Flash Duel Review

Flash Duel game in play

Recently I've been trying out several games by smaller publishers. One of the ones with a strong reputation is Sirlin Games (makers of Puzzle Strike) - so I took an opportunity to try out Flash Duel.

In Flash Duel, you take on the role of a fighter that is trying to knock out his opponent. Fortunately for you, your opponent has a glass jaw - one hit and you'll take him down for the round (unless you're playing the dragon scenario). Unfortunately, you're a bit of a wimp, too, and you have the same weakness. To start the game, you each get five cards in your hand. These cards have a numeric value from 1 to 5. On your turn, you play a card - using this card you can either move, "push" your opponent backwards, or attack. In order to attack, the card played must represent the distance between you and your opponent. If you have several copies of the needed card, you can play all of them to "power up" your attack - thus forcing your opponent to play the same number of the card in order to block. If he can't, then he goes down, and you win the round. Also, after a move, you have the opportunity to do an attack (in the same way as a standard attack). However, this move/attack combo is called a "dashing strike." If your opponent cannot block your dashing strike, they have the option of playing a card to retreat (instead of getting knocked out), but then on their turn all they can do is draw cards. At the end of your turn, you draw back up to five cards. Play continues like this until a player is hit with an attack (at which time they collapse into a heap and lose the round), or the draw deck runs out. If the deck runs out, you each have one last opportunity to hit each other, and then whoever has advanced further along the track is declared the winner (in the "you couldn't hurt a fly" (also known as the "I like dancing better than boxing") division). After a round, you reset the board and go again. You typically play either best out of 3 or best out of 5.

giant dragon from Flash Duel
The Dragon is pretty awesome
The first thing that I like about Flash Duel is that it has a lot of different modes that you can play. Ultimately, though, don't expect the game to play too differently in any of the modes - they are all the same core game, and I see them more as variants that allow you to play the game with anywhere from 1-5 players (instead of it being a strictly 2-player game). I personally like the Dragon scenario the best. In it, one player takes the Dragon character (who actually can take multiple hits - he must be in the heavyweight division), and all of the other players use standard characters. The Dragon is trying to knock out all of the other characters and they (other than trying to just not die) are trying to knock out the Dragon. (Seems like bribing him to leave you alone would be easier... but then again, didn't your parents teach you that you need to stand up to bullies?)

Another thing that I like about Flash Duel is that there are 20 different characters that you can use - each with his own abilities. Even more than this, there is also a "Clockwork" mode in which you can select powers from several different characters. This allows you some variability between games so that you don't feel like you're doing the exact same thing every time. However, the game will primarily still come down to whoever makes the best use of the cards they draw.

Finally, Flash Duel just "flows" well as a game. It is pretty smooth and intuitive. It doesn't take a long time to setup, and can be played with just about anybody. In this way, it's the epitome of what a "filler" game should be - a nice way of spending time while waiting until a longer game starts.

an interesting card from the Flash Duel game
One of the more interesting abilities
My first con with Flash Duel is that the characters don't seem well balanced. Yes, you could argue this with me, and tell me about how each character is best in certain situations. That's fine, but from the games I have played, there seem to be some characters that have much more useful abilities than others (after all abilities like, "Draw until you have 6 cards total" after retreating from a dashing strike isn't especially helpful, since you would have drawn up to 5 cards on your turn anyway.) Fortunately, if you get too frustrated by this, you can simply play the Clockwork mode instead of the standard fighting mode, and you can select the abilities you want to use.

My only other real complaint with the game is that it seems to cost too much for what it is. I recently have thought this about a different game because of the limited number of components. That is definitely not the case with Flash Duel. I feel like the number and quality of components that you receive for the list price of $35 is just fine. However, the game takes 5 minutes to play. The box claims 15 minutes, but I'm guessing that is a best out of 5 scenario, or includes setup time. (Including reading the rules?) To me $35 just seems a bit too high for a 5 minute game.

Overall, I give Flash Duel a 7.5/10. I think that it is a fine game, and I definitely understand why people enjoy it, but I think that for $35, I'd be disappointed with just how brief the game is. (Though I guess "Flash Duel" is an appropriate name for it!)

If you like fighting games, you might also check out Yomi, BattleCON, or Jab.

I would like to thank Sirlin Games for providing me with a review copy of Flash Duel via Game Salute.

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