Base price: $XX. Will update once I find out.
Play time: 10 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy … somehow. I’ll update if I can find something.
Logged plays: 10
Full disclosure: A review copy of Papering Duel was provided by Mandoo Games.
Super here for novel themes in games. There are so many! There’s gardening, beekeeping, graffiti, bus route management, ocean conservation, band road trip management, golf! in! space!, fantasy shoplifting, … I could go on. And I want to. But I won’t. Either way, I’m always excited to see a game that’s about something that I haven’t seen before, so I was super excited to check out Papering Duel, from Mandoo Games (who also did Fantasy Defense, a cooperative tower defense game I covered a while back).
In Papering Duel, you play as two roommates who can agree on one thing but not on another. You both agree you want wallpaper, but you cannot agree on the style. In this unenviable position, a major conflict begins to emerge. If you can’t resolve your preferences, well, you’ll just have to out-wallpaper your now-rival. Get ready to cover the walls; which style will win out?
Not much setup. There’s a Style Board; place it near the box bottom:
Give each player three tokens to track:
Place the game board inside the box bottom:
Give each player a set of tiles:
Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start!
So the game’s pretty low-rules, surprisingly. Think tic-tac-toe. On your first turn, both players play 1 non-Special (both squares are Orange, Red, or Purple) to the center but cannot cover up any of the colors / shapes of their opponent’s card. On your subsequent turns, you can play as many of your tiles as you want to make as many three-in-a-row sets as you want (purple, orange, red, dots, squares, stars). Once you do, draw as many cards as you made sets (but you may only have three cards in your hand). On your opponent’s turn, they must break up all your three-in-a-row sets. If they don’t or can’t, you win! There are a few game-end conditions:
- If you finish a turn with three three-in-a-row sets: You win!
- If your opponent cannot break up all your sets: You win!
- If you cannot make a three-in-a-row set on your turn: Your opponent wins!
- If you cannot cover a special tile on your turn: Your opponent wins!
Special tiles are a bit unique. They either have a diagonal or an orthogonal symbol on them (like the tiles each player plays) and they’re grey. They cannot count towards any three-in-a-row sets, but on your opponent’s turn they must cover that tile or they lose the game.
Play continues until one player wins!
Player Count Differences
None; it’s two-player. If you had three players you’d just vote and that wallpaper style would win; hooray democracy!
- I mean, look at your opponent’s hand. It’s open information, so, you can do that. Just don’t be a jerk about it or they are 100% within their rights to break out the timer that’s included with the game. If you can play a combo that your opponent can’t counter, you win! It’s as simple as that.
- If you don’t have much to do, play a Special Card in a corner or something. If you’re playing against the Diagonal Player, that forces them to also play in the center. If you’re not, it means that if you place one in the corner and one in the center, your opponent has to spend at least two cards covering you; even more if you have some three-in-a-row sets.
- If you can get your opponent down to one card, you’ve done pretty well. It’s tough to come back from that unless you can get a double set in one play (purple squares, orange dots, stuff like that). If you can’t, well, it’s easy to see what your playable options are.
- Try to make sets that match your opponent’s cards. They will often need to break yours up and make one of their own, so if you make purple squares and all of their cards are either purple or squares, they literally cannot break up your set and they lose. That’s a rough beat, but, I mean, that’s also how the game’s supposed to work.
- If you can make a double set, you can sometimes make the third set. Keep an eye out. Naturally, if you can make three sets, you win, so if you’ve got purple squares or something equivalent, try to get one more set so that you can edge out your competition.
- Your starting play is important. Don’t make it easy for your opponent to get their first set.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s a nice step up from its original inspiration, in terms of gameplay, theme, complexity, and art. This kind of does for tic-tac-toe that Santorini did for Connect Four, I guess? It really elevates a kinda-solved game to a level that’s very interesting and fun.
- I love the theme. Do people even still wallpaper? I genuinely don’t know because I’m going to be renting a home likely until I die, so it’s never really a decision I’m going to need to make. Also, it’s a cute theme and a fun thing for two people to fight over aggressively.
- The bright colors also make the game look great. I wouldn’t personally paper my walls any of these colors or patterns, but, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.
- The transparent cards are a nice touch. It’s, I mean, logical, for the game, but it does look nice, as well.
- Having the game sit inside the box bottom really helps with portability. It’s a smart bit of insert design and I highly approve of it. You could play it in a car, even, if it’s not too bumpy. There’s probably something you could have done with pegs to prevent the cards moving around, but I’m not industrious enough to be sure, to be honest.
- Plays pretty quickly. It’s a pretty light strategy game; somewhat faster than Santorini.
- I’m not convinced three sets of tokens in each color is necessary. If you can place three tokens, you win, so three is already too many, but also, why not just have a netural-color set and then move them to the requisite sets after each player’s turn? You have to break up their sets, anyways, so it shouldn’t … matter, that much. This is an aggressive nitpick, though, so, it’s not really impacting my enjoyment of the game anyways.
- I might suggest you re-draw if you start with more than one Special Card. If you have two, you must play your non-Special card to start, and if you’re going second, that gives the start player a huge advantage in knowing exactly what you’re going to play. It’s not a great gameplay experience.
- You’re definitely going to see some serious analysis paralysis. That’s just the nature of the beast for this kind of game. Thankfully, there aren’t that many cards in your hand (and your hand tends to dwindle in size), so, it should get a bit better as the game progresses.
- The cards do slide around a bit. It’s a tiny bit annoying during gameplay, but just be careful and you shouldn’t do too much damage to it.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, Papering Duel is a solid little puzzler! It is really sort of a tic-tac-toe+ that isn’t that weird one where you play tic-tac-toe on nine boards simultaneously, which I always thought was interesting but weird. Anyways, I’m a big fan of the direction they chose to go for the game, and I think they executed on it well. I mostly wish that the cards didn’t slide around as much (like I said, a center peg on each of the cards could solve that a bit, I think). Beyond that, it’s a quick, fast little strategy game that doesn’t take much to learn but adds in a nice bit of challenge for players. Add in the portability aspect and you’ve got a solid contender for an enjoyable game experience. I’d definitely recommend it, at least, for gameplay and theme. If you’re looking for a new spin on a classic game or you just love the idea of profoundly and aggressively disagreeing about wallpaper selections, Papering Duel might be a game for you to check out! I’ve had a lot of fun with it (10 plays doesn’t hurt).