Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Unplugged Dilintia: Flash Duel

In my opinion, the comics are probably the least interesting thing about Penny Arcade; I'm much more interested in the articles. Even though we come from different worlds -- I'm Mac, they're PC, I'm Nintendo, they're real video games -- I appreciate the fact that the people at Penny Arcade, and Tycho in particular, really give a damn about games. To the extent that playing and evaluating games has become their day job, they've never really become sterile, clinical reviewers. They put themselves into the things they write.

And every now and then, they'll put forward a case for something that I would never otherwise have heard about. Today, that is Flash Duel.

I don't want to just sit here and break down the rules for you when you can watch it played yourself. But I do want to say a few things about why I love the game in particular.

First of all, it's amazing just how well this game simulates the one-on-one fighting genre. Not only are all of the rules intuitive, not only do they all make thematic sense, but the way they come together really makes the game feel like a duel. You drive forward, forcing your opponent to retreat repeatedly, until they come up with an unexpected block, counter, and nail you. The language of fighting games transfers over really well here.

Second is just how elegant the game is. The entire game is played with number cards. You don't have a deck filled with "attack", "block", or anything like that - all of your options are always available, and the cards in your hand dictate only the distance they cover. Characters in the game are represented by three cards apiece, one for each special move they can perform. You really don't need a lot of pieces to play the game, which is part of what makes it so fast.

Third is how versatile the game system is. It can handle one on one, two on two, solitaire, and even a cooperative boss fight with up to four players against a giant dragon. I love a game that gives me lots of options.

Finally... the package you get is just so amazingly clever. You get a proper game board, lovely wooden pawns, the sixty character cards, two decks of the numbered cards, and a travel game board -- five cards with the game board spaces printed on them so you can lay them together and play the game on them. There's enough stuff right in the box to play two games at once, or you can combine them together to play with three to five players. But the most amazing thing is the travel box, a pocket-sized case that fits all of the character cards, one deck of number cards, and the travel board. It's everything you need to play one on one (except movers -- they recommend using your own pennies) in a size that you can take anywhere.

I'm terribly fond of travel games, you see. It really tickles me that they've not only thought of people like me, who'd like a portable version of the game, but devised such a clever way to do it and put it right there in the box for you.

So yeah. It's fun and it's great, and it's been on my mind so much that I've been writing a utility for my graphing calculator so that I can play it on the go without even the need for a tabletop to set it on. Go ahead and check it out.


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