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.

CIG 2011

This is a little late coming, but I was recently in Seoul attending the IEEE 2011 Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG ’11). This is a conference I have been wanting to attend for quite some time, as it is basically right up my (research) alley.

Not only was I attending the conference, but also presenting my paper: ‘Using the Online Cross-Entropy Method to Learn Relational Policies for Playing Different Games’. The presentation went reasonably well, and I was on time. The range of questions received were mainly concerning the extensibility and comprehensibility of the relational policy, behavioural cloning behaviour into a policy (something which may need to be done for more useful module learning), and Turing behaviour, which was quite surprising.

The question about the Turing behaviour regarded a clip of the agent in the Mario environment, where some of the audience believed that the agent was a close fit to a human and could be entered into the Turing track of the Mario competition. This has never come up before and was an unexpected side effect of the agent’s learning and action resolution behaviour. Entering the Turing track in the next Mario competition is practically free, so I might as well enter next time it comes up.

Unfortunately the Ms. PacMan agent entered into the PacMan vs. Ghosts competition performed very poorly. I was fairly sure it wasn’t going to do so well when I submitted it as there was a very large discrepancy between the scores of the experiments and the scores of the agent when run by individually. I am still unsure why this error occurred, but it will be remedied. Next year I will do better!

The rest of the conference was very enjoyable, with a large emphasis on evolutionary methods and procedural generation for the various tasks. There was very little presence of traditional machine learning algorithms, which may be simply due to the nature of the problems, or just because evolutionary methods are more fun.

Finally, Seoul the city was excellent. The food was delicious and cheap (if you went to the right places), and the city is quite clean and relatively uncrowded. The worst part was the heat, which was 100% humidity all the time. I managed to extend my stay by 3 days to look around the city after the conference which was well worth it.

Global Game Jam Games

Since its inception, I have participated in the Global Game Jam (GGJ) event held every January since 2009. The event entails making a themed video game in 48 hours. At the beginning of the event, participants are given an overarching theme to incorporate into the developed games, form into teams, then get developing!

I have participated in four GGJs so far, but the third one did not result in a working game (unfortunately I had to leave early).

Canyon Chums: Our first Global Game Jam game.

The game developed for GGJ 2009 was Canyon Chums, a 2-player cooperative game where the goal is to escape a slowly closing icy canyon. The theme was something like cooperation.

Swimming Snake: Our second game developed for the Global Game Jam.

Swimming Snake was the game developed for GGJ 2010, where the game is a somewhat arcadey-style game of eating fish and avoiding puffer fish. The problem is, all fish look the same until they get close, which is when puffer fish expand. The theme for this year was deception.

The game partially developed for GGJ 2011 was a 3D Tower Defense game (think Plants vs Zombies in 3D), which involved defending the last known tree on an island from encroaching creatures.

Cosmic Hamster Wheel was the game developed for GGJ 2012. The theme this year was simply an image of Ouroboros (the cyclical snake eating its own tail), so this game involves running around a circular environment, gathering fruit and avoiding explosive robots on balloons (it doesn’t really make sense, but hey!). The game turned out quite pretty, but I was dissatisfied with how it played compared to previous year’s efforts.