It’s all in the open. The traitors have revealed themselves. Now it’s man against man. Dwarf versus dwarf. Who becomes the riches dwarf in Saboteur: the Duel?
What do you get for your money?
You get 36 path cards, 18 destination cards, 18 action cards, 2 role cards, 2 cardboard dwarfs, 2 key tokens, 8 dwarf tokens and the rules.
How do you play the game?
In Saboteur: the Duel you are a dwarf with a mission. Your mission is to get as much gold as possible. Sadly enough, there’s another dwarf with the same mission. Only one can succeed.
I just pretend you have never played Saboteur before.
During set-up you have to place the green and the blue starting card on the table. Then you have to place, 4 cards in between, six random goal cards, face down, in a pyramid shape on the table. Goal cards are cards with pathways with or without gold nuggets in them.
Both players draw six cards from the draw deck. On these card you may find pathways, again with or without gold nuggets, or you might find them to be action cards.
There are basically five types of action cards: Sabotage cards, Repair cards, Key cards, Treasure map cards and Rockfall cards. A player can place a Sabotage card, pickaxe, trolley and lamp, in front of the other player to forbid him to place path cards. These card can only be removed by the targeted player by playing matching repair cards. Players can play Rockfall cards to remove a pathway card from the table. Or they can play a Treasure map card to peek at a goal card. And, lastly, a player can play a Key card. On some pathway cards you can find a doorway in one of the two player colours. Players cannot pass a door with the colour of another player without playing a Key card.
Your goal is to get as much nuggets as possible. These nuggets can be found in the pathways and on the goal cards, but what can you do in your turn? In your turn you can do one of four things. First you can add a pathway card to the existing tunnel system. When you play regular pathway, nothing happens, but if you play a card with a nugget on it and you created a path from your starting card to this card, you can claim that nugget and place a dwarf token in your colour on it. Sometimes a path is blocked by a troll and then you have to bribe that troll, by giving it a card with a golden nugget, to be able to pass. When you create a continuous path from you starting card to a goal card, you may reveal it and claim the nuggets on it, if there are any on it.
Next, you can play an action card in front of you or your opponent. Thirdly, you can discard two cards from your hand to remove a sabotage card in front of you. And, lastly, you can pass, discard one or two cards, and draw one or two new ones. When you choose one of the first three option you also draw one new card from the draw deck.
So, you play this way until one of three things happen; all the goal cards are revealed, all eight dwarf tokens are used or the draw deck is empty and both player have no cards in their hand.
You do all of the above three times. So, you play three games and then the player with the most gold nuggets wins.
Let’s start this review with telling you what I think about Saboteur itself. It might put this review in another perspective. I reviewed Saboteur a while ago and I’m not especially fond of it, the game that is, not the review. I found that the traitor aspect of that game was too obvious, not very subtle, and that’s why I said that if I wanted to play a game in the ‘hidden role’ genre I would pick other ones.
This little game is different. There are no hidden roles, it’s clear from the get-go that you don’t like the green dwarf and the green dwarf doesn’t like you. No awkward greetings when you see each other in the grocery store and no meaningless birthday wishes on Facebook. Just poop on each others lawns and throw those garbage bags over the hedge, it’s allowed.
You both want the same stuff and you‘ll do anything to get it. It’s a race, but not an ordinary race. It’s an obstacle race where you can halfway trough decide to push your competitor aside and start running in his lane or you can, while running, tie her laces together, so she will trip. That can happen. No, that will happen. You will play dirty. How dirty? That depends on the cards you draw and the mood you are in.
It’s not only a matter of you bluntly destroying the other player’s tools, but also you creating a clever network of hallways with bridges, trolls, doorways and dead ends. A network where you can walk freely, but the other dwarf has to pay, use a key or, in the worst case, has to start all over again, is also a way of bugging her.
The luck factor is still pretty high, you can keep drawing the wrong cards, but there are ways to work around that. Plus, it’s the score over three games that counts, so you can get your revenge right away.
Better than Saboteur?
I like this two-player version of the game better than its big brother. However I do think that the two games cannot really be compared with each other. One is more restricted than the other, less chaotic, more streamlined. They are different enough and I think that if you are a fan of regular Saboteur, you not necessarily will like this game.
Maybe, only maybe, the fact that you can also play this game by yourself will convince you? Well then, is it any good?
Yes, it is entertaining. It’s not the best solo game I have or have played, but it’s decent. The bullying of the troll cards and the dead ends are less present or absent actually, because it is you that has to place them on the table.
You only have to fight against the inevitable degradation of your equipment and prepare for sudden rock falls. It’s you against a deck of cards, which means that luck is more important in the solo game. You can’t infinity discard cards to remove sabotage cards or otherwise your hand-size diminishes to one. Discarding cards for new cards or getting rid of sabotage cards is not a great idea anyway, because you have to dig pretty efficiently to score well.
That’s what I can say about Saboteur: Het Duel. Both the two-player game and the solo game are decent, enjoyable and in my opinion better than Saboteur itself.