Tsuro - The Way of the Path

Image: casualgamerevolution.com

Players: 2-8
Duration: 15 minutes
Style: tile-based, family game

Year: 2004
Price: 30$
Designer: Tom McMurchie
Publisher: Calliope games

For those who like dragons...

Image: boardgamegeek.com
...and for those who don't like long and complicated rules. Tsuro – the Game of the Path is a quick elimination game with simple mechanics that's good for every type of player. Designed by Tom McMurchie and published first by WizKids, it is stripped of scoring and multitasking, assigning the player with one job only: keeping his dragon flying till the end of the game.

Although this is a light game you will need a fair share of strategy if you are to avoid being cornered between dead ends. Dragons are constantly on the move, so creating a path while escaping collisions with one another, while at the same time avoiding to get off the board, can get pretty tricky to manage. Naturally, the difficulty increases the more players are around the table. The more the merrier, so it goes.

Very basic basics

Tsuro only needs to be learned once, and can easily be played without a mock match first. For preparation, every player gets a dragon gamepiece which is placed at one of the lines marking the beginning of a path, at the edges of the square board. There is no right or wrong order to start the placing, as there is no right or wrong place. After the starting points are selected, players are dealt 3 tiles which will constitute their hand. The remaining tiles are to be kept face down and used as deck.

The player's turn has only three sequencial actions:
1 - Placing a tile in front of the player's dragon
2 - Move every dragon adjacent to this tile toward the end of its new path. It doesn't matter if the dragon has to step on previously placed tiles, for the movement only stops when the dragon has no more path in front of it.
3 - The active player draws a new tile from the deck, if there's still one

In the movement phase of the turn, any dragon that gets led to the edge of the board is taken off the game. Similarly, dragons that collide are taken off as well, regardless of which dragon was moving. The tiles of these players go back to the deck. Whichever dragon is the last one standing wins. Should it happen that the last players are eliminated at the same time, these are considered the winners.

Thumbs up

The first thing Tsuro really delivers is the look. Everything in this game is dropdead gorgeous - the box, the thin translucent paper with the title on it, the board... Even the bloody rulebook is beautiful! I mean, have you looked at it? It has kanji on it and opens in the middle! Every tile is unique and creates intricate patterns on the board as the game progresses. It is, without any doubt, a collector's dream.

Image: boardgamegeek.com
However, the value of this game is not merely on the outside. Making the tiles unique is a smart move to improve this game's replay value, since simple mechanics make games feel repetitive, especially if you keep the same player group.

Nevertheless, I think the strongest argument in favor of Tsuro is not any of the above points. It is the basic rules that make it fast to understand. Skip all the 'wait, how was this played again?' and 'I don't get it, I'll just watch' - regardless of age, you can get everyone started right away. Therefore, Tsuro is surprisingly versatile. Families can play it together, from children to people on tight schedules. It can be enjoyed in parties as well as in pubs or cafes. And, even though simplicity can make Tsuro fall short at times, the fact that it's not very demanding feels refreshing enough even after a very tough day.

Last, but not least, not every game allows 8 players to join in at once. It's terrible when you have just one too many for an evening of gaming, right? Taking turns or teaming up is alright with most games, but no one will say no to playing on their own once in a while.


Now, you must be thinking: "Dude, it has dragons in it. What's there not to like?". While Tsuro is without any doubt a very fun game to play, I don't think there's anyone out there who would consider it the best game ever. There are times when simplicity is welcome, and there are times when it is not.

Image: 4vp.tumblr.com
Firstly, while there are definitely different ways to approach the game, these can be thrown into one of two categories: offensive gaming and defensive gaming. Defensive gaming lasts longer, but ends less excitingly, while offensive strategies tend to speed things up and get more satisfying endings. Strategists might get annoyed by this game, more so because it's hard to plan ahead when all the tiles are different and you're playing with a lot of people.

One has to bear in mind that Tsuro is optimized for more than 2 players. Albeit it can be played with just the two, the typical two player game is just dragons running away from eachother until one's luck runs out. Since all tiles must be placed in front of a dragon, connected to the previous path, and that dragon started at the edge of the board, by the end of the game nearly every path is connected to the edges. So, one of the players must necessarily be sent off the board, usually the player which started first, or the one with worse tiles.

