Jekyll vs Hyde
- Designer: Geon-il
- Publisher: Mandoo Games
- Players: 2
- Age: 14+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Played on a review copy provided by Mandoo Games
Jekyll vs Hyde was a game that I was excited to try when I learned about it. It belongs to one of the two genres that I am always excited to try but rarely satisfied after playing – that is the 2-player trick taking game (the other is soccer simulations, FWIW). In this game, each player takes on the role of one half of this famous duo, and each has a different way of achieving the goal of winning the game.
Dr Jekyll tries to protect his identity and keep his dual nature secret. Mr Hyde constantly attacks to try to discover this nature. This is represented by an identity board which sits on the table between the players. The marker starts on the Dr. Jekyll side, and as the game progresses, it will move down the track to the other side. If the marker completes the track at any point in the three rounds of the game, then Mr Hyde wins (as the identity of Jekyll is known). Otherwise, Dr Jekyll is the winner.
The unique deck of 25 cards has three suits (purple, red and green) with ranks from 1 to 7. There is a token for each of these three suits, and these tokens start each round next to the Identity board. There is a fourth suit, potions, which only has 4 cards, numbered 1+ to 4+. There is not a Potion token. The cards are shuffled, and cards are dealt (the start player is decided by which side of the board the Identity marker is found on at the time of the deal).
In each of the three rounds of the game, players are dealt a hand of 10 cards; the remaining 5 cards are simply not used this round. Players then exchange a number of cards facedown with each other – the number of which is equal to the round number. Note that if you have 2 or more Potion cards in your hand, at least one of your passed cards must be a Potion card.
Then the starting player leads the first trick. If the card is a colored card (red, purple or green), the opponent must play a same colored card OR a potion card if possible. If neither of those is possible, then the opponent can play any card. If the lead card is a Potion card, the leading player announces one of the three colors, and the other player MUST play this stated color if they have it. If they do not have that color, then they can play anything.
One other thing to watch as cards are being played is when cards of each color are played for the first time. There is a chart on the Identity board for the three colored markers. When a color is played for the first time, its corresponding marker is placed on the lowest available space on the Identity board – the lower the token’s location, the lower the relative rank when compared to the other colors. Thus, the first color to be played gets put in the lowest position, and it will be the lowest ranked color (for now). When the second color is played, its token is placed in the middle slot, and at that point, the remaining token can also be placed as it is automatically going to be the strongest color.
Once the two cards are played, the trick is complete and it must be resolved. There are three possibilities here.
If a potion is played, first resolve the special action of the potion (see below), and then the trick is won by the highest number. Note that the potions are 1+, 2+, 3+, 4+ so they are slightly higher than the same numbered cards of the three colored suits.
If the cards are of the same color, the highest rank wins.
If the cards are of different color, then the higher color wins, regardless of rank.
Whoever wins the trick takes both cards, stacks them together facedown near them in a way that it’s easily evident to see how many tricks they have collected to that point.
Potion powers are interesting, and they are decided by the color of the other card in the trick. The three color rank tokens helpfully have an iconic reminder of the actions. If both cards in a trick are Potions, they cancel each other out and no special effect happens at all.
- Red – remove all colored tokens from the board and reset the ranks based on how cards are played from this point forward
- Green – players secretly choose 2 cards from their hand and exchange them with each other
- Purple – the winner of the trick takes one previously won trick from their opponent
Continue playing tricks until all ten have been played. Then the round is over and the players mark the results. Dr Jekyll wants to keep balance, and his goal is to have each side win the same number of tricks. Mr. Hyde moves the identity marker one space towards him for the difference in tricks between the players. It does not matter which player won the most tricks, only the difference between the numbers; so if one player won 7 tricks, and the other won 3; the identity marker would move 4 spaces (7-3) towards Mr Hyde’s side.
Play for a total of three rounds. The game ends immediately if the Identity marker completes the 10 space track, and Mr Hyde will win. Otherwise, if this has not happened after the third scoring round, then Dr Jekyll wins.
