Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kickstarter Alert: Tsuro of the Seas

Tsuro of the Seas box

Overview: The original Tsuro is a wonderful tile-laying game which is easy to learn, fits up to 8 players, and offers some excellent opportunity for strategy. Calliope Games now has a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel. Tsuro of the Seas still keeps the same basic mechanic, but throws in an additional element of luck and danger: daikaiju — giant monsters — roaming the sea that will devour your ship!
Players: 2 to 8
Ages: 8 and up (though younger children can learn the basics)
Playing Time: 20 to 40 minutes
Retail: $40 on Kickstarter, plus other options for extra rewards
Rating: A superb new twist on an already-fantastic game.
Who Will Like It? If you like the original, you’ll definitely want to take a look. The artwork in Tsuro of the Seas is of the same caliber, and you can even get some prints of the artwork as Kickstarter rewards. The game does throw in a much higher degree of luck, but the seafaring theme and possibility of being eaten by a daikaiju are both a lot of fun.
Tsuro Components

You are captains of an Imperial Red Seal ship, braving the treacherous seas to spread the word of the Emperor. But there are daikaiju out there, so not only do you need to beware of hitting the wrong path, but you’ll also need to steer clear of these ship-destroying beasts. The artwork is all done in a Japanese style that fits the theme, and the tiles are made to look like wakes in the sea.
  • 1 game board
  • 56 wake tiles
  • 10 daikaiju tiles
  • 8 ship pawns
  • 2 dice (1 gold, 1 blue)
I saw a pre-production prototype at GameStorm so I’ve seen the artwork and a sample of the red ship, but haven’t gotten to see final quality components in person. However, based on the original Tsuro, I would except Calliope Games to use the same quality board and tiles, which were made of a heavy cardboard with rounded corners. The artwork (as you can see from the photos here and on the Kickstarter page) is gorgeous and the little ships look really great.
The Tsuro of the Seas board is a 7×7 grid, larger than the original 6×6 grid. Each daikaiju tile has 5 numbers on it, corresponding to the four cardinal directions and a rotation, which are used for movement. The wake tiles have paths on them that connect to two points on each edge of the tile. Unlike the original, there are some repeated tiles in this batch.
The wake tiles are shuffled and each player draws a hand of three. Then a number of daikaiju (based on the number of players) is placed face-down on the board, using the dice to determine where they are placed. The coordinates do not appear on the outside ring of squares, so no monsters will appear at the edges of the board, though they may travel there later. Once the daikaiju are placed, each player chooses a starting spot for their ship.
Each turn has the following steps:
  1. Roll to see if daikaiju move.
  2. Place a wake tile.
  3. Move along the wake tile path.
  4. Draw a new wake tile.
If a 6, 7, or 8 is rolled, the daikaiju will move. The player then rolls a single die, and checks each daikaiju to see how it moves. (The daikaiju are numbered to indicate the order that they are moved.) Based on the number rolled, each daikaiju will either rotate 90 degrees, move one space, or stay still. Wherever the daikaiju moves, anything it covers — a wake tile, another daikaiju, a ship — is removed from the game.
Also, there should always be three daikaiju on the board. If any are removed (either by going off the board or by being devoured by other monsters) then a new one is placed when the 6, 7, or 8 is rolled next. (But when the new monster is placed, none of them move that turn.)
If you’re still alive after the daikaiju move, then you place a wake tile in front of your own ship, and then follow the path to its end. If the tile extends the path of any of the other ships on the board, they move as well until they reach the end of their respective paths. Any ship that goes off the edge of the board or moves into the space with a daikaiju is eliminated from the game.
Finally, if after all of that you’re still alive, then you draw a new tile and play passes to the next player.
You win the game if you’re the last player remaining on the board. If two or more players exit the board on the last turn of the game, they share the victory.
Optionally, you can play Tsuro of the Seas without the daikaiju — it’s not exactly the same as the original Tsuro because of the larger board and some repeated tiles, but it would be a fairly similar experience.
As I mentioned earlier, I got to play a prototype of Tsuro of the Seas at GameStorm this year, and I’m really excited for its release. The original was on our Best Board Games of 2011 list, and you may have seen it on Wil Wheaton’s TableTop as well.
The addition of the daikaiju makes for some interesting changes to the game. For one, there’s just the random luck element as you move around — you don’t know whether any nearby monsters might move toward you before you get another turn, so you have to take your chances to pick a direction. But another significant effect which you may have missed just from a read-through of the rules is that because the daikaiju eliminate wake tiles, they clear more room for movement.
In the original, if two players run into each other, they are both eliminated — because if you follow the paths, they’ll both end up off the board where the other player started. In Tsuro of the Seas, this may not be the case. Following the path somebody came from may put you in the middle of the board somewhere because the paths can get broken up by the daikaiju.
There definitely is a higher luck factor in Tsuro of the Seas, but it can make for a very fun experience, not knowing where the monsters are going to move next. You do need to check the rules carefully about when players are eliminated by monsters, but it is still very easy to pick up and play, and you can quickly teach new players.
I also love that it’s a game that fits up to 8 players, because there aren’t many quick-playing games that can handle that many players at once.
Tsuro of the Seas is slated to be launched in August this year at GenCon, but Calliope Games is hoping to use Kickstarter to build up buzz and convince retailers to stock the game once it’s released. If you back it now, you’ll find a lot of cool swag (including prints of the artwork from the game). Whether you kick in for a copy now or wait for its release, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Tsuro of the Seas.
Wired: Giant monsters, cool Japanese ship pawns, beautiful artwork — not to mention a fun game.
Tired: Not all players will like the luck factor, but they can play without the monsters.