This means the worse flaw in Tsuro is its lack of a finishing element. With good players and well dealt tiles, it still comes down to who lasts longer. When there are no tiles left it’s only a matter of time. I’ve come to notice that whenever a game ends like this I want to play more and more until there’s an epic match of Tsuro. And great matches like that don't come often, unless you get more people to play with you.

Spicin' it up! 

Every game that gets awarded that special frequently-played spot deserves a bit of tweaking to make it different. Most of them even get their rules changed a bit after years of playing. I've never known anyone who plays Scrabble by the original rules, and the same goes for many other classics.

All in all, Tsuro has the potential to become either a family game or that one game you have for time-outs in the middle of more hardcore tabletop sessions; whatever the case might be, my thinking is that there are small additions that can boost the game and make it more enjoyable. Without further ado, here are my suggested house rules.

Tsuro race edition: as I've said before, any game of Tsuro that lasts up to the last six tiles or so becomes a waiting game. There are so many ways you can go when all paths are connected to an edge, so basically if no one is thrown off, it's a matter of who lasts one round longer than the others. So, we change that and time it to last less - when the deck ends, the game ends, no matter how many tiles there are in the player's hands at that point. What's more, in case there's more than one player standing then, there is no winner. Having to take out the others on a schedule will definitely make games more exciting.

Fight! Fight! Fight!: make a point system, for instance, for every dragon you throw off their path you get 2 points. The point is not to survive, but to get more points. This will get the players running after one another and will speed things up. Another way to do this is to get a betting system - decide on a number of rounds and in each one bet which position you'll finish in. Pay in mind that these house rules also work better with more players. And beware of very competitive players, cause this can turn into a very steamy game!


A Walk in the Dark

Worth the weight….of 200 MB 

Whereas some titles are better the more developed they are, that doesn’t automatically mean simple games aren’t good. And just like I came to realize after playing a game with one of the most simple setting I have ever seen, just because a game doesn’t have a storyline worthy of a light novel adaptation, doesn’t mean it won’t be an extremely pleasant experience. A Walk in the Dark is an Indie game by Flying Turtle Software that has been present for a while in steam’s Greenlight page. However, at least until it gets enough votes to reach the store, you can get it from its official site for 5€. The soundtrack is also available.

Not your everyday walk

The (short) story begins with little Arielle and her cat Bast happily together in the forest when BAM, an evil looking wizardry creature just flies by and kidnaps Arielle, enveloping the forest with a dark aura. Suddenly, the green forest is turned into a never-ending corridor of obstacles that Bast must overcome in order to save his owner. Simple, no?

Don’t go towards the light…oh wait

So, after the short animation sequence depicting the events described above, we begin the first stage. Needless to say, we control a slender black cat (pretty much everything in this game is black except for the backgrounds) and our objective is to take him to a pillar of light representing the end of the stage, without allowing him to be hurt (no life bar here, if something bad touches you OR if you touch IT, you instantly dissolve into a smoke cloud and are put back at the beginning of the stage). At first there aren’t really any threats to the cat’s integrity except for some spikes here and there, but as you progress through the one hundred stages, things get tricky. Levels get longer and/or more confusing with gravity -changing devices, rotating blades, less safe ground and an increasingly smaller margin for jumping errors.

Gotta go fast

Make it into the light and you get a super simple “stage clear” screen, with your time, your best time and the PAR time. The PAR time is predetermined for all levels, and if you manage to beat it you are awarded with a Speedy badge. This proves to be a simple but extremely effective way to make you want to perfect each level, extending the game’s length. There is also an additional Shiny Badge, awarded if you manage to collect a shiny bauble found in every level, most of them in very tricky spots (just floating above some spikes or similar, making a perfectly executed jump mandatory). Of course you don’t need to get both badges on the same run, in fact you don’t need to get them at all, they’re just “Achievements” of sorts.
Not all levels are the same, some levels title “The Cave” have the cat run forward automatically, leaving you the challenge of jumping or ducking at the right time to avoid death. In my opinion these are the hardest stages.
Since here the cat runs by itself, instead of par time you get a “First Run” should you successfully complete the stage on your first try. Seems a bit buggy though, if you fail your first try, you have to quit the level, load another one and then re-enter the original level in an attempt to do it “on the first try”. And it still doesn’t unlock sometimes.
There are also Arielle’s stages, which follow the same mechanics as Bast’s, except here you move around and press the jump button to invert your gravity as you go over/under obstacles towards the end of each stage. This mechanic is also present in the cat’s stages but it’s only activated by stepping on certain light panels.

