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Duel in the Dark
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World War 2 air combat game depicting the nighttime air raids of British bombers hitting German cities.
As the head of the British Bomber Command, you plan the attacks on Germany in order to undermine the morale of the civilian population. Or as a General of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), you defend using your ace squadrons and organizing an effective civil defense.
The gameboard enables you to set up countless variations of these historic events. You play as many nights as you wish -- each night takes 30-45 minutes to resolve.
Immerse yourself in the strategic and tactical thinking needed to survive in those dark times.
Gameplay allows for easy entry into the action with some advanced rules for the hearty wargamer. The game rules include weather conditions, full moon/new moon bonuses and penalties, clouds and thunderclouds, fog, flak, searchlights, balloon barriers, target markers, and much more.
The British player secretly plots the course of the bomber while the Mosquito acts as escort or decoy. The German player tries to figure out where the bomber is going, making sure to efficiently use the fuel to get as many hits on the bomber as possible.
- 28 page instruction booklet
- 1 game board
- 2 victory point reference cards
- 6 aircraft holders
- 6 airplanes (cardboard)
- 4 fuel indicators
- 32 compass cards
- 21 weather cards
- 21 cloud and thunderstorm elements and holders
- 4 fog fields
- 40 ground defense resources
- 16 medals
- 8 target/bomb markers (wood)
Average Rating: 4.2 in 2 reviews
"Duel in the Dark" is the first game designed by Friedeman de Pedro and is released by his company Pilot Games in Europe and by Z-Man Games in the US. The game is set-up during World War II and is a conflict simulation where British bomber pilots focus on destroying a German target city, being attacked by German fighter squadrons or different ground defense units. It's not the usual aerial combat game though, as to a greater extent it's about planning ahead, guessing what your opponent has in mind and being good at bluffing - offering a lot of tactical and operational possibilites, including just a good bunch of situational luck but NO resolutional luck (= rolling dice) at all.
The artwork has been well-done and supports the theme nearly perfect. The big board showing a part of Britain and whole Germany is out of thick cardboard, and also the different defense object markers are fine. What is stunning though are the cardboard planes and clouds, which are mounted on clear plastic sticks on small bases - you also can vary the flight height. This all together creates a great atmosphere.
At the beginning of the game the weather situation (clouds, fog, thunderstorms, moon and wind) is set, being visible for both players. After that the British player secretly defines the route for his bomber pilots to a target city in Germany - this route can't be changed later on. The German player now places his 40 ground defense units (and four German fighter squadrons) the way he thinks to most efficiently defeat the British raid - therefor of course he has to guess which city might be attacked. Then the combat itself gets started, as the British player now reveals his route for the bomber hex by hex, additionally having another plane to try to bluff the German player. The main task of the German player is to use his four planes to fight the British Bomber as often as possible, what is not to easy as the route and the target city are unknown to him. For each resolution of combat (also for flying into hexes with ground defense objects) victory points are distributed, which finally (after the British bomber has finished his route and returned to Britain) define the winner.
For me "Duel in the Dark" brings a great fresh feel in the gaming genre - an original idea realised in a fantastic way. The rules are not too complex, despite offering enough strategic possibilities. The period one game lasts is about an hour - leaving it up to the players whether to change sides (or play one more setting) or not. I really like the atmosphere of the game, as well as the need of "reading" your opponent to be successful or the general potential of bluffing. Not to forget the need to do some good planning at the first phase of the game... Overall a really great, medium weighted "Euro-War-Game" I definitely don't want to miss anymore.
(article originally published on http://artofshopping.blogspot.com)
I first saw Duel in the Dark (Z-man Games, 2007 - Friedemann de Pedro) directly after playing the excellent airplane duel game Wings of War. Therefore, I wasn't really that interested in playing what I thought was merely another game in the same genre. However, all those who played the game raved about, calling it a hybrid of war games and designer games. That, and the pieces were extremely stunning, giving the game tremendous visual appeal.
