An Interview With A Duel Betwixt Us Designer Laurence Honderick

duelcoverFor today's interview we're joined by Laurence Honderick, who co-designed A Duel Betwixt Us, a unique card game up on Kickstarter right now! As our baby gift to the Royal Couple, I've left in all of his charming and superfluous British "u's." Laurence, thanks for taking some time to chat about A Duel Betwixt Us!

Before we talk about the game, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Margate, Florida. I spent a lot of time on boats when I was younger and over the years I’ve survived a few shipwrecks. I went to art school but left early to co-found a technology startup, which moved me all over the States but eventually landed me in London.  After the company went bust, I began freelancing as a motion graphics designer, and now work full-time at a London agency creating motion graphics for television broadcast (mostly on the BBC). I never have enough time, but I do have a wonderfully supportive wife who I couldn’t do all of this stuff without.

How did you get into gaming in the first place?

The original idea-man behind the game (Rob Fitzpatrick) turned me on to Magic when we were in grade school, and hobby descended quickly into obsession. I have so many memories of us deckbuilding  in the middle of a bedroom where cards covered every visible inch of the floor...  We never really stopped playing MTG—we still do drafts occasionally and my highschool deck is proudly displayed in a place of honour in my living room.

So your new game is A Duel Betwixt Us: Tell us a little bit about it; what sets it apart from other 2-player combat card games?

Mechanically, the most unique thing is that you build your weapons and armour piece-by-piece for a specific outcome when you take it into combat, but the absurdist sense of humour which permeates the game as well as the super-stylised look and feel also go a long way in setting it apart.

You and your co-designer have known each other since you were infants... Tell us that story!

Actually, our friendship pre-dates infancy.  Our mothers met in Pregnacize class when we were in the womb (I believe Rob’s mom was actually the instructor).  He was born several months earlier, and when I followed, I think they just chucked me in the pen alongside him.  All of my earliest memories of friendship revolve around him, and we were definitely each other’s biggest cultural influences growing up.

duelWhat are some of the challenges you encountered codesigning a game?

Getting our schedules to line up was a real issue—we’re both consumed by our different careers in different ways, and free time to work on something as huge as this is hard to find as individuals, let alone as a pair.  Consequently, a lot of stuff had to be divided up and designated to one person or the other, so most of our time together which wasn’t spent playtesting was taken up by talking about stuff we’d done (or were going to do) while apart.

How did you land on the gentlemen’s duel theme for the game?

Rob had originally pitched the idea to me as a series of duels between medieval knights, but we ultimately thought it would be funnier to set such absurd acts of violence in a time where people considered themselves truly proper and manners & etiquette ruled supreme.  With knights who lived in more barbaric times it was maybe just a little too believable to be absurd.  Also, I could do funnier moustaches with a 19th century theme, which was a major plus.

Not a question, but I would just like to say that your Kickstarter video is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It also sounded like I was watching an episode of Danger Mouse, so thank you for bringing back fond memories.

Ha!  Thanks so much.  It was a labour of love, that video. It warms me to hear that it evoked memories of such a spectacular property!  The voiceover, which no doubt cued that particular connection, was performed by my brother Charlie, who was himself a Danger Mouse fan as a kid.

Is A Duel Betwixt Us your first attempt at game design, or are there others we should be getting to the table?

Rob and I had been prototyping games of one kind or another since college, but ADBU was the first one which really, really clicked enough for us to follow through.  It’s a huge amount of work to put together a game like this, and this was definitely the first which really deserved all of that love, time and energy.

What can you tell us about your plans for the future of A Duel Betwixt Us? Will there be expansions down the line?

Ultimately that will depend on how the kickstarter does, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought up one or two neat expansion themes.  Time will tell!

How would I keep a codpiece of solid gold from falling down constantly? Wouldn’t it be incredibly heavy? Wouldn’t I be so distracted by trying to keep it where it belongs that I’d be vulnerable to a dastardly fish-slap from my opponent?!

Surely you aren’t suggesting that you aren’t MAN enough for a SOLID GOLD CODPIECE?!

What’s your favorite thing about A Duel Betwixt Us?

Honestly, at this point my favourite thing about the game is the community of people who have come out to support us since we launched the video.  We’ve had so many great suggestions, questions, comments and well-wishes from backers who one week ago never even knew we existed... I’m so incredibly thankful for everything they’ve brought to the experience, I’d have difficulty verbalizing my gratitude.

What are your five favorite games right now?

Because of how demanding of my schedule the development of ADBU was, I haven’t had enough time to play many other games over the last couple of years, but Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Gloom would be my favourite at the moment:  Settlers for its balance, Dominion for its strategy, and Gloom for its humour.

betwixtcardsFive Questions/One-Word Answers (Or a very short phrase, but seriously, don’t push us on this because we’ve had a long week...)

Weapon of choice in a real-life duel?


Favorite mustache style?


Favorite mustard style?

spicy french

Favorite song from the Labyrinth soundtrack?

Chilly Down

Favorite fictional character?

either Jack Crabb from Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man, or Thomas Cromwell from Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall novels.

Thanks so much for joining us, Laurence! You can check out the Kickstarter for A Duel Betwixt us right here!

And thank you for reading!