Alfie Dix, 17, reviews board games that he plays with the family and subsequently with groups of friends. Here’s his review of Tatsu.
Nothing quite compares to it… The tension, the brainpower and the dedication involved in one vs one gaming. Stakes are high and anything could change the tide: a high roll, a crucial piece being taken or a bluff gone wrong. Of course, I’m talking about classic two-player strategy games, like Chess and Drafts, that have been played for centuries. Brilliantly designed, these are ancient masterpieces. From tile games like Shogi in Japan and Xiangqi in China, to Mancala style games such as Bao from East Africa, the variety is huge. Some players are devoted to a single game, while many prefer to dabble in each. But what happens when you are tired of the classics but are looking for this same experience?
Tatsu is a game has similarities to backgammon, but brings a new spin to this classic 2 player game. Three types of pieces move around the circular board: fire, water, and vine dragons – all of which have different effects when landing on opposing pieces. The vine dragons keep the opposing piece held, the water dragons return the opposing piece to their store and the fire dragons destroy the piece altogether.
On each turn you roll two six-sided dice and move your pieces according to your roll; clockwise for the black player and anticlockwise for the white player, ensuring that the players will always meet. There are two layers to the circle and therefore a maximum of two tiles per space. If you stack two of your own tiles in one space, you can protect them from enemy pieces, much like the way you protect pieces in backgammon.
The tiles are tactile and robust, the packaging minimal, the rules are simple and easy to follow and games are generally quick. There’s not a lot to hate. However, there is one benefit of this game that stands above the rest and its not even on the box! This is a perfect game for introducing younger players to 2-player strategy games. The smallish board and mechanics of the pieces makes it easy for anyone to understand. There’s no hidden information, so at a quick glance anyone can evaluate the state of the game. The game also teaches key principles of protecting pieces and balancing risk when you attack.
As with Backgammon, however, there are fewer decision points than in some strategy games as your dice rolls determine the action you can take. The luck of the dice can also play a role in determining the victor.
To conclude, it is a perfect game for any household looking for a light strategy game to add to the family games cupboard. Whether you are new to this type of game, or just want to battle in a more relaxed setting, Tatsu is a great find a good addition for any collection.