Review/Design: Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit
Recently picked up the Dungeons and Dragons themed card game Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit. I was introduced to it by my friend and ex-DM ‘Canadian Matt.’ The game is somewhat like poker but fantasy-fied. The game involves playing cards to win the most gold.
The game is played by betting an ante at the start of the gambit, which consists of three rounds in which each player plays a card from their hand. Each card has a type (coloured dragons, or mortal creatures), a value (between 1 and 13), and a special power. One person leads the round by playing a card which activates. Each following player then plays a card. If the card is lower/equal to the previous player’s card, that card’s power activates. This continues for three rounds, at the end of which the player with the highest valued flight (three played cards) wins the stake.
That’s the general gist of the game, but for it’s simplicity, it is great fun. The game seems quite simple initially, but looking into it deeper reveals there are decent strategies for playing. Many of the mortal powers drastically alter how a gambit plays out, so things stay fairly fresh. Play time is quick and play style varies depending on the number of players. The visual and thematic design of the game is very nice and the cards are solid enough to withstand sleeveless play. What’s more, it was a steal at under $20NZD for the Emperor’s Gambit expansion/stand-alone game. And the box is, like the game, deceptively simple looking, but flash with a little cardboard catch for the lid.
As for balance, it doesn’t seem to favour one card over another, though some cards are generally worse than others, but because of the random element, there is no bias towards a particular player. My main complaint is that the game doesn’t come with any betting chips, which would’ve really made it a flash little combo.
Not only is the game thematically tied to D&D, it also lists some rules for playing it in campaign and making use of the characters’ skills. At the beginning of the game, each character selects a skill they are trained in (only one player per skill) to use for playing the game better. The only problem is, these are all in the rule booklet, which isn’t huge and will probably requires the players to constantly look at what their particular ability is.
To make things easier, I have designed some cards which match the design of the playing cards which are easy to refer to in-game. Graphic design is easy-peasy. I don’t know why you even need training to do such a thing (nevermind the fact it took me all day…)!
Here’s an example card (front and back):
As you can see, I’ve modified the colour of the back of the card to distinguish it from the regular cards. All the images I used for the skills were from Google Image Search and as far as I’m aware they are all Royalty Free.
The full pages of all cards and backs can be found here.