Dead Man’s Draw: Only if ye dare mix it up with pirates

First impressions 

We love anything to do with pirates. Who wouldn’t, after the Pirates of the Caribbean and one very handsome Johnny Depp sporting some mean dreadlocks? Yessir, it’s the pirate’s life for us! 

Dead Man’s Draw is an app that looks like a simple card game, but is much more complex once you start playing. There’s gold in them thar cards, but you have to avoid certain traps in order to get some and win the game. 

We were taken in by the images of swashbucklers and wenches, and the fact that it only cost $1.99. Would we be lucky and discover the treasure where “X” marks the spot? Would the “X” even come into it at all? 

With Pirates Week just around the corner, we figured that this was the app to download so we could learn to do battle with scurvy scalawags on our iPad. 


How it works 

You start off with 50 cards and an opponent – a fierce looking pirate ready to play against you. You both take turns drawing, and each card is worth a certain amount of points. You want to get as many points as possible, and there is no limit on the number of cards you can draw, so what’s the catch? Arrrr me hearties, the catch is that the more you draw, the more chance there is that you will pull two cards of the same suit, at which point you go bust and don’t earn any points for that hand. There are 10 suits in total, with the cards point values ranging from 2 to 7. 

That’s just the beginning. As you continue the game, you may wonder why you’re not getting the full total of all the cards you draw in a hand. That’s because you’ll only gain points for suited cards you haven’t already accumulated. 

It gets better. Each suit has special powers that are unlocked as you go along. For example, the Oracle suit enables you to see the next card in the deck without drawing it. That way you can avoid a bust. The Anchor suit will still collect the cards you’ve drawn before it, even if you bust. The Sword suit allows you to steal from a suit you don’t already own. They go on much like this, and most of them work in your favor, although the Kraken suit forces you to pull two more cards, which you might not be so keen on, particularly if it shows up late in a hand. 

The further you go along, the more you’ll realize how you can use particular suits to your advantage. Steal a card from the other player that you can use against them, or choose a suit from the busted pile that has special powers to give you a further lead. 

The great thing about this app is how clear its instructions are. It makes it very easy to pick up the rules, and by highlighting cards for you when you have to go a-stealin’, it erases the hassle of having to study them all yourself. 

When we played 

We started off against one particular pirate whose name escapes us, and we managed to beat him, so we figured we had a pretty good grasp of how the game worked. When we were next matched up against Gunnie, however, it was a different story. By this time the suit powers were beginning to come into play, and Gunnie seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing exactly how to hit us where it hurt. Our score would be ahead, but then Gunnie would pull a Cannon suit, allowing him to discard one of our top-point cards, or a Sword suit; equally painful. 

By the time we had played against him three times, we were beginning to feel an intense dislike for Gunnie. That being said, we really enjoyed playing this game and we were determined to get past him to the next competitor. Using all the cunning and mental agility we had, we finally managed to beat Gunnie, which moved us on to Le Corsaire, a miserable looking individual with a pocket watch and a parrot. Hopefully he would be easier to master. 

Final thoughts 

This is a terrific game with lots of twists and turns as you go. Getting to grips with what the suits can do for you will improve your strategy as you try to better your swashbuckling opponents. You can also play against other competitors online in your further quest for the gold. 

A definite recommendation for teens and adults, and a great way to keep your gray matter in working order. 

Cost: $1.99 

Seller: Stardock 

Devices: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone 

Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 years and older) 

Four stars 


A pirate’s card game of wits and strategy.


It’s you against the confident Madam Margo