The Card Game

  • Two PlayerTwo Player
  • Standard DeckStandard Deck
  • 25 Minute Games25 Minute Games
6 Card 7 Card 8 Card
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Duel 52 is a strategic, balanced,
two-player card game in the spirit of Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering.

Discover powerful cards, devastating combos and desperate defences; all with a standard deck of cards.

Learn in 10 minutes, play anytime, anywhere!

How to play

  • Duel 52 is a game of board control and tempo. The board is divided into three opposing lanes, where both players fight for control.
  • Players take turns drawing cards, playing cards into lanes, using powers and attacking the opponents board.
  • The game ends when a player wins two lanes. A lane is won by killing all opposing cards in that lane.

Setup

  • Deck

    Begin with a standard 52 card deck, remove jokers.

  • Deck

    Deal one card face-down in each lane for each player (six cards total). These are your Base cards.

  • Deck

    Deal five cards to each player’s hand.

  • Deck

    Remove ten cards from the draw pile and set them aside, these will not be used this game.

3 lanes

  • Cards are played from your hand into a lane, and must remain in that lane until the lane is won, or the card is killed.
  • Cards may only attack cards in the same lane.
  • Each lane begins with a Base card, dealt face-down and not revealed to either player.
  • Base cards can be only activated or attacked when the draw pile is empty. They serve as your last line of defence.
  • A lane is won when you have killed all of your opponent’s cards in that lane. Win two lanes to win!

3 actions per turn

Play a card

Play a card

Played face-down (inactive). May be attacked and killed but cannot attack.

Flip a card

Flip a card

Activates card power. Can now attack (for one action).

Attack

Attack

Deal one damage to any opposing card in lane.

Pair

Pair

Create a pair. See below.

Any combination of actions is allowed.
For example: Play > Flip > Attack, or Attack > Attack > Attack.
You must use all your actions.

On the very first turn of the game, the first player has just two actions. You may look at your own played cards at any time for free.

AttackAttack & Damage

Undamaged Damaged Killed
  • Cards have two hit points.
  • Cards deal one damage.
  • Each card may only attack once per turn.
  • When a card is damaged, turn it sideways. Damaged cards may still attack and passives still apply.
  • If a card is damaged when face-down, it remains damaged when flipped.
  • When a card has taken two damage, it is killed and discarded (removed from game).
  • If killed face-down, card powers do not activate, and the card is not revealed. The discard pile will be a mix of face-up and face-down cards.

Draw a card each turn

Pair

At the start of your turn, draw one card from the shared draw pile.

Once the draw pile is empty, no more cards may be drawn by any means.

When the draw pile is empty, Base cards become normal cards (but they cannot be looked at before being flipped)!

Card Powers

Card powers override general game rules

Suits

Card powers are the same across all suits

On Flip
“The Recruiter”

Add a card to your hand from the draw pile, then discard any card from your hand into the discard pile. The drawn card may be played if an action is available. If draw pile is empty, does nothing.

Strategy

Gives you more card options, which is important in the early game. Weak in the endgame when the draw pile is empty.

When Killed
“It’s a trap!”

When your opponent kills a face-down 3, instead of being discarded, it flips and is now a normal live card with 2 hit points.

Strategy

Huge payoff if your opponent spends two actions killing it, plus it’s ready to attack on your turn. Sometimes awkward as you don’t want to flip it yourself. Can swing a contested lane. Fun to bluff!

On Flip
“Information is power”

Look at any face-down card on the board. If you look at a Base card, do not show it to your opponent.

Strategy

Short term; look at an opponent’s board card to shutdown their strategy - kill the King before he activates! Long term; look at a Base card to decide where to play. Also counters a 3!

On Flip
“A call to arms”

Flip all face-down cards in its lane. Flipped card powers activate in the order that you choose, and they can attack if actions are available. If draw pile is empty, will also flip base card.

Strategy

Potentially a huge tempo gain when flipping multiple cards - two or more free flips can outright win a lane. Careful not to overcommit though (and lose the other two lanes)!

On Flip
“The Frost Mage”

All cards in opposing lane are frozen for one turn, they may not attack or flip themselves. They may still be flipped by a 5, healed by a 7, moved by a Queen or activated by a King. Cannot freeze a 9. New cards may be played into the lane.

