What's Eric Playing? #157: Tesla vs. Edison: Duel
Full disclosure: A review copy of Tesla vs. Edison: Duel was provided by Artana Games.
As previously mentioned, I’ll be covering a BUNCH of games before the year ends, maybe followed by some well-earned vacation, who knows. You should expect a Year in Review post from me in the next couple weeks, as well, which is exciting.
Anyways, one such game to review is Tesla vs. Edison: Duel, taking place during the fabled War of Currents, in which Tesla and Edison fought for control of the nation … ‘s electricity. I think an elephant died; it was a whole thing. Anyways, take your place as a leading inventor and take control of the country! If you can.
Setup is somewhat minimal. You’ll want to set out the PR track:
Choose a player to go first. They’ll pick either AC (yellow) or DC (blue). Place their token on the 2 and place the other player’s token on the 0.
Place the three region cards next to each other (New England -> New York -> Out West) between the two players:
Set out the 40 Minor Stock Shares near the PR board:
So each player will now pick Inventors. There are 4 AC and 4 DC Inventors, so give those to the AC and DC players. Each player picks one and returns the others to the box:
Yeah, even though it’s Tesla vs. Edison you do not have to play as Tesla or Edison, which is nice. Give each player the stocks corresponding to their Inventor and have them place one stock below the region card corresponding to their Inventor. Keep the other four stocks handy.
Now, the Monopoly Chips can be set aside:
Note that there are only 3; this is just a picture of both of their sides. Anyways, you should take the Technology Chips:
So the second player gets two of these: whichever one matches their Inventor’s stock and one of their choice. The first player gets whichever is left.
Shuffle the City cards and place three in a row where players can see them:
These are cities you can electrify to help cement your control of a region. There are also Assistants, famous people who will help you along the way:
Shuffle those up. Once you’ve done all that, you’re ready to start! Have each player put one of their Inventor’s reserved stock in its region and you’re all set up!
Tesla vs. Edison: Duel is played over three rounds, with the ultimate winner being the player who controls the most regions. This tug-of-war style game can also be won instantly at the end of any round in which one player has completed their Inventor’s Goal.
Either way, the game progresses like so:
- Draft Assistants
- Take Assistant and Free Actions
- Check Inventor’s Goals
- Award Region Bonuses
I’ll discuss each in turn.
So, with the Assistants, you can play them on your turn to take certain actions (which I’ll discuss in the next section). If you’ve never played before the game suggests to deal randomly, which is fine, but I feel the game is much better if you draft the Assistants either way.
If you’ve never drafted before, drafting is simple: you take one of the three cards, and pass the remaining two to your opponent. They each take one of the remaining cards, and pass the last one back to their opponent, who keeps that one. Now you have a full hand of three cards and are ready for the next phase.
TAKE ASSISTANT AND FREE ACTIONS
So there are 5 kinds of Assistant Actions that you can take, and you’ll each play in turn order (meaning you play one card and then your opponent plays a card and so on) until you’re both out of cards. These 5 actions are:
- Electrify City / Refresh Electrifiable Cities: You may take a City card and place it below the same-color region on your side. This counts as two “points” of control for that region. If there’s a “NO AC” chip on the region, an AC player may not electrify a city here, and the same goes for DC players and “NO DC” chips. As soon as you remove a City card, refill the empty space unless there are no more cards in the deck (somehow).If you don’t want to electrify any of the cities or if you start getting self-conscious since Cleveland is considered “Out West”, you can instead use this action to clear all three City cards, place them on the bottom of the deck, and then draw three more.
- Acquire Stock: You may take a Minor Share of a company’s stock from the Market and place it in its associated Region on your side. Shares of stock are weird: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 shares of stock count for 1 / 3 / 6 / 8 / 9 points of control in a region. This is for each type of stock; if you have 1 Tesla and 3 Edison shares, you’d have 7 points of control in New York. Note that you must possess the Technology chip pictured on that card in order to take the stock. If you don’t, well, you can’t acquire this stock unless otherwise stated.
- Wage Propaganda: You gain a point on the PR track for each symbol of this type on the card. If you do this as a Free Action it’s worth a straight 2 PR, every time.Every time you hit (or pass) a multiple of 3 PR, you gain a Free Action (which can be used for any of these). Naturally, you may acquire (and use) multiple Free Actions in a turn, if you have them.
- Advance Technology: Take a Technology Chip from your opponent. Now they can’t buy stocks with that Technology, and you can.
- Monopolize Power: Take a “No AC” / “No DC” Chip and either place it on a region without one or flip one on a region that already has one. Naturally, don’t play this and then block yourself. This will prevent your opponent electrifying cities in this region.
There is also a second kind of action: Portfolio Actions, and you may take one of these each turn. These have to do with Stocks:
- Place a Share: You may place a share of your Investor’s stock in its associated Region. You do not need the Technology Chip pictured in order to do so.
- Sell a Share: You may remove any stock you control in exchange for a Free Action. If it’s a minor share, put it back in the Market. If it’s one of your shares, remove it from the game. It’s really good, but can only be used a few times.
CHECK INVENTOR’S GOALS
As you’ve probably noticed, every Inventor has a unique goal that they want to accomplish. At this point, if one player (and only one player) has accomplished their goal, they just … win. If zero or both players have accomplished their goals, keep going.
Do not do this at the end of Round 3.
Now, starting with New England, award Region bonuses to whichever player won that Region (whichever player has the most points of control; breaking ties with PR, and then Technology Chips):
- New England: Gain 3 PR. Immediately take a Free Action.
- New York: Immediately acquire any Stock of your choice and add it to your side of the board, even if you do not have the required technology.
- Out West: Immediately electrify a City of your choice, even in a region with a Monopoly Chip on it. Take that, Monopoly.
