#727 – Durian

Base price: $24.
2 – 7 players.
Play time: 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 5 

Been waiting to play this one for quite a while. I think I ordered some games from Japan back in … June? August? October? Time is a flat circle and in the same way, none of it is memorable. Anyways, I digress. I’m always trying to stay ahead of the latest Oink Games titles, and after the most recent Kickstarter, I’ve got a bunch that I’m going to get to look forward to, as well! Might as well clear out the current queue, right? Due to an unfortunate “reading comprehension error”, I only got Durian and Rights, and forgot to get Insider Black. That’s a later problem for later Eric. We’ll deal with it. In the meantime, Durian is here, so, might as well play it, right?

In Durian, you’re in charge of running the up-and-coming jungle fruit shop. Unfortunately, you’re kind of high-key lazy, and you’re maybe not paying as much attention as you should to the orders you’re taking? You know it’s going to make the manager mad if he finds out, but you’re pretty sure you can shift the blame on whoever took the latest order, provided it’s bad. Just make sure you don’t call the manager unnecessarily; that will make him mad, too! You’ve got to project confidence if you want to commit just a smidge of retail fraud. Will your bluffs pass by unnoticed, or will they just end up stinking?

Contents

Setup

Not a ton to set up. Shuffle the Inventory Cards:

Place the card holders such that you can place a card in front of each player, facing the other players. Do not look at the card in front of you!

Stack the Angry Manager Tokens in order nearby, with 1 on top and 7 on bottom.

Place the Order Board in the center:

You should place the bell nearby:

You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

A game of Durian takes place over several rounds, as players work to make sales in the jungle fruit store that they may or may not have the inventory to support. If the manager is called, a player will take a numbered Angry Manager Token, and once any player has more than 7 points’ worth, they lose and the game ends!

Each player, on their turn, may choose to take an order or ring the bell.

Take an Order

To take an order, draw a card from the top of the deck. If it’s a Gorilla Sibling, choose an order below the Order Board and flip it face-down, placing the Gorilla Sibling next to it. Otherwise, the card is double-sided with two sets of fruits on it. Choose one side and place it such that the side you’d like to keep is below the green checkmark side of the Order Board. That side is considered part of the orders to be fulfilled; the other side of the card is ignored.

Once you’ve done so, the player to the left becomes the new active player, and takes their turn.

Ring the Bell

If you suspect that the orders are now invalid, instead of adding another, you may ring the bell to summon the manager. When you do, all players reveal their cards. Total the inventory on your Inventory Cards and see how that compares to the orders below the Order Board (also, apply any effects from Gorilla Sibling Cards in your Inventory). If your orders exceed your inventory, the Manager is furious! Give the top Angry Manager token to the player whose turn it was previously; they should have known better. If you have enough Inventory to match your orders (or more Inventory than orders), the Manager is furious! Take an Angry Manager token yourself. You should have known better than to call the manager for no reason.

Either way, the round ends, so shuffle all the cards back into a stack, give each player a new one for their Inventory, and start a new round! The player to the left of the player who received the Angry Manager token starts the next round.

End of Game

After 7 points’ worth of Angry Manager Tokens have been taken by any one player, the game ends. The player with the fewest Angry Manager points wins!

Player Count Differences

My major gripe with Durian is that there’s not much to do when it’s not your turn beyond scheming, since only the Active Player can ring the manager-summoning bell. So even if you see that the game is in an invalid state, you can’t call the player on it (plus, shouting that out would be against the spirit of the game, so, shhhh). This means that I will almost always prefer this game at lower player counts, since there’s usually more to do between turns. Plus, at higher player counts, there needs to be a lot more cards played before you actually risk running out of inventory. That’s cool and all, but I do appreciate the fast pace of the shorter rounds. I also like that at two, there’s still a third dummy player in the game that both players can see, but they don’t make any calls. That can make the rounds pretty interesting, since your opponent might be straight-up bluffing right out of the gate. It becomes a more cerebral game at lower player counts, since you don’t have additional information to corroborate their potential lies. I like that kind of thing. It’s part of why I like Cake Duel and other games like it so much, and it’s definitely a reason why this one is sticking around. I think I’d still probably enjoy it at slightly higher player counts, but Oink has enough good games for 6+ players that I’m content sticking to 2 – 4 players for Durian.