100 stages of challenge

All in all, a pretty challenging experience with a decent length (took me 6 hours to finish it with all the badges) and with a well-balanced difficulty increase over the stages. Control-wise it doesn’t get easier than this: analog stick to move, a button to jump and one to duck (as Bast). Arielle doesn’t even have the ducking button so you just move and press the jump button to change gravity, pretty much like in VVVVVV.  Some stages might look near-impossible at first but as you repeat each section again and again you will start to mechanize your button presses, eventually perfecting every jump and timing. The last level especially, takes a while to master.

Shortest credit roll ever

As I see it, A Walk in the Dark is a pleasant and challenging experience that all platforming lovers will enjoy, and the short but brilliant soundtrack fits in perfectly with the game’s setting. Also, did I mention it’s only 5€?


FactFeed 1 - Horses' fake nostrils

Discover the second nostril of the horse, and learn a bit of hands-on knowledge. This information is specially relevant in veterinary procedures such as nasotracheal and nasogastric intubation.

Warning: unless you are qualified or have experience with horses, please do not try to poke the poor animal's nostrils unsupervised. Horses are very nervous and might bite or otherwise wound a human being. Stay safe!
All the sketches by MsRandomBadger
Peris, SC et al. "Manual de anatomía y embriología de los animales domésticos: conceptos básicos y datos aplicativos" - Editorial Acríbia
Budras, KD et al. "Anatomy of the Horse: An Illustrated Text" - Ekkehard Henschel

The Horse website:


By Miana (MrRandomBadger)

Darksiders (PC)

Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: September 22, 2010 (PC) Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
RPVP: 19.99€
Size: ~9972 MB (PC)

Overview / Plot

In Darksiders, a relatively simple hack-n'-slash game, you take the role of the Horseman War, falsely accused of triggering the apocalypse. The premise is simple: to cut through hordes of demons and angels alike, solve puzzles, and while you're at it, get some cool power-ups. Darksiders has been heavily criticized over the years as a God of War / Zelda ripoff, and I'm willing to agree on some points there. But, then again, even if I do agree that the game took most of its elements from those two other merchandises, it's also true that the resultant mix can be looked at as something unique. And in a time where originality seems to be dying, it's good to see that some studios are willing to try new combinations with ingredients that we're already used to. If it works for food, it might work for videogames. After all, videogames are "brain food" (some more than others, of course). After being presented with a short cinematic explaining the plot behind the happenings in Darksiders in one minute or so, you can begin your button mashing. In the early phases of the game you are presented with some hints, telling you how to do stuff. Still, there's really nothing complicated here, so you'll soon feel at home. In fact, after playing through the game twice (in different difficulties) the aspect I find most difficult to understand about this game is still the plot itself. If you get distracted for 2 seconds on the opening cinematic or in any of the first parts of the game you will be left behind and in complete confusion of what is happening and why is it happening. The opening cinematic just compresses a lot of information, and it takes concentration to understand everything that's being told to you. This of course, if you don't just skip the whole thing just so you can start slashing away sooner.  The comic book included might help a bit, giving some background info on certain characters and explaining the reasons behind some of the game's events. In a somewhat generic way, it all comes down to a war between Heaven and Hell that has been dragging on for an eternity, without any victory for either side. Then arrives The Charred Council, whose purpose is to maintain balance between both sides. For this they use the Four Horsemen (War, Death, Strife and Fury) to enforce peace and kick either side's butt when necessary.

