Battle of Durak Review

Battle of Durak
Fedor Sosnin
Fedor Sosnin
Classic-feeling card games, Effective gateway games

Battle of Durak is a last-in card game (like Uno) with a simple card battle system we appreciated.  Its classic design inspiration can leave it a little unengaging for those used to more complex, modern games; it is, however, a great gateway/bridge game from classics to the contemporary.

Battle of Durak is apparently a sort of adaptation of a ”classic Russian card game” simply called Durak. I’ve got no reason to doubt this, but I’ve never heard of it before, so I have no real basis for comparison to the source material. But anyway, on to the battling!

Pick your class and you’re good to go.

The basic goal of Battle of Durak is a lot like Uno.

Andrew:  Egh, a damning comparison.

Rob:  No, not really.  It’s definitely better than Uno, it just has a similar victory requirement.

That being to not be the last player left with cards in your hand. In a two player game this means you want to be the first to empty your hand. In a three or four player game you just don’t want to be the last one with cards. It’s kind of weird, honestly, how the emphasis is on winning in a two player game and then on not losing in a three or four player game. Cant’ say I’m a fan of the “just don’t lose” aspect.

Battle of Durak mixes up the classic game (apparently; remember, no basis for comparison) by adding some mild RPG-like elements. Players select a character class, then draw three (of five) random one-time-use class ability cards to add to their hand. This adds the tiniest bit of nuance and variation to what would’ve otherwise felt like something you could play using a regular deck of cards – which, I think you can?

Let the battle commence!

There’s definitely and undercurrent of strategy to things, as knowing when to hold back and when to really push against your opponents is important. The active player has to attack the next player by playing a suited number card from their hand. The defending player then has to play a card of the same suit with a higher numerical value (or a card matching the trump suit which is determined during setup) in order to defend, and which point the attacker may continue or concede.

If an attacker loses, all of the cards that have been played are discarded. However, if a defender loses they have to take all of the cards that were played into their hand. This is where the whole “reduce your hand to zero” thing gets tricky, naturally.

Rob:  I can definitely like the basic strategy to all of this, and it’s clever how the players who are worse off essentially end up having a much larger arsenal when they need to attack or defend themselves. It’s sort of a natural balance, in a way.

It’s all about numbers and suits.

Ultimately, though, Battle of Durak was just sort of “okay” for us. It’s not a bad game, and I wouldn’t even go as far as to say it’s boring, but it never really grabbed us. There’s this underlying sense of how it’s derived from a basic card game (and basic cards games aren’t bad!), which I can certainly appreciate to a point.

Rob:  The problem I have is that I’ve been spoiled so much by newer, more engaging card games that Battle of Durak didn’t grab me.

Andrew:  Now, as someone who does really enjoy classic card games, this seems right up my alley.  The abilities give just enough nuance to add replayablility and I also love the aesthetic.

Rob:  Sure, that’s all true.  But it left us feeling pretty meh.

This does seem like a fantastic gateway game, though; something that you could use to coax a family member or friend who likes to play Klondike Solitaire or Euchre or whatever over to more modern offerings.

And of course, for anyone who really likes the feel of a more classic card game, Batttle of Durak is a fine title.  Unfortunately for those of us who are already in the thick of modern board gaming it didn’t quite stack up.

(Gameosity received a copy of this title for review. We weren’t otherwise compensated)

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