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Subject: :Review: Duell rss

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Chris Dunbar
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Sheboygan
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This review marks a couple of firsts. The 1st first - this is my first board game review EVAR! The 2nd first - this is the first review for the board game Duell on The Geek, as it is not a very well-known game. Here it goes...

:Intro:

Duell is a game I came across like many of the other games that arrived early in my collection - at a thrift store. I picked it up in late 2000, a time in my life when "So it's not like Monopoly then?!" could have easily been my response to someone talking about "eurogames". The one thing that set this game apart from just about every other thrift store game I've picked up, however, is the fact that I had never, ever heard of it. This, combined with the fact that it was stickered at $1.99 and still in the shrink-wrap(!) made my decision to purchase a no-brainer.

Of course the first thing I did when I got it home was rip the shrink-wrap off and read through the directions. It was at that point that my head started to smoke.

:Components:

I have the original Lakeside Games copy from 1976. The components are fairly cheap, like many games of this vintage. The box is very flimsy, the board and the 18 over-sized dice are very plastic, and the rules are very papery. Okay, I'm not sure what that last one means, but it flowed. Actually the rules are pretty clear and concise with lots of black and white illustrations of the different move combinations.

:Game play:

Each player starts the game with nine over-sized dice that they arrange on their side of the board in an identical and specific order/position. Eight of the dice are standard 6-sided dice, with the ninth being the "Key" (King) die. The object of the game is to either capture your opponent's Key piece or to move your own Key piece onto your opponent's Key space (the space where the Key piece starts the game).

Your pieces traverse the board by "tumbling" from square to square the number of spaces that the die had facing up when the move began. E.G., If you want to move a die that is currently showing four on the top face, you can tumble, or move, the die four spaces. When tumbling the die, you must roll it in the direction of your movement. This is made easy due to a raised grid between the squares on the board, and the corners of the die being notched-out to catch on the raised grid. While moving your pieces, if you want, you can change direction 90 degrees, but only once per turn. Also, your cannot double-back on the previous space you just came from. When moving the Key piece, it can only move one space per turn. Finally, none of the pieces can move diagonally nor can they jump over other pieces.

During play, you can capture your opponent's pieces by landing on them with an exact count. Once a piece has been captured, it is removed from the board and cannot be returned during the game. Game play ends when one player captures their opponents Key piece or occupies their opponents Key space.

:Review:

For my review, please allow me to use Chess as a touchstone for my opinions regarding Duell. I think this is beneficial in a couple of ways. First, it relates an incredibly esoteric game to an incredibly popular game that most everyone knows and loves (or hates), and makes Duell's concept easier to understand. Second, since Duell is most similar to Chess, at least from my limited view based on the small amount of games I've played in my life, I believe someone will be able to read this review of Duell and see how it relates to Chess and immediately be able to determine if it is a game for them.

I'll admit from the get-go, I'm not a huge fan of Chess or abstract strategy games that make my head hurt. While I rate Chess a 6, it's more out of respect to the game and how it's captured the minds of millions, for hundreds of years, and not because I have a great time playing it. I have a real problem with games that make me think a half dozen or more abstract moves ahead. Give me Puerto Rico or even Ticket to Ride and I have no problem thinking ahead. Even with the tacked-on themes of these games, it makes it far easier for me to plan for the future when it feels like I'm actually accomplishing something, whether it's colonizing an island, or traveling on an over-simplified railroad.

Here's my typical thought process while playing Chess...."If I move my Queen here, then he'll move his Rook there, which means I'll have to move my Knight there, which means Bishop takes Knight, Pawn takes Bishop. Queen retreats....." Then....KABOOOM! - my head explodes. Followed by complete and utter silence. (Note: The silence may only be experienced by me, as my head is no longer attached to my body, and my ears are no longer attached to my head.)

So how does this all relate to Duell? Well, to me, Duell feels even more "Chessy" than Chess. It requires all of the forethought, set up, and brain-burning of Chess, but to an even greater extreme. With Duell, it's not just about making a series of straight-forward, legal moves, and controlling your opponent's moves, to ultimately set you up for victory. It's also thinking about where the hell to move the pieces in the first place, and, once you do, what number will be facing up once you're done moving, because that will determine where that piece can move the next time you play it. Sound confusing? I think so....and I hope it's just not my writing style that makes it that way.

While, like Chess, there are zero random elements in Duell, the movement still feels very random. Perhaps I'm just not any good at keeping track of stuff in my head, or perhaps I'm making this game out to be far more difficult than it actually is, but let me posit this scenario for a second:

You have a die with 3 facing up. There are twelve possible locations on the board you can move that die to. There are four possible numbers that will end up on top when you're done moving that piece: 1, 2, 5, and 6, and they each will appear in three of the twelve locations. Now, what position the die is in when you start (3 facing up with 1 facing you, or 3 facing up with 2 facing you, etc.) will determine which of the twelve locations will end with which of the four possible numbers facing up for your next move.

