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Subject: Questions about Pagat.com's Durak rules rss

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Craig Duncan
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I'm tempted to give this game a try. Looking over the rules on Pagat.com, I have a couple of questions.

Pagat writes:

"If the defender beats the first attack card, the attacker can continue the attack by playing another card. If the defender beats this second attack card too, the attack can be continued with further cards, subject to the following conditions:

i) each new attack card must be of the same rank as some card already played during the current bout - either an attack card or a card played by the defender;

ii) the total number of cards played by the attackers during a bout must never exceed six;

iii) if the defender had fewer than six cards before the bout, the number of cards played by the attackers must not be more than the number of cards in the defender's hand."

My question: This makes it seem as though attackers get TWO "free attacks" (i.e. an attack in which you can play any card) and thereafter attacks are "constrainted" (the attacking card must match the rank of an already-played card). However, in the examples contained in the rules, the cards played in the second attacks always match a card already played. This makes me think that the rule should state that only the first attack is "free" and all subsequent attacks are "constrained." Is this right?

My second question concerns this stretch of the ruleset, regarding other attackers joining the attack:

"The player who begins the attack is the principal attacker, but other opponents of the defender can join in the attack if they have suitable cards to attack with. The principal attacker always has priority - the others can only join in with permission. For instance, the principal attacker can say "Wait, I am playing" or "Go ahead", or even ask the others questions such as whether they have a trump to attack with, and if not continue the attack himself. In the individual game with four players, the second attacker is the player to the left of the defender, and this player also has priority over the third attacker, who is the player opposite the defender. However, scope for dialogue here is limited in that the second attacker can stop the third attacker from playing, but is not allowed to ask him about what cards he has or what card he should play."

My question: How scrupulously do you observe this protocol? From the reviews posted to BGG, it sounds more free form than this -- sort of a free-for-all.

And what exactly is the protocol? Must the third attacker have permission from both the first and second attacker -- so that the second attacker could prevent the third from playing, even if the second attacker has no playable card himself? Or do the rules here simply mean that if both the second and third attacker have playable cards, the second goes first (with the first attacker's permission)?

Sorry to be so rule-lawyerly!

One last non-rules-related question: Pagat recommends the team game as the better game, rather than an every-man-for-himself individual game. Do you agree?

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Craig Duncan
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One more thought on my second question above (at the risk of revealing myself as a total obsessive compulsive personality):

I think there are two separate issues here:

The "Participation Issue": Permission vs. priority

Do lower-ranked attackers have to have the permission of higher-ranked attackers before being able to play their card (i.e. participate)? If so, then for instance the second attacker could veto a proposed play from the third attacker, even if the second attacker had no playable card himself.

Alternatively, is the rule one according to which higher-ranked attackers have priority over lower-ranked ones, so that the higher-ranked attackers simply get to play their cards first? This may sometimes have the effect of leaving a lower-ranked player unable to play -- for instance, if the limit on the number of allowable attack cards played is reached by a previous attacker. But note the difference with the permission interpretation in the previous paragraph: if a third attacker has a playable card while the first and second attackers lack playable cards, the third attack can play; the others have no power to stop him, since he does not require their permission.

The "Table Talk" Issue


The rule quoted in my original post seems to indicate that the first attacker can say and ask whatever he wants. The second and third attackers, by contrast, can speak only in answer to the first attacker (plus speak whatever simple remarks need saying to resolve the permission/priority issue).

Of the two issues, participation and table talk, the second issue is surely more substantial, since I can't imagine there are many situations arising in real card play in which the permission / priority distinction makes a significant difference. However, different table talk rules could make a real difference to the flow and outcome of the game.

The suggested table talk rule seems a bit awkward to me. More straightforward would be two competing alternatives at opposite extremes: first, NO table talk from ANYONE is allowed about what suits or ranks one has in one's hand; second, anyone may say anything about what suits or ranks are in his hand.

To experienced Durak players out there I ask: which of these possible table talk rules would be best, in your view?


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James Fung
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cdunc123 wrote:
My question: This makes it seem as though attackers get TWO "free attacks" (i.e. an attack in which you can play any card) and thereafter attacks are "constrainted" (the attacking card must match the rank of an already-played card). However, in the examples contained in the rules, the cards played in the second attacks always match a card already played. This makes me think that the rule should state that only the first attack is "free" and all subsequent attacks are "constrained." Is this right?