Tsuro Of The Seas Awarded Springboard Seal Of Quality!

May 26, 2012 By Leave a Comment

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Double Double Dominoes

Filed Under (Family Games) by Major Fun on May 28, 2012

Think of it as Scrabble with dominoes. Not Scrabble, because it has nothing to do with words, but Scrabble-like, because you play it on a board, and there are places on the board that give you extra score. Not dominoes, because you find yourself doing a lot more thinking than you’d be doing in your basic domino game, but domino-like, because it uses domino tiles, and luck is still a major factor. Better yet, think of it as an invitation to many hours of gentle, mildly competitive, genuinely absorbing family fun.
It’s easy to learn. There’s only one sheet of rules (though the rules come in a booklet, that’s because they are translated into several different languages). The only problem you might have would be if you think of the game as a variation of dominoes. It’s something quite different, and, if you enjoy thinking, much more engaging.
Note the red tiles (I decided not to call them dominoes). They’re the ones that are placed incorrectly. If we were thinking of them as dominoes, then we’d also think that the red tiles were perfectly acceptable. But as tiles, as used in the game of Double Double Dominoes,  the end of one tile can only touch one other tile.
So many choices to think about, so many places you can put your domino-like tiles, that you find yourself thinking and thinking, even when it’s not your turn.
And then there’s the track that you use to keep score. Which also keeps you thinking even when it’s not your turn. Because if anyone plays a tile that has a number that matches the number your scoring piece is currently covering, you get bonus points!

And then there’s the strategic value of covering the high-scoring spaces. And the extra strategic value of covering a high-scoring space with a “double” (a tile where both numbers are the same), because you get double the score. And an extra turn. And, speaking of doubledness, you might notice that there you play with two complete domino sets (56). How doubled is that?
Your beyond school-age folk will find it a sweet filler-type game – nothing to get too serious about, but interesting enough to keep your attention all the way to the end. Your kid-like people will have just as much fun. Racing around a track will keep them focused, raking in bonus points will keep them smug, while you can concentrate your superior powers on the hunt for the highest possible score in a single play.
Double Double Dominoes is recommended for 2-4 players (with the optional purchase of an expansion set, you can play with up to 6 players) 8 and above and takes less than an hour to play. Designed by Seth Johnson an Jordan Weisman, distributed by Calliope Games, Double Double Dominoes is Major Fun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Double Double Dominoes: A Strategic Spin on the Traditional Game

By Jonathan H. Liu    May 8, 2012  | 4:59 am |  Categories: Board Games

Playing Double Double Dominoes with my daughter and some friends. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Playing Double Double Dominoes with my daughter and some friends.
Photo: Jonathan Liu