Strategy

  • Exude confidence. You really just need to believe that the card you play is valid, otherwise you risk your opponent calling your bluff. That said, sometimes, it’s worth being less confident to try and draw your opponent into calling you on a fake bluff. Bluffing, counter bluffing, double bluffing, triple bluffing; it’s a veritable bluffet of options! Most of this sentence was for that pun. I usually say for these kinds of games that it’s not critical that you’re right; you just need to believe that you’re right. If you can do that, regardless of the actual truth, your opponents aren’t going to call you on it.
  • If a player is holding the card that cancels 3s, you can play some 3s but don’t play so many that you tip them off. It’s tempting to play a bunch and potentially get them to call you on it, but many players will assume that if they can’t see all the 3s being played that they must have the Gorilla Sibling that cancels the 3s. If you give them that information, then they effectively have perfect information within the game, making their position much stronger.
  • Try to play inconsistently; it makes your bluffs harder to read. This is my best advice for most bluff-heavy games; if you can successfully play in a way that’s hard to predict, then you have the advantage of players not being able to draw parallels between your previous actions and your current ones. That might be exactly what you need to slide under the radar and escape without getting called out. One thing I like to do is to vary how long it takes me to decide which side of the card I play on my turn. Sometimes I “think about it” for a bit longer, sometimes I don’t, and that usually has nothing to do with what’s on the card. Though, now that I’m telling y’all this, I do need to change up my strategy for next time…
  • You don’t have to fool everyone; you just need to fool the player whose turn is next. If you can get through your turn without alerting the next player and they play, you’re free of the burden. That can really switch things up for you! Hopefully the player after them calls them out and then you’re off the hook no matter what!
  • Keep in mind that the penalty for bluffing and getting called on it increases over the course of the game, allowing you to potentially metagame your way out of getting called. Players may doubt that you’re going to bluff if bluffing will cost you the game, so it may be worth bluffing and seeing if you can trick them into accepting it. Just keep in mind that they may be aware that you’re aware of this and it might become a circular snarl of bluffing and whatnot.
  • Similarly, while the first few rounds don’t matter that much in terms of score, you may still lose the game as a result of gaining Angry Manager points, so don’t play too fast and loose. Your goal is still to not gain points, especially because the player with the fewest points wins. Getting the most means you end the game and definitely lose, but having any number but the least means you still don’t win. Don’t play so hastily in the first rounds that you end up getting saddled with some early-game losses.
  • Keep an eye out for logical contradictions! You may not know what is on your card, but your opponents do. They can’t see their own, so it’s possible that they both are bluffing something that they will try to imply is on your card but can’t be (2 Bananas + 2 Durians, for instance, since one side of the card always has 1 fruit on it). If that happens, it’s time to bring in the Manager.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Love the theme. How can you not be excited about running the nicest fruit store in the jungle? It’s very much the dream and very precisely on-brand for Oink. I continually love how inventive they are with their theme choices, and I love how those translate to their games. It’s continually successful, and I can’t wait for the other five I ordered from their latest Kickstarter. Just super hyped.
  • It’s really the right amount of bluffing. I don’t love games where you have to directly engage other players in debate, honestly. It’s just not my favorite way to play those types of games. Games where you have to lie about what you’ve seen; those are more fun to me. It’s part of why I like Cake Duel and other, similar titles so much. Durian does a great job of balancing incomplete information against bluffing, and I’m into that.
  • I really like how the three sibling cards can really change up the game. They’re fun enough if you draw them on your turn, but having them in the Inventory can really shake up a round. It’s kind of hilarious, even when you don’t know you have it, because it messes up your planning pretty aggressively. I like that! It’s nice in the sense that there aren’t too many, and yet there are enough that you’re never quite sure what’s happening.
  • It plays so quickly. Each round is rapid. Especially at lower player counts, you’re likely not getting past Round 4 or 5 without a winner being determined, and then you go at it again! Big fan of that.
  • As with all Oinks, it’s extremely portable. I still think, one day, I will have Oink Day or something and just play them all in a day because I can fit all 20+ that I own in a bag. They kind of fit in a Quiver, too, so I’ll certainly be taking a few with me next time I can travel.
  • For some reason I’m a big fan of green box covers? I don’t know why that’s a thing for me, but it’s rapidly becoming a thing for me. Maybe I’ll burn out at some point, switch back to black or blue? Maybe purple? Not sure. I particularly like the neon pink contrast of the gorilla face on the box cover; it just all looks really good.
  • I like that the consequences of failure increase as the rounds progress. That’s just fun and exciting to me, and it gives new players some room to stretch before people start getting thrashed. That’s the dream, anyways.
  • I also like that you’re on the hook for all your opponents’ bluffs, should you choose to play a card. It’s a lot like Illusion, from Pandasaurus. In that, you’re trying to determine what percentage of the image is what color and order them. If you play correctly but a previous opponent made an invalid play, you can still be called on it. And that’s fascinating. For Durian, it doesn’t matter if you’re right; it matters if everything is valid.
  • And the simple choice of which side of the card to play is also interesting. I like it! It’s a simple choice that doesn’t force the player to think that much, but the mere act of thinking can be part of your bluff (or not!). It’s a nice way to introduce a little complication.
  • I love the bell. I just love bells in games. I know; I’m a menace. I can’t help it. It’s just fun to ring things.

