The Duke: best chess substitute

Let me tell you: although there’s been a shortage of updates here, there has been no shortage of game-playing! Oh, I’ve been a super slacker at cataloguing my gaming thoughts. I’m going to make a little list to keep track, but today I will be focusing just on a game that I really enjoyed called The Duke!

The Duke is a game that feels a bit like chess, but with some luck and memory components that stop it from feeling entirely strategy-based.

The game starts with a board that is smaller than a chessboard, but otherwise quite similar:

The Duke setup

The game starts with your duke (equivalent roughly to the king in chess), and two footmen (like pawns). Although there are actually a number of other pieces, you only start with these three. You can randomly draw other pieces to add to the board throughout the game — this is where some of the luck comes in!

Each piece (whether it be the Duke, footmen, or any of the others) is a little wooden square with symbols on the front AND back. Like so:

Example pieces!

As you might have guessed, part of the image on the piece is a map of the game board and represents what this piece can do! Different symbols mean different things. For example, the closed circle means the piece can move to that square, while the open circle means the piece can jump to the indicated square. (It is, of course, all relative to where the piece is.) There are some other fancy moves too, like the general being able to move other pieces. (Full description of rules and gameplay here.)

We’ve pretty much covered the major aspects of play except for one other tiny little thing. Every time a piece moves, you have to flip it over. This is super important because both sides of the piece are NOT the same! So, this is where the memory part comes in: it is crucial to remember what your pieces’ other side shows, so that when you move a piece it is well-positioned to utilize its other side. Make sense?

These extra elements which combine strategy with a bit of luck and memory make The Duke a lot of fun. It can help match up two otherwise unmatched players (i.e. my boyfriend and I — I’ll leave it up to you to guess who is the better strategist). The game is easy to learn, and fun to play. It also feels well-made. The wooden pieces make the game feel much more substantial than using plastic or paper markers.

Overall, I highly recommend, and enthusiastically give 4.5 stars!

To be reviewed:
Mr. Jack
Le Fantome de l’Opera
Castle Panic
Forbidden Island
Damage Report


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