Duel of Ages II

I was going to do a review of Duel of Ages II, but Sophie did such a good job that instead I think I will just refer you to her review.  Let me just add a few comments.

First the bad stuff (since Sophie already covers a lot of the good stuff).

  • The game “style” as presented is somewhat whimsical and light-hearted.  This is great, but is at odds with the game mechanics, which are complex and at times downright byzantine in nature.  Since many of the characters have special abilities that allow them to somehow bend or break the rules in some way, and you will have 12 characters on the board in the standard introductory scenario, it is easy to get lost in the morass of rules and special rules and special abilities at the beginning.  This probably does wonders for the game’s replay value, but for those who sit down (as I did) for a beer-and-pretzels game of genre-mixing, time travelling weirdness, it can be a little much to take in.
  • With the inclusion of the DOA II Masters expansion, the game becomes mammoth, labyrinthine, and physically overwhelming.  I suffered from visual overload just looking at all the different card decks, terrain features, and all the annotations on the character cards.
  • At something like $120.00 for the game and the expansion (conceding that the expansion is gigantic, far out-massing the basic game itself) you need to be pretty serious about wanting to play this game a lot in order to get a copy.  Nothing wrong with that, but the complexity of the game may make it necessary to play several times before  you can make a decision.
  • The fact that the game is limited to two “teams” is unfortunate.  While it is possible to divide the teams up among multiple players, I think a multi-team approach would make the game more interesting for groups.

Second – good stuff (because otherwise it will sound like I am shitting all over this game, and I actually liked it)

  • Once you get past the hump of learning the basic mechanics, it turns out that there is actually a pretty good tactical game here, where you need to make weighty decisions that have important consequences from set-up to game end, starting with your choice of characters for your team.
  • The BASIC game mechanics are not that hard to learn, if you can figure out how to ignore the chrome for a couple of turns.
  • As Sophie mentioned, because of the vast number of characters, the huge number of game boards (or “platters”) and the seemingly endless types of cards (common, secret, elite, henchman) the game has functionally endless replay value, as well as surprises that will pop out when you least expect them.
  • You CAN play the game with groups, and the team approach does allow for a sort of “cooperative game” feel, even in the midst of competition.

I  think that Duel of Ages II is a worthwhile addition to the game shelf.  If you get a chance to play, do so.  If you are the sort of person who loves to be able to say stuff like “OK, Davy Crockett is going to shoot the dragon with a terawatt laser.” then you probably already own this game, but if you don’t, you should.

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