My thoughts on the game
This 2-player trick taking game is cleverly done. I really like the way that the players must manipulate the cards not necessarily to win all the tricks they can, but rather to try to influence who wins the tricks. It is a fairly different way to approach the game, and I find that intriguing.
The rules of how to play to a trick and then how to resolve the trick give you a nice set of logical constraints to work with. You can usually get a pretty good idea on what is in your opponent’s hand based on previous plays (even though 5 cards remain the kitty for each deal), and then you can try to force him to play cards at particular times to further your needs.
The potions can be particularly powerful, but it’s neat how the color of the opponent’s card is what determines their action. This makes them much more powerful to be played second, when you know what they will do – but don’t underestimate their power when led; in that you can force your opponent to play a particular color if he has it, and this can often get you to the action that you want (As well as probably forcing the trick to go the way that you want). The rules for passing potions ensures that each player will have at least one potion so long as there are at least 3 in play. As it is fairly unlikely that a player will pass away a potion (though you never know for sure!) – if you get a potion in the pass, you can generally conclude that your opponent has at least one in his hand. If you each pass a potion, then you can likely conclude that they are split 2 and 2, and you’ll also know which ranks each has. Yes, I know not an ironclad guarantee because you could pass your only potion (to confuse your opponent)…
I find Dr. Jekyll’s job a little bit harder because he is striving for equality between the two players. This generally means that the lead has to go back and forth as ideally each player will win an equal number of tricks. However, this means that Dr. Jekyll loses control over the lead each time that Mr. Hyde wins a trick, and that makes it a little harder. On the flip side, if the cards work out, Mr. Hyde can take control of a hand and then win tricks successively, always maintaining control of the lead and possibly directing play a little more. Sure, the potions can throw a wrench into things as can the color ranks; but I have seen a few occasions where I was able to have a round go 8-2 or 9-1 because I was able to run out a hand.
The art is quite well done, though this is something which I now take for granted from Vincent Dutrait – as he is one of my favorite boardgame artists. There are very few of his games that I do not find visually stunning. My version of the game also includes a nice heavy metal Identity marker. Interestingly, this game does not yet have any American distribution, and that’s a shame as it is a really clever game that deserves a wider audience. You should be able to acquire it from Mandoo’s webshop, but I’m not sure how much shipping would be from Korea, and that might be a barrier to acquisition. For me, I’m glad to have access to a copy, and if I only had 2 players around, this is one of the best trick taking games for me (the other one right now being Fox and the Forest Duet). I do hope that Mandoo is able to find a US partner for this one.
Thoughts from the Other Opinionated Gamers
Patrick Brennan: It’s hard to do 2 player trick games well, but this takes a pretty good stab at it. In each of the three rounds, Hyde is playing to win as many or as few tricks as they can, and Jekyll is trying to get to a 5/5 split. What makes the game interesting is the colour hierarchy (ie which suit trumps which) being set by the order in which colours are first being led, which has huge consequences in the later tricks when players are being short suited, and the potion effects which allow card exchanges and tricks to be stolen, also with huge consequences – potion leads can be a gamble though as the beneficiary is who wins the potion trick. Anyway, it offers good things to think about and each role offers a different challenge.
Dan Blum: I think this does a very good job overall of making a working two-player trick-taking game. There have been some complaints that the game is tilted in Mr. Hyde’s favor. I suspect that it isn’t, and that it is simply easier to play Mr. Hyde at first, but if it is, or if you have trouble playing Dr. Jekyll, just use the variant in which two games are played and the player who does best as Mr. Hyde wins.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Steph Hodge
- I like it. Patrick Brennan, Dale Y, Rand Yelmel, Dan Blum
- Not for me…
I’d rather play Eck.
J&H would never win in our home over other 2p games we have, such as Everdell, Catan, Viticulture, or Rummikub.
Very balanced. Just needs time to learn the strategies.