Designing Microgames–Duel, Part 6

The Story So Far…

A new microgame is in development.  Duel supports two players, each with a deck of about 20 cards.  Players have a hand of 4 cards and may (1) play a card into an empty space, (2) play a card onto an enemy card, or (3) move a card one space.  After this, the player refills her hand.  The game ends if a player is down to 3 or fewer cards in hand and chooses to end it.  The player controlling the majority of a 3×3 grid wins.

Kevin (APE Games) Brusky has given the prototype a look and wants to proceed together.  APE Games will release the game in two-player packs containing two unique armies.

The first two sets have been created and tested.  Now it’s time to see how the Pirates and Sea Monsters performed…


Initial Testing

Their first playtests revealed that opportunities for improvement.  This is perfectly natural.  If anything, I would have been more worried had we failed to.  Interestingly, the Sea Monsters set seemed to perform well just as it was.  It is in the Pirate deck that work was most needed.


Clarifying Card Art

I seldom worry over the beauty of a prototype.  Functionality is a different issue, however.  We found that players often had trouble quickly remembering each a given card’s support strength. For this reason, numbers went into the arrows as a reminder.

Examples of Modification - Anne

Examples of Modification - Redbeard


Adjusting Cards

The cards Dagger and Cannon were both seen as an interesting ideas but in need of adjustment.  In the case of the Dagger, its support simply wasn’t strong enough to matter in most battles while its Strength was low enough that it could be easily eliminated from the map at the opponent’s whim.  Its low strength was the lesser issue since low strength cards can be particularly useful for pinning down large cards so they couldn’t move.  That meant that its support was the real issue.  My solution was to boost its support while lowering its base strength.  The intent here is to focus the card more heavily on its role as a support card rather than as a direct attack card.

Examples of Modification - Dagger


The Cannon suffered from similar Strength-related issues.  With its marginal Strength 5, there weren’t so many cards worth discarding to reclaim it, particularly since doing so gave your opponent insight into your hand. We boosted its strength from 5 to 6 and made its power replay the cannon immediately.  This means that the Pirate player would have to play short-handed on his next turn in exchange.  We see potential for this to be an interesting decision point in the game. Playtesting will obviously be needed before we will be sure.

Examples of Modification - Cannon

Adjusting The Rules

As mentioned about the dagger, low strength cards can be particularly useful for pinning down large cards so they cannot move.  This is a doubly useful trick when the pinning card has a useful side ability as in the case of the dagger.  Players wanted a way to respond to such pesky cards. After extensive discussion, we found that in some cases, a player would actually be willing to sacrifice their possession of the space if it meant the opportunity to counterattack.  From that discussion came this new rule:

On your turn, you may Concede a battle in which you are the defender.  Discard all cards in this battle apart from the topmost enemy card.  That card remains to take ownership of the space. You may do this as many times as you wish, in addition to your normal action.

We don’t expect to see this rule invoked often, but if it does its job at critical moments of play, if it creates opportunities for skillful play, it will be carrying its own weight.


David E WhitcherNext week is the Protospiel main event in Chelsea, Michigan.  This is the best event for design of all those I attend.  Orgainizer David E. Whitcher  puts on a solid event, filled with the most helpful folks you’ll ever meet. Come on down–I’ll see you there!

And while you’re prepping your games for the event, be sure to check out our columns on what to expect.  Just follow these links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.


What’s your favorite Microgame?  What do you like best about it?  Have you written one? How did your players respond to it?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.


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