Strategy

Very powerful in a contested lane, a 6 can buy you time to reinforce and swing the balance in your favour. Weak in the early game.

On Flip
“The Life Mage”

Heals all your damaged cards, in all lanes, face-down and face-up. Heals a Jack to full. Does nothing if there are no damaged cards.

Strategy

One of the few cards that can affect other lanes, a 7 is situationally very strong, gaining multiple tempo and saving your cards. Jacks (which have three hit points) love them!

Passive
“The Spiked Soldier”

Any card that attacks an 8 will take one damage (except a 9).

Strategy

Difficult to deal with, an 8 is a persistent strong card - like all cards with passive powers. It does nothing when flipped, but has a huge impact on the fight for board control.

When paired

Both 8’s take damage separately, dealing one damage to each attacker. Like all pairs, they deal two damage for one action to a single card. When attacked by a pair, an 8 damages both cards in the pair.

Passive
“The Elusive”

Cannot be frozen by a 6. Doesn’t take damage when attacking an 8. Cannot be damaged by a 10’s cleave (can still be attacked, but only alone). Deals two damage to a Jack.

Strategy

Situationally strong against cards with passives, a 9 is almost always useful, especially as a Jack killer.

When paired

All powers still apply. A pair of 9’s cannot be frozen, can kill an 8 without taking damage, may only be hit once by a 10, and can deal three damage to a Jack.

Passive
“The Brawler”

When attacking, deals one damage each to two cards in the opposing lane. The cards do not have to be next to each other. Cannot damage past a Jack, cannot damage a 9 and another card (can still choose to damage one of them).

Strategy

A dominating lane presence, a 10 is capable of smashing through a lane if left alive. Slow but very deadly, getting more than one attack in with a 10 will often win a lane outright. Can kill two damaged cards when played from your hand!

When paired

A pair of 10’s deals two damage to the first card, and one damage to the second card (not two damage to two cards). That’s still three damage for one action, but sometimes it’s stronger not to pair them!

Passive
“The Protector”

A Jack must be killed before other cards can be attacked. Place him at the front of the lane to remind your opponent. He has three hit points; turn 45 degrees for first damage, 90 degrees for second damage.

Strategy

Three hit points make the Jack stay on board, protect other valuable cards, and win lanes. Your opponent must spend their entire turn to kill him, assuming they have three face-up cards. It counters a 10, but is countered by a 9. Healing a Jack with a 7 is fantastic value.

When paired

Both Jacks take damage individually. If your opponent pairs Jacks, probably best to abandon that lane and win the other two, as they’ve likely overcommitted!

On Flip
“To my side!”

May move an ally card from another lane to her lane, face-down or face-up. The moved card does not reactivate powers but retains passives. It may attack if an action is available. If the draw pile is empty, she may move a Base card.

Strategy

The ultimate endgame swing card, a Queen can bring a card from a won or abandoned lane to a contested lane. She loves cards with passives; the 8, 9, 10, and Jack.

On Flip
“Inspiring Leader”

All your face-up cards in lane reactivate their powers. Does not affect other Kings. Does not affect cards with passive powers. You may choose the order of activations.

Strategy

Empower affects the 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, Queen, and Ace. Playing a King at the right time is lane winning. His existence makes players prioritize the cards they kill, as the value of freezing the lane again, or healing again, or multiple activations is enormous.

On Flip
“The Assassin”

When flipped, gain one action. You may use this action however you like. On its first turn, an Ace may attack twice. When Kinged, gain one action, and may attack twice.

Strategy

The Ace is the only card that can deal two damage from your hand. Play > Flip (+1 action) > Attack > Attack. This is integral to winning. It’s also flexible, the action can be used for anything. Combining an Ace with a King is insanely strong.

Powers Summary
Powers Summary

Variants

Variant 16

Quick Game: 15 minutes

Remove sixteen cards from the deck during setup.

Variant 0

Long Game: 40 minutes

Do not remove any cards from the deck during setup.

Player Variants

Single player / Three player / Four Player variations

See the full Downloadable Instructions for these rulesets.

About the creators

Judd and Nina

Duel 52 was created by Judd Madden and Nina Riddell on our honeymoon in 2017. It has been through countless iterations and balance changes since then. We are sharing it with the world as a free game you can play anywhere with a standard deck of cards. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!