The scenario above sounds fairly confusing, but that's just one of 6 different scenarios, as these are 6 sided dice. I hope now you can understand, once you start factoring all of that in, along with defending both your Key piece, and your Key space, anticipating and/or controlling your opponent's movement, and managing all of your pieces in the fashion described above, why it makes my ears smoke just thinking about it.

One final Chess analogy. Imagine a typical game of Chess. Now imagine that as soon as you move a Rook one direction he turns into a Bishop, or, move him a different direction, landing on a different space, and he becomes a Knight. Now imagine all of your other pieces do this mystical transformation after every move, and also that your opponent's pieces do the same. Now imagine how the hell you're going to figure out how to win.

I know I'm making the movement mechanic of Duell sound very random, almost unpredictable, but it is not. Far from it. Every one of your and your opponent's moves and subsequent moves can be absolutely calculated and planned, but that's what takes all the fun out of this game for me. It feels random, but I know if I thought hard enough it would be entirely un-random. The problem is, I just don't want to think that hard when I'm playing a game.

So, is this a bad game? For me...oh yeah! For you...it could be the typification of your perfect game. If you like brain-burners, if you like planning 10 steps ahead and having to plan about the plan, then this game is right up your alley. For me, the only saving grace of this game is that most people haven't even heard of it, let alone played it. So, unless my opponent has some god-given talent for figuring this sort of thing out on the fly, we should both be on a very even playing field. Unlike most people I play Chess against.
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Agent J
United States
Coldwater
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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Saw this in a thrift shop and left it there. I love chess, but then again, I know where my piece will be able to move in 2 turns in chess.
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Martin Smith
New Zealand
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I don't like Chess at all, but I like playing Duell. You don't have to play by planning 10 moves ahead. You can just treat it like a game - plan for this and the next move or maybe two - and enjoy it.
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Robert Bracey
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I think this is a superb review, probably one of the funniest I've ever read. You do after a reasonable number of games begin to develop a sense of where the die will fall (actually there is a way to visualize it that allows you to calculate - as the dice in Duell, as in most six-sided dice, are right handed). However, Martin is wrong, you cannot just play it unless either your opponent is doing the same or you enjoy losing every game you play. The game has a complex opening game filled with traps for both sides, and unless you just plan to walk into forks and pins analysis is inevitable.

A fantastic game, but one for people who enjoy analysis.

Robert
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Chris Dunbar
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RobertBr wrote:

I think this is a superb review, probably one of the funniest I've ever read. You do after a reasonable number of games begin to develop a sense of where the die will fall (actually there is a way to visualize it that allows you to calculate - as the dice in Duell, as in most six-sided dice, are right handed). However, Martin is wrong, you cannot just play it unless either your opponent is doing the same or you enjoy losing every game you play. The game has a complex opening game filled with traps for both sides, and unless you just plan to walk into forks and pins analysis is inevitable.

A fantastic game, but one for people who enjoy analysis.

Robert


Thanks for the compliment Robert! I'm really glad you enjoyed it!
 
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Timothy Hicks
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Awesome review... looks like a really interesting game! But at one point it seems like you contradicted yourself. You said you have the option of "tumbling" your piece or just simply "moving" your piece. Then later you mentioned that your piece always changes when tumbling.... does that mean you have the option of simply moving your number "6" die six spaces away without changing the number on top?
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Nevov
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Yes, good review. My copy of this game is called Conquest. I think this might be a (the?) UK version.

Mazrocon wrote:
Awesome review... looks like a really interesting game! But at one point it seems like you contradicted yourself. You said you have the option of "tumbling" your piece or just simply "moving" your piece. Then later you mentioned that your piece always changes when tumbling.... does that mean you have the option of simply moving your number "6" die six spaces away without changing the number on top?


No, all moves have to be carried out by 'tumbling' the dice square by square which in almost all cases results in a new number on top of the dice for future moves.
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A Warlock of
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But... those massive dice!
 
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schwarze Ritter
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I just picked this game up today because it looked like an interesting abstract. I've spent a fair portion of my life on competitive chess so any game that compares with the royal game really appeals to me and after reading your review I'm looking forward to delving into Duell, however, I fear I won't be able to find anyone who plays it or that would want to play it. This game seems like a worthy candidate for a solitaire computer app.
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Chris Dunbar
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der schwarze Ritter wrote:
This game seems like a worthy candidate for a solitaire computer app.


Here's one...not sure if it's any good though...

http://sourceforge.net/projects/duell/
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Stephen Thomas
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HenryFatass wrote:
der schwarze Ritter wrote:
This game seems like a worthy candidate for a solitaire computer app.


Here's one...not sure if it's any good though...

http://sourceforge.net/projects/duell/


That link works, but the game itself is broken - EDIT: When you put the computer in check you need to right mouse click for some reason, otherwise the game seems broken.
 
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