Taoex Logo
Taoex represents the culmination of many years of refinement in game-playing enjoyment. Originally created by Les Romhanyi in 1982-1983, it has morphed into the sophisticated strategy- dependent game that Pixelific has brought forward for the public to share.

During a D&D campaign in the winter of 82 – 83, one of the players referenced the phrase “leaps and bounds”, to describe how his character was exiting a particularly nasty encounter. As the DM, this was directed at Les Romhanyi, who recalled thinking that the name “leaps and bounds”, would be a good name for a game. The idea has such a significant impact that Les awoke in the middle of the night and quickly drew a picture of how the game of “leaps and bounds” was to be played.

Original note for game that would become TaoexOriginally, the idea involved using octagonal playing pieces, or tiles, with each player being allotted 8 tiles. Each tile had the power to travel in one direction based upon the directions mapped out on 8 game-designated compass points. The 8 tiles are called bounders; they moved in the direction detailed on each tile. Each player was allotted 4 square tiles. The square tiles, the leapers, would be used as blockers to the bounders. The logic seemed obvious at 3:30 AM.

Reviewing the mechanics of the configuration that he envisioned and concluded that conceptually, the game might be more efficient if he switched the play from 8 directions of travel to only 6. Les pondered and experimented diagrammatically for a few years, playing the game over and over again in my head, before actually creating the first prototype. Armed with a hexagonal melee mat for AD&D mapping, Les drew the basic hexagonal board playing surface and sourced the material to make the tiles. He looked for wooden hexagonal doweling but could not find a source that could provide the doweling to match the dimensions of the grid spaces used on the board. To solve this problem, Les discovered that a standard broom handle was the correct size, but the shape had to be modified. It took some doing, but with a little help, Les soon planed down a few broom handles to the required hexagonal shape and cut them down to size.

Taoex Tiles over the years

Left to right: original tiles carved from broom handle, broom handle painted black, carved and painted shovel handle, carved and painted white shovel handle, extruded nylon rod incorporating color name for the color blind, moulded plastic, poured plastic resin from 3d printed test positives of engraved and raised directions, poured rubber, hydrostone

Thankfully, the original prototype of the game was designed for two players, with each player having 18 tiles to game with. The hand planed tiles were crudely lettered in colored ink on rough wood as they didn’t have to be pretty yet. However, legibility of the tiles was essential.

The game object was clear enough; at the outset, a player tried to place the more maneuverable tiles across the board from the opponent’s lesser maneuverable ones; the player advances their tiles across the board to attack their opponent before the opponent could move a guard in to protect their piece. It was simple in theory, but, what usually happened was that both players would wind up with their tiles in a menagerie of protective positions. As the game progressed, with the jam of tiles increased in magnitude and there would come a time when one player would find a way to take out a key tile, that would then result in a cascading failure of the guarding tiles. Once this happened, the players, having created by then, large, towers of tiles capable of moving in muti-directions as opposed to only one direction, to battle throughout the rest of the game. Based on this style of play, the earliest version of the game was called, Conflagration.

The game quickly evolved to involving 3 players, with only 12 tiles per player instead of the 18. This variation worked out well, but those of us who played it wanted to make it a 4-player game with 12 tiles per player. With only 36 starting spaces, this forced a land (or board space acquisition) rush, so to speak, to get the strongest tiles in the best starting positions. The remaining dozen tiles that didn’t make it onto the board were removed from the game. During play, tiles that reached the far side of the board were dead or stranded, but they were still in play for the opponents. By this time, the name of the game had changed to “Hex.”

Many rule variations were tried, such as opening the board to wrapping, and or opening the board to moving tiles into play, before all the starting hexes were filled. It didn’t matter what was tried, the system worked. Over a period of a few years, we play-tested them all, giving each variation names like “open, open, open” to keep track of the rules being tested. Eventually, the version that required that the starting hexes had to be filled before any player could advance a tile into play, or a closed start, became the most popular variation. Another variation allowed tiles to wrap around the board, or open to wrap, when the far side of the board had been reached, keeping tiles in play for all players.

