You'll have tons of fun playing this well-balanced board game even if you never win – and I should know.
Getting my wife to play games with me is a bit like pulling teeth. To increase my odds of making it happen, I normally promise to light a fire and make a cozy evening out of it.
Here, you can see the lengths I went through last weekend to get my game on. On this particular night, we played The Duke!
It's a 2-player strategy game that takes place on a simple board of 36 squares. The game is a bit like chess – only better. The mechanics are constantly in flux and it forces you to think in a way that's very different from other games.
Like chess, players take turns controlling the movement of troops on the playing field. The player's movement options are graphically portrayed on the front and back of each troop but only the side that's facing up is in play. Each time you move a troop, it's flipped and the movement rules change.
Each player begins with 3 "stock" troops a sack of mixed wooden tiles that'll be chosen from later.
Stock troop #1 – The Duke. He's like the King in Chess. It's important to keep him safe at all times because once he's captured – you lose. The Duke can move clear across the board like a Rook.
Stock troops 2 & 3 – The Footmen. These are like pawns in chess. They're expendable but powerful. When a Footman moves, it can only be from his current position to positions denoted by the black circles. The Footman on the right, would be able to move 1 space in any diagonal direction, or 2 spaces forward. Where the Footman on the left would be able to move either horizontally or vertically one square.
Each player places their troops anywhere on their side of the board as long as the Duke touches the bottom edge and the footmen touch the Duke.
There are many different troop types and each has a unique way of getting around the board.
Some troops can slide clear across the board and attack anything in its line of sight while others have the ability to jump over troops to attack or flee.
When a player takes his turn, he has the choice of either moving one of his troops to a new location or pulling a random troop into play. A player can bring out troops as long as there is an open space on one of the 4 sides of The Duke. These spots are troop spawn points.
If a player's troop lands on an opponent's occupied square, the attacked troop is eliminated from play.
Sometimes it's tough to decide wheather to attack or fortify your army.
Even through the rules are very, very simple, the combinations of game-play seem endless.
Did I mention that my wife beat me?
Here's the thing – Gina claims to not care for games of any kind and yet she effortlessly destroyed me at The Duke all night long. There was nothing I could do and though it was a massacre, I still had a great time.
But I just may have a secret weapon for our next battle.
You see, The Duke comes with 2 blank troops for you to customize – and while I may never stoop as low as to create a kraken character who can wipe out an entire army with one wave of his tentacle, it's nice to know it's there just in case.
She'd never know what hit her!
But if you're looking for well designed augmented rules and expansion packs for The Duke, there are a few to choose from.
With these you can play as the Knights of the Round Table, The Three Musketeers or as Robin Hood and his band of merry men.
For now, I leave you with a final photo of my cat Kucha posing with The Duke.
Boy is that box ever adorable.