Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Duhr: the Lesser Houses
Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!
Product-Duhr: the Lesser Houses
Producer- Devious Weasel Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (3-6 players)
TL; DR-I don’t have to win for you to lose! 91%
Basics- Why waste knives when words will do. In Duhr: the Lesser houses, each player plays a minor, lesser house vying for power as the king will advance one, and only one, house to a major house, so it’s time to get dirty! During set-up each player is dealt a secret goal that targets one or two players. Then, players take turns doing one or two actions. Houses that are favored (their house card upright) can take up to two actions, and disfavored or vilified houses can take only one. The actions favored and disfavored houses can do are to put a card matching a house’s color onto the house face down, play a scandal face down on any house, discard a card of your color to use your house ability, play an event card, or discard two matching cards to do a masterstroke. Masterstrokes are how you win the game. These reveal a card on any house, remove a scandal from any house, put scandals from the center on a favored house, or negate ANYTHING! This leads into house standing. When a house gets cards in front of it, it begins to lose reputation as unsavory things about the house come to light. If a house has five cards in front of it it becomes disfavored. And when a disfavored house has three of the five card in front of it turned face up, it becomes vilified. Disfavored houses can only do one action per turn, have to shuffle their hands, draw two for the turn, and hope those cards let them do something good! After a disfavored house takes its one action, it draws cards, shuffles them with its other cards, draws two of that pile, and plays its next turn with two cards. You now have less options but some effects can not target you. Vilified houses are hated by all, but they gain some awesome powers. A vilified house flips its house card over to a black and white side so everyone sees your status. Vilified houses no longer have a hand of cards. Villivied houses can just change a card in front of a house to a scandal, flip face up a card on a house, or play a scandal card face down on any favored house.
House powers radically change the game. These powers range from moving cards between players, flipping cards face down, or even removing cards from in front of players. This leads to people making friends quickly or you die even faster! Each player has an agent in another house. This person is a secret. On your turn, you can flip this over, gain a card in front of you and can now play cards of that house's color to use their power. But, if you ever become disfavored, you instantly reveal your agent, and that house gains a card in front of it. That feels like it should as webs of secrets come to life and hit EVERYBODY!
Play continues like this until only one house or fewer remains favored, and then players add up points. Favored houses start with 10, then lose one point for each face up card of their color and two for each face up scandal. Disfavored houses start at nine and lose points like favored houses. Vilified houses start at 2 points and gain two points for each other vilified house! Finally, players add points for their secret objective. Player with the most points wins!
Mechanics-I really like the mechanics of this one, but you need to know exactly what you are doing! This game isn’t very forgiving, as social combat usually is. If you pick the wrong fight and do something stupid, you will lose quick! The advice most people will give you is you need to play maybe three times to have the rules down. I don’t agree. I honestly think you can learn the rules in about five minutes, but that’s kind of like saying you can learn chess in about five minutes. Now, you have to develop strategy. That takes time. But, I think that is time you will enjoy putting in. 4.75/5
Theme- This game does feel like noble houses knifing each other in the back. You get agents in another player’s house, and sometimes getting that hated appointment causes him to flip his agent and screw you in the process. That is a blast when it happens! I do feel like I am a Lord of a house fighting it out in the dark and in the streets to show that my house has its crap together and keeps our secrets safe. Half the players in my games walk away exhausted because this game isn’t your standard DnD knife fight, but social combat. The other half want to reshuffle the cards and start up as soon as the winner is declared. I’m in the reshuffle up and play again group! 5/5
Instructions- The instructions work, but you will need a few passes at it. One major issue is you really need to pay attention to how cards are played. Cards are played face down. That took me a few too many passes reading to get. But, once you get the flow of the rules, you can easily play the game. 4/5
Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS! This game only has small cards, and I only have fat fingers! That said, my only other complaint is the action guide cards. They are awesome! They tell you what you can do what you can do on your turn, explain all the symbols, and are really well put together! The bad part is they are rare. You get about ½ the player count. It’s not bad, but you often have to share. And, I don’t want to share with people I want want to die! The other parts are great. I like nice chunky cardboard for the houses and secret agent cards. Even the dreaded ¼ cards are nice. I also like the symbols. There is no confusion on what each symbol is on the cards. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3B7ECFtGU8I 4.5/5
Summary-I don’t own too many games where you play noble houses and knife each other in the back. But, this game scratches an itch. It's fun, it's mean, and it's quick. But it’s also not too mean. I don’t have too many feel-bads. If several people vilify your house in a turn, then you just start wrecking other people with abandon! Most games I’ve played, it’s not the favored house that wins! This game teaches you some fun lessons about politics. It’s not without its faults. I’d like bigger cards, more pages to the rule book, and some extra explanation cards. But, overall, this is a blast to play, and one that when you finish, you’ll want to start up right away. And, at its playtime, you can get this one back to the table easily. 91%