Thursday, June 16, 2016

Quick Review - Battle of Durak

Battle of Durak
Designer: Fedor Sosnin
Publisher: Disruptive, Inc.
Quick Review - Battle of Durak
Disclaimer - NOTE: I received this game for free through a contest, this is an unsolicited review.

It's been a while since I've posted a Quick Review of a game that wasn't a Kickstarter preview, but tonight I played a game that I won in a giveaway a few months ago (April, actually), and I just wanted to tell everyone about it because I thought it was pretty great.  That, and I'd like to get back to posting short Quick Reviews a little more often, in addition to the many Kickstarter previews and occasional Full Reviews I do.

Battle of Durak is a twist on a traditional Russian trick taking game called Durak.  Battle of Durak adds special character skills and battle events to the game, giving it more thematic elements than the traditional game that is played with a standard deck of cards.  Last August the game was successfully funded on Kickstarter and it was delivered to backers this spring. Battle of Durak is for two to four players and plays in about 15-30 minutes.
The nice, heavy box is about 8"x4.5"x1.25" - about the size of Tides of Time or Citadels, but not exactly.
In Battle of Durak the object is to empty your hand of cards first, or rather to not be the last player stuck with cards.  In Russian 'durak' means 'fool'.  The game is a combination of trick taking and hand management that plays very unlike most trick taking games I'm used to.  Each player has a hand of six battle cards (from four suits numbered 6-14), plus three skill cards for the character class they've chosen.  There are six character classes: thief, alchemist, necromancer, wizard, barbarian, and assassin.  Each character class has fiver skill cards and each game you get to use three of the skills for the character class you've chosen.

On your turn you will attack the player to your left by playing a battle card from your hand.  Your opponent can defend by playing another card of higher value from the same suit, or any card in the trump suit.  If the attack is successfully defended you can press the attack by playing another card that is the same value as one of the cards already played (by either the attacker or defender), but in any suit.  Again your opponent can defend.  This goes on until either the attacker can't or doesn't want to attack again or until the defender runs out of cards (a successful defense) or can't defend (or chooses not to) and retreats.  If the defender is successful all the battle cards are discarded to the graveyard and if the attacker is successful the defender has to take all the battle cards into his hand and then loses the opportunity to attack his neighbor.  After the battle everyone draws up to a hand of six battle cards again.  Once the draw deck runs out the game continues without drawing back up, until everyone except for one player has emptied their hand.

Throughout the game Battle Events will appear in the draw deck.  These shake things up a bit by affecting all players.  And don't forget about each player's unique skill cards.  These can also be used when appropriate to get you out of a jam or inflict havoc on your opponents.  Used wisely they can be the turning point in a battle or even the entire game.

At first this sounds like a recipe for beating up on a loser, but it quickly becomes apparent that losing a battle isn't always all that bad.  Losing lets you gain a lot of cards, but that gives you control.  With a large hand of cards you'll have lots of choices for directing how a battle will proceed and you can exhaust your opponent's hand of good cards.  It's only in the end game, after the draw pile is empty, that retreating from an attack is risky.  But even then a strategic loss can put you in a position to win.
After a long battle, the Trump 13 of Stars has the win!
NOT!  The Thief uses his skills at bluffing to defend with a 7 of Crowns!
I really, really enjoyed Battle of Durak.  I found it fresh and exciting.  It played quickly, felt familiar and new at the same time, and had a deceptive amount of strategy.  This is definitely going to be a game I play a lot more of and also one I introduce to friends that are only familiar with classic card game.  Battle of Durak is a winner!  Go grab it today.  It's available for only $15 (on sale with free shipping) from

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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