DREAD DRAW from UPPER DECK has everything required to make it a game store owner's delight. It is in a box of unusual shape and size, like some of the MtG sets of a few years back, dark and mysterious with the title DREAD DRAW in rust over the black/blue background which has a brief announcement that this is "An Original game Design by Ryan MIller" in powder blue almost camouflaged in the graphic design. The sides of the box feature the company name and a different creature of the night on each side, the ends justify the game's title, "DREAD DRAW".
Finally the bottom of the box tells you all you need to know, as far as the creator and developers wants, this is "A strategy card game of Press Your Luck Competitive Fortune Telling". (whatever that may mean ?)
The original boxed set has 100 cards as two decks plus a special Promo card PC-001 "Domination". This may be a promo card but it has nothing special about it as far as its in-game use; as a collectible it has the same characteristics as the in-deck "Domination" card except it has a different picture - A silver robotic looking women is much easier on the eye than a weird faced, muscle-bound monster.
Like many of the collectible or semi-collectible game sets the most promising feature of DREAD DRAW is the superb artwork from: Allen Douglas, Michele Giorgi, Crystal Graziano, Kezrek Laczin, Daniel Landerman, Kathryn Steele, Preston Stone, J.P. Targete, Autumn Turkel and Owen William Weber.
Having "played" DREAD DRAW several times for this review I, in fact all of us at GGO, are confused at just what Jason Brenner, Ann DeWitt, Ben DeWitt, Jim Flagg, Rob Ford, Bubby Johanson, Joran Robinson, Jeni Robinson, Matt Rogers, Alex Sansaver, Marcus Sansaver, Riley Sansaver, Mark Shaunessy and Amanda Wolf found to play-test. The artwork is as good as the majority of fantasy illustrations found in role-play books and trading/collectible card games but the gameplay is so weak it's hard to think of it as a "game".
DREAD DRAW has a very thin, small (just over A5 folded) rules booklet with just 6 pages concerned with the playing of the game, in fact only 4 pages truly relate to the game play and one of those is over half a page of example of play. I am the first to request a brief set of rules whenever possible, but the rules here are so brief they barely exist.
It is for 2+ players, possibly best with just 2, though with 3 or 4 it is acceptable. After shuffling all of the cards together - you can remove an original Domination card and pop in the Promo card, you can leave the Promo card out altogether or you can add the Promo card into the deck and have 101 cards; it matters not as the players do not have a deck each, they all play from one single shuffled face down stack.
Each player is given 10 cards face down in a stack, these should not be perused as they are your life - lose all 10 and you are out of the game - the game is played in Rounds and you can play as many Rounds as you wish, Rounds end when only one player remains in play. Rounds can be over in seconds or last as long as it takes. Cards have a Strength Value and also a Damage value (shown as small Red Spots).
DREAD DRAW is about summoning cards to your aid and hoping that Lady Luck is on your side - there is very little players can do in the game, it's basically all about luck. Choose a starting player for the first Round, future Rounds will begin with the winner of the previous Round. The first player takes a card from the draw pile and places it face up in front of themselves, the next player then does the same and so on for all players; then the first player takes a second card from the deck and so the game continues .... well sort of. Some of the cards have game text with headings such as Summon or Reserve and if one of these is drawn this ability may be used, though the rules are less than helpful when it comes to explaining them. Reserve cards may be put into the player's Reserve - a stack of cards kept face up and separate from the Life cards and any cards played in front of the player. When a card is drawn it is usually placed face up in front of the drawer. When they draw their next card it has to be placed to the right of the previously played card but only as long as it has a higher (not equal to or lower) value than the card it is placed next to. If the drawn card cannot be Reserved and it cannot be placed to the right of the last card played, as it is of lower or equal value, then the player is out of the Round and all cards played this Round are discarded. The player who is left with cards in front of them is the winner of the Round. They add up all the Red Spots on the cards still in front of them and each opponent takes this many Damage, removing the cards from their Life Deck and discarding them to the discard pile. Then the Winner of the Round discards their cards and the game begins again with a new Round, the Winner as Starting Player.
Some cards will give you life which means you simply draw the required number of cards from the draw pile as stated on the card, putting them unseen on top of your Life pool. When you are at turn and are due to Summon a card it may be possible for you to Summon one from your Reserve pile, as long as it is higher in value than your current face up card it is permissible - a Glossary/Explanation of each card with text would have made the game so much easier to properly understand. For instance there are four symbols to be found on the cards:
(S): Summon, Play this when you successfully Summon a card. Does this mean that when you flip over the top card from the draw pile and it fits into place in front of you - it is higher in value than the previous card - and it has the word "Summon" on it, you can Summon another card or does it just mean you can successfully summon the card itself ?
(R): Reserve: Play this when the card is placed into your reserves, regardless of where it came from. So if a card has Reserve on it I can play it into my Reserve, but what if it's of higher value and I play it in front of me instead? It says "may play" so I assume that I choose where it goes. But it says "regardless of where it came from". The only way to get cards or so it appears, is from the Draw pile, where else do they come from ? Also if you play cards into Reserve when they have Reserve specifically on them how do you put Summon cards into your Reserve?
(A): Aftermath: Play this when you are eliminated from a Round or at the end of a Round you have just won. There is no mechanic for holding cards in your hand so one has to assume you can place this in front of you, if it is of the correct value, and activate it when you win or lose? or do you place with your Reserve cards and pull it out when required ? None of this is explained fully or satisfactorily.
There are some cards with a symbol similar to a Green (0). These cards have "Special Abilities" and no matter whether they are in Reserve or on the table they are considered to be "always on" (as in always in play). Again there is no specific place for these cards to be placed so you have to remember if they are in front of you or in your Reserve.
Eventually you end up with all players except one with no Life cards left and that player is the Winner who then gets their FORTUNE TOLD as long as they have cards left in their Life Deck. These cards are taken and shuffled and dealt out in an i-formation; one card at the top, one directly underneath it and the remainder laid out beneath those two. Flipping them over one at a time the first/top card represents the player's Present, the card beneath it represents their immediate Future and the remaining cards depict the far Future. All readings are interpreted by the imagination and depth of thought of the OTHER players - those you have just beaten to win the game; you're sure going to trust them to be kind and honest !!!
Seriously, which I find it hard to be with DREAD DRAW, it is all a bit of nonsense fun that is worth having for the card art alone. I cannot recommend it as a game, as it didn't take us long to start wasting our odd few minutes at the end of a games session or while waiting for someone to deal out 5 cards to each player, shuffle them, deal them out as previously stated and then interpret each players Fortune from those cards without going through the motions of playing. These aren't Tarot cards and aren't similarly named so there are no traditional (or gaming use) explanations of each card so you can have a great deal of amusement taking turns to be the Fairground Mystic with the other "players" as the unruly crowd.
Lookout for DREAD DRAW at your local game store It should cost you between £12.00 - £15.00