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Friday, 22 July 2016

Devilish Cards & Dice

Imps: Devilish Duels – A Dice & Card Battle Game is the latest game from Triple Ace Games, following on from designs such as Rocket Race: A Steampunk Rocket Building Card Game, Halfling Feast: a card game of competitive eating for 2-4 players, and Cadaver: A Game of Lighthearted Necromancy. Launched at UK Games Expo 2016, it is described as a ‘hybrid dice and card battle game’ for two players in which each player sends a team of four mischievous Imps to fight a number of elemental trials and determine who is top Imp wrangler and thus top wizard!

Now it should be made clear that this review is of a press preview version of Imps: Devilish Duels which like the preview print and play version contains just twelve Imp cards. The full version will come with a total of twenty-six Imp cards. This press preview version also comes with a plastic battle tray, whilst some Kickstarter versions of the game will have a wooden one. Both versions include a six-page rules booklet and sixteen six-sided dice. The colours of the Imp cards and the dice match according to their element: Air (white Imp cards and clear dice), Earth (green), Fire (red), and Water (blue). 

At the beginning of the game each player selects the four Imps that he will send into the trials and receives eight dice, two of each colour. On each round both players select four of their dice of any colour and one or two of their Imps to send into the trial. Then both players take in turn to roll their dice and compared with each other in a set order, so the green dice for the Earth Trial, the red dice for the Fire Trial, the blue dice for the Water Trial, and the clear dice for the Air Trial. Then the players can each roll and add two dice of their choice or reroll dice dice already in play. Then the final totals for each trial are compared, the higher total winning that player the trial and a bonus for the or a double bonus if the winning total is double or more than the other player’s total. So if a player wins the Earth Trial, then he can increase one of his dice by one of the subsequent trials, that is Fire, Water, or Air. If his total is double or more than his opponent, then he gets to increase two of his dice by two each. Note that no die can be increased beyond six. Winning subsequent trials force dice rerolls on an opponent, removal of his dice, and so on until one player wins wins the Air Trial and can banish one of his opponent’s Imps. Play proceeds like this until one player has managed to banish all of his opponent’s Imps and wins the game.

There is a cascade effect to winning trials, so that winning one trial gives an advantage to the next and so on and so on, but this is no guarantee that a player will win the final Air Trial and banish his opponent’s Imp. Good dice rolls will nearly always beat bad but modified dice rolls. Then there are the Imps. Every Imp has an ability that can aid a player with its Mischief. So the Earth Imp Puck allows the players to conduct an extra Earth Trial after the Fire Trial; the Fire Imp Soot deducts one from all of an opponent's Fire dice or forces him to reroll one of his Fire dice; the Water Imp Squirt adds one to each of a player’s Water dice or allows any of them to be rerolled; and the Air Imp Nimbus enables both players to combine their Water and their Air dice in the Air Trial. 

In initial games, it makes sense for both players to bring one dice of each elemental colour to their initial rolls. In later games players can pick and choose which dice they roll as well as which Imps they bring into play. To an extent, the player who goes second does have a very slight advantage over the other since he can react to whatever the first player rolled and can assign his dice to where he might be able to beat his opponent. Choice of Imp plays an important role too as their Mischief can greatly influence the outcome of a trial which if won affects the next trial and so on and so on…

Physically Imps: Devilish Duels – A Dice & Card Battle Game is up to standards of other games from Triple Ace Games. The rules are clearly written and although the game might be slightly easier if the Elemental Trials outcome table might have been on the back page of the rulebook, this is basically picking a nit… The artwork on the cards though is really very nice and each captures the character of each Imp.

Although it initially looks complex, Imps: Devilish Duels turns out to be straightforward to play and easy to teach. It also offers a pleasing tactical experience as each player brings their best Imps and their mischief into play. The twelve cards in the press preview version of Imps: Devilish Duels offer more than enough options to replay the game over and over, but the full game will offer even more. For a two-player game, Imps: Devilish Duels – A Dice & Card Battle Game packs a lot of tactical punch into both its box and its twenty-minute play time.

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Imps Devilish Duels: A Dice & Card Battle Game is currently available to fund on Kickstarter.