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Subject: Dueling Nobles overview: adding theme to a fun game rss

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Preamble

Dueling Nobles is a CCG-style battle game for two players that can be played with a regular deck of cards. Players must try to eliminate all their opponent's nobles (Kings, Queens and Knaves) from their Courtyard by using clever tactics, resource management, diplomacy, and cunning combat. Please consult Tim Mossman's excellent review and Jesse Carlucci's PDF of rules (archive) for a complete introduction to the game.

Dueling Nobles is not very difficult to learn, but in my opinion it could be improved in two ways:
1. clearer overview
2. more theme

My objective in this review is to contribute a modest proposal to reach both of these goals, by giving a concise overview of the game, and incorporating new terminology that makes the game more thematic and hopefully more appeal for old and new players. It will likely serve best as a reference sheet to be used alongside the rules, and is intended as a document that can be consulted regularly while playing the game.

Given the paucity of good games for two players with regular playing cards, Jesse Carlucci has certainly done us an excellent service by creating a concept that is original and fun. Don't have too high expectations, after all, what can you expect from a deck of regular playing cards! But if you enjoy CCG-style games, Dueling Nobles is certainly worth trying at least once.



Equipment needed

- deck of regular playing cards (without jokers)
- one dozen counters (wound markers)
- two dozen coins (gold)
- four D6s (combat dice)
- half a dozen D20s (strength dice) - optional

Setup

1. Divide the cards into two separate decks: a Noble deck (Jacks/Queens/Kings) and a Cunning deck (number cards 1-10)
2. Give six random cards from the Noble deck to each player, from which they select three and put them in their Courtyard, and shuffle the discarded cards back together.
3. Give six random cards from the Cunning deck to each player.

Turn order

1. Command phase
a) Diplomacy (Discard suit ability: Healer, Counselor, Thief or Spy)
b) Arming (add one Weapon: 2s,3s)

2. Income phase
a) Production (1 gold per turn)
b) Invention (3 gold for 3 discarded cards of the same suit)
c) Taxation (King ability: 1 gold for 1 wound)

3. Supply phase
a) Bribe: buy cunning card - cost of 1 gold per card (limit of three per turn)
b) Recruit: recruit noble - cost of 5 gold per noble

4. Duel phase
a) Challenge: announce attacking/defending nobles (Parry: defender can change target for 2 gold)
b) Combat: card value + weapons + dice roll + cunning (attacker then defender) + adrenaline (+2 same suit bonus)
c) Post-combat: issue reward (1 gold to winner) or damage (1 wound to loser, or tie)

Noble deck (knaves, queens, kings)
Knave: 11 strength, 2 wounds (Bravery: 2 cunning cards in combat)
Queen: 12 strength, 2 wounds (Chivalry: +3 combat bonus for each other noble in courtyard)
King: 13 strength, 3 wounds (Leadership: 2 dice in combat; Taxation: 1 gold for 1 wound in Command phase)

Cunning deck (number cards 1-10)
for Combat
Ace: Critical hit for automatic win (play during Combat phase)
1-10: One-time strength boost in combat (play during Combat phase) NB: +2 Adrenaline for same-suit
2,3: Permanent strength boost in combat = Weapon (play during Command phase)
for Diplomacy
suit: Discard a suit to activate Diplomacy (play during Command phase, once per suit per game)
for Income
3x suit: Invention: Discard three of the same suit to produce three gold (play during Income phase)

Diplomacy = Suit Abilities (discard during Command phase, limit of one of each suit per game)
Heart = Healer: Heal 1 wound
Diamond = Counselor: Draw 3 cunning cards (condition: must have less nobles than opponent)
Club = Thief: Take any cunning card from discard pile
Spade = Spy: Look at opponent's hand

Combat resolution
1. Initial Noble strength = noble card value + weapons (Queen: Chivalry bonus of +3 for each other noble)
2. Modified Noble strength = + dice roll (King: Leadership bonus of second die roll)
3. Final Noble strength = + cunning cards + adrenaline (Knave: Bravery bonus of second cunning card)
(NB: Attacker plays cunning card before Defender)

