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Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game Game – August 8, 2017
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I tried it out with a couple of my sisters, it started out slow and then the pace quickened as we caught on and started having more fun. There are two ways for a player to "declare victory", either by collecting 1000$ (Federalist Method) or by eliminating all of your opponents Face Cards and having at least one left yourself (Democratic-Republican method).
This game is educational in a rather warped, but amusing, way. You get to learn about events in American history, but not necessarily learn about them in order. You get to learn about dueling (not sure how that knowledge will come in handy) and make historical characters, most of whom never dueled in real life, duel each other. The Hamilton Cards, one played at the beginning of each round, really make the game. They change things up by having random events happen, refilling the treasury, changing the value of certain cards, eliminating particular Face Cards, making holders of certain cards play taxes…etc.
My sisters and I had a lot of fun once we got going. We laughed quite a bit, had our characters participate in many duels, made each other pay money by saving each other's life, getting one another jobs, or another such thing based on whatever cards we had in our hand. We also lamented, all while being amused, when we found that we could randomly lose certain characters. The time passed very quickly. The whole concept of the game is very amusing. We ended the game with a duel between Phyllis Wheatley and, I believe it was Thomas Mifflin she dueled! Mifflin won.
It was fun, but I need to warn people that the game is rather complicated, we had to study the rules for a while and keep referring to them trying to clarify things. And not everything was made clear. For instance, at one point some of us only had "Duel Cards" and yet all of our remaining characters were in debtors prison and so we didn't know what to do. We scanned the rules but didn't find anything. Do we redeem our Face Cards out of prison and make them fight a duel? What if we didn't want to pull our people out of prison and challenge someone to a duel? Do we have to do it? Sometimes we just decided that we could discard one of our Duel Cards and draw another Action Card. But we weren't sure that that was the right way to play, and many times we just ended up with another Duel Card. We ended up making it so that we could 'spend' a card on our turn, and yet have nothing be accomplished. As an example, instead of using one of my Duel Cards (there being no one I could challenge who was outside prison), I would use a card that said "Receive $30 from the treasury to help cover your safe passage home from Paris", despite there not being any money I the treasury. I wouldn't get any money for the card, but I had no other card to use as I only had cards related to dueling. It would be nice to know what to do if you don't have any cards to play. I recommend that the game makers update the instructions.*
But all in all, it was a rather fun game. We're planning on potentially playing it with three of our other sisters and seeing what a six player game is like.
I received a free review copy of this game from the Blogging For Books book review program and my review did not have to be favorable)
* We cleared up the: what to do if you only have duel cards but everyone who can duel is in Prison: There is a spot in the directions we didn't notice that says that you must have at least one Face Card always in your roster(out side of the prison) - so there will always be someone to duel. But what if all the dueling spaces are taken up and you only have duel cards? That is still in question.
My playtesting group consisted of six players (the game requires two to six), male and female, ages twenty to thirty-nine, all of whom enjoy a variety of game types. From the moment I opened the box for the first time to the end of the game was about two hours, which isn’t bad for learning to set up and play a new game at max capacity, and we were entertained throughout. No one read any of the cards ahead of time to get an idea of what was coming, and we were quite surprised when a couple Hamilton cards (you’ll know what they are when you read the rules) demolished everyone early on. We don’t think that’s normal and likely due to poor shuffling of a brand new and organized deck of cards, but it didn’t kill them game either—it just made us play smarter.
We noticed a few things that could be improved. The game comes with a paper mat for play organization, which is helpful but too small for proper placement of cards when dueling. (It’s not a big deal. We just had cards overlapping to make sure they were in the correct spots to start.) The rules state that used Hamilton cards go on the bottom of the pile, but we found a discard pile to be much easier to us, and used the open spot above the Hamilton card slot on the mat for this. The rules make no mention of a discard pile for face cards, but some Hamilton cards require them to be discarded, as opposed to the “Debtor’s Prison” that is sufficiently explained and has a large spot on the mat. We created a discard pile (from which face cards never recover) in the last free spot to keep track of them. Noting and distinguishing discarding face cards from prison should be addressed in the rules, but we made it work as we assume it was supposed to be handled (unless “discard” meant go to prison, which is articulated in a different way on different cards). There is also the possibility that one has no playable cards on one’s turn, which the rules again do not address. Do we discard one and draw another? Do we lose a turn? This is quite ambiguous given play order in the rulebook, so that certainly needs clarification. The variety of cards and types leaves this as an unlikely possibility, but we ran into it on the last turn just as I won *flex*, meaning upon the player’s next turn there may have been a problem with the inability to play if no cards could be played beforehand, which would likely have been the case.) In the grand scheme, these are minor issues that can be thought through and worked around, but should be addressed.
Overall, we had a great time and would (will) play it again.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
As for the game, it took a little time to get into it with all the rules and instructions, but that's just part of a new game. Once we got the hang of it though, it became pretty easy to navigate around it and actually got us all into it. It's good because we all learn at the same time tidbits from history about these well known figures.
There is colonial money that is handed out, and of course like the title says dealing and dueling. There are a lot of cards that include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Hercules Mulligan, and so many more. This would be a good addition to any home, library, school, and tons more. Would recommend this to anyone who loves learning about history or playing games that are centered around it.