The tremendous success of a Broadway play has prompted a surge in products related to Alexander Hamilton. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game is one of those, but it’s also a fun and worthwhile game in its own right. One need not know anything about Hamilton in order to play the game, but it makes it that much more interesting if one has some inkling about some of the characters (face cards). Most cards have some sort of trivia (perhaps something about the person on the card) or a little narrative (like on Monopoly cards) that have absolutely nothing to do with game mechanics but do make the product much more interesting, entertaining, and sometimes (for me) educational. It’s a game of strategy, sabotage, greed, and dueling, and you’ll love it.
My playtesting group consisted of six players (the game requires two to six), male and female, ages twenty to thirty-nine, all of whom enjoy a variety of game types. From the moment I opened the box for the first time to the end of the game was about two hours, which isn’t bad for learning to set up and play a new game at max capacity, and we were entertained throughout. No one read any of the cards ahead of time to get an idea of what was coming, and we were quite surprised when a couple Hamilton cards (you’ll know what they are when you read the rules) demolished everyone early on. We don’t think that’s normal and likely due to poor shuffling of a brand new and organized deck of cards, but it didn’t kill them game either—it just made us play smarter.
We noticed a few things that could be improved. The game comes with a paper mat for play organization, which is helpful but too small for proper placement of cards when dueling. (It’s not a big deal. We just had cards overlapping to make sure they were in the correct spots to start.) The rules state that used Hamilton cards go on the bottom of the pile, but we found a discard pile to be much easier to us, and used the open spot above the Hamilton card slot on the mat for this. The rules make no mention of a discard pile for face cards, but some Hamilton cards require them to be discarded, as opposed to the “Debtor’s Prison” that is sufficiently explained and has a large spot on the mat. We created a discard pile (from which face cards never recover) in the last free spot to keep track of them. Noting and distinguishing discarding face cards from prison should be addressed in the rules, but we made it work as we assume it was supposed to be handled (unless “discard” meant go to prison, which is articulated in a different way on different cards). There is also the possibility that one has no playable cards on one’s turn, which the rules again do not address. Do we discard one and draw another? Do we lose a turn? This is quite ambiguous given play order in the rulebook, so that certainly needs clarification. The variety of cards and types leaves this as an unlikely possibility, but we ran into it on the last turn just as I won *flex*, meaning upon the player’s next turn there may have been a problem with the inability to play if no cards could be played beforehand, which would likely have been the case.) In the grand scheme, these are minor issues that can be thought through and worked around, but should be addressed.
Overall, we had a great time and would (will) play it again.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.