Thundergryph Games’ 2nd Kickstarter campaign was for Tao Long, a game of dueling dragons that raised a whopping €281,529. A ton of extras were unlocked during the campaign giving players a multitude of play options and varying quality levels of the components. There’s the standard retail version with cardboard components, the KS Deluxe Edition with a neoprene mat, wooden tiles, and a metal Flux Coin, and a signed Collectors Edtion that’s signed, comes with a gold coin, and a few other extras.
I ended up with the Deluxe Edition with a few extras, namely the Tiger & Phoenix pieces and the Pink Fluffy Bunny.
In Tao Long players each takes control of a segmented dragon. The goal of the game is to destroy the 3 body segments of your opponents dragon by clever maneuvering, and use of both your fire and water breath. Players maneuver their dragon by taking a stack of stones from the Ba-Gua board and moving them counterclockwise, dropping a stone with every space moved. Whatever space the last stone lands on determines what action the player can take that turn.
There are movement actions that allow a dragon to move up, down, or turn. Two of these actions also allow a dragon to immediately take another turn. There’s also a Fire and Water space that allow a dragon to accumulate fire, heal, or breathe their fire or water breath.
Dragons can attack each other in 3 ways. The way a dragon can inflict damage is to bite the other dragon. If a dragon ends its movement with its jaws adjacent to the body of the opponent’s dragon it inflicts 1 point of damage. The other two ways to attack are with fire breath or water breath. The game comes with a ranging template that dictates the range and base damage of each attack. Fire attacks get a bonus for how many Fire Tokens a player has accumulated. Water attacks get a bonus based on how many Water Tokens have been returned to the center of the Ba-Gua board (from dragons taking damage.) Once a dragon has taken 4 damage it loses a body segment and it’s health refills. Once 3 body segments are lost the dragon is defeated.
The rules laid out above are the most basic of the game. There’s plenty of extras and variations to the game that can be added in. There are portals for dragons to warp through, impassible stones that can be placed on the board, a village to attack/defend, and rules for adding more complexity to the Ba-Gua board and its stones. There’s also a Tiger & Phoenix or the Pink Fluffy Bunny that can replace a player’s dragon, each with their own rules of play.
For more info on the game’s rules, and its variations, watch the video above and read the full rulebook.
As with all of Thundergryph’s games, Tao Long is an amazing production. I have the Deluxe version of the game that has thick wooden tiles, a metal coin, a neoprene map, and a sleeved box with a magnetic clasp. The retail edition has cardboard tiles and a folding cardboard board, but all the artwork and graphic design are the same. You can tell a lot of care was placed into the design as a whole, even down to how the rulebook is laid out.
Tao Long has all the elegance of a pure abstract with a wonderful veneer laid masterfully on top. The mechanics around the Ba-Gua almost feel like a game within itself as players move stacks of stones in order to achieve an optimal set of moves and/or attacks. Of course, the players then need to actually maneuver their dragons around the board, each trying to get in close for an attack without leaving themselves vulnerable to retaliation. An effective series of moves is extremely satisfying when properly pulled off.
So is biting another dragon in the butt.
I mean, come on. Who doesn’t think that’s awesome?
The simplicity of the basic concepts of the game, along with an incredibly laid out rulebook, make it easy to jump right in. The ability to customize the board, add in rule variations, and even replace your dragon with different creatures adds a huge amount of variety and replayability to the game. I’ve played the game a ton with my 7-year-old and still haven’t tried every combination available yet.
Tao Long is a game that any abstract lover will most certainly enjoy, though players who normally aren’t a fan of abstracts may enjoy the light theme applied to the game. The game certainly packs in a ton of value at the €25.00 mark. Coming from Thundergryph, that’s to be expected.
A copy of Tao Long Deluxe was provided free for review by Thundergryph Games
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.