Overview: Double Double Dominoes is like a hybrid of regular dominoes with Scrabble. If you can play a domino that covers a scoring space on the board, you get points — but this game has some other tricks up its sleeves, too.
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 50 minutes (usually less)
Retail: $30
Rating: Excellent Excellent.
Who Will Like It? Double Double Dominoes is a great family game: it’s simple enough for kids to learn (even kids younger than 8, I would guess) but can also offer a deeper strategic game for adults. It’s not a Euro-game with lots of wooden bits and a strong theme, but it’s a very solid game that can have broad appeal, and may be a good one to rope in a few non-gamers while you’re at it.
The components are straightforward: the game board, 56 dominoes, and 4 scoring pawns. The board itself is what makes the game: it’s a grid that has numbered diamonds on some of the squares, and the scoring track around the border looks like a series of dominoes. The dominoes are standard-sized bone-colored tiles, and the scoring pawns are small translucent plastic discs.

Each player starts with a hand of three dominoes, and the rest are placed face-down in a pile called the boneyard. On each turn, the player draws one domino from the boneyard and then plays one onto the board. The first domino has to cover the center of the board, and from then each domino played must match the end of a domino already on the board, just as in regular dominoes. There are some specific rules about how dominoes can and can’t be played — for instance, they cannot be placed parallel to a line of dominoes, even if they match on both ends, and they cannot be put into a corner where two other dominoes form an L-shape.
The scoring comes in when you over up one of the diamonds on the board, which are numbered from 1 to 5 — the farther they are from the center of the board, the more points they’re worth. If your domino covers a diamond, then you score that many points.
If you have a double domino (same number on both ends), then you get double the point value for playing it — plus, you can play a bonus domino from your hand as long as it can connect to the double you just played.
There’s one other way to score points, too. The scoring track is made up of dominoes, so once you’ve scored some points your pawn will be on a number between 0 and 6. Whenever any player plays a domino with your number on it, you get 3 points. (If they play a double you still just score 3 points, not 6.)
The game goes to 100 points for a 2 player game, 75 points for a 3 player game, or 50 points for a 4 player game.
I haven’t actually played a lot of dominoes, really. Generally when I do have a set of dominoes I’ve had more fun trying to set up a chain of them to knock down rather than actually playing the tile-laying game. However, the Double Double Dominoes board adds some new dimensions that I really like. First, because you have to get to the diamonds to score, you’ll want to play diamonds that lead to that area — but you also don’t want to make a path to the high-scoring diamonds for your opponents. That tension makes for some fun moments, particularly because you don’t know who has a double domino.
What I really love, though, is the scoring track. Since you can get points on somebody else’s turn, that can affect what other people play. If you pay attention to what numbers you and your opponents are sitting on, you can force others to make difficult decisions. For instance, you could play a tile that makes the 4 or 5 diamond accessible to the next player — but only if they give you three points. Between that and the extra move for playing a double domino, I’ve seen scores rapidly shift in a single turn.
Calliope Games has a planned expansion that will allow you to play up to 6 players, which I think would be a lot of fun, too.
The game isn’t tremendously deep and there isn’t any theme to speak of, but it’s a game that I think will be easy to play with a wide range of gamer types (and non-gamers) because it’s so easy to pick up and has a familiar feel to it. Now, if there were just some way to work zombies into it …
You can find out more about Double Double Dominoes and purchase it at Calliope’s website, look for it at your local game shop, or order it from Amazon.
Wired: Easy to learn; great for non-gamers; scoring track adds a great twist.
Tired: Won’t satisfy your heavy-strategy cravings.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Zombie Dice, Get Bit! & Tsuro: Ryan Higa, Freddie Wong, Rod Roddenberry. TableTop Ep 3

Wil Wheaton and guests Ryan Higa (creator and star of the YouTube channel “Nigahiga”), Rod Roddenberry (Producer and CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment), and Freddie Wong (creator and star of the YouTube channel “freddiew”) play Zombie Dice, Get Bit and Tsuro!