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Board Game Review – Dead Man’s Draw

2015 January 15
by Michael Schroeder

The popular digital card game, Dead Man’s Draw, comes to the tabletop.

Dead Man's Draw

Dead Man’s Draw

Number of players: 2-4

Age: 10+

Time: 10-15 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Dead Man’s Draw is a simple and strategic card game of risk and reward for 2 to 4 players. Players take turns drawing cards and combining their special abilities to plunder the most loot without busting their entire hands.

The core of your turn in Dead Man’s Draw is all in the flip: pulling the top card off the deck and using its special ability. Your turn isn’t over until you say it is, though. You can keep pulling cards as long as you like – until you play a card of a suit already seen, at which point you lose everything. Knowing when to stop and “bank” your cards is the biggest decision you make in Dead Man’s Draw, but being too timid lets braver opponents pass you up with bigger, more profitable turns.

Basic idea in my own words…

Dead Man’s Draw (DMD) is a simple card game that’s been ported over to the tabletop from the digital video game platform. DMD is a pirate themed game where you and your opponents are pushing their luck by flipping over a series of cards, in the hopes of revealing high valued cards from 10 different suits. Most of the suits have a special ability, which gives the game its unique flair. As you are flipping over cards, if you reveal two cards of the same suits, you bust! Busting means you lose your entire turn and the next player’s turn proceeds. The only cards that actually count are the highest valued cards in each suit. So if you have a 7,4,2 cards in a key suit, the 7 is the one that counts. All suits range from 2-7 and the mermaid suit range is 4-9. DMD is an extremely quick filler game that only lasts about 10 minutes.

Suits in Dead Man's Draw

Suits in Dead Man’s Draw


  • Locate the cards in each suit – remove the lowest cards in each suit, shuffle these cards to form the discard deck
  • Shuffle all the regular cards (50) of each suit and place to the side but within reach of all players
  • Shuffle all the trait cards and randomly give two to each player, place the rest back in the box
  • Randomly choose a start player

How do you play?

On your turn in order…

Draw a card – draw the top card of the draw deck and place next to the deck. You may either stop and collect the card(s) laid out before you, or you may continue to draw more. The whole point is to try to collect the most cards as you can, but this is a push your luck game, you don’t want to turn over a card of a suit you already have out, or you bust.

Each time you draw a card, if you can active its suit ability, you must do so. The only difference is when you draw a treasure chest and key, the award from you is collected when you decide to collect cards.

If you decide to collect the cards, you take all the cards in play and put them before you and arrange by suit. Place the cards in each suit from lowest card to highest, the highest number card is showing.

Suit Abilities:

Anchor – Keep everything you drew before the Anchor even if you bust.

Cannon – Destroy one card an opponent has previously banked.

Chest – Double your haul by banking as many cards directly from the discard pile as are in the river when you bank the Chest – but only if you also bank a Key.

Hook – Play one of your previously banked cards.

Key – Enables the Chest special.

Kraken – Oh no! You’re forced to draw at least two more cards.

Map – Draw three cards from the discard pile and play one.

Mermaid – No ability, but worth more points (Mermaids are numbered 4-9 instead of 2-7).

Oracle – Look at the next card before deciding if you want to play it.

Sword – Steal an opponent’s previously banked card and play it.

Traits: Traits are a recurring benefit throughout each game. There are trait summary cards in the game to assist the players.

Safe Harbor:
Anchor: The Anchor card and the next two cards after the Anchor are pro- tected from a Bust.

Cannon: Place the card discarded by your Cannon into your Bank instead of the Discard Pile.

Sword: Steal the top card from any Suit Stack, even if you have that Suit Stack in your Bank.

Treasure Hunter:
Key & Chest: Triple the amount of bo- nus cards from the Discard Pile when you Collect a Key & Chest.

Cannon: Each opponent that draws a Cannon must place the top card of a Suit Stack from his or her own Bank.

Oracle: Reveal three cards instead of one. You may not change the order of the cards revealed.

Sword: Opponent’s Sword must steal a Kraken. If there is not a Kraken to steal, discard the Sword without any effect.

Key & Chest: Bonus cards come from one opponent’s Bank instead of the Discard Pile. You cannot split this be- tween two or more players. If there are fewer cards in the chosen oppo- nent’s Bank than your bonus, take all the cards from his or her Bank. Do not take the difference from the Dis- card Pile.

Kraken: Krakens are Banked automatically and do not force the Fisherman to draw ad- ditional cards.

Golden Scales:
Mermaid: Mermaids are worth an extra five points.

Hook: When you place a Hook in the Play Area, the Hook and its additional card are protected from a Bust.
Example: Eliza has a Cannon in the play area, and subsequently draws a Hook and adds a Mermaid. Next she draws a Cannon which causes a Bust. Eliza adds the Hook and Mermaid to her Bank, but the two Cannons are discarded as normal.

Map: Pick any card from the entire Discard Pile instead of one card from the random three cards drawn.

Master Gunner:
Cannons: Discard the entire Suit Stack in- stead of just the top card.

Kraken: All opponents must add four cards instead of two when the Kraken is drawn.

Captain’s Hook:
Hook: Must play two cards from your Bank instead of one.

Mermaid: Mermaids are Banked auto- matically. If you have a Kraken in play and you draw a Mermaid, it does not count towards the Kraken because the Mermaid is Banked before it is placed in the Play Area.

Davy Jones’ Locker:

You Bank your opponent’s cards from a Bust. In a 3-4 player game, choose one other player at the beginning of the game, and only Bank the selected player’s Busted cards.

Cannon Cards

Cannon Cards

Game End: The game ends as soon as the final card has been drawn. Each player counts up the highest numbered card in each suit before them, the player with the highest count is the winner!


Components: 3/5

There’s really not much in the box other than a rulebook and cards. But if there was more, I’d give the game a higher component rating. However, the quality of the cards is great; the  finish on the card makes the cards easy to flip and move, which is ideal for a game this quick. The box is a good stock and the rulebook is nice quality.

Theme: 3/5

I like pirate themed games. They aren’t my favorite but they are certainly better than zombies and ninjas! The theme fits real well for this game, however.

Luck Factor: 5/5

There is a massive amount of luck in this game, it’s a filler game, what do you expect? The games all about, “pushing your luck!”

Strategy: 2/5

Since this game is luck driven, there’s not a lot of strategy involved. Most of the strategy involves deciding to keep flipping cards or not. Another strategy however can be using the right attack cards against your opponents.

Overall Feelings: 4/5

I like DMD a lot! I love playing DMD on iOS and it’s just as much fun on the tabletop. This is a great port of a video game. The quality is good and Mayday Games made this game an accurate representation of a digital card game. I’m very impressed with this game!

Review copy kindly provided by Mayday Games.

Thank you to the kind members of Board Game Geek for providing images of gameplay and product.

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