Ducart (or Ducarté) is a two-player game, played on a board of 64 squares arranged in an 8-by-8 square. At the start of a game, each player controls 16 pieces: two Keepers, two Creepers, two Sleepers, eight Sweepers, one Healer, and one Stealer.
The aim of the game is to be the only player with any Sweepers remaining; Sweepers can be removed from the game in two ways:
- They can be killed by another Sweeper
- If a Sweeper is moved to any of the squares on the opposite end of the board that it started on, then it is replaced by a Leaper.
Sweepers are significant, because as well as deciding who wins the game, they are the only piece which can destroy, or "kill" another piece.
The board is arranged with each player having their sixteen pieces in the two rows of the board closest to them. The "second row" (the row second-closest to the player) consists of eight Sweepers. The row closest to each player has the pieces arranged from left to right as follows:
Keeper, Creeper, Sleeper, Healer, Stealer, Sleeper, Creeper, Keeper.
The first move of the first game is decided with a coin toss; players alternate first move for any subsequent games. A turn can be spent either moving a single piece, or using a single piece's Ability. Each piece has its own distinctive move pattern, and many have Abilities:
- Sweepers can move forward one square, either directly or diagonally. If there is a piece in the square that the Sweeper is trying to move into, that piece is "killed": removed from the board, unable to return for the duration of the game.
- Sweepers cannot kill Leapers.
- Sweepers can kill pieces on its own team.
- Keepers move in straight orthogonal lines - they may stop in either an unoccupied square or in the same square as another piece. They then "keep" it: they remain on top of the piece, and it is unable to move until it is no longer being kept. A Keeper may move off a piece onto another piece in the same row or column (moving straight from keeping one piece to keeping another), however it can not jump over or past the second piece in the same turn.
- Keeping a piece is not an Ability, it is part of the Keeper's move.
- While keeping a piece, Keepers may not be killed, kept, slept, stolen, pushed, or leapt over.
- A piece being kept by a Keeper cannot be killed, stolen, or use an Ability. It can be pushed or slept.
- Keepers cannot keep Leapers.
- Keepers can keep pieces on its own team.
- Once a Keeper starts to keep a Stealer, it cannot move off that Stealer unless the Stealer is slept or pushed.
- Creepers can move either two squares horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. They can move over occupied spaces, however the square that a Creeper lands in must be empty. A Creeper has the Ability to "push" any one piece - the piece being pushed must be orthogonally adjacent to the Creeper. "Pushing" a piece means moving it exactly one square, away from the Creeper. A piece can only be "pushed" if the square that it is being pushed into is empty.
- A Creeper cannot be pushed, slept, kept, or stolen the turn after it moves.
- A Creeper cannot push a Keeper while it is keeping a piece. It can, however, push the piece that is being kept - the piece that is being kept moves one square, the Keeper stays in the same square, but is now slept.
- This is the only way to stop keeping a Stealer.
- A Creeper can push pieces on its own team.
- Sleepers move diagonally, and can stop in any unoccupied square. They cannot move over occupied spaces, and the square that the Sleeper lands in must be empty. A Sleeper has the Ability to "sleep" another piece - the piece is then "slept" (signified by laying it down flat on the board.) While a piece is slept, it cannot move or use its abilities. It can still be killed, stolen, pushed, or kept. A Sleeper can only sleep pieces which are diagonally or orthogonally adjacent.
- A Sleeper can sleep pieces on its own team.
- Stealers can move one square in any direction, into any unoccupied square. They have the Ability to "steal" any other piece, by switching the "stolen" piece's position with the position of the Stealer. If a Stealer is directly or diagonally adjacent to a piece being kept, the Stealer has a second Ability (although only one Ability can be used each turn) to transfer the Keeper from the piece that it is currently keeping, to the Stealer, causing the Stealer to be kept.
- If a Sweeper is stolen into a square in the far row (from the Sweeper's starting point) then the Sweeper is turned into a Leaper.
- Stealers can steal pieces on its own team.
- A Stealer can steal another Stealer.
- Healers can move any number of unoccupied squares either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. It cannot move through or into occupied squares, the square that the Healer lands in must be empty. Healers may "heal" as an Ability: any slept pieces in any of the eight squares around a Healer are no longer slept, and may behave as they did before they were slept.
- Healers heal pieces of both their own team and the opposite team. If a piece is in one of the eight squares surrounding the Healer, it is healed, even if it is being kept.
- Leapers can move any number of squares either horizontally or vertically. As long as they stop in an unoccupied square, Leapers can move through occupied squares, "leaping" over other pieces. As a part of that same move action, they may immediately move once more in the same manor (either horizontally or vertically, any number of squares), stopping in any unoccupied square - during their second movement, however, they can not "leap" over occupied squares.
- Leapers cannot be stolen, slept, kept or killed.
- Sweepers (of either team) cannot enter a square to the immediate left or the right of a Leaper. If a Leaper moves into the square immediately to the left or right of a Sweeper, there is no effect. Any other piece can freely move into a square to the left or right of a Leaper.
- Leapers do not count towards the Sweeper-count when determining the winner of the game.
In Gnomish society, "Ducarté" refers to the game as it is traditionally played, without time limit, while "Ducart" is a special time-based variant. Each turn may be no more than one minute long, and at the end of one hour, the player with the most Sweepers left wins. (if both players have an equal number of Sweepers left, all other pieces are counted, and whichever player has the most pieces left wins. If both players have an equal number of pieces, then the game continues until the next piece is killed, with the time for each move reduced to ten seconds.)
Some play a variant that whoever goes first has their Healer and the Stealer switched around; this is a common alternate rule, and is generally decided before the game starts. If there is any disagreement, then it is not applied, however if it is applied for the first game in a series of games, it must be applied for the rest.