Board Game Night: Deal or Duel

With Hamilton hitting Disney+ last week, the world was taken with the craze of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. I first fell in love with the musical when I heard about it at the Tony’s and watched them set records in their winning awards. I bought the soundtrack and began listening to it non-stop (see what I did there?). I never got to see it because of ticket prices, lack of travelling to New York City, and Covid-19. However, shortly after the show came out, my uncle bought me a board game for Christmas that was based on the story of Alexander Hamilton. The game isn’t necessarily an homage to Hamilton but rather a game themed around the founding fathers and the ideas of starting a new nation.

Deal or Duel isn’t the best game I’ve ever played, but it definitely fills in the gap of wanting to further my appreciation in Hamilton’s legacy and lifestyle.

Deal or Duel is for 2-6 players and ages 10 and older.

Setup for Deal or Duel goes as follows. Place the playing mat in the middle of the table. The Treasury then has to be stocked based on the number of players. For this example, we’ll be using a 3 player game since that is all I’ve ever played. The Treasury should have $450. This will include 3 $50, 6 $20, 12 $10, and 12 $5. Put the rest of the money aside. This is known as the Mint. Deal each player $150 (1 $50, 2 $20, 4 $10, 4 $5) from the Mint. Shuffle the Action Deck and deal five cards to each player. Shuffle the Hamilton Deck and place them on the mat. Each player then chooses one set of Face Cards. It’s time for the game to begin!

The object of the game is to complete one of two methods in order to win. The first method is called The Federalist Method. If you accrue $1000, you win as a Federalist. The second method is called The Democratic-Republican Method. If you defeat all of your opponents’ Face Cards and still have a Face Card of your own, you win as a Democratic-Republican.

It’s the turn of the century, and the future is anybody’s game. To Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, the sounds of cannon fire and merchants denying colonial money are a none-too-distant memory–one he doesn’t care to experience ever again. Wily and ruthless, Hamilton has quite a few cards up his sleeve and is prepared to deal (and duel) his way to the top of the Ameritocracy. Match your financial savvy and dueling prowess against your fellow players–and Hamilton himself–to see who can be the first to break the bank…and who will die trying!

Deal or Duel Rulebook

The player whose birthday falls closest to July 4th gets to go first. Your turn will consist of playing an Action Card from your hand. There are several actions you can take from these cards:

Initiate a Duel
Sell a Card
General Action Card

Initiate a Duel
This is exactly how it sounds. You start a duel with another player. We’ll cover more of this later.

Sell a Card
You can sell a Deal or Conduct Card to the Treasury for its printed value in money.

General Action Card
These cards provide general actions like siphoning money from the Treasury, stealing money from another player, and other miscellaneous actions.

Every time you play an Action Card, you must immediately discard it and draw a new one to replace it. If the Action Cards run out, simply shuffle the discard pile and place it back in the appropriate spot.

At the end of the round (we’re going to discuss what happens during the round in a bit), any player at the table draws a Hamilton Card. If anybody is dueling, they are moved forward the number of paces listed on the Hamilton Card. If they reach 10 paces, the duel commences (will discuss later). After the paces are moved, then the rule listed on the Hamilton Card is resolved. If the effect of the card cannot be resolved, then place it on the bottom of the deck and draw a new one. Once the rule is resolved, discard the Hamilton Card and a new round begins.

If you choose to duel another player, then these are the steps you must follow:

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Step One
Choose a Face Card in front of you and challenge one of the other players to a duel. The Face Cards all have monetary values ranging from $50 to $300. Take a duel card from your hand and place it face down underneath the Face Card and put it on the game mat in front of your opponent. The challenger must always play a Duel card under their Face Card.

Step Two
The challenged player must choose a Face Card of equal or nearest value to accept the duel. If the challenged has a Deal or Duel card, they must play it underneath their Face Card. If they do not have a Deal or Duel card, they can bluff by playing any card from their hand face down.

Step Three
Anybody can swap out a face down card underneath a Face Card at any time before the duel happens. If the challenged draws a Deal or Duel card, and he or she bluffed when originally challenged, the bluffed card must be replaced.

Step Four
A challenged player can also play a Conduct Card as long as the bold print allows it. Conduct Cards change the rules for the duel, usually in the favor of the person that played it.

Step Five
When a Hamilton card is drawn at the end of each round, all duelists advance the number of paces listed on the card (it’s almost ALWAYS 5 paces).

Step Six
Once two Face Cards gets to 10 paces, it’s time to duel.

Step Seven
If the challenged played a Duel card, the player with the most number of hand symbols on their Duel card wins. The winner takes the opponent’s Face Card and turns it over. The monetary value of the card now basically becomes cash for the winner. The card is no longer a Face Card but considered a bill of money.

If the challenged played a Deal, then he or she will resolve the Deal card, which usually results in keeping the Face Card or making some kind of deal to neutralize the duel.

If the challenged played neither a Deal or Duel card and instead bluffed, he or she automatically forfeits the duel, pays the amount on the Face Card to the challenger, and keeps the Face Card to add back to the lineup.

If both players tie in hand symbols during the duel, it is now time to skirmish.

A skirmish is basically exactly like doing a tiebreaker in the card game War. Both players choose a Deal, Duel, or Conduct card and places it in front of them. The person that started the duel now gets to decide if the skirmish goes through. If the challenger decides he or she does not want to skirmish, the Face Cards are returned to each person’s respective lineup and any cards put on the table throughout the duel are discarded. The duel is now over.

If the challenger decides he or she does want the skirmish, both players flip over their cards. Duel and Conduct cards have hands at the bottom of them specifically designed for skirmishes only. The duel cards work the same as during a duel. When both players flip over their cards, the one with the highest number of hand symbols is the winner. If both players tie again, another skirmish happens. This continues until either one player wins via more hand symbols, the players run out of cards in their hand, or the challenger decides he doesn’t want to skirmish anymore.

These turns continue to take place until one player has $1000 or all but one player is out of Face Cards.

A few side notes about rules:

Any time a Hamilton card gives money to players, it comes out of the Treasury.
The Treasury cannot be refilled with money from the Mint unless a Hamilton card says otherwise.
If the Treasury is empty, any card that pays the player can be played, but he or she will not receive any money.
You only draw another Action Card if you played one for your action. If you play one during a duel or skirmish, you don’t draw until it is over.
Duels exist outside of normal turns. You can swap out cards, play a Conduct Card, or respond to a duel at any time (as long as certain parameters are met).
There can be up to four duels at one time meaning a player can technically be in four duels at once.
Any Face Card in a duel is not affected by a card effect that targets Face Cards.

Deal or Duel is a fun little card game with some nifty and accurate information about our history printed on the cards. It’s an extremely fickle game that is constantly changing due to the Hamilton cards and Conduct Cards changing the rules for the duels. We have played it quite a few times, and there has been a relatively equal mix between Federalist and Democratic-Republican victories. It’s hard to go into the game expecting to play to one specific strategy. Instead, you’ll find the flow of the game dictates how you’re going to try and win.

If you want to experience a little bit of American history, fulfill that emptiness filled by the fact that you’ve watched Hamilton on Disney+ a dozen times, and want to play a board game in the meantime, this is the game for you!

Board Game Geek: Deal or Duel


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