Yes, the first attack is free in that the attacker can play any card. Technically, this meets (ii) and (iii) because it does not exceed 6 attacks and the defender has at least one card. The subsequent attacks must meet all 3 constraints.

Quote:
My question: How scrupulously do you observe this protocol? From the reviews posted to BGG, it sounds more free form than this -- sort of a free-for-all.

As a folk card game, Durak has many variants. I learned the game from a Serbian and a Russian, who presumably played it with their families at some point, and they much preferred a free-for-all game. Basically, who ever got their card down first took precedent. I think it depends how civilized you want your game to be.

Frankly, I think it would get rather tedious asking 2 people for permission before I could play a card and would ignore those rules completely. I feel like Durak plays fast enough, especially if you don't have to ask permission or have table talk that turns it into an AP game, that players don't feel they must win and play strictly by the rules because it's such a huge investment of time and energy. To me, it's a fun little card game, so players should play as such.

Quote:
One last non-rules-related question: Pagat recommends the team game as the better game, rather than an every-man-for-himself individual game. Do you agree?

I haven't played the team game, so I can't comment, sorry.

Quote:
The "Table Talk" Issue

Of the two issues, participation and table talk, the second issue is surely more substantial, since I can't imagine there are many situations arising in real card play in which the permission / priority distinction makes a significant difference. However, different table talk rules could make a real difference to the flow and outcome of the game.

To take an extreme example, when the game is down to 2 players, both players probably know what's in each others hands and can do some game theoretic analysis to figure out best play. If you want Durak to be a barroom brawl and less like chess, I would minimize the amount of information players have, meaning players should not be able to demand information from others.

The number of trumps a player has is especially important because they are your last line of defense. If your opponents know you have only one trump, they may be more likely to attack you because you either have to 1) deplete your trumps, or 2) pick up more cards.

Hope that helps.
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Craig Duncan
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Many thanks -- that helps a lot!
 
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Robert
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I describe the card game as a brawl, so people get the rather reckless fighting angle and understand attacker, defender, and such similar aspects, like that an unsuccessful defender is staggered and loses his opportunity to lead an attack, etc. I also change the wording from pagat so as to say "fend off" or "repel" the attack, rather than "beat off" the attack. The avoids needless sniggering and distraction from the explanation...

I explain the attacker situation by saying the first card -- and only the first card -- is free. After that, the attacker may only play what he sees. Only the defender has freedom and may add attack options once the attacker has set things in motion.

It is a pretty loose game (it's apparently not that unusual to play with Illuminati-style cheating: "if someone else plays, then it doesn't have to be undone"), so we are not too strict with the protocol, but people almost always request permission to add to an attack. This can be as simple as obviously holding out a card, so it doesn't slow the game down, except compared to the more frenzied "first to table" option. It's really just up to you and your group.

You'll get the interpretation more easily by remembering the attacker-priority is only about card playing. The higher priority attackers always have the first option to play a card. The questioning is just a way for the attacker to let someone go ahead of him/her, not outright control over the attack. Ie, you can say "wait for me" but you can't say "no".

We don't see too much of the querying aspect, but then we are usually playing more filler-style. I imaging that would be another thing that makes the team game more interesting, since there is some allowed table talk to manage/interpret. We usually don't get to play the team game, but since you can watch some cards move around the table, there are several neat aspects to work with... Definitely play a couple-few individual hands before doing teams, so people can notice some of the subtle aspects.

And remember, ignore the entire section on team play and just tell them: "Play goes to the next player from the next team". People usually can keep track, but you can always give each team a marker to pass around so the turn order is obvious (the markers always travel the same direction, but because the team order is fixes, the resulting play order can actually look backwards).
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Alexander Belyakov
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cdunc123 wrote:
My question: This makes it seem as though attackers get TWO "free attacks" (i.e. an attack in which you can play any card) and thereafter attacks are "constrainted" (the attacking card must match the rank of an already-played card).


The rules here are a bit ambiguous, as written. In reality, only the first attack is free. All the rest must follow the "constraint" rules.

cdunc123 wrote:
My question: How scrupulously do you observe this protocol? From the reviews posted to BGG, it sounds more free form than this -- sort of a free-for-all.


This depends on the players, as there are no clear official rules for Durak, but usually the first player can "interrupt" (pardon the M:tG slang) any other player from putting down additional cards, if he has he has one he wants to play. However, other than that, the "clockwise rules" is largely ignored - whoever is faster gets to put the cards down.

cdunc123 wrote:
One last non-rules-related question: Pagat recommends the team game as the better game, rather than an every-man-for-himself individual game. Do you agree?

