Designing Microgames–Duel, Part 8

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 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.

Several sets have been created. The first core set will be Pirates vs. Sea Monsters.  These two decks have therefore been receiving the most attention. Let’s check in on these two core factions…


Change is the Only Constant

Iteration is the heart of design.  Constant cycles of playtesting and tweaking sessions between each cycle are the best way to home in on something that is both balanced and fun.  Throughout this test cycle, we’ve been using a randomizer (from has been used to set matchups.  This data is helping us to identify the relative strengths of each deck. Because we’ve also used this randomizer to set the starting deck, we are able to look for any player order advantage as well.


Checking In With The Pirates

The last time we discussed the Pirates, they were being toned down a bit.  We lowered the power level of both the Dagger and the Cannon.  Since these changes came in, there’s been no need to adjust the deck any further.  The Pirates are sailing high.


Checking In With The Sea Monsters

JellyfishRecent testing indicated that the Sea Monsters had failed to keep up with the overall power level of the game.  They were beefed up a bit but still fell behind in general.  Even worse, one card–the Whirlpool–has been described as counterintuitive by players.

WhirlpoolOur last iteration gave the Jellyfish a limited first strike ability.  At the time, this first strike would immediately eliminate any card of strength 3 or lower, regardless of its position as attacker or defender.  When this ability was conceived, I’d kept the option open to raise this threshold to Strength 4.  This option has been activated and a similar version has been given to the Whirlpool.


With that all having been said, here is the latest cardset for our Sea Monsters faction:

Faction Sea Monsters Page 1Faction Sea Monsters Page 2Faction Sea Monsters Page 3



Checking In With The Ruleset

The biggest rule debate has hung on the ability to rotate revealed cards.  This rule matters quite a bit to the Pirates since their fiercest weapon is an array of support arrows.  We tried playing the game both ways–first where rotation was allowed as an alternative to a normal move action, second where rotation was disallowed.  These tests were met with mixed feelings.  Some testers enjoyed the extra option.  Others felt that the ability to rotate a card was a massive force multiplier.  For the moment, I’ve elected to deny card rotation once revealed.



Closing Thoughts For the Moment

Overall, Duel seems to be progressing well.  Its core decks are focused but still interesting to play. Next, time, I’ll be posting another faction for your gameplay pleasure.

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.