Review/Design: Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit

Review

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.

Design

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.

4 Replies to “Review/Design: Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit”

  1. Haha, awesome. Not everyday you get a mention on a page you randomly find! Three-Dragon Ante related no less. I was doing a Google Image Search for the card back to put onto my phone. Good job on your power cards by the way…

    I bet the games are a lot different using the Emporer’s Gambit deck instead of my one, eh. Glad to see this awesome game stuck with you!

    You should do a storyline related to mistaken identity like that umbrella sword mishap 😉

    1. Heh. There you go: some internet fame (+0.0001). I’ve played it quite a bit now and most people seem to really enjoy it.

      I can’t recall how different things are with Emperor’s Gambit compared to your setup. I’d like the original version, but it’s damn hard to find these days.

      We need to play Flash Duel next time you’re around. I think you’ll really enjoy it (I do).

  2. I hope this reaches you. I just found out about the game but, sadly, it is out of print. I tried your link but it’s dead. Is there somewhere else I can get the cards? I found the first set but not the expansion. I also like your backing. I may grab it for my personal cards if that’s alright.

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