by Globus the Elder
“I am not left handed.” – Inigo Montoya
My favorite games involve tough choices. Dominant Species, in my top five games, always leaves you with more things to do than you have resources to do them. Choosing the best moves available to achieve your desired outcome conflicts heavily with advancing a short term goal. Games that end up “on rails”, wherein each of your turns is must do actions, removes strategy and tactics (this being my strongest argument against most co-op games). I have no desire to be a bot. I want to be actively involved in resource management and decision making.
Boiling down that kind of tension into a two player, short, card game is problematic. You can end up with a game that fails to hit its goals by trying to do too much, or being unfinished. I can bog down in too many random elements.
Or it can strike the right balance.
The Duel has two small, common decks: the Main deck, where most of your cards come from, and the Advanced Techniques deck, where players can add cards to their hand later on.
Each player receives eight cards from the Main deck, and chooses one to remove from the game. Each card has a number, used when bidding for initiative in the Timing Phase, with the lower number acting first. Both players simultaneously select and reveal a card for this phase.
The first player then chooses either an Attack card or a Tactics card. Attack cards are resolved, using the effect on the card, after each player has played their card. Tactics cards are resolved immediately. Some Attack cards also include a Fast effect, which is resolved immediately upon play of the card. After the
Attacks are resolved, any damage is dealt. Damage can never be lethal, as the game is won on Prestige points, some of which are earned by dealing damage. After damage is assigned, players choose a new Timing card, and play continues.
After three rounds of Timing and Action phases, after discarding your remaining cards, you score the current Duel. Players who deal more damage than they receive gain one or two Prestige (in case of a tie, each player gains one), and the player with the lower sum on their Timing cards gains one Prestige (in case of a tie, none are awarded). If a player has gained seven Prestige they win, otherwise continue on to Upgrades.
The player with the most damage then draws that number of cards from the Advanced Technique deck, chooses one to add to their hand, and places the remaining cards on the bottom of the deck. The other player then does the same. If a player received no damage, they gain no cards. Note: when played, Advanced Technique cards are discarded like any other card, and can be dealt out in subsequent Duels.
After Upgrades, gather all the Main deck cards, shuffle and deal seven to each player. If you gained an Advanced Technique, and therefore have eight cards, choose one to remove from the game. Play continues with the next Timing Phase.
The Duel is a game of alien fencing robots. The game manages to communicate that very well. The card art is original, and at the same time evokes classic swordsmanship poses. They’re great to look at, simple yet impressive.
It’s a two player game, and it’s light, which can affect how often it hits the table. That’s as close as I can get to a flaw in this game.
This game is great. It has few rules, the card information is clear and concise, has no timing issues or rule issues to speak of, and has just enough variance to have good replay value. It’s short enough to use as a lunch break game, and with very little set up time, can be played on a spur of the moment.
I would call this a Buy, but it hasn’t launched its Kickstarter yet. I can recommend backing it, as I can’t see any issue in the game construction that would cause delays or failure to produce this game. It’s cards and wooden cubes.
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