When the game was expanded from 4 players to 6, it was suggested to Les by his brother that we incorporate a way for tiles to move from one trajectory to an adjacent trajectory. For this, he suggested that we add a square to the playing surface but it didn’t work out as well as we hoped. Not wanting to abandon the concept of switching lanes for the tiles, Les suggested that instead of a square we try a six-sided star. Having designed the gameplay around the number 6, the hexagram made sense.

The star only worked in one position when minimizing the opportunities for tiles to bypass the star lines. The rules for the star were obvious to us; tiles cannot jump over the star lines, tiles entering the star line must roll the die and take the roll, good or bad. The only way to move along the line is by rolling the die, which is to say no natural travel along a line. In the beginning, we rolled a 4-sided die on the star line because a 6-sided die didn’t offer the right odds. Besides, 6’s rolled on the line moved tiles too far a field.

Taoex DieWanting to introduce a zero into the odds, and a wildcard allowing an optional move up to a movement of 5, an edited 6-sided die would have worked but, it would have offered a 1-6 odds. A 1- in-6 chances of rolling a zero or the powerful wildcard knew as “choice”, was too great so I opted for the 10-sided die. The odds worked out to be a 1-in-5 chance of rolling a 1 through 4 or, a 1-in-10 chance of rolling a zero or “C”. Les believed that the odds offered a better chance for an emotional bet in the outcome of the die roll.

As the rules began to change in the direction that the game as it is played today, Les ha\d difficulty deciding upon the commercial name for the game. Given the heavy presence of sixes in the game, the obvious name was Hex, but there was already a game called Hex. In tune with the navigational term “rhumb line” along with the geometrical and mathematical rhombus, the first registered copyright for the game was registered under the name Rhumbos, but nobody referred to it by this name and the name Hex survived.

Rhumbos, was too much like rhombus so Les thought for the second version of the game he would copyright the game under the name of Hex but with the second “x” added as in Hexx. The copyright went was approved and the name Hexx continued in use. A new problem arose when a group produced an online computer version of the game Hex and published it as Hexx. Even though the game called Hexx was older, and likely had the earlier priority date, it was determined not to release the game under “Hexx”. It was bad enough that there was a board game by the name of Hex, but the addition of the online computer game called Hexx created too much negativity.

The struggle for a name continued for many years. The game itself had no obvious associations such as a country, a set period of time, event. race of people or geographical location. Any of those things would have helped as a guide in a direction towards a name but no such luck. Given the truly timeless quality of the game, and its uniqueness, the game required a name to convey its significance;? but what?

Les toyed around with several words, and combinations of words, but nothing felt quite right. They were too contrived or too similar to existing products. Years had gone by without a new name that fit. Les always wanted to incorporate elements of the game into the name; tiles, towers, direction, and paths of chance; but how to put them together in a single word, that is what Les had always wanted in a name, one word, preferably a one syllable word.

Taoex cover art sampleLes, during a morning walk, had an epiphany. “Why not just make up a word?” Certainly, it would make it easier to secure rights to the game and its name. To represent direction and paths, Les thought Taoism might come in handy. He thought even though it is pronounced “Dow” it is spelled Tao, and that spelling could represent the tow as in towers. There had to be a way of incorporating the changing of paths through chance in the name and then it came to me, add the prefix of “ex”.

Using the prefix “ex” with Tao didn’t quite fit the plan as it made it a two-syllable word. Using the “ex” as a suffix gave me the one syllable name Les was looking for and, certainly was unique. Taoex, pronounced [Dow]+[icks].

Having chosen the name Taoex it was time to secure some intellectual property rights and finally release the game.

For the initial release of TAOEX, Les decided that they would hand make 100 copies of the game. Aside from the story of how I (Les) hand made 100 copies of the game, you dear reader, are up to date with the history of the game. Who can say what the future of TAOEX will be but we will enjoy discovering the path ahead?