by Jonathan Leistiko
When the Head of the Three-Vined Circle grows too old to lead, the most accomplished druids in the Circle engage in a shape changing contest to display their wits and prowess. The druid who best adapts to the tactics of his or her opponents becomes the new head of the Circle.
This rare event is called a Druid’s Duel. I’ve never seen a Druid’s Duel, but I’ve been fortunate enough to read a first-hand account of one. I based this game on an 1887 diary entry written by my great-great-great grandmother.
A Poker deck with the Jokers removed, separated into two piles. One pile contains all Jacks, Queens, and Kings. The other pile contains the remaining cards.
Give each player a Jack, Queen, and King. Set any unused royal cards aside, out of play.
Shuffle the remaining cards. Deal a hand of cards to each player. Deal as many cards as possible without giving one player more cards than another. Set un-dealt cards aside, face-down.
Place your Jack, Queen, and King face-down to your side. These are your three animal forms: Jackrabbit (Jack), Peacock (Queen), and Lion (King).
Pick up your hand of cards. These represent your strategies. You may arrange them any way you see fit.
Play is simultaneous.
Choose your form –
Select one of your face-down forms and place it in front of you.
Reveal your form –
Once all players have selected a form, flip your chosen form face-up. This is your active form.
Choose your strategy –
Select a card from your hand and place it face-down beside your form.
Reveal your strategy –
Once all players have selected a strategy, flip your strategy face-up.
Resolve strategies –
The success of your strategy depends on your animal form.
Aces are low, tens are high.
If you’re a Jackrabbit, you succeed if you played the lowest strategy card.
If you’re a Lion, you succeed if you played the highest strategy card.
If you’re a Peacock, you succeed if no one else played a card that matches your card’s rank or suit.
If you succeeded, put your card face-down in a discard pile in the middle of the table.
If you did not succeed, put your card back in your hand.
End of turn –
Set your active form card aside face-up. It is temporarily drained. If you have a drained form card set aside from a previous turn, turn it face-down and put it with your other face-down form card.
The game ends when a player ends a turn with no strategy cards in hand. If you have no cards in hand at the end of the game, you win. Ties can happen.
Select Forms –
A, B, C, and D secretly pick one of their three face-down forms.
A reveals Rabbit
B reveals Rabbit
C reveals Lion
D reveals Peacock.
Select Strategies –
A, B, C, and D secretly pick one of their 10 strategy cards.
A reveals 3 of Spades.
B reveals Ace of Hearts.
C reveals 9 of Hearts.
D reveals 6 of Hearts.
A did not play the lowest card, and has to take it back.
B played the lowest card, and gets to discard it.
C played the highest card, and gets to discard it.
D’s card is not unique, since C also played Hearts. D has to take it back.
All players set their form cards aside, face-up and drained. A and B can not be Rabbits next turn. C cannot be a Lion next turn. D cannot be a Peacock next turn.
No one has a drained form card from a previous round, so none are recovered.
At the end of the turn, A and D have10 cards. B and C have 9 cards.
Select Forms –
Players secretly pick one of their two face-down forms.
A reveals Peacock
B reveals Lion
C reveals Peacock
D reveals Lion
Select Strategies –
Players secretly pick one of their strategy cards.
A reveals 4 of Spades.
B reveals 10 of Diamonds.
C reveals 6 of Diamonds.
D reveals 10 of Clubs.
A’s card is unique in suit and rank, and gets to discard it.
B tied for highest card, and must take it back.
C ’s card is unique in suit and rank, and gets to discard it.
D tied for highest card, and must take it back.
All players set their form cards aside, face-up and drained. A and C cannot be Peacocks next turn. B and D cannot be Lions next turn.
Each player recovers their drained form card from Turn 1.
At the end of the turn, D has 10 cards. A and B have 9 cards. C has 8 cards.
Chameleon – If you’re playing with three or more players, set the Jokers aside. If you’re the only player to to discard a card at the end of a round, take a Joker and place it face down with your undrained face-down form card or cards.
If you use the Joker as your form, you’ve turned into a Chameleon. Once all forms are revealed, you can declare which of the three main forms you’re taking. If another player also played a Chameleon, you both have no form and can not play a strategy card this turn.
After you use a Joker, put it back where you got it from instead of setting it aside as a drained form card.
I made this game for the November game design challenge on the Board Game Designer’s Forum. The criteria were to make a game that uses a standard 52-card deck with an animal theme and hand discard as the victory condition.
I think that this game has a lot in common (from a design and play style standpoint) with Uncontrolled Squid.