strategy

Catching up on games: Tsuro, Quoridor, and Repello

Although I’ve been pretty horrible about reviewing games, I’ve played quite a few (as you can see from my revised to-review list below). It has been supremely awesome. Some of the games seem like they would review well together, so here’s a three-in-one of what I think of as ‘easy-yet-hard’ games: Tsuro, Quoridor, and Repello!

All of these can be learned rapidly, the rules are simple and straightforward, and they are rather quick to play (~30 minutes, give or take). But they are all excellent and are deceptively difficult! As is usual, I tried each game with only two players, but you can play with more. (Tsuro is 2-8 players, Quoridor is 2-4, and Repello is 2-4.) Also as usual, the first time my boyfriend and I played I won handily, and haven’t won since.  D:

Here is a brief run-down of each game!

Tsuro is a game of tile placement, and depending on the tiles you play, you move your token along different paths. The goal is to keep your token traveling along a path (without hitting either the edge of the board or your opponent) longer than anyone else. Tsuro tiles look like this:

Tsuro tiles

You have a secret hand of tiles, and each turn you place a tile on the game board, and then move your token as far as it can go along its path. Each token starts at the edge of the game board, and moves as each new tile is placed. In the image below, you can trace the routes that have been taken thus far by each piece.

Tsuro board and tokens

So… you pretty much already know enough to play, but if you want to watch a cheesy how-to video, you can do that right here. In addition to being a pretty great game, I also really like its aesthetics. It evokes a sense of old Japanese art (at least to me).

Tsuro art!

This game is surprisingly easy, but also strategically challenging and lends itself to playing multiple times. 4 stars!

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Next up, I want to talk about Quoridor. Quoridor also falls into this lovely category of easy to learn, yet deceptively difficult to play well. It’s an abstract strategy game in which you try to take your pawn from one edge of the game board to the other. You are also simultaneously trying to stop your opponent from completing this goal, and can do so by placing little walls to block their path. However, on each turn you can only take one action: move your pawn OR place a wall. The board looks like this:

Ready to play!

That is what the start of the game looks like. From then on you are allowed to move your pawn or place a wall, so long as you don’t entirely block all possible paths for your opponent. Here’s an example of a game in progress.

The blocking has begun…

This game can be a little heart-breaking depending on when and how your opponent uses their walls. Or a lot heart-breaking if you get really invested in your games. Not that I know anyone like that. (Disclaimer: I’m totally like that.) Lots of fun to play, and can be surprisingly dramatic! 3 stars.

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Last but not least: Repello. I would say Repello falls into this ‘games based on abstract strategy that are easy yet hard’ category. That’s a mouthful, but I’m not sure how else to describe it. (Other games like this include Hive and The Duke.) Repello is maybe slightly more onerous to learn than Tsuro and Quoridor, but is certainly not that difficult compared to most board games. The overall goal in Repello is to score more points than your opponent(s). You score points by knocking black, silver, and gold tokens off the board (worth 1, 3, and 5 points, respectively). Each player starts with a stack of black tokens, and some black, silver, and gold tokens are laid out on the board. Each turn you move your stack some number of spaces in any direction, dictated by the game board. Here’s an example:

Repello board

Now ignore the mysterious blurry finger moving a black token in the picture. The stack of black tokens on the clear plastic stick is the blue player’s stack. All around the stack are numbers, and these are the numbers that dictate the number of spaces the stack moves in each direction. The blue stack can go 2 spots to move “down” in the image. Or 3 spots to the left. 4 to the lower left, etc.
Each time you move your stack you leave behind one black token from the stack in the spot the stack started. This is where things get interesting! Every piece on the board repels each other. (Hence the name Repello!) So if your move results in two tokens being adjacent to each other (including diagonals), one of them must be moved.

Below is a small example of a section of Repello board. If it were red’s turn, and red moved two spots (down and to the right in the image), it would end up next to blue. But they can’t stay like this because they repel!

Repello example

So either red or blue would need to move one space away from each other to resolve this repulsion. (And since it was red’s turn, red makes that decision). What you see above is a simple example, but when you have a whole game board with many different tokens you can create this fantastic chain reaction of repulsions that has far-reaching effects. It makes you feel all powerful! (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Anyway, super fun game. I’m actually really excited to try this with more people; I imagine play would progress differently with more tokens being left all over the place. Overall 3.5 stars!

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Lastly, mostly for my own reference, here is my increasingly long to-review list!

1911 Amundsen vs. Scott
Babel
Carcassonne
Carcassonne: South Seas
Castellan
Castle Panic
Concept
Damage Report
Dominion (original, seaside)
The Duke
Le Fantome de l’Opera
Forbidden Island
Guillotine
Hive
Iota
Jaipur
Kittens in a Blender
Legacy
Morels
Mr. Jack
Munchkin
Pandemic
Quoridor
Repello
RoboRally
Rockwell
San Juan
Settlers of Catan
Smash Up
Splendor
Spot It
Ticket to Ride
Tsuro

The Duke: best chess substitute

Let me tell you: although there’s been a shortage of updates here, there has been no shortage of game-playing! Oh, I’ve been a super slacker at cataloguing my gaming thoughts. I’m going to make a little list to keep track, but today I will be focusing just on a game that I really enjoyed called The Duke!

The Duke is a game that feels a bit like chess, but with some luck and memory components that stop it from feeling entirely strategy-based.

The game starts with a board that is smaller than a chessboard, but otherwise quite similar:

The Duke setup

The game starts with your duke (equivalent roughly to the king in chess), and two footmen (like pawns). Although there are actually a number of other pieces, you only start with these three. You can randomly draw other pieces to add to the board throughout the game — this is where some of the luck comes in!

Each piece (whether it be the Duke, footmen, or any of the others) is a little wooden square with symbols on the front AND back. Like so:

Example pieces!

As you might have guessed, part of the image on the piece is a map of the game board and represents what this piece can do! Different symbols mean different things. For example, the closed circle means the piece can move to that square, while the open circle means the piece can jump to the indicated square. (It is, of course, all relative to where the piece is.) There are some other fancy moves too, like the general being able to move other pieces. (Full description of rules and gameplay here.)

We’ve pretty much covered the major aspects of play except for one other tiny little thing. Every time a piece moves, you have to flip it over. This is super important because both sides of the piece are NOT the same! So, this is where the memory part comes in: it is crucial to remember what your pieces’ other side shows, so that when you move a piece it is well-positioned to utilize its other side. Make sense?

These extra elements which combine strategy with a bit of luck and memory make The Duke a lot of fun. It can help match up two otherwise unmatched players (i.e. my boyfriend and I — I’ll leave it up to you to guess who is the better strategist). The game is easy to learn, and fun to play. It also feels well-made. The wooden pieces make the game feel much more substantial than using plastic or paper markers.

Overall, I highly recommend, and enthusiastically give 4.5 stars!

To be reviewed:
Castellan
Mr. Jack
Babel
Le Fantome de l’Opera
Legacy
Rockwell
Castle Panic
Forbidden Island
Tsuro
Quoridor
Repello
Pagoda
Concept
Damage Report