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China: Das Duell» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Move over China, here comes something meatier! rss

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Sam McCanna
United States
Silverton
Oregon
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Let me begin by saying that I had just bought Notre Dame, and although I couldn't get a group together to try it out, I did find one person to play with. We played, and both enjoyed it very much.

After it was over, we were looking for something else to play, as we had a little more time, and since we had both recently purchased China, we figured we'd give this two-player variant a go. Expecting it to merely be "OK", we were both very taken by surprise.

I'm going to assume you are familiar with China, and if you are not, let me simply say that it is a game based on frustration. Very enjoyable, but frustrating. You can always do one less action than you'd like to on your turn, and whatever you do will inevitably leave a door open for everyone else to reap the benefits. Or maybe it's just the way I play.
However, the game plays very quickly, and is very short, so the frustration doesn't really have time to turn into a "bad" thing.

It is also a game which plays best with 3. More players = more chaotic.

So... we sat down to The Duel without having even read the rules yet, and so having no idea what to expect, but I was already expecting simply a "hack" to somehow "make it work" with two.

I read the rules and found out that you play with a dummy player called The Emperor. After you take your turn, you play one piece for the emperor, by playing a card from his hand, which is face up on the table. No big surprise here. A little farther into the rules sheet and I'm smiling.

The big deal about this game is that each turn when you play cards, you pick one of them to keep in front of you. If you then at least tie in number of cards of that color with your opponent, then you take a marker in that color. When a region scores, the player who controls the marker in that color scores not only their own points, but also the emperor's points for that region.

It doesn't necessarily sound like much written down, but in play it adds an incredible amount of decision making, even down to the point when you refill the emperor's hand... can choose what to put in it so that it limits the other players options when they have to play for him.

By the end of the game we had discovered something completely unexpected. What was a fast, fun, short, frustrating and chaotic game with more players had turned into a slower paced, much more deep and interesting game with only two. Very tough choices at every turn and so much more control.

I should also mention that each player is also given a set of 3 special actions which can be used once each in the entire game.
They are:
Move the emperor BEFORE your turn instead of AFTER.
Play into two different regions on the same turn.
Exchange one card from your hand with a new one from the deck or the card draft.

I highly recommend this variant to everyone who enjoys something a little meatier, and as a free print-n-play expansion, there's really no reason not to try it out.

After one play I've given it a 10/10, and I can't wait to play it more to see if it continues to be this good!
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Jim Patterson
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Iowa City
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Just bought China, and had no idea this existed. Thanks!
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Tim Harrison
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North Ridgeville
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I've been meaning to try this. Thanks for reminding me about it!
 
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Richard Johnson
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Bothell
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Sounds really interesting. We just picked up China as well and it's just sitting their waiting to get played. I didn't really enjoy Web of Power enough to get China pulled out soon in a larger group but Z and I are always looking for two player games and we seem to have similar tastes.
 
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