easier settings. The hard mode will test you if you’re trying to win in a loop-scoring game. There’s local multiplayer as well, which works perfectly well, although you do tend to end up seeing each other’s tiles.
I’d like to comment on the online option, but unfortunately, I simply could not get it to work. I tried changing various settings, both in and out of the game, and even tried with my firewall and virus program shut down. I connected to the internet via a mobile hotspot rather than wifi and still had no success. I had no luck and couldn’t connect to the server no matter what I tried. Perhaps my PC was the problem. This is a real issue as the main reason I enjoy digital board games right now is being able to play them online. Having had a look at the comments on the Steam store, it seems I’m not the only one, although most people seem not to be having this problem.
The UI is fine but clearly designed with a touch screen as the primary mode of interaction. This isn’t a bit problem, but I would have liked some PC specific control options, such as being able to pick up a tile and rotate it with the mouse wheel rather than having to click it repeatedly. A minor gripe, but something that irritated me nonetheless. There’s also a tendency for hints to block one of your tiles, making it hard to tell what paths are on it, although these can be turned off in the menu.
I’ve enjoyed having Tsuro in its digital form. It’s well presented, reasonably priced, and has plenty of game modes. The issues with the online multiplayer are quite frustrating, and a significant aspect to be missing out on. I’m hoping to be able to find a solution to this as I’d like to play against others beyond my own four walls. If you’re interested in digital board games, and the online service works for you, then you could do a lot worse than this.