Three-Dragon Ante

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Three-Dragon Ante (ISBN   0-7869-4072-7) is a card game developed by Rob Heinsoo, and published by Wizards of the Coast in November 2005. The game is a combination of luck and skill, and blends concepts from traditional card games such as poker, hearts, and rummy.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Card game game using playing cards as the primary device

A card game is any game using playing cards as the primary device with which the game is played, be they traditional or game-specific. Countless card games exist, including families of related games. A small number of card games played with traditional decks have formally standardized rules, but most are folk games whose rules vary by region, culture, and person. Games using playing cards exploit the fact that cards are individually identifiable from one side only, so that each player knows only the cards he holds and not those held by anyone else. For this reason card games are often characterized as games of chance or “imperfect information”—as distinct from games of strategy or “perfect information,” where the current position is fully visible to all players throughout the game.


Based on Dungeons & Dragons, it is intended as a game in its own right or as an element in a role-playing campaign, and appears in some versions of Dungeons and Dragons as a game played by the wealthy for money.

<i>Dungeons & Dragons</i> fantasy role-playing board game

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

In April 2010, Wizards of the Coast released a follow up game, Three-Dragon Ante: Emperor's Gambit, which added additional dragon types and was both playable alone, and with the original game cards.


The deck consists of 70 cards (plus two reference cards). The structure of the deck is reminiscent of standard playing card or Tarot decks. Each card in the deck represents either a dragon or a mortal, has a strength between 1 and 13, and a special ability or power. Six cards are initially dealt to each player. There is a maximum hand size of ten cards and players are not allowed to have more than the maximum at any time. Players keep their hands secret from the other players. The undealt cards are placed face-down into a draw pile from which players take new cards.

Playing card card used as one of a set for playing card games

A 'playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games. Playing cards are typically palm-sized for convenient handling, and were first invented in China during the Tang dynasty.

Tarot Cards used for games or for divination

The tarot is a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games such as Italian tarocchini, French tarot and Austrian Königrufen. Many of these tarot card games are still played today. In the late 18th century, some Tarot packs began to be used in parallel for divination in the form of tarotology and cartomancy and, later, specialist packs were developed for such occult purposes.


The game is recommended for 2 to 6 players, each of whom begins with 50 points (called gold). The game is divided into gambits in which gold is added and subtracted from the stakes (similar to the pot in poker). Each gambit normally has three rounds (four or more can break ties). In each round, players play cards in front of them (comprising their flight). The strongest flight is the one with cards summing the highest numerical value. After each gambit, each player draws two cards. All ante cards and flights are then discarded. When the last card is drawn from the pile, you shuffle the discard pile and it replaces the draw pile.

Poker family of card games

Poker is a family of card games that combines gambling, strategy, and skill. All poker variants involve betting as an intrinsic part of play, and determine the winner of each hand according to the combinations of players' cards, at least some of which remain hidden until the end of the hand. Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt, the number of shared or "community" cards, the number of cards that remain hidden, and the betting procedures.

In a gambit, players initially choose a card from their hand to ante-up (see poker). The highest ante determines the amount of gold every player must pay to the stakes.

The player with the highest ante plays first, triggering the special ability of their dragon. The special powers of each card varies from allowing players to draw more cards or steal money - from the stakes or other players. In general, good dragons allow players to gain cards, whereas evil dragons allow players to get more gold from the pot or other players. Mortals are especially powerful, so players often maneuver to trigger their mortals' special power.

After the first card in the round is played, players play cards in clockwise order. If the value of the card is less than or equal to the one played before it in the round, it triggers. Otherwise, it does not. The highest dragon in a given round determines the leader of the next round. The first card played in every round always triggers.

Most gambits end after three rounds, though occasionally a tie extends it to four or more rounds. In either case, the strongest flight (sum of the values of each player's three cards) wins. Additionally, special flights (color or strength) allow players to earn extra gold or cards. Players must buy cards from the deck if they run out of cards. The cost of new cards is determined randomly by flipping the top card of the draw pile; the player pays its cost in gold. This commonly happens, since replacing cards can be difficult.

The game ends when one player's hoard runs out at the end of a gambit. Optional alternate endings are also suggested in the rules.


With few exceptions, each dragon has a strength and a color. A dragon's strength is shown in the top-left and bottom-right corners of the card. The color of the dragon determines its alignment and powers:

Special Flights

Only dragons count in special flights but house rules can allow three mortals to be played as a color flight called a fellowship.

Dragon Gods

Bahamut also has a normal power that triggers like the power of any regular dragon.

Undead Dragon

Dracolich: strength 10 and colorless.


Mortals are non-dragon cards, such as The Thief or The Druid. Mortals do not count in special flights but house rules can allow three mortals to be played as a color flight called a fellowship.


The game's strategy centers on correctly estimating the value of one's hand in order to ante appropriately. The order of play is important, with prominent advantages going to the first player (whose card always triggers) and the players who get to play later in the round. It is particularly important to plan one's order of play in a gambit.

For example, players with weak hands should ante low and seek to steal as much gold from the stakes and other players as possible, generally by playing low-strength dragons. Also, playing strength and color flights, even if they are not successful in winning gambits, can be effective at gaining gold.

Players with high strength cards should not hesitate to ante high and make a play for the stakes. There are two advantages to this approach. First, the highest ante starts the first round, causing his or her first dragon to automatically trigger. Second, the highest strength dragon determines who starts the next round. As the card played by the first player in every round always triggers, playing higher than the opposition in late position can greatly aid one's chances.

One mortal, The Druid, allows the lowest strength flight to win the gambit (reversing the normal rules). Several strategies revolve around disguising one's intent to play the druid and other low-strength cards to unexpectedly run away with the stakes. The Thief, who allows the player to steal 7 gold from the stakes if it triggers, is also a powerful mortal card that helps players with weak hands. For players attempting to win the gambit by playing high cards, The Dragonslayer is another powerful mortal.

Finally, it is often in one's own interest to help other players, particularly to prevent them from losing (and thus ending the game). It is common to see players trailing the gold leader (but still conceivably competitive) to keep their comrades alive in the hope of catching up.


Critics of the game suggest that Three-Dragon Ante's major weakness is that the strategy varies so much according to the number of players. It is particularly important to win gambits in large games (4+ players), whereas stealing gold from the stakes is effective in games with only 2–3 players. Strength flights are also relatively more important in large games. Also, because the deck size is fixed, the rule-changing cards like The Druid come up more often in large games. This non-linear scaling causes game time to vary radically with the number of players. Games with 4+ players usually end within an hour, but games with fewer players can continue indefinitely. House rules, such as adjusting the effect of the strength flights or the starting gold given to each player, can help alleviate these problems. Another solution is to set a certain number of gambits as a match; the player with the most gold at the end of the match wins.

Another camp holds that the unexpected shifts in strategy caused by changes to the number of players is an asset rather than a weakness. It makes the game more versatile and forces players to compete in new ways and use the cards differently. While game length can be an issue, house rules (as suggested above and recommended in the rule book) are more than sufficient to counter this issue.


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