Contributed by Áron Csathó

Inspired by U-G-O by Michael Daniel
as well as by the card game Blood Wars by TSR

This is a two-player combat game, but more can play with similar rules.


Each player must have a deck of French cards consisting of 52 cards. There may or may not be also joker(s) based on whether they use the optional rules.


The aim of the players is to reduce their opponent's draw piles to zero. This is achieved by duelling: trying to inflict damage to the opponent and thus, forcing his/her to draw and discard cards.


Each of the players shuffles their own deck, and after cutting (by another player), players deal themselves 5 cards from their own deck. The remaining cards form the player's draw pile, while used cards will go to the discard pile (empty at the start of the game). Each player has an own deck of cards, own draw pile as well as own discard pile. At the start of his/her turn, each player draws a card. If the draw pile is empty, the player has lost.

Flow of the game

Each player's turn consists of three phases:

  1. preparation phase: draw one card, then you may play cards on the table
  2. attack phase
  3. renewal phase: turn your used (face up) Warlords face down

If a player is finished, the next player starts his/her turn. (For more than two players, the play goes counter-clockwise, to the right.) For the first round, everyone but the last player must skip phases 2 and 3.

Preparation phase

Draw a card from the top of your draw pile. Play new Warlords face down on the table in front of you. Exchange your existing Warlords for new ones if you wish so, by discarding the old ones.

You may have only two Warlord cards on the table at any given time. You may use one for attack and one for defence if you wish, the only thing is that if you defend with one of them, you may not attack with the same card since the card used for defence will be turned face up (because it has been used) until the end of your turn.

You may exchange one or both of your Warlords during your preparation phase. This means you discard the one on the table (say, a Jack) to replace it with one from your hand (a King maybe).

Attack phase

Designate your attacking Warlord and your Army card (play the latter face down upon your Warlord). Wait until your opponent selects his/her Warlord and Army card. After this, you may add one Support card to your attack. Finally, the opponent may add a Support as well.

Compare the strength of the attack and defence by turning face up all cards involved. If the attacker has higher combat strength altogether, he/she managed to inflict damage to the opponent. In case of a tie or if the defender has higher combat strength, the attack is thwarted. Resolve the outcome of the battle.

Renewal phase

Turn your Warlords face down. End your turn.


Warlord cards are King, Queen and Jack. Alone, they are cowardly fighters but if leading an army, they increase their combat strength by +3, +2 and +1 respectively. Army cards are 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 - most cards are Army cards. They have their combat strength equal to their rank (10 to 4).

Support cards (weapons, horses, etc.) are 3 and 2. Play them together with an Army card to add +3 or +2 to it.

Aces are greater powers, who may intervene, forcing a Warlord to resign. Play an Ace any time outside battle to force your opponent to discard a Warlord (you select the card). Play an Ace as a defender any time in a battle to thwart the attack. If you play it after your opponent designated the attacking Warlord and the Army card, you force the opposing Warlord and the Army card to be discarded. If you play it after you selected your defending Warlord and Army card, you must turn your Warlord face up and discard your Army card. The reason for waiting with playing an Ace until this point should be one of two things.

  1. Support cards can only be played after the designation of both active Warlord and Army cards, therefore you could wait for your opponent's Support card.
  2. Aces may be played as a last chance if the defender has lower combat strength after all, so you may wait for the attacking cards to get revealed. Aces can never be used in a battle by the attacker.

Resolution of a battle

If the attacker wins (his attack strength is greater than the defender's), the damage is half of the difference between the strength of the two sides, rounded up. For example, if the attacker has a 10, lead by a Queen (+2) and supported by a 3 (+3) for a total of 15 combat strength, while the defender has a 7, a King (+3) and a 2 (+2) for 12, the damage is 2 (3/2, rounded up). This means that the defender must draw 2 cards from the top of his/her draw pile and immediately put them atop the discard pile. This way, the maximum damage possible in the game is 8 cards but usually the damage is between 1 and 3.

If the defender wins (the attacker fails to inflict damage), the attacker's Warlord goes to discard. This is the price for failing. If the attacker used no Warlord, he/she must draw and discard one card, irrespective of the difference between attack and defence strength.

Thus, this game follows the old principle "the best defence is a good offence", since attacking pays much better than going on the defensive.

Other rules

You need not attack each turn.

In order to attack, you must have an Army card. You may attack with or without a Warlord, with or without a Support card, but an Army card is essential.

In order to defend, you need either a Warlord or an Army card (or both). You may use a Support but that only works with an Army card, not with a sole Warlord. (A Warlord may use his powers to trick enemy legions by battle tactics and reduce the damage they inflict, but he will not stand a chance against a legion face-to-face.) If you choose so, you may refrain from choosing any defensive cards at all. In this case, you take full damage based on the attacker's combat strength.

You may see any face up cards of the opponents as well as the top card of their discard piles, but no other cards. But as the player turns a Warlord face up, it is revealed until it is discarded. The player may not put it back to his/her hand, neither shuffle it with a new, face down Warlord played on the table.

More players

If more than two players want to play Duel, one may only attack the player to his/her right (the next player) and defend against attacks from the left.

If anybody is out (draw pile empty), the circle of active players gets smaller until one player remains. However, when somebody is out because he/she cannot draw a card at the start of the turn, that player gets one "revenge turn": can still make one final attack after preparation. Otherwise, it would be unfair, since the next player would have a "free" turn, where he/she is not attacked at all.

Optional rule 1: Reinforcements

Using one joker per deck is a valuable addition to the game. The joker may be played any time during your turn to "reinforce" your draw pile. Put the joker on the table and then shuffle your discard pile. Take a maximum of 10 cards from it and put it on your draw pile. The joker and the remaining cards from your discard pile form your new discard pile. Finally, shuffle your draw pile.

Whether you use jokers when your discard gets big, or sooner, when your discard has only a few but valuable cards, is perfectly up to you.

If your draw pile gets empty and you have a joker in your hand, you may use it immediately to remain in the game, even it is not your turn. However, you get only 8 cards reshuffled in this case, so you should time using the joker wisely.

Optional rule 2: Hidden Ally

You may use a joker, or two different jokers (e.g., one black and one red) if you want to combine the previous rule and this one, as a wild card. This means that the joker specified as a Hidden Ally may act as any card, most likely an Ace, a King or a 10. Once a Hidden Ally card is played as a Warlord and put to the table, it may not change to an Ace, Army or Support card. If reshuffled based on optional rule 1, again it may be anything as it is played.

Budapest, 7 October 2004

Last updated: 11th October 2004