01/10/2022

Jekyll vs Hyde, a tuck-of-war between two personas [Review]

Despite being a hobby identified closely with social activities, we have to admit that not all gamers are extrovert enough to play in an environment with more than two people. There are, of course, several board games with variants developed for these audiences, but some publishers went extra miles to create those games that fit this requirement specifically. Jekyll vs. Hyde is one of them, competing with more than twenty-thousand entries in our beloved Board Game Geek list for the mano-a-mano style.

The tale between Jekyll and Hyde was a fruit of penmanship from a Scottish author. Robert Louis Stevenson depicted the struggle between two personalities within an individual, Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil personification, Edward Hyde. Taking this classic literature as an inspiration, Geonil recreates Jekyll’s brawl with his other persona, Hyde, by coupling it in a trick-taking card game for two players. 

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This statement will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

As always, I will only describe the gaming instruction briefly along with my opinion on-the-go. Here are some videos from its BGG entry if you need a more detailed tutorial. It doesn’t take long to grasp the whole concept from this trick-taking game for two players. 

Furthermore, we will not dwell much and long in the final production aspect. Jekyll vs Hyde contains all the elementary components to enjoy the game with your co-player. The only fancy thing you will find here is the metal statue which acts as your marker on the shared board, moving on the Identity track.

The inner struggle within

Playing Jekyll vs Hyde is pretty simple, should you be familiar with the trick-taking mechanic. The three coloured suits (Greed, Pride, and Wrath) come accompanied by a set of trump cards (Potion cards). When used, the winner triggers an additional effect, depending on the suit played in that trick. This mechanic can potentially help players to launch a surprise attack for the upcoming turns. I fancy the Greed effect because it enables me to exchange unfavourable cards with my opponent. Of course, how usable these effects are pretty much situational.

Things can shift unexpectedly amid the game. Both players can be caught off-guard even without any mistake made. That does not necessarily mean Jekyll vs Hyde is a game of luck, though. I would say, it is more tactical than you may expect.

I also appreciate the asymmetrical nature of the game. Both players have different goals, although I think Jekyll is walking on a thinner line here. In contrast to his will to stay sane by keeping the Identity tracker in balance, Hyde’s chaotic nature has a better chance to thrive. Jekyll’s player needs to balance between winning and losing the tricks.

Meanwhile, Hyde will try his best to tip this balance. The Identity marker will move to the Evil’s direction according to the difference between the win and loss. Surviving for three rounds is a labour of Hercules, poor Jekyll. 

Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, everything can happen during the game. Besides a nice starting hand, the way Jekyll utilizes his cards and timing them well can help him to stay away from insanity. I didn’t really expect that I could win as Jekyll often, though. My first thought was the game is quite favouring Hyde — turned out I was wrong. Jekyll could survive, provide that the player could adapt fast enough to nullify the difference, keeping him in equilibrium.

Hyde, on the other hand, needs only to make sure that the game goes into one direction: either he loses or wins as many times as possible. It’s essential for him to have either the most small or big cards in hands. Unlike Jekyll’s effort to stay in the gray zone, Hyde is more a black-or-white persona.

Verdict

If a game with higher player count is not your cup of tea, and you still long for a companion of one, take Jekyll vs Hyde for sure. Playing as Jekyll can be a challenge, as there is a difficulty gap between piloting him and his counter-persona, Hyde. With that being said, winning as Dr. Jekyll can be satisfying. This game can be a nice change of scenery with its trick-taking mechanic, provided you have tried several other duel-games. I am sure it will stand tall along other similar games, such as Jaipur, Siam, Hatsuden, and many more. 

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