Only later do the humans come into the picture, and since these are "still weak, but cunning" according to the Council, a truce is formed between the kingdoms od Heaven and Hell. The plan is to have the decisive war (the Endwar) when all three kingdoms are ready (the new kingdom being called the Kingdom of Men). The go-sign for the war being the breaking of all of the Seven Seals. All remains peaceful, until demons start raining from the sky. The war rages and War, the Horseman is summoned, but of course, he soon realizes that something isn't right. His brothers are nowhere to be found and Abaddon, general of the Heaven's forces insists that War shouldn't be there, since the seven seals were never broken. Eventually, War gets to face Stragga, a powerful demon, and it would have been a pretty easy fight for the Horseman, were it not for the fact that he had broken the law, by waging war with the seals intact. For this reason, his powers are taken and he is defeated. Saved from death by the charred council, War is accused of causing the apocalypse and of siding with Hell's forces (kinda stupid since all you do up until this moment is kill demons). War defends himself, and asks to be taken back to earth so he can find whoever is responsible for this and punish him, thus clearing his own name. The council agrees, but not without linking War to The Watcher, an agent of the council that is to keep an eye on war and kill him should he stray from his path. This is where the game truly begins.


Lets begin with gameplay. Combat mechanics are easy to get around, and this might be the reason many critics said the game is an excessive "press X to win" experience. While correct up to a point, I wont agree on it being boring or too easy. After playing other games of the same kind that contain an abusive amount of skills and button combinations you need to memorize to play decently, I felt Darksiders was more "light"in terms of what you need to learn and use. There's not that much variety in what it comes to tactics, certain enemies require you to hit and run to be able to defeat them and leave with your health intact (at least if you're playing in a higher difficulty) and bosses aren't too difficult. Additionally, if you don't rush headlong into them you can defeat them in your first try with little trial and error. This helps keeping the game's difficulty balanced. The Amount of weapons feels insufficient, even though with the experience needed to level up each one, it's unlikely you'll reach the end of the game with more than one maxed out. Weapon enhancements are very well hidden, and some require backtracking to find, once you obtain certain abilities. Thus, 100% completion is very hard without a guide. Graphical options, once again, are the ones we're used to in console ports: resolution and a v-sync switch. The graphics however, are pretty polished and the game runs smoothly on any decent computer. As for bugs, nothing to point out.

Cut-scenes though, are pre-rendered at a lower resolution and quality, so if you are playing in 1080p, you'll definitely notice that. It's quite annoying, since they could have just used the game engine to do that in real-time at whatever resolution the game was running at. Having cut-scenes with less quality than the game itself is annoying. As for longevity, the game is considerably long, and the dungeon maps can prove to be really confusing, should you need to backtrack in order to get hidden power-ups or valuables. Some achievements require an awful lot of grinding as well and the Dark Rider achievement is just ridiculous. I had to put some rubber bands on the controller's analog sticks and let the character go around in circles for several hours to get it. Some abilities, such as Stoneskin have an abusive cost, there's no way you're gonna rank up even one of them to its highest state if you don't grind souls for hours. Even after getting every single chest in the game and grinding for some achievements, I didn't manage to get any ability to maximum rank. Good thing there isn't an achievement for that.

Some Aspects

  • Cinematics rendered in low quality;
  • Difficulty is well balanced;
  • Plot is confusing at first;
  • No side-quests / Too Linear;
  • Voice acting is good in general, but War's voice sounds forced;
  • Interesting puzzles and good gameplay in general;
  • Fair amount of weapons and skills.

With Darksiders II out now, I'm expected to see the first game getting some more sales within the next weeks.I haven't played the second one yet, but I can only hope that there is more to do than the main storyline. Because Darksiders tends to turn into a boring desert after you finish it and there simply is no reason to keep playing it. Nonetheless, it's a good and solid game, and a starting point for what could become a big franchise. Hopefully, we will see it getting out from underneath the skirt of its older brothers and developing into something unique, shutting up the naysayers.

Final Gameplay Stats:

Time Played: 55 Hours
Achievements Unlocked: 43 / 43 (100%)
Difficulty played the most: Apocalyptic