After playing the game, I'll disagree with those who call Duel in the Dark a hybrid game. It's a unique entry into the deduction game category, yet firmly fits into the bombing theme the game provides. Both the British and German players are playing with completely different styles, yet the game only really emulates a war game via its theme. Folks who do not enjoy even light war games may have a good time here, as players attempt to outfox one another in a game that is more about maneuvering than it is about fighting. And I like it!
One player takes the role of a British bomber squadron, choosing a city in Germany that they are going to bomb. The other player sets up defenses, attempting to harass the bomber as much as they can. The game can take place over several nights (rounds); or players can play the same scenario, switching sides to see who gets more points. A map of Germany and Britain is set up, with large hexes delineating different areas. Several spaces have airports in them, and there are scattered German cities, each with a different victory point total, depending on how hard it is to fly to that area. A victory point counter is placed in the middle of a scoring track that will move from the British side to the German side, depending on who is winning. The game contains five setup phases and then the "duel phase.
First, the German player places four fighter squadrons in any four airports throughout Germany, placing a corresponding fuel indicator for that plane in front of them. Then, a weather card is drawn from a stack, and the weather elements (clouds, thunderstorms, and fog) are placed over the board to show the weather for that night, as well as the wind direction. The British player then secretly selects the path that their bomber will fly over the night, using fourteen or less compass cards - each showing a direction that the bomber will fly. After this, the German player takes forty double-sided defense tokens and places them throughout Germany, using whichever side he pleases, and placing them wherever he wants - no limit to the number of tokens per hex. Finally, the British player places their bomber in one of the four airport spaces in Britain, deciding whether it will fly low or high this mission, with the "Mosquito" fighter squadron in another hex. The duel then begins.
The duel consists of three steps that are done over and over until the bomber returns to an airport in England.
- First the Mosquito is moved - up to any two hexes from its current spot. If it decides to fly "low", it can drop up to six tokens (total for the whole round) that either destroy airports, defenses in a hex, or target a city for the bomber.
- The German player then moves the four fighters. Each fighter can only move one hex and go up or down one level per turn, using two units of fuel to do so. When flying against the wind, they use an additional unit of fuel and one less (or an extra hex), when flying with the wind. If a fighter ends its turn in the same spot as the Mosquito, the British player scores one point for each fighter, with some bonuses or negative points depending on whether conditions or whether it is flying higher than the fighters or not. Fighters must land in an airport when they run out of fuel; otherwise, they are lost and score points for the British player. Fighters landing or taking off from an airport that is bombed or has the Mosquito present will also award points to the British player.
- The next compass card is then revealed, and the bomber flies into the space following the direction on the card. The German player may then score points depending on the weather of the space, the defenses they have there, and any fighters they have there. If there is a city there, and it is the one the British player is bombing, they score points for the city along with extra points for any targeting markers from the Mosquito. The weather, if any, will affect most of these point scorings.
The German has eight different defenses that they can set up to stop the attack. Each has different effects:
- Civil bunkers: Cannot be destroyed by the Mosquito, subtract two from a bomber's total when bombing their city.
- Fuel truck: Allows two German fighter squadrons to land at the same airport.
- Smoke Screen: Causes the British player to subtract one from a bomber's total when bombing the city and forces the Mosquito to drop two extra bombs if wanting to destroy anything in that hex.
- Fire Department: Subtracts one from the bomber's total when bombing a city and can be moved up to two hexes into an adjacent city. (Although this requires two fire trucks at that point.)
- Balloon Barrier: Gives the German player one point for each bomb dropped in the same hex, unless it targets the balloon itself.
- Flak: Awards one point if the bomber moves into the space.
- Searchlight: Gives one bonus point for each flak in the same hex and one bonus point if fighters are in the same hex, when a bomber comes through.
- Radar: Gives one bonus point per fighter, if a bomber is in the same hex.