Note that these happen sequentially, so an enterprising player can leverage New England or New York’s reward to potentially take control of Out West.
Did you lose control of a Region? Never fear! There’s always the silver medal. For each region, after the leader in a Region takes their bonus, before awarding bonuses for the next region, the other player may take either an Advance Technology action or a Monopolize Power action. This way you can make the leader’s life a bit more difficult.
In Round 2, Player 2 goes first. In Round 3, Player 1 goes first, again.
If no player has outright won with their Inventor’s Goal at the end of the third round, check to see which player controls the most regions (do not award Region Bonuses). Whichever player controls more regions, wins!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
- Go for that New England. If you can take that, you’ll get 3 PR, which you can use to really surge ahead (see below). Even if you don’t use it for more PR, it’s a free action, which is nice.
- Keep an eye on the draft. Try to give your opponent cards that they can’t use, like Monopoly cards if you’re going mostly stocks or Technology cards if you’re hitting the cities. Naturally, you should try to balance taking what you want and leaving behind what you don’t, but that’s sort of the whole point of drafting, isn’t it?
- Don’t overlook the Portfolio Actions. You should always be placing your stock when you can (for the control), and then selling it off late-game for extra actions. Placing your stock early also lets you cement control over a region, which means that your opponent might not fight you for it.
- Westinghouse seems hard to win with. When I’ve played usually both players focus on one region and fight over the third one, which means that Westinghouse’s “get a little in each” is a bit hard to pull off. I suppose you could surprise an opponent, that way, but that seems tough to do.
- Don’t go too hard early on. If you were to win all three regions, your opponent should do the right thing and make your strategy really difficult. If you’re going stocks, take all your technologies. If you’re going cities, Monopolize Power across all three regions. Instead, focus on one region, maybe take another, and undo whatever they do to you with their Region Runner-Up Bonus.
- I would go for the lightbulbs or the transformers, as far as technologies go. The third one has the fewest stocks, is the major reason why.
- Watch your opponent’s Inventor. You need to make sure that they don’t achieve their goal. You need to strike a delicate balance between blocking their goals and advancing yours. If you fail in either regard, you’re going to lose the game.
- Doesn’t seem like it’s usually a good play to shuffle the cities. Reshuffling the City deck is a thing you could do, sure, but it’s really only useful if you know your opponent needs all three cities or if you absolutely do not. I would say it should only be done if absolutely necessary.
- Do a PR surge. If you’re at 1 or 2 PR, getting more PR will put you above the 3PR threshold, allowing you to gain 2 more PR, which will put you above the next 3PR threshold, and so on. You can use that to easily gain a LOT of PR in a turn, which might be the surprise surge that you need to take your Inventor’s Goal and win.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- I really like the graphic design. The color scheme is nice, the iconography is nice. The whole game has a very nice look and design to it, which I appreciate.
- Has a nice table presence. Part of that is the graphic design, but the other part is that you split the table with the row of Region cards, so it’s a very good game to play across from someone. It just looks very nice when it’s being played, which I always appreciate.
- I also really like that you don’t have to just play as Tesla or Edison. The Assistants also highlight diverse people of the era, which is absolutely superb. I’ll be honest; I was kind of worried when I saw it was Tesla vs. Edison, but I was pleasantly surprised that they have a lot more people you can play as.
- I assume it plays pretty quickly once you know the game. It seems like a much faster game than, say, 7 Wonders: Duel.
- It’s also not as mean as 7 Wonders: Duel. 7WD is a ton of hate-drafting, which can be a bit intense for new players. This is more of a tug-of-war game (closer to what 7WD does with military), and I find it much simpler.
- Tiny cards continue to make me sad. Thankfully I don’t need to shuffle them very much, as it’s just the City cards.
- Playing without drafting makes the game feel kind of random. It really makes your turns depend on what cards you’ve been dealt (as opposed to keeping 2 / 3 of those cards), which makes the game feel a bit more random. I prefer the strategic element of drafting (plus, you get to see your opponent’s cards, so you have a bit of a better idea of what to expect).
- Cards with just icons can make the game a bit difficult to learn. Players have to learn a new game, new rules, sometimes new interactions / mechanics, and need to learn the icons. That’s a fair amount of cognitive load to put on new players.
- Portfolio actions are kind of obtuse. I’ve played this game with a lot of new players, and it’s not the drafting that throws them off; it’s that the portfolio actions aren’t something that they think to do, so they’re effectively ceding control of a region to me because I tend to lead with my Inventor’s stock. Towards the end of the game, I’m selling it for extra actions and effectively taking double turns, which can be frustrating for them. It’d be nice if it were more prominent.
- The weird PR surging effect seems a bit wonky / abuseable. It’s possible to start at 2 PR, then gain 3 PR with a card, then use the free actions to keep surging PR up to 9 PR, essentially gaining 7 PR by playing a card. That’s … odd, especially when a lot of characters need to win by having 6 or more PR. That seems to give a nontrivial advantage to the first player, since they start with 2 PR. It’s one of the few things that I don’t really like, mechanically.
OVERALL: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Tesla vs. Edison: Duel is a great little game! It’s been a while since I’ve thought about 7 Wonders: Duel (long enough that I’d probably be within my rights to update that score a bit), but I think this is the more accessible of the two, as it’s a bit easier to learn and not nearly as mean, both of which are great avenues by which I can get it to the table. I’m not sold on the PR part of the game, but that’s a pretty minor complaint, all things considered. It’s got great art, a neat theme, I love the graphic design elements of the game, and it’s got a surprising amount of diversity (though I’d’ve loved to see more among the Assistants) given the time period. It’s a neat game and I’d recommend checking it out if you’re looking for another cool duel game!