I don't have an opinion on this, as I don't think we played a lot of team Durak. Sorry. =)

Hope I was of some help.
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Craig Duncan
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Many thanks, Robert and Alexander, for the very helpful replies!

A few further questions, if I may:

Have you played very much with 6 individual players? If so, how well does it work? Do you use the Pagat.com suggestion of having just two attackers per bout(namely, the opponents on either side of the defender)? And do you enjoy the game more with 36 cards (and thus, no draw deck) or with 52 cards?

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Alexander Belyakov
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cdunc123 wrote:
Many thanks, Robert and Alexander, for the very helpful replies!Have you played very much with 6 individual players? If so, how well does it work? Do you use the Pagat.com suggestion of having just two attackers per bout(namely, the opponents on either side of the defender)? And do you enjoy the game more with 36 cards (and thus, no draw deck) or with 52 cards?

We rarely played with 6 players, usually it's 3-4 people, and I don't remember the special rules (if any) for 6-player games (that was at least 15 years ago!)

And, in my experience, it's always the 36-card deck. They're actually sold that way in Russia often, 36 cards to a deck instead of 52/54. I have never seen a Durak game played with a 52-card deck in my life. =)
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James Fung
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cdunc123 wrote:
Have you played very much with 6 individual players? If so, how well does it work? Do you use the Pagat.com suggestion of having just two attackers per bout(namely, the opponents on either side of the defender)? And do you enjoy the game more with 36 cards (and thus, no draw deck) or with 52 cards?

We have not tried it with more than 4 players, but my gut feeling is that adding more players or cards will lead to more downtime and dilute the game. One of the nice things about Durak is that you're always involved, either defending, being primary attacker, or supporting the attack if you have the right cards. (Or, if you're like me, sorting that big stack of cards you were just forced to eat.) If you have the right cards less often (say, by having the cards split among more people or having more card values), then you will more spending more time just sitting there, waiting for the next opportunity.
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Robert
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We play lots of different player-counts, including with 8, and the game is still pretty fun, but it does get lighter with things more spread out. That's ok if people are talking, or being careful watching where cards go (what happens across the table can matter to you). Granted, the 8-way was because I was teaching a group and some of them were intent on playing as a group. Double 4-ways would have been better gaming, if that'd been an option.

Anyway, I don't play just a 52 or 36 card deck. It's nice to have some cards to draw from so you get that introductory phase where people are trying to improve their hands from the draw, but you don't want so few cards that people run the deck out quickly and some don't get the chance to draw, nor do you want so many cards that it takes too long to get to the "real" game, where what's out is all there is. More card ranks also means a harder time seeing the patterns and having things overlap. That is, when you add cards you thin the deck and get a little less combination playing (although I wouldn't go so far as to say it creates significant downtime). So, with six, I might deal out the 36 and just go, or go down a few more ranks to give some drawing, but I probably wouldn't go so far as to add 2-5. Oh, and when teaching, it's nice to have the draw deck so that the trump is turned up rather than just being shown as it goes into the dealer's hand. Depends on whether the target group is used to remembering trump suit, or appreciates staring at it for a few plays.

Oh, and I always teach the game as "neighbors attack" rather than that progressive priority going around the table, or making different rules for different player counts. Two-on-one seems to work fine, but it's really just a simplification, not something I've carefully justified. It's a light, fun game with more strategy than you'd think (for those that want it -- with only one loser, it also works well when some want to chat and pay less attention, without being buried for it), so best not to worry too much.

With six, I'd work towards playing teams, either 2-2-2 or 3-3. That makes the effective table smaller and adds more strategy. 2-2-2 would probably be my preference, since it keeps more of the many sides and the many winners feel of the individual game. 3-3 is all us vs them, win or lose... Or maybe you want that :)

That's one of the neat things about Durak: it's so flexible.
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Craig Duncan
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Thanks to all the responders for the great feedback!!

xethair wrote:

And remember, ignore the entire section on team play and just tell them: "Play goes to the next player from the next team".


Good point. The one point I'd add is that, as I am sure you are aware, a successful defender gets to play again (or his next teammate goes for him, in the case where he ran out of cards in the course of his defense).

As part of my recent Durak obsession / temporary insanity, I created a post on the order of play in Durak, to try to make those crazy Pagat diagrams more understandable:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3997458

Let's hope that ends my fixation on Durak!
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