Mehs

  • My friends hate games with bells, but this is more of a problem with my friends than a problem with the game. We tried Captain Dice and they hated the bell. Flapjack Flipout got some flak for having a bell. I love bells. I just can … see this irritating people at a convention, and, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Cons

  • I worry that the game can be a bit unsatisfying at higher player counts, as you won’t be able to take that many turns. The fix for this is that even though you take fewer turns you’re less at risk of losing, since, there are more players placing cards between your turns. This means that you’re less at risk of getting called because you take fewer turns, so as long as you can place a good card on your turn, you might actually only take a turn or two before someone rings the bell. If you can do that enough, you’ll finish the game with 0 points and win, but that doesn’t feel exactly satisfying, in my opinion. I’d rather have the increased interaction that you get at lower player counts.

Overall: 8.5 / 10

Overall, I think Durian is a blast! One of the stronger Oinks I’ve played, which is always good to find out. I particularly like that this one is another of Oink’s wilder-themed games, and it boasts strong art / graphic design, a great color scheme, and a clever use of bluffing to help it stand out within their large (but still tiny) library. I’m a sucker for Oink titles, and it’s a known fact, so I’ve been trying to do a good job separating my favorites from the rest of the pack. I would say with certainty that Durian is one of my favorites out of the titles. I think, for two-player bluffing games, very few things are going to beat Cake Duel, but I think in the lower half of the player count spectrum for this game (4-) it still shines pretty brightly. For one, how many games have bells? Not enough. They’re fun to ring, they annoy your opponents; they do it all. I think that games that give every player partially complete information tend to appeal to the logical part of my brain (except for Hanabi, but I blame other people I used to play Hanabi with for ruining Hanabi for me). They present an interesting puzzle to eke out, especially when you’re trying to figure out what your opponents know and don’t know about their hands and your hand. Once you figure out what you can, you can potentially bait your opponents into a mistake, and that’s where the game gets interesting. If you aren’t sure that a player made a valid play, you now have to weigh whether or not they knew the play was invalid, or if it’s actually valid, or neither! It makes for a fun, quick game. And that’s kind of the core Oink experience, right? Fun, quick games with great themes and bright colors. Durian delivers on that promise quite successfully, in my opinion, and if you’re down for a bit of bluffing, a bit of hidden information, or you just really want to ring that bell, I’d recommend checking Durian out!


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