Tao Long is a game of cat and mouse for two players, except that you’re both cats and mice at the same time trying to outsmart and defeat each other, but you’re also not those things because you’re actually dragons. Make sense? Good!
Packaged in a lovely looking box accompanied by beautiful artwork, interesting lore and great quality components Tao Long had me excited to play. As I said, each player plays as a dragon, representing either heaven or hell. The idea of the game is to outsmart and outmanoeuvre the other player so that you can position yourself to attack them from the sides or behind. The dragons body is broken up in to a number of sections and you will need to reduce your opponent down so that only the head remains in order to win.
The board is divided up in to two sections, the Board of Human is the area where you will move your dragons, and the Ba Gau is where you will decide on which actions to perform by moving the Ba Gau stones. In more advanced games the colour of the stones – black and white, refer to each dragon.
A player’s turn is broken down in to a number of phases the first being the Spirit phase – the manipulation of the Ba Gau stones, and the second being the Matter phase – the movement of your dragon.
On the Ba Gau there are a number of elements and forces, each pair represents a different move you can make. To make a move you must take all the stones from one space, and moving in a counter clock wise direction place one in the following spaces, the final space you land in is the move you get to make. The space are as follows; Heaven and Earth, Wind and Thunder, Lake and Mountain and finally Fire and Water. These all sit opposite each other on the Ba Gau and landing a stone on one of them will let you perform the action that correlates to it for example using Wind or Thunder lets you move your dragon from the vertical axis to the horizontal axis.
It sounds a little confusing at first and I think that’s partly down to the language used throughout, but it’s actually very simple once you understand it.
Finally you will want to attack the other dragon. There is a damage and range token that has attack values printed on them based on how far away you are. But if you’ve previously used the Fire action you can take a fire token from the middle of the Ba Gau and keep hold of it until you want to attack, each token adds 1 to your attack up to a maximum of 4 additional damage. The water side of the Ba Bau lets you heal any damage done to your dragon. Each of your dragons segments has 4 health, once a segment is depleted it is removed from the board.
Tao Long is a game of patience and it feels quite relaxing to play, it’s not about fast paced action, it’s more methodical and thought through – a tactical game. Planning out how best to manipulate the Ba Gau in order to get the upper hand is essential, but getting that mastered is a different story.
There are also portals that can be used in the game, and as you might expect they let you move from one point of the board to another. There are also a number of various scenarios in the book that will set up the board in specific ways and introduce new rules for play. It adds a nice amount of variation to the normal mode and will keep things interesting and replayable for a lot longer.
Tao Long is a beautiful game from the box all the way through to its components and rule book, with fantastic artwork and detail in every ounce of it. Thankfully the gameplay backs it all up with a good competitive experience that should keep you well entertained. For a younger audience I think it could fall a bit flat with the pacing of the game and just the general way it’s all delivered to the players, but I definitely think the adults out there will enjoy it a lot!
I really enjoy Tao Long and can see myself bringing it back to the table quite a few times!