Wednesday, May 13, 2009

#13: Duck Duck Bruce

Duck Duck Bruce
  • designer: Peter Neugebauer
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 1997
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2023/6.24
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $7.45 (Fairplay Games)
I want to tread really carefully here... because if you read this incorrectly, you're going to hear me accusing a famous game designer of plagarism. That is decidedly NOT what I'm trying to do. But it's important to note that Kleine Fische (the original version of Duck Duck Bruce published by Goldsieber) came out in 1997 and the remarkably similar Zirkus Flohcati by Reiner Knizia came out in 1998.

I think this is a case of parallel development... where two designers had similar ideas and created two different games with similar designs. No harm, no foul.

So, with Dr. Knizia's game ranked much higher on the Geek, why do I put Duck Duck Bruce on the Kid Games 100 instead?
  • While I love the flea circus art of Zirkus Flohcati, I think the bold & vibrant duck & dog pictures on the Duck Duck Bruce cards are much more compelling for kids.
  • The penalty for pushing your luck is smaller in Duck Duck Bruce... well, potentially smaller. You can "bust" and still possibly get some cards.
  • The scoring of Duck Duck Bruce is easier to explain to small kids - it's hard to get the concepts of Trios & Galas across.
  • I like the Bruce the Dog (dice) mechanic for stealing cards - it's a bit more random but does allow you to go after someone in the lead if you're willing to take a chance.

Maybe you've read this far & are thinking: "Thanks for all the comparisons, Mark, but I haven't played either game. A little help here, please."

No problem. Both games share a common mechanic: on your turn, you flip over cards from the deck until you either "bust" (get another card of the same suit) or stop & take your winnings. There are special action cards in both games that enable to get cards from other players - if you turn one over, you must take the special action. When the deck is exhausted, players in both games score the highest card of each suit they have.

The differences?

  • DDB is about ducks & the dog who chases them; ZF is about a flea circus
  • in DDB, your winnings include all the turned-up cards; in ZF, you pick one of the cards
  • if you "bust" in DDB, you only remove the matching cards & the cards between them; in ZF, a "bust" means you don't take a card
  • there are 3 special action cards in ZF: steal a card, ask for a gift card & keep placing cards until you have a match then take one of them; DDB has only Bruce the Dog that allows you to pick an opponent & roll the die to steal cards
  • there is only one kind of scoring in DDB; in ZF, you can also score for Trios (laying down 3 identical cards) and for a Gala (having 1 card of each of the suits in your hand - which also ends the game)
  • you play multiple hands of DDB & total your scores; you play one hand of ZF

Yes, I'm aware that the German rules & English rules for Zirkus Flohcati differ - if you haven't figured it out, I use the German name for a reason. (I don't like the English changes... you can see the differences here.

I think Duck Duck Bruce is a tad quicker & easier for kids to learn (my 4 year old can play if someone helps him figure his score). Not that I'm getting rid of my copy of Zirkus Flohcati, mind you - just that this is the better game for kids.


Jeff Myers said...

I have both games as well, and we play Duck Duck Bruce fairly often. Circus Flocati has been played a few times as well, but we take DDB out to dinner with us.

Make sure that when you play, you say OUT LOUD, "Duuuuuuck...duuuuck....duuuuck....BRUCE!" It makes it even more enjoyable.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

More enjoyable for whom? Certainly not your waiter. :-)