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Clan Spotlight: Tsuyo

(Posted originally as a Kickstarter campaign update)

Theme

The Tsuyo clan represent the darker, more corrupt side of the town and their artwork and theme reflects that. The right side of the board has darker stone, dead ground and dying trees. This represents the clans dark side in a metaphorical sense but also a more literal one – the clan focuses on taking resources for themselves at the expense of the town, and it has fallen into disrepair.

The box art also mirrors the board in this way, and if you look at the background behind the dojo you’ll see this clearly demarcated by the road down the centre. Even the water of the lake has started to become corrupt and polluted on the Tsuyo side.

Tsuyo buildings

The building artwork for the Tsuyo clan reflects the colour scheme used elsewhere, made up of reds, browns, blacks and greys.  A quick glance at this set of buildings should leave no doubt that this is the Tsuyo clan. More than just the colours though, the buildings available in the game were influenced by certain historical buildings or cultural aspects.

Kabuki theatre, though enjoyed by the masses, was unpopular with the Shogunate and led to several bans on certain performers. It was a place where different classes could mix, meet, show off their wealth, and trade in gossip and favours. This defiance of the Shoguns wishes is represented in the Theatre’s ability which allows the player to immediately flip a previously scored objective face up. This not only allows the player to choose a potentially favourable scoring opportunity, but also to ensure that the game does not end immediately if the final objective is in sight for an opponent.

The Theatre and Kabuki performer in Kumadori

The Bakuto Den is one that I’ve already highlighted in the campaign, and is my absolute favourite of all because of the Kabufuda cards in 8-9-3 secretly nodding to the fact that the Bakuto were forerunners of the modern Yakuza. Designing an ability that reflects gambling in a game with no randomness was a big challenge, and the building went through many design changes. In the end I opted to reflect the idea of the Bakuto deceiving the unsuspecting gambler with a rigged game – the more affluent the players the more the Bakuto stood to make. The Bakuto Den benefits from your opponents success, gaining more resources the higher your opponents score is.

The Bakuto Den with Kabufuda cards showing 8-9-3

Mechanics

Mechanically, the Tsuyo have a few sub-themes that I wanted to represent in the game, focused around a higher degree of interactivity with your opponent and disruption of the normal game flow. In particular, the Tsuyo clan also have some unique ideas not found in the base game:

  • Stealing or Damaging Opponents (Toll Gate, Gunsmith)
  • Points as a Resource (Brewery)
  • Objective Manipulation (Theatre)

Balancing the Tsuyo clan buildings was fairly straightforward, for those that relate to variants of existing buildings that are already well balanced. For example the Gunsmith is a mirror of the Shrine (rather than gaining a point your opponent is instead losing one) and the Toll Gate mirrors the Broker or the Yatai as a net two-resource swing. The Jail gives you similar control to the Guard House but with two benefits (both clearing a destination space and replacing a meeple elsewhere) so it is costed higher. 

For those buildings with completely new abilities, like the Theatre or the Brewery, they were costed on different considerations like their expected value, the point in the game at which they are expected to be most useful, and how many conditions there are to be able to gain value from the ability.

Note: Some of the buildings may go through some balance or graphical changes before the final print run.

Strategy Tips

If you’re picking up Tsuyo buildings, and progressing along the Tsuyo Loyalty track, you can expect the game to last a little longer.  That means you have more time to take advantage of resource generating abilities to squeeze out an advantage.

Resource generation buildings and those that let you convert those resources into points become much more valuable with repeated use:

Original buildings that work with the Tsuyo clan strategy

When valuing the Tsuyo buildings, some of them are much better used at different stages of the game.

Early Game 

The Brewery is a great early game building, as once you have that first point you can give it up safely to pick up the resources needed for more buildings or more efficient points. Buildings like the Gunsmith and the Toll Gate meanwhile are useful at all stages of the game but gain value the more uses you can get from them.

Good early game buildings

Late Game

The Bakuto Den gets stronger the better your opponent is doing, so of course it’s better in the late game, however it is costed to be an easy early game pickup. Whilst its potential is high, it represents a long term plan to manage the pace of the game and your own score relative to your opponents.  

The Jail is another building useful in the late game as its high cost prohibits its use consistently. It will typically be used for either clutch access to an objective scoring space, or the ability to reposition a meeple to block your opponent for one more turn. You may even go the whole game without using the Jail, but it’s part of your toolkit that is a constant threat to your opponent as long as you have 3 Gold available.

Finally, the Theatre lets you control the pace of the game by effectively adding a 6th objective (worth 1 or 2 points). Typically you would want to flip an objective that you are expecting to be able to score and close out the game, but it can also be used when you want to delay the game – leave it unscored whilst you catch up or win generating points from other means.

Good late game buildings

As a final note, the Tsuyo buildings skew towards costing Gold (rather than Food) so you will want to prioritise those resource spaces on the board accordingly.

Summary

The Tsuyo clan steal from their opponents, disrupt their progress, and manipulate the game so they can take advantage of the power they’ve gained. 

Keep an eye out for the next Clan Spotlight that introduces the Shinchoku clan – the lighter Yang to the Tsuyo’s Yin.

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