Take on the ancient art of caring for a Tea Dragon in this adorable card Tea Dragon Society Card Game for 2-4 players. Feed, groom, and entertain your dragon. Cuddle it to sleep and gather tools to dissuade it from doing mischief as you move through a year. You will be making new memories in every season.
Setup & Gameplay
Everyone picks the Tea Dragon they want to care for and takes its specific starter deck. These consist of growth cards, which let you buy cards. And then also mischief cards, which make you discard growth cards.
You set up the Market, consisting of a deck and four face-up cards. Some are growth cards, others give you points, allow you to draw more cards, or prevent your dragon’s mischief.
In the Tea Dragon Society Card Game, the memory cards are divided into four seasons. The cards are discarded until there are as many memory cards per season as there are players + 1. The Spring cards are laid out face up to form the Memory Tableau. Memory cards are where you will get the most of your points.
You place your Tea Dragon card in front of you with its deck and discard pile, leaving space to the right for your Hold, where you will place the cards you draw or buy. There is no hidden hand in this game, all cards are played face up and public.
On each turn, you either draw from your deck or buy a card from the Market or from the Memory Tableau.
If you draw a growth card, you add it to your Hold. Most other types of card will have conditions on them for whether you can place them in your hold or must discard them.
Each card has a Growth number and a Cost number. To buy a card, you must discard as much Growth from your Hold as that card’s cost.
When there is only one memory card left in the Tableau, the season ends. The next season’s cards are laid out, and the Market is refreshed.
The game ends after Winter, and the points on the cards you have gained are tallied up.
The Tea Dragon Society Card Game is super easy to learn, set up, and play. The rules are provided in both a standard, written, step-by-step form, and in the form of a short comic. There is a glossary of the different types of cards.
It is also quick: With two players, a game takes 30 minutes at most. This will be a little longer with more players.
There is a little bit of asymmetry in The Tea Dragon Society Card Game. Each starter deck only contains three of the four types of mischief cards, and each Tea Dragon has one type of growth card that allows you to draw again. You can play towards these unique aspects by buying more of the favoured growth cards or by buying cards that get discarded only by the type of mischief you cannot draw.
That said, all players work towards the same goal and will go about it largely the same way. There isn’t a lot of possibility for different strategic play, but most cards available will be useful for all players. There is always something to do on your turn.
A core aspect of the game is deciding when and how to use your Growth. Will you risk drawing another card, knowing you might lose a growth card from it? Will you spend a smaller amount of Growth on a card from the Market that will help you for the rest of the game? Or will that give your opponent time to save up for a second memory card this season, leaving you with none?
Another core aspect is the chance. Not just in which cards are available to buy, but also in the order in which you draw cards from your deck. Mischief cards, for example, always get discarded when drawn. However, whether they lose you more than just the turn depends on whether you have the specific type of growth card they cause to be discarded. And certain memory cards have a growth value but you only get to add them to your hold if you already have a certain growth card there.
It can be frustrating if you keep drawing cards you either cannot use or which consistently hinder you from buying cards. Fortunately, the starting decks only have three mischief cards, so you can burn through the bad effects quickly.
The push-your-luck and chance aspects of the game is what provides most of the excitement. Combined with players only having one action per turn, this helps to keep the game flowing quickly. However, if you like card and deck building games, this one might not appeal as much to you. It has more strategy and concrete asymmetric player abilities.
Art & Components
The Tea Dragon Society Card Game is based on the Tea Dragon Society graphic novels by Kay O’Neill who also provides the art for the game. A lot of the characters from the graphic novels feature on the cards, particularly on the memory cards. However, you do not need to know them or their story to play the game. As long as you accept the existence of Tea Dragons, you’re all good.
The game isn’t made to emulate or follow its source material, it just exists in the same universe. The illustrations are there to set the vibe of the world and hint at stories within it. Not to influence play. Though admittedly, I am susceptible to choose memory cards based on how cute the picture is rather than their points or effects.
The vibe that is being set is one of a cosy, loving community where you meet for tea, and enjoy the beauty of nature. You could even maybe go on an adventure, and hold each other and your dragons close.
With beautiful illustrations, bright colours, and adorable dragons (even when they are being cheeky), this is a very welcoming game. You can spend as much time gushing over the illustrations as actually playing.
On a component level, the cards are of good quality laminated cardboard. The only downside is that because both starter, memory, and market cards can go into the same decks, the backs have to be identical. This can make it a little tricky to divide them out at the beginning of a new game. However the distinct icons and frames on the faces of the cards help.
The Tea Dragon Society Card Game is a simple and very pretty game. It is ideal for playing on a cosy afternoon, maybe over your own cups of tea. Alternatively, it would work well at a game night as a chill palate cleanser between longer, more complicated and high stakes games.