Every once and a while a fun-loving German biologist comes down to Florida. The purpose of his visit is never business. He arrives amidst a torrent of whiskey, stays long enough to remind us why we’ll look forward to his next holiday, and leaves just as our livers start to question whether or not going on strike is in order.
This champion of all times good is cousin Dennis. He’s not actually MY cousin, being related instead to my roommate, Eric, but he certainly feels like family at this point. He and his wife, Emily, visited this past weekend along with two of their friends who also craved escape Chicago’s pre-Spring slushiness.
Tabletop games saved our Saturday night. Most of the troupe had fallen into post-movie pizza comas, and I too was on the verge of succumbing. Instead of accepting our fate, I moved to rally the troops. Fortunately International Board Game Day brought a fresh batch of boxes into the house, though only one was suited to accommodate the eight of us. Enter Tsuro, or, as I like to call it, Dragon Tron.
Its gameplay is simple yet elegant: Players are represented by neat-looking figurines, called pawns, which are placed along the edge of a 7-by-7 grid. These pieces scoot around the board, following randomized routes that are paved by tile cards put down each turn. They are designed to form contiguous routes, connecting to create roller-coaster tracks that tend to bring players dangerously close to one another. Should two pawns arrive at the same open space, both are subject to whatever direction the next-laid tile dictates.
The goal is to outlast everybody else as paths inevitably fall off the edge of the board or end up colliding with other players. Last man standing wins. Our first few rounds were timid – all of us attempted to avoid each other until real estate ran out. After a few accidental crashes, grudges were born and Tsuro’s passive-aggressive offense began to shine through.
Perhaps it was Dennis’ influence, or maybe just because we had so much booze on-hand, but soon we started to play “expert mode,” as we called it, where elimination from a match meant you took a shot. I’m pretty sure it was soon after my fifth loss that I started calling the game Dragon Tron. Something about the experience reminded me of light cycles, I guess.
Thanks to Tsuro, a bunch of near-30, young(ish?) professionals managed to reconnect with our collegiate selves, finding both our second and third winds. It is a casual game, yet intricate enough to feel strategic. Its pacing is perfect; everybody’s so busy plotting their escape trajectory over the first few turns that Tsuro’s crash-course conclusion makes each go-around both unpredictable and engaging. So much so that everybody was eager for round two on Sunday.
There isn’t much else to confess about Tsuro. Its tasteful minimalism solidified a spot toward the front of our shelf. More than any game we’ve discovered thus far, it is a safe bet for both gamers and tipsy houseguests alike.
What’s getting dangerous is how much I enjoy my time spent tableside. As much fun as it is to bounce from game to game, I’ve been searching for a recurring group of sorts. More than anything I craved a tabletop RPG. I dabbled in D&D for a couple months while at university, though getting everybody together on a consistent basis proved to be a bit too much. Our clumsy attempt at a campaign was left unresolved, and my gnome bard hasn’t been seen since.
Now that my weeks are a little more structured, being a 9-to-5er and all, I think I am ready to try again. Thanks to the serendipitous nature of the Internet I am about to begin my career as a chummer. A local band of Shadowrunners were recruiting for their latest adventure and they aren’t opposed to carrying newbies along for the ride.
For the last two weeks I’ve been lost down the rabbit hole that is character generation in Shadowrun. While I’m still trying to wrap my head around the complexities of the fifth-edition ruleset, I think I’ve decided on running as a wheelman/ rigger archetype. If that leaves you wondering what the hell I’m talking about, stay tuned, because I’m not entirely sure yet myself. For those of you who do know what I’m about to get myself into, please feel free to point me in the right direction!