Dead Man’s Draw by Stardock – An excellent card game that goes far beyond poker


I’ve recently spent several hours playing Dead Man’s Draw, a new iPad game by Stardock and I have to say it’s wonderfully brilliant. The goal is simple, draw cards and add up the points. Person with the highest point total wins the round. Sounds simple enough. And it is. For the first few draws.

Some of the rules work like this: You can’t draw two cards of the same type or suit. For instance, you can’t draw two Keys in the same hand. That’s a bust. Additionally, the cards you draw have to have a higher face card value than the ones your already holding in order to increase your score. If you have a Key with a value of 5 in your hand and draw a Key with a value of 4, your total doesn’t increase. Additionally, the cards take of special abilities. Combine the Key with the Treasure Chest and you get additional free cards to try and increase your score. Get a hand with the Sword and you can steal cards. Play the Hook and you can reuse your own cards. The Treasure Map lets you pull cards from the Busted pile and the Oracle lets you see what card is coming next in the deck.

There are things like multipliers that let you increase the number of cards you can steal or increase bonus cards you get from matching the Key and Chest. You can Triple the number of cards you get when you combine the Key and the Chest. You can increase the number of cards your opponent has to discard when you use the Cannon. You can reveal more cards when using the Oracle. And there’s quite a few more.

With all of that comes changes to the games themselves. At first you just try to get as many points as possible without busting. But as you progress the rules change, as in when you go bust your opponents gets all your cards. And for the lower levels, your opponent can’t use special abilities like you can. That changes as you move up the ranks. Plus, there is a whole slew of “Tournaments” that I still have to unlock to figure out what they do.

So it starts off simple, but then you have to think about how you want to play these special ability cards. Should you steal that opponent card then draw another or quit while you’re ahead? How many cards do you think you can grab without busting out?

It’s a very straightforward game, but it’s something refreshingly different. As I said, finally a card game that isn’t just another mindless variation of Texas Hold Em. Plus, the game goes quickly. There’s no betting or bluffing. You draw cards until the deck is gone and total the points. It’s easy to invest a few minutes or sit down and trying build up a chest full of gold.

It’s quite a satisfying game and it’s quite a bit of fun just to see how far you can push your luck. The special ability cards make for some interesting strategy. You can steal and Oracle and what lies in the pile next or rummage through the discard pile to see which card you can use to improve your score. The graphics are nice and the music is simple and won’t annoy you. I have to say for their first outing into the realm of the mobile devices and the iPad, this is a pretty sweet little game.

It starts off simple, but keeps building in complexity as you get to use more abilities. Plus there are opponents you face at each level before you get to move on. At $1.99 this is really cheap entertainment. I wonder if this could be made into a real card game? Or I wonder if a desktop version in the works.

Dead Man’s Draw on iTunes
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2 Responses to “Dead Man’s Draw by Stardock – An excellent card game that goes far beyond poker”

  • Scott Tykoski:

    Thanks for the review, and we’re thrilled you’re enjoying the game!

    It was funny to read your comment “I wonder if this could be made into a real card game?”, because we actually started a kickstarter campaign to gauge the interest in such a thing…

    I’ve played it with family and friends, and while I am a Stardock employee, I can 100% attest that it’s tons of fun IRL.

    OK, sorry for the spam – & thanks again for the review! :)

  • Pete:

    Thanks for the comments Scott! It looks like great fun and I’ve put in my support for the Kickstarter project. I even added some extra so I can get one of the extra card packs. For those wondering, you can add $20 and receive another deck of cards. The iOS version is excellent and I hear there are at least two other games coming. Of course this makes me wonder, will there be a Political Machine for iOS in 2014? Now that would be fun :)

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