The Duke

The Duke: A Guide to Rules, Strategy & How to Win Tips


The Duke is a game I stumbled upon a few years back, and it quickly became one of my favorites for a few reasons. It’s a two-player, abstract strategy game that’s kind of like chess but with a twist. Each piece, or ’tile’, has its own way of moving, but unlike chess, the pieces flip after each move, revealing a different set of movement options. This makes the game really dynamic and keeps you on your toes. The goal is simple: capture your opponent’s Duke.

The game was created by Jeremy Holcomb and Stephen McLaughlin and first hit the shelves in 2013. Since then, it’s gained a loyal following. It’s not just the unique gameplay that hooks people, but also the high-quality, wooden tiles that give it a classic feel. The game has a medieval theme, which is pretty cool, and it’s not too hard to learn, making it great for both casual and serious gamers.

Quick Tip for The Duke

Always think two moves ahead and remember that your tile will flip after you move it. This can open up new options or leave you vulnerable.

Rules for playing The Duke

Understanding the rules of The Duke is key to enjoying the game. Each player starts with a small set of tiles: the Duke and two Footmen. The rest of your forces are off-board at the start. On your turn, you can either move a tile on the board, following its current movement pattern, or draw a new tile from your bag and place it next to your Duke.

Movement patterns are printed on the tiles themselves, which show how a tile can move or attack. Some tiles have a strike symbol, meaning they can take out an opponent’s tile without moving. After you move a tile, you flip it over, revealing a new movement pattern for the next turn.

If your Duke is ever in a position where it could be captured on your opponent’s next turn, it’s in ‘check’. If you can’t move the Duke or another tile to block or capture the threatening piece, it’s ‘checkmate’, and you lose. There’s also a way to end the game by surrounding your opponent’s Duke on all four sides, which is called ‘The Duke’s Fate’.

Equipment and Setup for The Duke

To play The Duke, you need the game set, which includes a set of wooden tiles for each player and a cloth playing mat with a 6×6 grid. Each player has a bag with their tiles, which are drawn randomly during the game. You can make your own version with some DIY skills, using cardboard for tiles and drawing your own grid.

There are different types of tiles, like the Duke, Footmen, Knights, and Archers, each with unique movement patterns. To set up, each player places their Duke on their side of the board in the center, with a Footman on either side.

How to Play The Duke and Game Mechanics

  1. Key Game Mechanics: Players alternate turns, either moving a tile on the board or drawing and placing a new tile.
  2. Setup: Place the Duke and two Footmen on the board as described above.
  3. Gameplay: Move tiles according to their patterns, flip them after moving, and try to capture your opponent’s Duke.
  4. End of the Game: Win by capturing the Duke or achieving The Duke’s Fate.

How to Win at The Duke

Winning at The Duke requires a mix of strategy and adaptability. Beginners should focus on understanding how each tile moves and using their Footmen effectively. Intermediate players can start to plan ahead, thinking about how tiles will move after flipping. Advanced players will anticipate their opponent’s moves and control the board.

Best Strategies for playing The Duke board game

One of the best strategies, like a lot of two player Chess-ish games, is to control the center of the board. This gives you more flexibility and can limit your opponent’s options. Also, try to keep your Duke protected while still keeping it active in the game. It’s a powerful piece that can turn the tide if used correctly. Sneaky tactics include setting traps with your tiles’ flip movements and using lesser-known tiles to surprise your opponent.

It’s also crucial to be familiar with each piece’s movement and abilities, as well as their flipped sides, which come into play after each move. Balancing the use of footmen for defense and higher-value pieces for attack can give you an edge. Always anticipate your opponent’s moves and be ready to adapt; flexibility is key.

Utilize the unique “draw and place” mechanic to your advantage by introducing new pieces that can create immediate threats or fortify your position. Remember to maintain a mix of aggression and caution, as overextending can lead to vulnerabilities that your opponent can exploit.


Good scenarios include having a strong board presence and multiple options for your next move. Bad scenarios might be having your Duke in check or losing key tiles early. Turn these around by being creative with your tile movements and always looking for ways to flip the script on your opponent.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing The Duke game

  1. Q: Can I move my Duke on the first turn? A: Yes, you can move any tile on the board during your turn, including the Duke.
  2. Q: What happens if I run out of tiles in my bag? A: You continue playing with the tiles on the board; you can’t draw anymore.
  3. Q: Can tiles move off the board and back on? A: No, tiles must stay within the bounds of the board.

Additional Tips and Tactics

Remember to use your tiles’ unique abilities to your advantage. For example, the Archer can attack from a distance, so use it to pressure your opponent while keeping it safe. Also, don’t forget about The Duke’s Fate; sometimes it’s easier to win by surrounding your opponent’s Duke than by capturing it.

For more information on The Duke, check out the publisher’s official page for rules and updates: Catalyst Game Labs – The Duke.