Author: Peter Neugebauer

Publisher: Kosmos 2002

G@mebox Star



Continuing their rather successful series of small 2-player games based on themes from Tolkien`s Lord of the Rings, Kosmos has released Das Duell by Peter Neugebauer as the third game in this series. While the first game Die Suche, which was developed by the same author, only had a rather poor playing mechanism and offered a topic which was very loosely connected to the Lord of the Rings, much has changed in the new game Das Duell. The game itself is focused on the duel between Gandalf and the Balrog at the bridge in the depths of Moria, and by playing cards to attack and defend each player tries to be the first to occupy the strategic center of the bridge (and thus win the game).

The game comes with a nice, three dimensional gameboard featuring a bridge, and at the beginning the players both take up positions at the opposing ends of the bridge. Each player receives a deck of 27 cards, and these cards are mixed and placed face down in front of each player. After these preparations were made, the game starts with each player secretly drawing 9 of these cards to start the first of three rounds of duelling.

The first duel then is opened by Gandalf, who plays one of his hand cards to attack the Balrog. Basically, two different kinds of cards exist. On the one hand, there are the normal combat cards, which had 0 to 4 defense symbols on their left side and 0 to 4 attack symbols on their right side. On the other hand, there are several special action cards which have a special action printed on them in addition to the combat symbols mentioned before. After the first player has played his first card, the attacked player may decide with which of his hand-cards he would like to respond. He now can compare the cards he has at hand in order to see whether the defense symbols on any of his cards matches the attack symbols on the card the other player has played. If the player has decided to play a certain card, he now may place it right of the card of the other player.

Now the attack and defense symbols on both cards are compared. If a symbol is on both cards at opposite sides, the hits cancel each other out. But if a symbol on either the attacker's or the defender's card is not matched on the opposite card, a hit is scored and will be recorded on a scoreboard.

After the (possible) hits were counted, it's once again the turn of the first player. For him, the card the other player has played in defense now has become the new attack card, and now he must decide on a card which he will play as a response to the attack of his opponent.

In this way, the duel continues with alternate card placement from both players, until either each player has played 6 of his 9 hand cards or a player has taken too many wounds. When a duel is over, the number of wounds of both players are compared, and the winner may make one or more steps upwards on the bridge - depending on how many hits he succeeded to outclass his opponent. Afterwards, the players put their remaining 3 hand-cards secretly aside and draw 9 new cards from their deck to start the next duel, with the loser of the duel before becoming the new starting player.

This procedure is followed until either the total of 3 duels has been played or one of the players has succeeded to reach the top of the bridge. If no player yet has reached the top of the bridge, the so-called "Final Duel" is called for. This duel follows the same rules as the 3 normal duels, but the 9 hand cards of each player are the cards which he has put aside in the 3 duels before. Furthermore, each player now can take more hits than in the duels before, making the duel harder to win and possibly making the duel last until each player has used all of his cards. After the Final is over, the player who is higher on the bridge wins the game.

To spice gameplay up, each player's deck of cards contains several special action cards which possibly give the players a small advantage during the duel. This advantage may vary: the possibility to spy the other player's handcards or the option to cancel a card played by the opponent are just some examples.

With this exciting and rather tense playing mechanism Peter Neugebauer actually succeeded to take much of the tension from the duel of the two enemies into his game. Although players will need to familiarise themselves with the options available for them during the game, they will quickly discover the high strategic potential the game has to offer. The action cards add a somewhat random element which allows players to turn a duel seemingly lost, balancing a bit the advantage clever planning players otherwise could get. However, there are still ample of ways a player can decide to follow, and to my mind a really magnificient idea is the way the players themselves chose the cards which they have in their hands in the Final. During the first 3 duels, the players must balance the use a powerful card may have at that moment with the need to possibly keep a card to have at least a chance in the final. Playing all strong cards in the 3 duels leaves a player rather powerless in the Final, but saving all strong cards on the other hand may result on a lost game before the Final even has commenced. To my mind, this game is a real MUST HAVE for any Tolkien-Fan.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany