John Yiani is the games designer behind the highly addictive and extremely popular game Hive, and he has a reputation for creating fiendishly clever and simple to pick up games. His latest offering, Tatsu, is a two player strategy game that simply confirms Yiani’s genius.
Tatsu is a well-designed two-player game that happens to be quite quick to play. The theme is rather pretty. You are meant to be an ancient Japanese general, martialling an army of Dragons on a mountain side in order to win the hand of a princess. As lovely as this is, it’s not really the inspiration behind the game mechanics; rather it’s something added on to give the game a tactical feel and Oriental aesthetic.
The game itself is played on a board with a circular track. You have three types of dragons; Fire (red) dragons destroy opponent counters, Water (blue) dragons put take opponent pieces off the track and Vine (green) dragons just stop enemy counters from moving. Each turn, you roll two dice; these influence either what types of dragons you get on the board or how much you can move the pieces. You win when you destroy all of one kind of dragon, or knock out all the enemy pieces. Movement is clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on which side of the board you’re on.
As simple as that sounds, it’s quite an involved game. Though movement is random, the vine dragons make it possible to predict where the pieces are going to be. Sometimes you can’t get all the pieces you need out in time, and you have to make do and so on. Each round presents just enough potential winning moves to keep each player engaged, so you’re constantly looking for the next move. Because dragon deployment is sort of random, it also means that your keen for it to be your next turn so play tends to be rapid.
Tatsu is exactly the sort of game we’ve come to expect from John Yiani, and a great choice for those of us who like strategy game that don’t require tonnes of fiddly pieces.
TATSU / DESIGNER AND ARTIST: JOHN YIANNI / PUBLISHER: GEN42 GAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW