Duel Of Swords

description by Frank J. Perricone (
original rules come from Q-Link's Red Dragon Inn, back in the day...

Duel of Swords is a simple game which simulates the art of fencing with only a few rules. (It doesn't really try to make the simulation accurate, so much as enjoyable, interesting, and strategically rich, similar to how chess simulates war.)  It is played by two people, plus a referee. It has no random element, and it's extremely simple to learn and play, but there's rich enough strategy that you can actually get good at it, and easily beat newcomers. Players can get to know one another's styles and try to outguess one another with varying degrees of success.

I don't know who originally created it -- I learned it in the Red Dragon Inn on Q-Link in 1988, where it was played via private messages in the chat room. Years later I found the matrix of results and wrote down the rules as well as I could remember them, so it's possible there's some drift between this version and others recorded by other people.

The rules are as follows:

  1. It is assumed that duelists are about equal in terms of strength, speed, agility, and training, so that the only factor left is strategics.  In this, it is somewhat like chess, which makes no attempt to model armies of different sizes or capacities.  It's also assumed that duelists fight fair and in fair circumstances.

  2. Each round, the two duelists declare, in private, one of ten moves (listed below) to the referee. Note: if a means exists for them to post their moves to one another while ensuring that neither can see the other's move before choosing their own, no referee is needed.

  3. The referee consults the Results Matrix below to determine the results. One player may hit the other, or gain an advantage over the other, or both may hit, or nothing may happen. The referee announces both moves and the result.

  4. If a player receives an advantage on two consecutive rounds, that player has hit, but no longer has the advantage.

  5. This process repeats until one player has scored five hits and the other has not, or for 15 rounds, whichever comes first. If both players score five hits on the same round, they continue until the tie is broken or 15 rounds. Players may agree beforehand to play to a different number of rounds or hits.

  6. The players should not be consulting the Results Matrix during play. However, they may consult the following descriptions of the moves:

  • Thrust: forward offensive strike; generally the most effective attack but often leaves the attacker exposed.
  • Slash: attack from the side which doesn't expose the duelist as much as a thrust. Less likely to hit, but more likely to lead to an advantage than a thrust.
  • Cut Low: cut towards the foe's legs. Hard to parry yet unlikely to score a hit; if both players use cut attacks the duel usually ends quickly and indecisively.
  • Cut High: like the cut low but to the head.
  • Lateral Parry: parry on a horizontal line. Gains an advantage against a slash but largely ineffective otherwise.
  • Circular Parry: parry in a whirling movement which throws aside an incoming thrust, leaving the foe exposed, but which is ineffective against other attacks.
  • Dodge: jump aside. An effective defense against most attacks, but rarely leads to an advantage on either side, so is used mainly to stall.
  • Disengage: step back while parrying, similar to the dodge but with effectiveness against a different set of attacks.
  • Feint: fake an attack in one direction, then switch to another. This works well when the foe parries in response.
  • Stop Hit: anticipating a thrust, the duelist bounces his sword off the foe's so as to both block the thrust and hit the foe. The only move to score a hit against a thrust, but leaves you vulnerable against most other moves.

The Matrix below shows the results of all attack combinations. Results can be:

  • A: player A scores a hit
  • B: player B scores a hit
  • a: player A scores an advantage
  • b: player B scores an advantage
  • X: both players score a hit
  • A blank space indicates no one scores anything
Results MatrixPlayer A
Thrust Slash Cut Low Cut High Lateral Parry Circular Parry Dodge Disengage Feint Stop Hit
Player B Thrust X B     B a   a B A
Slash A   b b a B a     B
Cut Low   a X X B b   a b B
Cut High   a X   b B a a b B
Lateral Parry A b A a         a b
Circular Parry b A a A         a b
Dodge   b   b         a  
Disengage b   b b         a  
Feint A   a a b b b b   a
Stop Hit B A A A a a     b  

(Note: it is possible to convert this game to Duel of Spells, or duel of just about anything, merely by finding equivalent names within some other milieu. For instance, Duel of Spells might use Lightning Bolt, Crushing Force, Drain Strength, Mind Blast, Force Shield, Energy Shield, Teleport, Dimension Shift, Mirror Image, and Lightning Rod.)

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