Battle in Twenty Minutes or Less With ‘Major General: Duel of Time’

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Major General Game

Attention, soldier! You’ve found yourself in the middle of a time war. The good news is that you have history’s greatest generals on your side. The bad news? So does your opponent. No time to consider that though, into the fray! Major General: Duel of Time is a two-player game for those above the age of 10 and plays in about 15-20 minutes.

Major General: Duel of Time Components

In the box, you’ll find:

  • 8-card yellow command deck
  • 8-card red command deck
  • 10 Yellow cubes
  • 10 Red cubes
  • 10 White cubes
  • A terrain board
  • 5 Scenario cards
  • 2 Reference cards

The command decks and reference cards are all the same size, roughly about the same dimensions as two normal sized playing cards sitting next to each other. On their backs is artwork to designate which cards are for the yellow player and which for the red. The yellow backs feature a wooden fortress with a yellow flag, the cards’ borders tinged in yellow. On the red cards, a stone castle displays a red flag; these cards have a reddish border.

The reference cards are the same on their business sides, describing each of the six moves a player can make. The command cards are the same between players, right down to the artwork, with each of their eight cards being a combination of the six different actions. Each command card is divided in half, one half that features a command for the player who played the card, the other rotated 180º so that it is a command for the other player. In addition, the cards feature one of the famous military leaders and a diagram of what the command will do. In between the two sides is a trench that will match up with a trench on the terrain board. The leaders in the game are caricatures of Napoleon, Genghis Kahn, a four-star American general (Patton, maybe?), a Confederate officer with a sword, George Washington, and a Roman dictator.

The terrain board is a unique trifold, 3.5 inches by 12 inches in size. At either end is the player’s base, as noted on their command cards. The spaces are ranked from 1 to 5, beginning at each’s base and five designated as the enemy’s base. There are four trenches between and in each section, there are soldiers battling, each group representative of the era of one of the leaders. There are also bomb craters here and there.

The scenario cards simply have an icon, a title, and some text describing special setup and gameplay rules when using each card. The cubes are just cubes.

Major General game setup
The game at setup. Note: Crease on board is our fault. We were overzealous in getting it to lay flat.

How do you play Major General: Duel of Time?

Setup

As with any good war game, players should opposite each other with the terrain board positioned lengthwise between them. Each player places three of their color’s cubes on their bases and the next space forward. On the middle, shared space, each player places two cubes. A player’s cubes not on the board are placed by their base, in supply. Next, a scenario is randomly drawn and read. Players make any changes to setup and then shuffle their command decks before drawing three cards. A starting player is chosen and then play begins.

Gameplay

Players take turns playing cards. Cards are played to the side of the terrain board and so that the trenches of the cards match with the trenches of the board. This guarantees that commands will be explicit to which area of the board they affect. Each time a card is played, one command will be played on the active player and another command on the opponent. As you play more cards, it is guaranteed that cards will begin to overlap each other, either by part or an entire card may be covered up. Once a card has been played, players must execute the command, even if it doesn’t help them.

Commands include:

  • Deploy — Place a unit (cube) from your supply on the area of the terrain board the deploy command is adjacent to. If you have no units in supply, you may ignore.
  • Push — You may push one or more of your units from the current space one space further toward your opponent’s base. After you have pushed into a new space, you may push one a unit that was already in the space ahead (prior to pushing) into the next, subsequent space. This can be one of your units or your opponent’s.
  • Charge — This command moves a single unit from your army one space ahead. When arriving in the new space, your unit must attack another unit. This can be your own unit or your opponent’s. The attacked unit is removed from the board and returned to the appropriate supply. If there are no units in the new space, the charging unit only moves forward, no attack occurs.
  • Sabotage — In the adjacent space, you must destroy a unit and return it to the appropriate supply. This may be friendly or the enemy. If there are no units in the space, nothing happens.
  • Move — Simply put, move one or more of your units forward one space.
  • Rally — Take one of your units from anywhere on the terrain board and place it in the space adjacent to this command.

After a player has played a command card and both players have resolved their commands, the active player draws a single card from their deck. Play continues until both players have played all their cards and resolved all the commands. Next, scoring happens. Each of the five areas of the terrain board is examined and whoever has the most units in a space is judged to have control. For each space you control, you receive points equal to the number on that space that’s in your army’s color. Ties are not considered. Check the scenario card to see if there are any bonuses to include. Most points wins.

Major General Endgame
The game draws near to a close. Who will win?

Why You Should Play Major General: Duel of Time

Another quick-playing game from APE Games, Major General: Duel of Time is a nice little skirmish-like affair. While we didn’t really get the sense of it being a duel involving time travel for any reason more than the artwork, we did enjoy this game. As it turned out, it surprised us in a good way. Major General: Duel of Time quickly becomes a puzzle as to which cards to play and, more importantly, when because I think nearly every game we played, each player ended up playing a card that hurt their position. The combination of commands dictates that tough decisions will have to be made and it’s better to make them early when you can still recover. On top of all that, you scratch your head over which card to play and in what orientation—because sometimes the card you really want to play to bolster your advance also helps your opponent. As you might guess, sometimes the opposite is true, too.

In both Dark Is the Night, which we reviewed earlier in the week, and Major General: Duel of Time, APE Games has a couple of tightly trimmed pocket games. In these two, there is no fat. Both can be wrapped in a small zipper bag and played on a small table over coffee or during lunch. Both play quickly and deliver very satisfying experiences for small games. You’ll almost always want another crack at each after winning (or losing) a game. And you can! Setup from a finished game can be completed in under 30 seconds and each often plays much faster than the estimated 20 minutes. Maybe people are chatting too much between turns instead of just fighting! Sometimes, we found ourselves playing without the scenario cards, just pushing each other back and forth and learned that is often as fun as the added challenge of the twist of the scenario cards.

Then again, Major General affords players some difficult thinking in how to play their cards. It becomes a bigger challenge as you try to remember which of the cards your opponent already played and which cards are still in their hand? It’s perfect information, you each have the same decks. Will you emerge victorious? Maybe. But who cares? Let’s just play again — and quickly!

Major General: Duel of Time is available now and retails for $15.00.

Command Cards from Major General

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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