Based on Katie O’Neill’s graphic novel The Tea Dragon Society, this simple card game is a great game to play with both family and friends. Though it is competitive, the themes focus on friendships and the memories we make with them. The slower pace allows for relaxed gameplay and is, in fact, encouraged by the game’s mechanics.
Article by Naomi Prewitt
The Importance of Tea Dragons
This card game was inspired by The Tea Dragon Society’s theme of growth and the quiet reflection on memories. In the novel and game, Tea Dragon’s are raised to produce special tea leaves which allow the tea drinker to revisit old memories and share in the memories of others. At first, the concept sounds strange but the tea is just a mechanic to explain how simple things like a smell or a taste can bring back memories and how, even if we begin to forget, how those memories stay with us.
Today our lives are busy, we are constantly rushing about trying to achieve bigger and bigger goals, though oftentimes we forget about the journey to those goals after completing them. The idea behind Tea Dragons is not only to encourage seeking after those dreams but also to remember how you grew and the people you grew up with even if it’s achieving the little things in life.
The goal of the game is to raise your Tea Dragon through the four seasons, at the end of winter the player who has gained the most cards, and therefore points wins. Cards drawn from the player’s deck can be used to purchase a helpful item from the market or save it to gain a memory card later. Once there is only one memory card left in the season it is discarded and the next season begins.
Seasons continue in this fashion with occasional setbacks called mischief cards, every player’s deck has some. These require you to discard certain cards in your hold when they’re drawn, however, these moments are designed to be small and easily overcome.
Once there is one remaining memory card for in winter, the year and the game draw to a close. Points are tallied with some memory card’s perks leading to even more points. The player with the most points wins. Something fun that I have implemented into my games is creating stories to go along with the memory cards I have and encouraging everyone to share those stories. It’s a small creative exercise and it helps foster positive emotions at the end of a competitive game while keeping in line with the themes of the game.
In Making Memories with Dragons
My experience playing with Tea Dragons encompassed a wide array of feelings for both me and the other players. We played multiple times, such is the nature of short games, and each time the game played out differently. I’ve named the experiences as different game modes such as, “Racing Mode” and “Story Mode.”
In the competitive “Racing Mode” players would try to play quickly and efficiently to try to out think each other. If a player saw a memory with a perk that you could take advantage of and build a strategy around, they would save as many points per turn in order to afford it then stall the season in order to use it. Other players would spend all their points at the market to buy items that could grant protection against the negative cards in their deck allowing for points to accrue more quickly in the later seasons.
For the relaxed “Story Mode,” the focus shifts from the rush to the finish line, to winning the game in a way that feels satisfying in a storytelling capacity. There is still a sense of competitiveness because no one wants to lose, but they also want to play the game on their own terms. This way of playing is more in line with the original goals of the game and is, in my opinion, a more fulfilling way of playing. You still follow the mechanics of saving points to buy items and memories, but it is less about the cutthroat strategies and outwitting your table mates and doing what feels interesting. To build a small world and lifetime in twenty minutes and when the seasons are done sharing the story with your friends helps enrich the game even further and makes the gameplay interesting time and time again.
The Tea Dragon Society Card Game is a wonderful little game that is simple to pick up and learn. Despite the competitive nature of the game, it’s hard to walk away feeling like you lost. This game a great way to make memories and is a wonderful addition to every table, with quite a bit of re-playability, I would highly suggest this to anyone.
What card games do you enjoy playing? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @geekgalsco!
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Featured image credit: WhatsEricPlaying.com