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Dead Man’s Draw
A quite unusual incident was the reason why I own a copy of “Dead Man’s Draw” today. When backing “Viceroy” another game published by Hobby World/ Mayday Games, something went wrong with my shipped items. The communication with the customer support was very good and we could solve everything easily, I only had to wait a little longer for my order to arrive. When I opened the box, I was really surprised to find a copy of “Dead Man’s Draw” among the other items. I contacted the customer service again as I did not order this game and the answer was: “This is just a little compensation for your patience and the long waiting time.” Absolutely astonishing! This has never happened before (though there are lots of delayed Kickstarter projects and I don’t mind if I have to wait a little longer – quality just takes its time). So once more thank you very much, you lovely people of Hobby World/ Mayday Games.
Dead Man’s Draw is a small push your luck set collection game set in a pirate/ nautical theme. The players try to amass the most points by collecting different cards but have to be careful not to get to greedy…
Examples of cards: each different suit allows for a distinct special action/ ability.
Setup is super-fast: a treasure deck is formed by the lowest card of each suit and the remaining cards form the draw deck. Each stack of cards is shuffled separately and the game can begin. A player’s turn is very straight forward: reveal a card of the draw pile and decide if you want to end your turn and take your loot or to take another card. … “You really should take another card. Do you really want to end your turn with so little loot? Look at the spoils of all the other players!” However, when two cards of the same suit (or number as a variant) are revealed the active player busts and does not get anything. All cards of the loot go into the treasure deck. Collected cards are forming a tableau in front of each player and when the draw deck is depleted, each player sums her highest cards in each collected suit. Whoever has the most points is the winner.
The ten different suits of cards not only display thematic pictures of navigation/ piracy. Each different suit has a card ability that is triggered when the card is revealed/ played.
Player aids with all special abilities/ effects of the different suits
Anchor: protects all cards played before from being lost due to busting.
Cannon: destroys one card in the tableau of one opponent.
Crystal Ball: lets a player peak at the next card of the draw pile and afterwards decide if she wants to play it or not.
Hook: puts one card of the active player’s tableau back into the card of loot cards (to be activated again).
Key: if there is a treasure chest in the revealed loot cards, the active player draws an additional number of random cards from the treasure deck equal to the number of loot cards.
Kraken: forces the player to reveal (and activate) two more cards.
Mermaid: higher card values of 4-9 compared to 2-7 of all other suits.
Sabre: lets the active player steal a card of a suit not in his tableau from another player, put it among the loot cards and activate it.
Treasure Map: lets the active player draw three random cards from the treasure deck, select one to play to the loot (and activate it).
Treasure Chest: if there is a key in the revealed loot cards, the active player draws an additional number of random cards from the treasure deck equal to the number of loot cards.
These different card abilities of the ten different suits can facilitate some interesting combos. As an example, a player may already have four loot cards and draws another card which is a hook. Now, she might play a sabre from her tableau to steal a crystal ball from another player to have a peak at the next card. Or another player draws a key, and is hoping for a treasure chest to maximize his profit and the next card he draws is a cannon which is used to destroy a high value card (e.g. a “8” mermaid) that is placed in the treasure deck. The next card he draws might be a desired treasure chest and now he not only has reduced the score of an opponent but also the possibility to maybe draw the precious mermaid due to his extra loot from the treasure stack.
Summary cards of character abilities: there are many player powers for a great replay value.
Furthermore, different scenarios add a lot of replayability without complicating the rule set: as mentioned above there is a variant where players bust on the same numbers instead on suits which makes the game much riskier as there are 10 suites but only seven different card values (not considering mermaids). Other variants may let player lose points for suits missing in their tableau or eliminate players if their score exceeds a defined threshold. Additionally, there are different character cards with unique abilities that can be included in the game to give each player a little special extra.
Examples of some character cards: each one gives its player a unique ability.
The charm of this little card game lies in its very simple rules combined with the potential to trigger some really nice combos due to the different abilities of the various suits. As in so many small card game, the luck of the draw may play an important role. Thus, payers who don’t value this gambling aspect of the game might feel disappointed. Also the different character abilities may not be 100% balanced. On the other hand, everyone who likes a fun light gambling game that forces you to play risky but punishes you if you are too greedy, could find this little gem quite interesting. The short play time of 15 minutes with 4 players makes it a perfect filler and often is a reason for “just one more round…”