Players can add in a pile of advanced rules if they want, giving more power to the Mosquito, having weather conditions change during the night, and more. A player can also play just the German and have an automated British attack, although this is fairly easy for the player. After a predetermined number of rounds, the player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
- Components: The game looks strikingly good when on the table.
Each plane is a cardboard cutout that rises and lowers on clear
plastic stands. This would look good no matter what; but the cloud
tokens, which also are on raised plastic stands, help the board (which
looks terrific) stand out. When this game is set up in a room, all
eyes pay attention to it - it LOOKS like an airplane game. All the
counters are well designed and are thick and easy to maneuver. The
cards are a little thinner than I would like but are easy to read; and
since they aren't shuffled much, it's not a big problem. An
interesting element is the back of the board, which is basically a
poster that explains the different bombs and other items found in the
game. Everything fits in a nice square box with great design.
- Rules: The rulebook is six pages of full-colored rules, with
another six pages that show a complete game. Folks, this is one of
the best things I've ever seen in a rulebook - I understood the rules,
but the example game helped solidify exactly what the game was about.
I don't think any anybody would have a problem; every question was
answered in this section. Teaching the game is fairly easy, and I
think new players should start out as the British, although both sides
have about the same complexity.
- Setup: I feel like Duel in the Dark is two separate games: the
setup, and the duel. Both players have to try to gauge what the other
player is going to do. This isn't blind guessing, however, as the
British player can see both the German planes and the weather before
setting up their route. The German player can also look at the
weather and guess if the British player is going to use cloud cover to
fly in or attempt to hit a clear city for more points. And what city?
Going for Berlin will net one thirty points, but is it worth it to
fly through all the defenses? It seems like a good idea for the
German player to place most of their defenses on the "Atlantic Wall";
but if they can pinpoint the city the British player is going to bomb,
they can most likely win the night.
- Duel: While setup is key to doing well, the duel itself is a
rather neat affair. The British bomber must simply follow a
pre-programmed course, but the Mosquito has a lot of maneuverability.
It can fly in the wrong direction, which will likely divert the
fighters, but it also can do a lot of damage if it stays on the same
course as the bomber. The German player must ascertain whether or not
the Mosquito is flying around as a bluff, or if it's actually going to
the real target. How well the British player handles the Mosquito
will determine if they win the game or not. At the same time, the
German player must make sure that their planes don't run out of gas,
as this can easily give much needed points to the British player,
especially if the surrounding airports are bombed.
- Theme: Each "point" represents a plane that is shot down, and
this seems to make sense in regards to the theme - though the bomber
can never really be destroyed, and the fighters themselves are safe
unless they run out of fuel. There is a real sense of urgency as the
German player really tries to figure out just which city the British
player is heading for. Everything is abstracted out, but each element
works very well within the theme, especially the German defense
- Fun Factor: If a player comes into this expecting a game that
simulates air battles, they are only half right; as it's a bit more of
a deduction game. But I enjoy this game of cat and mouse, as it's a
lot of fun trying to outguess and out maneuver the other player.
Other than the weather, there is no randomness in the game, and this
deduction aspect really appeals to me.
- Advanced Rules: I think a player could use all of the advanced
rules without any trouble; although some of them, like the changing
weather, add a bit more randomness. Others can help give one side an
edge if they need it. My favorite is the option for the British
player to program their return flight after bombing - it gives an
advantage to the British player, but it makes a bit of sense. Why
would you fly back over the same terrible defenses you encountered on
your way in?
All in all, Duel in the Dark is a breath of fresh air in a time when tired themes are used and reused. Not only is the game something different than a typical air battle game, but it manages to take the mechanics of deduction and outguessing the opponent and applies them to the theme with tremendous results. The single player game is a bit boring, but two clever opponents will find themselves clashing wits in a game whose name may be one of the most fitting I've played.
"Real men play board games"