Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Duke

Twenty years ago, I was a Japanophile. I ate a ton of teriyaki (with chopsticks), I watched a lot of anime, and I read a ton of manga.  At the time, I was much more a role-player than a boardgamer, but I still had a fascination with good board games.

In Seattle, there is a store called Uwajimaya.  It's a Japanese grocery with a couple of local branches.  The one in Seattle also includes a Kinokuniya Bookstore, and during one visit, I wandered out of the manga section and found a magnetic travel copy of Shogi. It was hidden in and amongst several much more expensive sets, but I still found it. I grabbed it and a copy of Shogi for Beginners, and called it good.

I puzzled over it for months, but didn't manage to get a game in for a while.  Not until my college fencing partner turned out to be a Shogi player, and spent some time going over the game and some of its strategies with me.  I was still never any good at it, but at least I started to figure out why I was losing so badly.

One of the distinctive features of the game is that the pieces are double-sided, and some pieces which reach a certain part of the board may promote themselves to a different piece which then moves differently.

Then, about ten years ago, I encountered Navia Dratp.  It was a collectible chess-like game, and each piece had a different movement pattern again.  And, in a clearly Shogi-influenced way, most pieces had the ability to promote themselves. And, if you could promote your King (called the "Navia" in this one), you won.  The game was good.  I bought a ton of the base game and its boosters.  Then it went idle for close to a year before the expansion came out.  I never bought any of the expansion boosters.

This year while at GenCon, I saw wooden pieces moving on a wooden board.  The pieces were square, but the movement reminded me a great deal of Shogi - in part because they kept flipping over.  I asked what the game was, and was told it was a new game from Catalyst Game Labs called The Duke.  It had apparently been Kickstarted, and I had missed it.

But I had to try it. So I did.  And I liked it.  A lot. Because it reminded me of both Shogi and Navia Dratp, two games that I very much loved.  But you don't have to just take my word for it, either - Catalyst has made it available for download as a print & play game on their website.

I've ordered it from my FLGS (I didn't buy as many games at GenCon this year, because I made a conscious decision to support my FLGS instead), but it hasn't arrived, yet.  When it gets here, I very much hope that Stephanie enjoys it as much as I do.

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