Pictured below: a sample Duel, described in a separate Session Report.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/167587



Post-combat
Winner: 1 gold
Loser: 1 wound
Tie: 1 wound (each player)

Producing gold
Production (1 gold) during Income Phase
Invention (3 extra gold for three discarded cards of the same suit) during Income Phase
Taxation (1 gold for 1 wound on king) during Income Phase
Combat Reward (1 gold) during Duel Phase

Spending gold
Bribe: cost of 1 gold per cunning card (in Supply phase, limit of 3)
Recruit: cost of 5 gold per noble (in Supply phase)
Parry: cost of 2 gold to change defending noble (in Duel phase, challenge)

Beginner tip: Ignore the Diplomacy abilities until the basic flow of the game has been mastered.

Revised terminology

Here is a complete list of the terms I propose (and have implemented above) for making the game more thematic, cross-referencing them to the original terminology and meaning:
Cunning deck: number cards 1-10
Noble deck: knaves, queens, kings
Gold: resources
Command phase: Beginning of Turn Actions
Income phase: Generate Resources
Supply phase: Spend Resources
Bravery: Knave's ability to use 2 cunning cards in combat
Chivalry: Queen's ability to get +3 combat bonus for each other noble in courtyard
Leadership: King's ability to use 2 dice in combat
Arming (Command phase): add weapons = +2 and +3 permanent strength boosters
Diplomacy (Command phase): use the special suit abilities by discarding a card
Healer (Diplomacy action): heal 1 wound by discarding a Heart during Command phase
Counselor (Diplomacy action): draw three cunning cards by discarding a Diamond during Command phase
Thief (Diplomacy action): steal a cunning card from discard pile by discarding a Club during Command phase
Spy (Diplomacy action): look at opponent's hand by discarding a Spade during Command phase
Production: earn one gold per turn during Income phase
Invention: earn three extra gold for three discarded cards of the same suit during Income phase
Taxation: earn one gold in exchange for one wound to a king during Income phase
Bribe: buy cunning card for 1 gold during Supply phase
Recruit: buy noble for 5 gold during Supply phase
Weapon: the +2 and +3 permanent strength boosters for combat
Parry: defender changes target defender at a cost of two gold in Duel phase (challenge)
Critical hit: automatically winning blow with the Ace cunning card in Duel phase (combat)
Adrenaline: +2 bonus when cunning cards are the same suit as the noble in Duel phase (combat)

This is by no means the final word on improved terminology - I would welcome hearing suggestions from others (including the game designer) about terminology that would perhaps be even more appropriate for the game!

Other changes

The game overview above contains one other small change to the original rules. In the official rules, the King's ability to gain a gold at a cost of a wound (in my terminology: "Taxation") falls in the first phase of the game. I would propose that this ability instead belong to the second phase of the game. The only difference that this change seems to make to game-play is that you wouldn't have the opportunity to immediately discard a Heart to heal the wound created by Taxation , because discarding (Diplomacy) is a first phase action. I imagine it would be a rare situation in which one might choose to do this anyway? The advantage of moving the king's ability to the second phase is that it would put all the actions of generating income in the same phase. I think this is more natural, and makes the game slightly easier to learn if all income is generated in the same phase.

One final suggestion for new players: The game certainly does require some mental addition with numbers. To simplify this process, I recommend using D20s to indicate the current initial strength for each noble, as pictured here: (click on image for details)



Recommendation

If you enjoy CCG type games, and are stuck with little else than a deck of cards, then you owe it to yourself to give Dueling Nobles a try. It won't have the staying power of a collectible card game like Magic the Gathering, but as far as two-player games go with a deck of regular playing cards, it is novel and should at least hold your interest for a game or two. Older children are especially likely to enjoy this game, because it involves battling and is a very unusual way of using playing cards. Give it a try for yourself!

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Jeremiah Lee
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Milan
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This takes a pretty 'okay' game into the 'good' category for me.
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